Phil Patton

Critic; Curator; Writer / United States /

Phil Patton’s Notable Books of 2011

The best books offer new angles on subjects, like dramatic spotlights on stage or a clever shot on a pool table.

So a book about painting turns out to say a lot about architecture and a car maintenance manual can reveal a hidden human story. Look at Le Corbusier as a “car nut” and you get a fresh impression of his cities; study the details of the architecture firm KieranTimberlake’s walls and windows and you learn about technology.

This is an important lesson in a time when books and the business behind books are changing. The definition of what constitutes the proper subject for a book is also changing. What this new situation demands is our constant curiosity about books: we need to pick up and leaf through and note down titles and search out references.

Here are some titles that sent me off in surprising directions.

1 book
Antonio Amado Lorenzo

All students of architecture know that Le Corbusier’s vision of the city was shaped by the automobile. Many know that he devoted time to designing a basic automobile, the “voiture minimum.” But few are aware just how obsessed the architect was with automobiles. He drove his own, and worked out a good price with a Paris dealer, explains Antonio Amado, an architect who has packed his book full of every bit of information on Le Corbusier and the car and supplied a miniature history of auto design in Europe in the twenties and thirties as well. Le Corbusier was also a car buff, posing his favorites, Voisins, in front of houses when they were photographed for architectural journals. (Developed by an aviation pioneer, an example of the Voisin this year won the top prize for collector cars at the Pebble Beach concours.) As shrewd reviewers have noted, when he spoke of a machine for living, Amado argues, it was usually an automobile Le Corbusier was thinking of.

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