The Open Book is a Minneapolis centre for reading, writing and book arts, founded by three independent non-profits – the Loft Literary Centre, the Minnesota Center for Book Arts and Milkweed Editions. What a neat thing this must be. Minneapolis is a city of about 400,000 with a catchment area of 3.5 million.
The Open Book has a staircase designed by Karen Wirth, who is doing a workshop this week at the Alberta College of Art and Design. The press release includes this lovely statement:
How is a staircase like a book or a wall like a page? Karen Wirth explores the relationships between books and architecture through artist’s books, sculpture and public art. Through analogy, she examines space and experience, presence and absence, revelation and concealment, public and private.
Sounds good. How is a wall like a page? It is the difference between a trade paperback, printed as inexpensively as possible with stingy margins, and an art book. or an artists' book. Between industrial production and craft. One too boring to consider aesthetically, and one too precious to take seriously.
As designers haven't we always striven to produce the illusion of careful craft using industrial materials and techniques? This after all was what the Eames house set out to prove. Maybe I just live in a backwater city of a mere million people with a catchment area of a few thousand more, but I simply do not see any evidence of the craft of architecture, either in intent or in fact. It pains me. We don't have a book centre either.