Book List of the Week

Book List of the Week: Marco Romanelli

Messages in a Bottle

By Steve Kroeter January 20, 2014
Architecture and design writer/editor and architect Marco Romanelli: Marta Laudani & Marco Romanelli (Rome and Milan)
View Marco Romanelli’s Book List

“I belong to a generation for which books were daily bread,“ writes Marco Romanelli in the introduction to his book list. The former editor of the prominent Italian design magazines Domus and Abitare, and a trained architect and interior furnishings designer, continues, “Especially during the height of postmodernism, the only relief from the madness and pastiche that was supposedly a liberation from modernism—but was in reality the application of another kind of strict formalist dogma—came from well-chosen written words.”

Among the collections of “well-chosen written words” Romanelli has included on his book list is In Praise of Architecture, first published in 1957 in Italian under the title Amate l’architettura (“Love Architecture”), by architect and industrial designer Gio Ponti (who founded Domus in 1928). Romanelli contends that Ponti “never wavered in his conviction that people can learn to read and love architecture. This is not a book that you have to read from first to last page—just open it and read one sentence every night before falling asleep.” “Sometimes a book is a key,” Romanelli says, giving Roland Barthes’s Empire of Signs as an example. The book “was my key to Japan. I read it as a university student, but I never forgot concepts like what it means to wrap a present or the discovery of haiku poetry (so similar to the expression of a well-designed object).” Another book on Japan on the list (one that is on the book lists of eight other Designers & Books contributors) is Jun’ichiro Tanizaki’s 1939 work, In Praise of Shadows, which explores Japanese aesthetics. Romanelli describes his impressions of the book this way: “The silence, the shadow, the lacquer, the beauty, the water, the garden, and the lesson that one flower is often enough.” KGID, Florian Boehm’s book on the work of German industrial designer Konstantin Grcic, is on the list because Grcic, according to Romanelli, designs “only when he is certain he has something new (and perhaps almost necessary) to say in the world of form.” 

Cover of Gino Sarfatti: Selected Works, 1938–73 by Marco Romanelli and Sandra Severi, 2012 (Silvana Editoriale)

Marco Romanelli is the author or co-author of 16 books and exhibition catalogues (he is also an exhibition designer) on postwar and contemporary design in Italy. Among the major figures he has written about are Gio Ponti, Joe Colombo, and lighting designer and founder of Arteluce, Gino Sarfatti. He has also extensively examined the work of graphic designer Bruno Munari, who was, he comments, “someone impossible to define. He was able to produce design or art with almost nothing: stones found at the seaside, little wooden branches found in the forest. The stones were arranged to form graphic patterns. The branches were joined with white cables. A lesson for our confused and bulimic days.”

“Now that I write books myself, ” Romanelli reflects, “I always consider them as simple, humble messages in a bottle. Will someone find them? Will someone understand? If even one person finds them, it is enough, for me.”

View Marco Romanelli’s Book List.

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