A Multi-Voiced Monograph
Grayson Publishers has just produced our firm’s third monograph – the most unique of the three volumes. David M. Schwarz Architects 2008-2014 presents our recent works in beautiful photographs, just as the first two books did, but this time each project’s narrative exposition is written by a different author. The authors are a varied group, bringing different perspectives to the designs, which shows the many different ways our buildings are understood by others. The writers include users of the buildings, clients, experts in fields the buildings serve, architectural critics and scholars, as well as fellow architects.
Architectural monographs are generally all about the building photographs. When there is text, it is typically written by a single author, usually a specialist in architectural writing. Our new monograph is full of excellent photographs too, most of them by Steve Hall of the renowned Hedrich Blessing Photographers, but it is the multi-voiced narrative that makes this book unique amongst its peers.
This structure is appropriate to our architecture because it reflects our approach to design. When we design buildings, we strive to address the multiple ways in which diverse groups will interact with them. We design not only for the building’s owner and those who will come into it to work, live or use it directly, but we also think about those who will just walk by on their way somewhere else, those who may just live or work nearby – those who we call “passive users.” All of these people will be influenced by the new building in ways both forceful and subtle. They may have little or no say in creating the building, so we feel that architects have a responsibility to take their experiences into consideration during design. We want, as much as possible, to craft our buildings so that the most people will be beneficiaries of compassionate design, not victims of someone’s architectural agenda.
Similarly, producing a monograph written by 20 different authors made the publishing process far more complex but resulted in a book that says much more about our work.
We were already well under way with our publisher, Jim Trulove of Grayson Publishing, when David Schwarz floated the notion of multiple writers, including non-architectural writers. David had several conversations with Paul Goldberger and Adele Chatfield-Taylor to test whether the idea was feasible and reasonable. After thinking through the logistics we decided to add a year to production to allow for the extra effort. We added an editor to the team, Andrea Monfried of Monfried Editions, to help manage the writers and make their essays textually compatible. The principals at DMSAS brain-stormed ideas for who might be able and willing to write essays. Each prospective writer got a personal request from David to write an essay, no small effort for David, even though the final writers proved to be happy to join the project. Grayson hired all the writers and paid their fees or honoraria, just as was done for the single authors of the first two monographs. Monfried Editions managed the writer’s schedules and guided them in terms of voice and style. Jerry Marshall managed travel plans for those who needed to travel to see the buildings. Tom Greene oversaw the whole process, with Associate Jon Toonkel managing our graphics and Katie Garrett managing text. Our office had to provide project descriptions, photographs and drawings to each writer and sometimes set up on-site tours. Our project managers had to provide explanations of each project’s goals, how the final building design addressed those goals and reviewed final essays for factual accuracy. Grayson had James Pitman do the book design and produce the files that would go to the printer. James had also done book design for our two previous monographs. He had pretty much finished the concept and layout for the third monograph when the multiple writers idea required everything to be thought through again. In order to meet our schedule we had to lay out all the pages of photos and drawings before we had the essays to go with them.
When we finally received the last essays, we were getting close to the absolute deadline for printing. Jim Trulove spent 18 days at the printing plant in Shenzhen, China overseeing the process. He made sure every promised printing press was dedicated to this book on the days agreed. With only a few last-minute reviews, corrections and approvals, Jim was able to air freight an advance shipment in time for our release party at Louis Vuitton in Miami. The bulk shipment, coming by freighter, is expected to arrive at the end of January. (It is already available for pre-ordering on Amazon.)
Even though I have seen these buildings over years, developing from sketches and models to construction drawings to finished buildings, I can’t help but be impressed by the creative work of my colleagues when I see it all put together as a book. And as often as I have seen the designs, I still found new insights in the essays of these talented and observant writers. It may have taken more time and effort than it would have with a single author, but start with David Schwarz’s preface, “Design for the People,” and Paul Goldberger’s introduction, “An Architecture Worth Reading,” and see if you too don’t want to keep on reading all the way though.
Here, with much appreciation, is the whole list of contributing writers: David Bonderman, Adele Chatfield-Taylor, Tom Delevan, Michael Feinstein, Christopher “Kip” Forbes, Paul Goldberger, Gary Hanson, Cheyenne Jackson, Richard Joseph Jackson, M.D., Michael Lycoudis, Myron Martin, Jim Palmer, Robert A. Peck, Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, The Honorable Joseph P. Riley, Witold Rybczynski, J. Thomas Schieffer, David M. Schwarz, Robert A. M. Stern, Elaine Wynn, Nicholas S. Zeppos.
The preceding was authored by DMSAS Principal-Emeritus Tom Greene. Tom has been with the firm from nearly day one, starting with DSMAS in 1978 just prior to receiving his Bachelor of Architecture from the University of Maryland.