Metropolis Gift Guide 2020: Read

This holiday season, Metropolis’s editors are highlighting our picks for the best design-minded gifts.

‘Tis the season for staying indoors, curled up with a good book. Fortunately, there are plenty of options. Whether you are looking for some of the most insightful design criticism, architectural monographs, book art, or an encyclopedia of chairs, this list has you covered.

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Courtesy Princeton Architectural Press

Daddy Wouldn’t Buy Me a Bauhaus $27.95

For the first time, readers can enjoy the collected essays of legendary English writer, editor, and critic, Janet Abrams. Daddy Wouldn’t Buy Me a Bauhaus brings together 26 profiles of a cast of characters that includes include Reyner Banham, Berthold Lubetkin, Philip Johnson, Paul Rand, Phyllis Lambert, Frank Gehry, Rem Koolhaas, Muriel Cooper, April Greiman, and Michael Bloomberg, written in Abrams’s unique and often uproarious prose. The book is an opportunity to catch up with one of the 20th century’s great architectural critics as well as many of its best designers.

Cover Chairpedia 02

Courtesy LaFabrica and Andreu World

Chairpedia $35

Every chair tells a story. That’s the premise of Chairpedia, a playful, yet encyclopedic book that was edited by Ramón Úbeda, illustrated by Antonio Solaz and published by La Fábrica. Chairpedia tells the stories not only of chairs of iconic design, Gio Ponti and Mies van der Rohe’s creations make appearances, but so do chairs made significant by those who have sat upon them, chairs owned by Sigmund Freud and Pablo Neruda among others. The books twelve chapters, which range in subject from design classics, to movie set design, to artists chairs, and beyond, capture 101 beautifully illustrated stories that show furniture is culture.


Courtesy Phaidon

Anni and Josef Albers: Equal and Unequal $150

Was there a more influential modernist power couple than the Anni and Josef Albers? This gorgeously illustrated book, written by Nicholas Fox Weber, the director of the Josef and Anni Albers Foundation in Bethany, Connecticut, is the first to capture the pair’s wealth of artistic output as well as the complexities of their romantic relationship in a single volume. Beginning with their early years at the Bauhaus, Weber follows their lives and work together to their influential period at Black Mountain College, and  their later years in Connecticut.

Tokyo Papers

Courtesy Roma Publications

Karel Martens Tokyo Papers $23.72

This collection of 41 monoprints was created by Dutch graphic design giant Karel Martens between 2019 and 2020, when a friend sent him a package of used Japanese forms that had been found at a street market in Tokyo. Martens, ever fascinated with repurposed materials, printed designs on the front and back of these thin sheets of dyed paper. The result is a collection of prints that are deeply engaged with language, color, bureaucracy, and geometry.

Studio Culture Now

Courtesy United Editions

Studio Culture Now: Advice and Guidance for Designers in a Changing World $59.77

Editor Mark Sinclair’s follow-up to 2009’s Studio Culture: The Secret Life of the Graphic Design Studio, Studio Culture Now is the essential guide to establishing and operating a design studio in our current moment. It features in-depth interviews with leading designers and studios including DIA, Google Design, Sara De Bondt studio, YesYesNo, and dozens more. In candid Q&A format, they share the experiences, insights, fears, and joys that shaped them and their practices and reveal how they create the type of studio life that is right for them.

Louis Kahn

Courtesy the Louis I. Kahn Facsimile Project and Designers & Books

The Notebooks and Drawings of Louis I. Kahn $79

When it was originally published in 1962, The Notebooks and Drawings of Louis I. Kahn was one of the first books to focus on the architect and was the one that Kahn recognized as his own favorite. Out of print for years, a group led by Richard Saul Wurman, the book’s original publisher, has partnered with Designers & Books to bring back this iconic monograph. Though the book is not yet available for purchase (it’s slated for release in early 2021) you can support the Kickstarter to reserve your copy.

99 Pi City

Courtesy Houghton Mifflin

The 99% Invisible City: A Field Guide to the Hidden World of Everyday Design $30

Now in its 10th year of delighting listeners with stories of, “the unnoticed architecture and design that shape our world,” the podcast 99% Invisible went analog with its first ever book. The 99% Invisible City, stuffed with quirky stories and beautiful illustrations by Patrick Vale, might just be the perfect winter read for this strange holiday season, especially for urbanists trapped indoors.  Roman Mars, the show’s host, who co-wrote the book with digital director and producer Kurt Kohlsted, recently told Metropolis, “In the last 10 years of doing this show, I have grown into a more optimistic person by considering all the thoughtful design that goes into the world.” said host and author Roman Mars in a recent interview with Metropolis.

You may also enjoy “A Planned Reprint of a Popular Book on Louis Kahn Brings His Drawings within Reach.

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