Christian Wassmann

Architect / United States / Studio Christian Wassmann

Christian Wassmann’s Book List

Books are important tools in my studio; they inspire our work and are always on our desks. As a student I spent a lot of time in the library doing research for my projects, but I never liked to borrow books. I preferred to own them, mark them with notes, and collect articles, press releases, and other information inside the front cover. I always tried to find the most important books on a specific artist, architect or subject, study them and then cross-reference them. This ever-expanding archive represents everything I was ever interested in. The collection now serves as an extended memory that I can revisit at any time or dive deeper into a subject if desired.

Today a lot of information can be found on the Internet, but for me books have more authority due to the good authors, editors, and publishers who make them. In addition to their content, I love books also as beautifully designed and well-crafted physical objects.

It was very difficult to pick favorites for this list since each book has been inspiring and formative in one way or another. All the books in this selection helped me to see and realize previously hidden connections.

11 books
Michel Houellebecq

Houellebecq has always been read in the “art world.” His last novel describes this well-connected group of people very accurately and entertainingly. The protagonist is a calculated and cold, but not inhuman, successful artist with an architect as a father.

Christoph Asendorf

The translation of the subtitle of this German book is “Aircraft and Space Revolution, the Impact of Air Travel in the Art and Culture of Modernism.” It is a book about mind-expanding and gravity-defying achievements in modern art, design, and architecture. Asendorf explains how something that was invented in an aeronautical context, often for military purposes, later influenced other fields, culture, and society at large; sometimes the initial discovery of an innovation was made by an artist.

Friedrich Teja Bach

A great book that considers every aspect of Constantin Brancusi’s elegant and radiating work, from his sculptures, to installations, spaces, architecture, and design, all the way to his photographs. Only his films were discovered after this book was published, and they show an even more lively and surprisingly humorous side of Brancusi.

Pamela M. Lee

Like many great artists, Gordon Matta-Clark was educated as an architect and became a game-changing artist by questioning his environment and making liberating suggestions. With his surgical cuts through buildings he de-functionalized architecture and turned it into art. Matta-Clark was a poet of space.

Claude Lichtenstein
Joachim Krausse

Author Claude Lichtenstein was my design history professor in Zurich. A lot of the content of this book he tested on us as students first. Lars Müller turned the very diverse work by Fuller—a visionary architect, designer, engineer, teacher, and philosopher—into a compelling visual reader.

Sophie O'Brien Editor
Melissa Larner Editor

Like many books of photographer Wolfgang Tillmans’s work, this one is as dense and beautiful as his amazing exhibitions. This book was published on the occasion of his exhibition at the Serpentine Gallery in London in 2010. The graphic concept is based on books designed by Richard Hamilton. In addition to the very broad view he takes through his camera lens, Tillmans always has essential answers to questions in interviews.

Jaron Lanier

Lanier is a musician and computer scientist who popularized the term “virtual reality” and co-programmed MIDI, the simplistic and almost irreversible protocol that rationalized music to data in the 1980s. He sounds the alarm for our generation about lock-ins such as MIDI and explains the commercial ideas behind social media. His book is a manifesto or a wakeup call for our time. He encourages the reader to pay attention to how our society is changing; and he warns us not to lose our individual creativity and settle for junk quality.

Le Corbusier

Almost every book by Le Corbusier could be on my list but this one is off the shelf and on our desks at the Studio all the time. It’s a small book that Le Corbusier designed himself about my favorite building: the Chapel of Notre Dame du Haut. Besides sketches, plans, and sections, the photographs in this book show the tactility of the materials and reveal some secrets one can’t see when visiting the building. It documents the design and building process, including images of the salvaged rocks inside the curved walls. There is even a group photo of the local craftsmen who built this architectural masterpiece.

Billy Klüver

Billy Klüver reconstructs a day in the life of Picasso and his friends around the Boulevard Montparnasse based on 24 photos taken by Jean Cocteau. By calculating the lengths and angles of the shadows of balconies and windowsills on the photos he was able to analyze what happened at what exact time on August 12, 1916. All this is only a point of departure for the beautiful stories weaving this random day into the fabric of the 20th century. In one chapter Klüver mentions that Simone de Beauvoir was eight years old at the time the photos were taken and living right above the café artists frequently visited. Klüver was an engineer with the great talent for connecting people, disciplines, and worlds.

Peter Sloterdijk

Peter Sloterdijk begins with describing the role of the philosopher in society as somebody who is able to explain the complexities of our world to an individual. As opposed to other philosophers of the 20th and 21st century he is more of a generalist who looks at the world as a whole. I like that he often uses polemical and controversial examples to express his ideas. There is an interesting chapter explaining the difference between a hero, who is able to walk on water, and a mystic, who accepts that he is water within water.

John Neuhart
Marilyn Neuhart
Ray Eames

Like a catalogue raisonné this book presents all the projects by one of the most fruitful husband-and-wife collaborations. Together with the members of their office they developed original ideas into innovative lasting design objects, playful films, and ephemeral exhibitions about art, science, history and technology. With the year-by-year chronological order of this book one can understand how each project led to the next. Unlike in other monographs, at the beginning of the section for each year, all team members are listed.

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