by Claire Zimmerman. University of Minnesota Press, August 2014. 408 p. ill. ISBN 9780816683352 (pbk.), $35.00; 9780816683345 (cl.), $103.00.
Reviewed January 2015
Martha González Palacios, Art & Architecture Librarian, Architecture & Allied Arts Library, University of Oregon, firstname.lastname@example.org
This is not a book about architectural photography but about the interrelations between architecture and photography. In it, Claire Zimmerman, associate professor of history of art and coordinator of doctoral studies in architecture at the University of Michigan, explores the influence photography and other analog media had on architecture, and vice versa. More specifically, the author explores the intertwined evolution of these two disciplines beginning with German modern architecture before World War II and continuing with its influence in the United States and the United Kingdom in the decades that followed. Zimmerman argues that photography played a role in modern architecture beyond that of documentarian; it not only became another tool for representation, in addition to plans, orthographic drawings, and models, but it also transformed and became part of the design process. To demonstrate these transformations, she uses selected "moments" that include the Weimar Neues Bauen, the emergence of the International Style, and British New Brutalism.
The book begins with a brief preface and a generous introduction where the author describes the origin of this research, her intentions, and the structure of the work: nine chapters equally divided into three parts. The main protagonists in Zimmerman's narrative are Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Alison and Peter Smithson, and James Stirling (she has written extensively on these architects). In her conclusion, Zimmerman does an excellent job tying together the material she has covered. She also lays out some of the new challenges faced as society moves to more mediated experiences via screens and the emerging questions of veracity or authenticity in digitally produced images and how this will affect architectural design.
The paperback edition has a standard perfect binding that has held remarkably well after heavy use of the review copy. This volume is illustrated with 158 black and white photos that, given the subject of the book, are absolutely integral to the narrative. The extensive notes, bibliography, and detailed index will also prove necessary and extremely useful for the reader.
Photographic Architecture in the Twentieth Century is a serious and provocative work that brings a new approach to an interdisciplinary topic of increasing interest: the relationship between media and architecture. This is a scholarly work that will be a great addition for academic and research collections, particularly those serving graduate programs in art and architectural history and media studies.