On 23 June 2016, the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union. On the same day, architect Flavien Menu opened an exhibition titled Oracles for Europe which presented the results of a year-long programme – of the same name – he had been hosting alongside Peter Swinnen with 12 students.
Together, they explored alternative ways of promoting European values through cultural, political and economic tools: work which became all the more pertinent due to the timing of the exhibition. Following this, Flavien began to meet and interview key figures across Europe culminating in a curated discussion on 9 December 2016 at the Architectural Association in London.
“It was an intense, polemic and, at times, fierce discussion that interrogated our ability, as cultural actors, to take part more politically, economically and socially with changes that are transforming our society and our territory at local, national and European scales,” explains Flavien in a press release. New Commons For Europe, which was designed by Daly & Lyon, brings together the results of the event at the Architectural Association, as well as transcriptions of interviews and discussions, edited by Flavien, from the following two years.
New Commons For Europe sports a tricolour cover and a binary design inspired by one of Daly & Lyon’s favourite books For An Architecture of Reality by Michael Benedikt, published in 1987. Inside the neon cover, the entirety of the book is printed in black where the essay runs only on the verso – black text set on a white page – with reference images and pull quotes that run solely on the recto, on a solid black background. “Transferring this format to New Commons For Europe sets up a structure that allows for multiple ways of reading,” the studio explains. Those who have more time to spend can read it in detail whereas those wanting to flick through the book can still attain a compressed, edited version of the content by sticking to the right-hand pages.
With an interior printed in black only, Daly & Lyon opted for a vibrant jacket. The featured colours – green, yellow and blue – are commonly used for European flags, but haven’t previously been used in this combination on a flag. “This is part of a system for further planned books,” Daly & Lyon adds, “which will use the standard glass colours in new arrangements, looking toward imagined possibilities and hope for Europe’s future.”
By co-opting For An Architecture of Reality’s design sensibility, Daly & Lyon translate the need for urgency within the subject at hand. Whether readers have time to spend or not, a portion of the information and its narrative can be understood; information which provides a tool for further debate, speculation and potential action on Europe’s uncertain future.
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