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Form and beyond


Architectural form is what is most commonly employed to represent architecture, because it is easier to represent shapes and forms (photos, drawings, etc.) than flows or impressions of space.

But form is notarchitecture. It is merely its outer shell. It is the classic book cover. But not all attractive covers contain interesting books. Equally, behind a bland cover may lie a great book. An architect has to do more than just create a cover, design a pretty dress, he must produce the whole book: its organisation, basic structure, form, style and outer shell.

It isonly when all these other parameters have been taken into account that the importance of the cover can be recognised, for the cover is what one sees first, what catches the eye, attracts attention. A good cover is not purely decorative but forms part of the substance, becomes its skin… sometimes revealing the flesh below. This outer hull is governed by phenomena specific to the particular period in time (technologies, fashions, trends, etc.). But, more than anything, it should be as timeless as it possibly can, in other words, not only be rooted in its era, what Jean Nouvel calls « petrification of a cultural moment », but also capable of transcending it by projecting an image beyond time.

However complex it may be, form should be easy to capture quickly and succinctly with just a few pencil strokes, easy to express in simplified, identifiable form … so it can become a symbol and leave a durable mark on its site. The cover has to respond to irrational aesthetic criteria that have weathered time and cultures, by striking a new balance based on yet extending beyond past experience: a sculpture by Michelangelo, the Lascaux cave paintings, a piece of architecture by Brunelleschi, Wright, Guggenheim by Ghery, Rimbaud’s prose, a painting by Van Gogh…

The cover design may hint at or reveal some of thecontent of the book by exposing its nerves, the blood flowing through its veins (to use anthropomorphic images), for a cover is not just there for appearance. A covers protects its content, outlines and defines its existence. It is the surface that is in contact with the outside world. It forms a skin: a vital organ…. to be constantly reinvented.


Eric Cassar  2007  -  (Translated from french by Christine Cross)


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