Book Review: Modern Forms: A Subjective Atlas of 20th-Century Architecture, by Nicolas Grospierre

Nicolas Grospierre’s Atlas begins and ends with photographs of 1970s Crimean bus stops, which is telling: the architectural forms Grospierre focuses on are bold but far from grand. Many were built for the common good, and all have a purpose — or, at least, had a purpose. Some are now disused and neglected.

This book is special in that it is far less a reference work than it is an artist’s project. The photographs of buildings form a visually flowing sequence, each structure similar in some way to the last, with Grospierre skillfully taking the reader through a wide range of modernist architecture. This encourages a consideration of detail, such as the surprisingly spindly legs of a residential tower in Saint Petersburg, or the carefully placed windows in a bright yellow, practically cuboid housing block in Warsaw.

These buildings clearly have stories to tell, and some readers may wish for more information than is provided in the index, which gives details of architects and some anecdotes, where known. That said, this is a fascinating treatment of frequently neglected architectural forms.

Originally published in Aesthetica Magazine.


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