The Guardian’s Great Modern Buildings Series.


This week and next the Guardian is running a series of articles and posters on “Great Modern Buildings”. This is a fairly lavish project. Each day the paper contains two A2 sized posters containing stunning photographs, actual blue prints and a series of essays on the design, construction and development of a contemporary building. This week there has already been the Pompidou Centre, Casa Mila in Barcelona, the Guggenheim Bilbao and The Jewish Museum in Berlin.

The individual architects are considered or, in the case of those still alive, interviewed. And there are essays by various writers on the buildings. For example, novelist JG Ballard writes about the Guggenheim Bilbao, while Bernard-Henri Levy writes about the Pompidou Centre. That positioning of the buildings within a wider cultural discourse is both instructive and illuminating.

Accompanying this on the Guardian website are a series of articles and video clips which flesh out the information on the printed posters/pull-outs.

Architecture is fortunate, being one of the more ‘visible’ areas of design. Architects are feted in a way which other designers in the broad visual culture are not with the obvious exception of fashion designers. Yet the engagement the Guardian is attempting moves far beyond celebrity.

It offers an opportunity for us to consider these buildings in ways we might not otherwise. To see the photographs is informative. To have an opportunity to consider them set against blueprints leads to a much more significant appraisal. To then see them contextualised both by designers and others allows for a greater depth of understanding than would otherwise be offered.

I don’t think I’ve seen a mainstream newspaper attempt such a comprehensive overview of an area of design before. The quality of reproduction and writing is extremely high and I can only recommend that anyone with any interest in design, and writing about design, purchase these and visit the Guardian website. It is well worth the effort.

Ciarán Swan

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