Abruzzo Bodziak turns pages (and whole walls) in an homage to architecture books
Abruzzo Bodziak Architects has elevated the comforting beauty of sidewalk book vendor tables with an installation that, aptly, celebrates the importance of architectural tomes. In Architecture Books – Yet to Be Written, an exhibition at the Storefront for Art and Architecture, the duo decided to turn the gallery’s rotating-façade panels into bookshelves, as a way to invade the public space with the idea that the cultural contribution of iconic publications actually runs both ways.
Case in point: the shelves contain foundation-forming architecture books from the past 35 years – Storefront’s lifetime – that were selected through a Global Survey where academics, practitioners and scholars from 98 countries submitted their nominations. But the chosen tomes stand next to picks from publishers, non-profit organizations and creative collectives, as well as visitors, who are still voting for them through a more democratic initiative, titled Nominate Now.
The rotating groups of books stay upright thanks to custom-made bookmarks that display brief statements that look to re-contextualise their relevance – and that actually represent, in an evaporated invisibility of sorts, the support of the many volumes that helped them earn that spot on the shelf.
‘It is an exhibition of books, but we didn’t want to create something where books were put on pedestals; instead, we wanted to display them in their natural habitat, the shelf,’ explained Gerald Bodziak, one half of the architectural firm. ‘This allows the mind to wonder about what else should occupy those shelves. By covering each book in vellum, the objects themselves take on the white-gray of the bookshelves, becoming part of the architecture. In this way, they are genericised, or ghosted, again to suggest the question of what comes next.’
Indeed, the books are also organised chronologically, with one key time period missing: the future. That’s a space reverently reserved for the future of architectural books, yet to be written.
This could mean that we have amnesia, [...] or, perhaps importantly, that we have very recently been shifting how we think about work, politics and the makeup of the profession. Even as the field of architecture becomes more deeply digital, we continue to value and lean on books as a critical part of our profession's culture.
The most intriguing part of the exhibition, indeed, is in the spaces between: the books are placed in a severely sparse layout, with a reverence to the purposeful scarcity. ‘[Think that] 35 years is actually pretty recent history when it comes to reflecting – particularly on books that not everyone might have read,’ said Emily Abruzzo, the studio’s other half. ‘A good amount of the nominations that came through the Global Survey fell within the more recent years […] and this could mean that we have amnesia, or that architects favour the new, or, perhaps importantly, that we have very recently been shifting how we think about work, politics and the makeup of the profession. A simple, important takeaway is that, even as the field of architecture becomes more deeply digital, we continue to value and lean on books as a critical part of our profession's culture.’
As the West and the male have dominated the practice for the past 35 years, the exhibition seems to ask the discipline to think about the many missing volumes of a history still in the writing, the ones that could help deter further ideological homogenisation in the profession. May those empty spaces soon be filled.
The exhibition is open until August 25.