Over the last few months I have been cleaning my office out at work, reducing the contents to the bare minimum. Yesterday I took home one of the largest items I had at work, which was the “The Phaidon Atlas of Contemporary World Architecture”. I had forgotten just how wonderful this book actually is.
This monstrous book is so large it comes with its own special carrying case. A clear plastic box that looks like a small suit case complete with integrated handle. In typical fashion Phaidon delivered not only a stellar book, but a design masterpiece in its own right.
This Atlas is a record of all that is the most inventive inspiring, and humane in the world of architecture from the last five or so years. As you leaf through its pages and look at the stunning layouts, photography and drawings you filled with a heady reassurance that architecture, so essential and ubiquitous, and often so banal, is still at its best a transforming medium, giving meaning as it gives delight.
Over the course of its 810 pages, the atlas circles the globe from Australia to Chile presenting 1,052 buildings along the way. Each is given at least half a page, and since the book is about 2 feet by 3 feet when open this is quite a bit. Most buildings are rewarded with a full-page spread, and some of the more important buildings like Frank Gehry’s Walt Disney Hall in LA or Future Systems’ groovy Birmingham Selfridges, are awarded with a full two pages. Each building is given a write-up, which are at times a bit heavy on theory, while others are worded in a way that feels as thought the architect themselves are promoting their latest structure.
One thing that I had forgotten about the atlas was simply the act of opening it to a random page. With something so deep, it is easy to flip the book open to any page and be pleasantly surprised by what is found on that page. In that regard the atlas never feels old or stale.
From a design standpoint the book is visually stunning. From the plastic box that contains it, to the individual page layouts. The photography and drawings are masterfully represented, and even the Phaidon catalog that sits beneath the book is a well thought out guide to other books on architecture offered by the publisher.
One thing to think about. If you pick this book up for your library, be shure to have a heavy-duty coffee table to rest it on. The book weighs in at over 10 pounds.