HAS­SAN FATHY, EARTH & UTOPIA by Salma Sa­mar Dam­luji & Vi­ola Ber­tini Lau­rence King

“We are not con­cerned with the peo­ple with mil­lions. We are con­cerned with those who earn mil­limes,” said the late Has­san Fathy (1900-1989), Egypt’s best-known 20th-cen­tury ar­chi­tect. Known for his com­mit­ment to de­sign­ing for the ru­ral poor, his legacy as a hu­man­i­tar­ian and ar­chi­tect is brought to life in this crit­i­cal new vol­ume – the very first on Fathy.

Or­gan­ised in two parts, ‘The Cul­ture and Phi­los­o­phy’ and ‘ De­sign, Plan­ning and Earth Con­struc­tion’, the book’s 368 pages and 450 il­lus­tra­tions present a man far ahead of his time and yet acutely aware of his present.

The ex­cel­lent in­ter­views con­ducted by the au­thor, to­gether with the pho­to­graphs and draw­ings from the Has­san Fathy archives and Fathy’s own writ­ings are all com­pelling, but it’s Salma Sa­mar Dam­luji’s ‘ Per­sonal En­counter’ es­say that steals the show with its re­flec­tions. An­other fine es­say is Vi­ola Ber­tini’s ‘ Wa­ter­colours: The Logic and Poet­ics of Rep­re­sen­ta­tion’, which ex­plains Fathy’s re­search on the tech­niques, ma­te­ri­als and forms that might de­fine an ar­chi­tec­tural lan­guage to in­ves­ti­gate Egypt’s ‘iden­tity’.

This book is an ab­so­lute must-have for the li­brary of any­one in­ter­ested in ar­chi­tec­ture, de­sign and sus­tain­abil­ity, and the im­por­tance of so­cial and po­lit­i­cal jus­tice via these fields.

VERNER PAN­TON by Ida Engholm and An­ders Michelsen Phaidon

“Choos­ing colours should not be a gam­ble. It should be a con­scious de­ci­sion. Colours have a mean­ing and a func­tion,” said Dan­ish de­signer Verner Pan­ton. This fas­ci­nat­ing new com­pre­hen­sive mono­graph is a vi­brant ex­plo­ration of the life and work of this post-war de­signer.

Each of the book’s five chap­ters ex­plores his rad­i­cal de­sign pro­cesses. Like Pan­ton’s de­signs, the 359 il­lus­tra­tions through­out the vol­ume cre­ate a visual nar­ra­tive that’s colour­ful and un­com­pro­mis­ing. Every chap­ter presents his fur­nish­ings, ac­ces­sories and spa­ces us­ing a blend of mes­meris­ing images and thor­ough re­search.

But it’s the sec­ond chap­ter, ‘Trail­blazer: The Neo-Avante-Garde’, that stands apart. Filled with images of Pan­ton’s work pre­sented in top fash­ion mag­a­zines and in prod­uct shots that could be mis­taken as stills from a sci­ence fic­tion film, it il­lus­trates the con­nec­tions he made be­tween evolv­ing so­cial mores, fash­ion and form. It also de­scribes the key mo­ment in 1967 when Pan­ton pre­sented the ‘S’ chair – the first chair in history moulded from a sin­gle piece of plas­tic – to the world.

Once you open this dar­ing vol­ume, it’s im­pos­si­ble to close. Per­fect for de­sign lovers, it’s an ideal il­lus­tra­tion of how op­ti­mism, crit­i­cal think­ing – and an in­sis­tence on joy – are al­ways in style.

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