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Monthly Design Review - July 2022

In the spirit of our recently-launched Production Designers Gathering, this month we explore the concept of community and its connection with architecture and design.


SWEET EARTH - Experimental Utopias in America (Joel Sternfeld, 2006)

Renowned photographer Joel Sternfeld features 60 historic and contemporary American utopias through images and texts. From 1960s communes to modern-day cohousing developments, Sternfeld renders a visual history of the disparate and little understood phenomenon of social experimentation in America.

Buy the book here.


THE MENNONITES (Larry Towell, 2000)

Magnum photographer Larry Towell photographed the Old Colony Mennonites in rural Ontario and Mexico between 1990 and 1999. Gaining unique access to their communities, Towell was able to create an intimate portrait of an often misunderstood people, and his own texts tell in poignant and descriptive detail his experiences within the communities.

The resulting black and white photographs - accompanied by an extensive text drawn from diary notes and ‘the silt of the memory’ - formed Towell’s landmark book, The Mennonites, first published in 2000. This revised and updated second edition revisits the project and includes 40 previously unpublished photographs.

Buy the book here.


PUNK HOUSE: Interiors in Anarchy (Abby Banks, Timothy Findlen, Thurston Moore, 2007)

Documenting fifty houses in various cities in the USA, photographer Abby Banks explores the concept of a Punk House: usually a low-rent hub for a large group of like-minded non-conformists. Banks photographs anarchist warehouses, feminist collectives, tree houses, workshops, artists’ studios, self-sufficient farms, hobo squats, community centers, basement bike shops, speakeasies, and all varieties of communal living spaces.

Buy the book here.


TOGETHER!: The New Architecture of the Collective (Mateo Kries, 2017)

Accompanying an exhibition at the Vitra Design Museum, this book presents around 20 international building projects from Europe, Japan and the USA that provide innovative platforms for collective living. Each project is documented in detail and offers vivid impressions of everyday collective and private life routines.

Interviews with prominent figures from the collective housing scene offer insights and background information on the projects, and analytical essays by experts in the field provide theoretical and historical context.


Buy the book here.


TORRE DAVID: Informal Vertical Communities (Alfredo Brillembourg, Iwan Baan, 2015)

Torre David is a 45-story office building in Caracas, Venezuela. Almost completed, it was abandoned following the death of its developer and the collapse of the Venezuelan economy in 1994. Today, it is a squat of more than 750 families living in an extra-legal and tenuous occupation that some call a vertical slum.

The authors, professors at the ETH Zurich, along with their research and design teams at Urban-Think Tank, the photographer Iwan Baan, and the SuAT Group, spent a year and a half studying the physical and social organization of this ruin-turned-home. The book is an evolution of the installation on Torre David that was presented at the 2012 Biennale di Venezia, where it was awarded the Golden Lion.

Buy the book here.


THE ALTERNATIVE: Communal Life in New America (Dennis Stock, William Hedgepeth 1970)

Magnum photographer Dennis Stock and writer William Hedgepeth roved across America in the late 1960s, exploring the nation’s new commune culture – from the urban countercultural meccas of Haight Ashbury and the East Village, to isolated ranches, desert retreats, and wooded campsites.

Hedgepeth recounts: "We worked as a seamless team with a common, dare I say artistic, commitment to depicting these people and respecting the dignity of their dreams, no matter how outlandishly they presented themselves."

Buy the book here.



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