Rem Koolhaas’ Elements of Architecture is a big book. Like, a really big book. Clocking in at around 2600 pages (yep, two thousand six hundred) you won’t be sliding it into your tote bag on the bus of a morning. Conceived as “a look through the microscope at the real fundamentals of our buildings, revealing the essential design techniques used by any architect, anywhere, anytime,” and produced by the Dutch architect and theorist with a little assistance from the Harvard Graduate School of Design, it was first released in 2014 as part of Rem’s 2014 Venice Architecture Biennale exhibition, and is about to get a lavish and large-scale reissue by Taschen.
Florian Kobler, a managing editor at Taschen tells us that, “the nice thing about the book is that you can read it as a layman. You don’t have to be into architecture to enjoy it.” He pinpoints a chapter on toilets as a prime example of how Elements of Architecture goes beyond pure architectural theory and becomes something with a broader sociological significance and interest. “You can read that chapter,” Florian says, “and learn about how men and women are built differently and what means for the construction of a toilet. Sociologically, it explains why the women’s queue is always longer!”
Describing the book’s style as “lucid” and it’s tone as “slightly ironic,” Florian says it’s a resource that’ll “open your mind. It’s going to be an extremely powerful tool for everyday use.”
Talking to us about the book as a physical object, Florian enthuses about the size of the thing. “We took over a year to find the perfect solution to producing the design. It’s not at all sensible to print a book of this kind — it’s like a telephone book. But when you have it in your hand, the tactility, the haptics of the object are amazing!”
When we asked about physical readability, Florian was keen to note that the intensive research that went into things like binding and paper stock has resulted in an innovation in bookmaking. The spine splits in the middle which means every page sits open flat, and the paper manages to be suitably thin without feeling flimsy. “The book is extremely manageable,” Florian says.
“The general Taschen style is to be accessible,” Florian says. “You can’t be scholarly. We’re not aiming at a few scientists who enjoy cryptic writing. Rem has that same mindset. So this is a necessity. Looking at it and what it does, it opens peoples eyes to the many aspects of what is architecture but speaks to everyone.”
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