This month id ex­plores the ar­chi­tec­tural dreams and des­ti­na­tions cre­ated by Ale­jan­dro Aravena and Mark Fos­ter Gage.


EL­E­MEN­TAL by Ale­jan­dro Aravena et al. Phaidon

A rare at­tribute, sin­cer­ity is a qual­ity that de­serves not only praise but space in which its fruits can flour­ish. That’s why this ex­cit­ing new vol­ume, El­e­men­tal, ought to be on the read­ing list of ev­ery ar­chi­tect. This first mono­graph of Chilean Pritzker Prize-win­ner Ale­jan­dro Aravena is a visu­ally hon­est tome of ideas and in­spi­ra­tion as to how ar­chi­tec­ture is chang­ing in the 21st cen­tury.

Em­brac­ing a tone that’s far re­moved from the glitz of the typ­i­cal cof­fee ta­ble read, the book’s 256 pages are or­gan­ised into eight sec­tions (in­clud­ing the fore­word and in­dex). It of­fers a sim­ple, pow­er­ful vis­ual story fea­tur­ing 300 colour pho­to­graphs and il­lus­tra­tions that es­tab­lish an hon­est mood, rather than a hy­per-stylised vi­sion of Aravena’s prac­tice or his oeu­vre.

His projects are phe­nom­e­nal, as he chooses to spe­cialise in in­no­va­tive, hu­mane, pub­lic-in­ter­est projects on both large and small scales across Chile, the United States, Mex­ico, Switzer­land and China.

A true de­sign hero, Aravena pos­sesses a writ­ing style and a phi­los­o­phy that are as per­sua­sive and fine-tuned as his ar­chi­tec­ture. He is both a voice of the peo­ple and of his dis­ci­pline, and this book con­firms his pow­er­ful sen­si­bil­ity and the ne­ces­sity of his con­tri­bu­tions as we imag­ine a bet­ter world.


For two decades NYC-based Mark Fos­ter Gage has grabbed the lime­light with star clients that in­clude hos­pi­tal­ity and re­tail gi­ants, and a com­pul­sion to ven­ture into the 21st-cen­tury dig­i­tal play­ground for in­spi­ra­tion. This cap­ti­vat­ing new book re­veals how he en­vi­sions the cul­tural rel­e­vancy and le­gacy of his work.

Each of the book’s seven main sec­tions aims to cre­ate a foun­da­tion and plat­form for read­ing his ar­chi­tec­tural projects. From a fore­word by Robert A. M. Stern to the au­thor’s ad­mirable evo­ca­tion of philo­soph­i­cal texts and a di­a­logue cre­ated to hon­our the late Dame Zaha Ha­did, Gage is clearly look­ing to po­si­tion his work in the midst of im­por­tant con­tem­po­rary cul­tural dis­cus­sions.

The 272 pages in­clude more than 300 colour pho­tos of built and un­built work from around the globe, from a kalei­do­scopic re­tail store in Hong Kong to a 102-storey tower in New York City. The work shown goes be­yond ar­chi­tec­ture to the realms of fash­ion, prod­uct de­sign and fine art, and in­cludes Gage’s cel­e­brated Valen­tine sculp­ture for Times Square, a 3D-printed out­fit for Lady Gaga, a dig­i­tally in­ter­ac­tive store for H&M, so­lar flow­ers and ro­botic tulips.

Fear­less and con­fi­dent, Gage’s book will find ad­mir­ers among cre­atives, de­sign­ers and fel­low star­chi­tects.

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