These three titles explore what goes into making new materials, how to visually map Mexico City’s complex terrain, and what can make the office environment much more engaging.
Book edited by Jenny Lee
BIS Publishers (hardcover, 152 pages)
It was not so long ago that the choice of materials for any given project – be it fashion, furniture, automotive or interior – was relatively limited. Materiologists, as editor Jenny Lee refers to them, are forward-thinking designers, working alongside scientists, who blur the lines between nature and technology. Today, thanks to these innovators and the technologies they’ve pioneered, the sky’s the limit, as nanotechnologies and 3‑D printers can make things we previously only dreamt about.
This beautifully laid-out book explores the growth of interest in materials, in and of themselves – the result of many factors, including the decline of natural resources, post-recession austerity and the rise of maker culture. Six poetic chapters examine cutting-edge projects and the people and philosophies behind them; included are recipes to let you make your own materials using accessible ingredients, including polymers from mushrooms, granite from fish, and interactive paper. With its companion app, Material Alchemy becomes a compelling interactive resource. By Catherine Sweeney
Mexico City: Between Geometry and Geography
Book by Felipe Correa and Carlos Garciavelez Alfaro
Applied Research + Design Publishing (hardcover, 354 pages)
With over 22 million inhabitants spread out across an undulating urban landscape that stretches as far as the eye can see, Mexico City almost defies comprehension. In this hefty book, the authors attempt to make this complexity digestible by peeling away the layers one by one. Among the book’s many maps is a series taken at 10‑year intervals, from 1900 to today, chronicling a growth that unfolds before your eyes. Elsewhere, diagrams probe the city’s mechanisms at every scale, from regional building typologies to hydrological and mobility systems (including public transit, down to the level of individual transfer hubs).
Although the region’s magnitude is overwhelming – a feeling only heightened by Iwan Baan’s stunning aerial photographs of unending sprawl – the authors make intervention in a city’s expansion seem manageable by parcelling out data in comprehensible ways. Mapheads, this one’s for you. By David Dick‑Agnew
Life of Work: What Office Design Can Learn from the World Around Us
Book by Jeremy Myerson and Imogen Privett
Black Dog (paperback, 144 pages)
Americans and Brits can spend 50,000 hours at work over their lifetimes, which prompts the question: how can we make the 21st‑century office more engaging? This compact title attempts to answer that by looking to case studies across four typologies from outside the office: libraries, theatres, pop-ups, and intensive environments such as ERs.
From this, the authors developed a model to address four qualities – flexible, legible, experiential and comfortable – which they’ve deemed key to a balanced workplace. Their examples stress the importance of colour, texture, lighting, furniture, props and especially boundaries, and they found, among other things, that most employees feel they can only influence the height of their chairs. Though readers may draw conclusions about what will improve their own settings, Life of Work provides an overdue move away from the vanilla solutions most office dwellers have grown accustomed to. By Diane Chan