All images courtesy of Thames & Hudson
Mid Century Modern Complete: An Ambitious Project
Mid Century Modern Complete ambitiously describes itself as offering in one volume ‘the richest overview of mid-century design ever published’. This together with its title either means it’s going to be pretty special, or it’s setting itself up for a fall. Having already spent the best part of a day engrossed in its pages, I can genuinely say that with Mid-Century Modern Complete, author Dominic Bradbury has succeeded in his aim. Bradbury is certainly qualified for this challenge, having written about design for numerous publications and having put his name to titles like The Iconic Interior and Mountain Modern.
Mid Century Modern Complete: Media and Masters
The book is split into three distinct sections: media and masters, houses and interiors and an a-z of designers and makers. The first, and by far the largest, is sub-categorised into sub-sections covering everything from furniture to ceramics to graphic design. The author introduces each one with his own contextualising thoughts, after which he hands over to a series of experts who have contributed essays on each topic. Finally he introduces the designers he feels are exemplars of each theme, giving insight into their design ethos, backed up with beautifully shot photographs of their work. It’s refreshing to see some of the more obscure names here. We particularly enjoyed the essay on Italian lighting design and the work of the Castiglionis by Design Historian Alberto Bassi and the piece on product design in Germany and the work of Dieter Rams, by Curator Klaus Klemp. There’s also a fascinating story about designers George Nelson, Paul Rand and the Eames’ and their involvement with IBM, 20 years before the very first Apple Mac came about.
Mid Century Modern Complete: House and Interiors
The second section focuses on great mid century architecture and is almost a book within a book. It again begins with an introduction from the author, followed by essays from experts and then the case-studies: a selection of some the most iconic buildings of the period, by the likes of Alvar Aalto, Mies Van Der Rohe, Richard Neutra, Oscar Niemeyer and British Architect Basil Spence. Expertly photographed for the book by MidCentury contributing photographer Richard Powers, the interiors cleverly put everything we’ve just seen into context: they were after all the living spaces for which many of the pieces were designed. These buildings define the Mid Century Modern aesthetic.
Mid Century Modern Complete: an A-Z
The final section ‘mops-up’ anything you thought had been missed in an A-Z glossary of terms and designers. If you want to learn more about noteworthy names that are more peripheral in the mid century canon, then this is surely the place.
Mid Century Modern Complete: style with substance
Dominic Bradbury takes this book beyond the aesthetic, successfully conveying the effect of the environmental factors that drove mid century design, from the unstoppable force of post-war optimism and the need for a new identity all the way through to the communications age. So are there any omissions? Probably a few. There is little reference to the Dutch mid century movement or the influence of De Stijl for example, but on the whole the book captures the near global contributions to mid century design. Of course, the pick-up appeal of any book as ambitious as this still relies upon images and Mid Century Modern Complete doesn’t disappoint. No page lacks a picture, as is only right considering the visual subject matter, and many are given over to full and double-page spreads. Dominic Bradbury has succeeded in balancing style with substance and the book would be as much at home on the coffee table as it would on the auctioneer’s shelf.
Mid-Century Modern Complete
By Dominic Bradbury
Published by Thames & Hudson
Dimensions 30.8 x 24.0 cm
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