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.

2 books
Stephen Kieran
James Timberlake
Karl Wallick

While other books have looked at the firm’s work in general and at specific buildings such as the Loblolly house, this volume explores in detail KieranTimberlake’s novel use of materials and ideas—the firm’s strength. The firm is known for such projects as the Cellophane House shown in the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum garden and its entry in MoMA’s exhibition “Home Delivery,” but also for academic and embassy buildings. Focusing on technological innovation, such as the use of OLED, but with a realistic understanding of economics, unlike many ostensibly green practitioners, KieranTimberlake offers practical and innovative solutions, applied with sensitivity and intelligence.

Text by Philip Ursprung

For over a decade, the Berlin architect Jürgen Mayer H. has collected computer-generated security patterns, numbers, envelope linings, and so on. He has published a limited-edition book of them under the title Wirrwarr, a German word meaning chaos and confusion, with onomatopoetic overtones of buzz.

These would have been an appropriate submission for our Typologies class at the School of Visual Arts Design Criticism program. They are the sort of omni-present and overlooked form of design we are interested in.

The patterns serve as inspiration to his architecture, as, for example, in the facade of the Hasselt Court of Justice, completed this year in Hasselt, Belgium. Some of the images will be on display at the Art Institute of Chicago through January 22, 2012.

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