Re:Crafted: Interpretations of Craft in Contemporary Architecture and Interiors

Re:Crafted: Interpretations of Craft in Contemporary Architecture and Interiors

by Marc Kristal
     
 

Now more than ever, architects and designers are crossing aesthetic borders, and redefining craft to suit their own creative needs, philosophies, and expectations—often by commenting upon or challenging it. By transforming our notions of what might be considered “crafted,” today’s practitioners have not only put a new spin on an ancient art;… See more details below

Overview

Now more than ever, architects and designers are crossing aesthetic borders, and redefining craft to suit their own creative needs, philosophies, and expectations—often by commenting upon or challenging it. By transforming our notions of what might be considered “crafted,” today’s practitioners have not only put a new spin on an ancient art; they have expanded our understanding of where and how the personal touch is found in the sometimes bewildering or inhospitable terrain of the contemporary aesthetic landscape.

Featuring twenty-five residential, commercial, and institutional projects—by major international design figures as well as the relatively unknown and up-and-coming—this volume looks at what constitutes the craft influence in contemporary architecture and design. By turns luxurious and simple; time-honored and leading-edge; small-scale and monumental; unabashedly beautiful, surprisingly witty, socially adroit, and sublimely poetic, these projects are sure to give us a new appreciation of the pleasures of making—and enlarge and enrich our understanding of the presence, and importance, of craft in all our lives.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A lush volume . . . will keep design fans glued to Re:Crafted. Don't bother trying to skim."
—UnBeige

"We were instantly drawn to the subject, the featured talent, the handsome photography as well as the smart writing . . .  an excellent resource and certainly worth adding to your own design library."
—Design Therapy

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781580932769
Publisher:
The Monacelli Press
Publication date:
04/20/2010
Pages:
208
Product dimensions:
8.20(w) x 11.20(h) x 0.80(d)

Read an Excerpt

Introduction

For as long as I can remember, I’ve had a particular way of working. I begin by making notes based on my thoughts about a subject and my research into it. This is followed by interviews, which I record and then transcribe—a time-consuming process, but one that enables me to discover things I missed while absorbed in the original conversations. I cut the notes and transcripts into strips of paper—sometimes hundreds of them—and lay them out on the floor, arranging and rearranging them until their order represents the story I want to tell in the way I want to tell it. With a pencil and yellow pad, I draft whatever it is I’m writing, then type it up with the Olympia manual I’ve had for forty-plus years, rewriting and retyping until the work is done—at which point it finally goes into the computer.

While I don’t work precisely this way all the time, unless I follow some variant of my routine, however cumbersome it may sometimes be, the outcome doesn’t feel authentically “mine”—because it hasn’t emerged from the process by which I practice the craft of writing. As a result of this approach—and my sensitivity to when my own work becomes authentic to me—I have always been interested in why certain things feel “crafted” and others do not. In 1964, Supreme Court justice Potter Stewart famously observed that while he couldn’t precisely define hard-core pornography, “I know it when I see it.” That is how I feel about craft. It may seem easily discernible. But the more of it you see—the more you realize how many forms it takes, and how imaginatively it can be interpreted—the more resistant craft becomes to easy explanation.

On the one hand, everyone knows what it is: craft involves, in the architect Adam Yarinsky’s formulation, “the hand and how it registers on the making of something”; an informed understanding of a (typically organic) material and how to tease out its potential; and a method of making that combines a vast store of skill-based knowledge with experience and artful intuition. Viewed from this perspective, a craft object is easy to identify: George Nakashima’s tables, a glass dragonfly by René Lalique, George Ohr’s pottery, a Fabergé egg.

On the other hand, this definition isn’t large enough to include what we instinctively perceive to be craft when we encounter it in other, unexpected places—for example, in product and industrial design, as in the work of Tapio Wirkkala, one of the twentieth century’s most prolific and versatile creators. A gifted draftsman who could express himself equally well with hand tools, Wirkkala would produce countless sketches of an object, refining his ideas with multiple models and molds. Then he would migrate this craft-based sensibility to the mass-production phase: immersing himself in the requisite processes, making design adjustments as necessary, and working side by side with the fabricators, whether the object was a Venini polychrome vase or the Finlandia vodka bottle—perhaps his best-known design, the manufacturing of which required thousands of hours of experimentation. By keeping hold of the reins throughout production, Wirkkala was able to preserve the quality of craft that had emerged during development—a quality that remained evident in the mass-produced object.

This same double vision can be applied to the presence of craft in architecture and interiors. If there is such a thing as a common understanding of “the craft of architecture,” it can perhaps be found in the appropriately named Craftsman style of the architects Charles and Henry Greene—notably their 1908 Gamble House in Pasadena, California, with its superlative woodwork—or the English Arts and Crafts movement and its presiding figure, William Morris, whose own 1860 Red House featured beautifully rendered wall coverings, textiles, glasswork, and decorative painting. Yet as the twenty-five projects in this book—all of which have been completed since 2000—demonstrate, craft can take many forms and turn up in unlikely circumstances; is subject to multiple, sometimes subjective definitions; and demands reconsideration in the light of contemporary tools, materials, aesthetics, values, ways of living, and—not least—processes of creation.

Included herein are examples of traditional craft rendered via artisanal production methods, which restate historical references in a modern, sometimes ironic, context; designs that are shaped by a dialogue between the architects’ aspirations and the capabilities of the makers; architects who do all or part of their own fabrication, both to invest their buildings with a personal spirit and to ensure the proper realization of their vision; projects that comment in some way on the values inherent in the idea of craft; structures that depend on a local building culture and thus promote “craft sustainability”; works that foreground industrial craft, the contributions of artists to architecture, the utility of a workshop-based approach, the tension between the hand and the machine, and the craft of pure process; and still others that employ digital fabrication to diminish the inherent distance between architecture and making. All of them, in one or another way, feel “crafted.”

This is, I realize, a personal, necessarily incomplete approach to the subject. My hope is that what follows will encourage a more flexible understanding of the craft influence and how it can be used to enrich the whole of the built environment. People are drawn to handcrafted objects because the human touch invests them with individuality, personality, narrative, and authenticity. In ways both obvious and unexpected, craft can infuse the larger worlds we inhabit with those same, very welcome, qualities.

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What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
"A lush volume . . . will keep design fans glued to Re:Crafted. Don't bother trying to skim."
—UnBeige

"We were instantly drawn to the subject, the featured talent, the handsome photography as well as the smart writing . . .  an excellent resource and certainly worth adding to your own design library."
—Design Therapy

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