By Anna Klingmann. London: The MIT Press. 2007. [pounds sterling]17.95
If politics is show business for ugly people, then academic publishing is too often literature for those with no talent for writing. With lengthy acknowledgements, footnotes, quotations, illustrations, shiny pages and a smart binding, it's quite possible to create the semblance of a real book. The extent to which architects build up a 'brand' image and the way in which current media and business practices encourage them are clearly worthwhile subjects at the moment. It would, however, be surprising if there is much in Klingmann's book which has not been said before, probably a great deal more clearly. Some is written in the style of up-market American journalism and some is little more than cooing over famous architects. Some reads like press releases strung together. Some is incomprehensible. Some combines all these and furthermore seems unaware of architectural history: 'the idea of program is no longer limited to a fixed, pragmatic understanding of function but now also signifies an architecture that is momentarily defined by social situations and must therefore also be open to future modification'. So much for the Arts and Crafts movement of 100 years ago, then.
Some things just die when professionalising academic writers get hold of them. Klingmann is actually 'the founder and principal of an agency for architecture and brand building in New York', but she has adopted all their methods. One of these is to quote someone who simply states the obvious. You probably first heard about the difference between the left and right sides of the brain from Tomorrow's World, or possibly from Blue Peter, but it appears here in the form of a statement from Marty Neumeier, 'a designer, writer, and former publisher who operates at the forefront of collaborative brand integration' (The Brand Gap, Indianapolis: New Riders, 2003, page 15). In fact much of Klingmann's book consists of critics' opinions separated by a brief gloss. Some of the illustrational photographs have been doctored, incomprehensibly, by someone called Matthias Hollwich. Why? Is it art? What in fact is this book for? The concluding sections are sharper and on their own might have made a decent magazine article. And that's the best thing that can be said about it.
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|Title Annotation:||politics in MIT Press|
|Author:||Brittain-Catlin, Timothy; Klingmann, Anna|
|Publication:||The Architectural Review|
|Date:||Dec 1, 2007|
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