Autumn 2001

Architectural fallout


Bouman and Mlakar<br>Laurence King, &pound;35<br>

In the centre of the Slovenian capital of Ljubljana is a big new office block dedicated to the burgeoning capitalist system of the new Balkan state. Designed by the young partnership of Jurij Sadar and Bostjan Vugar, the Slovenian Chamber of Commerce looms over a new public square, asserting its architectural credentials with a knowing nod to the muscular Brutalism so popular in the 1960s and 70s. As an example of work by a young practice based outside mainstream Western Europe, the building is not without interest and has found its way into many architectural magazines, attracting thoughtful reviews. But it also has a secret life, as the basis for a new publication 3D>2D, that boldly ‘attempts to communicate the 3D experience of a building in print.’

Doorstop heavy, as is the fashion with architecture books these days (thanks to Bruce Mau’s seminal S,M,L,XL charting the antics of Dutch superstar Rem Koolhaas), 3D>2D assembles a daunting array of cultural commentators (including Ole Bouman and Jeffrey Kipnis), photographers (Andreas Gursky, no less) and of course The Designers Republic. Sadly for all the effort expended and pretensions indulged, the outcome is a spectacularly inane act of vanity publishing that gives architecture, graphic design and the Slovenian Chambers of Commerce a bad name.

Any reader foolish enough to imagine they might see what this exciting new building actually looks like is going to be disappointed. Instead there are carefully choreographed glimpses of the banality of office life. Camera lenses dwell lovingly and incomprehensibly on the backs of computers, the edge of reception seating, sprinkler systems, ceilings, cleaners’ cupboards. There are no drawings (crucial to the under-standing of architecture), not even in an artfully cannibalised form, which seems like a missed opportunity.

But the point is not to gain any kind of comprehension of spatial organisation, form, materials, programme, art historical context, urban contribution or architectural intent. The point, I guess, is to settle back, preferably with the odd mood-altering substance, and savour the mindless information overload, executed predominantly in minuscule and migraine-inducing fluorescent peach type set in prairies of white space. This manages not only to be virtually unreadable, but also verges on the Frank Zappa album title nonsensical (randomly selected prose sample: ‘Why on earth disinter such a bizarre arcanum as the monad!’). The accompanying press release gushes about how this obscenely lavishly produced tome ‘examines the fallout from the dimensional fusion / collision’. Time to head for the fallout shelter.

Catherine Slessor, writer, editor, London

First published in Eye no. 41 vol. 11, 2001

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