Wolfgang Tillmans’ Book for Architects

Ten years, 37 countries in five continents, 450 pictures. Shown for the first time since its premiere at the 2014 Venice Architecture Biennale, Tillmans’ Book for Architects shows us the patterns of homogeneity in contemporary global architecture. Free from the discourse of individual significance, photographs of each building play off each other, making rhythm out of repetition.

The 450 photographs are shown in a two-channel 4K video projection, onto perpendicular walls, with a bench for seating. Tillmans has installed Book for Architects in a manner that places the viewer in the fold of a social experience. Although we now walk around with digital tablets, or smartphones,  containing our reading material, books were initially mobile: tablets with wax that people scribbled and tallied on. Because of their natural stickiness, papyrus leaves became the precedent form for the printed book as we know it today. Book for Architects gives us the book form we know so well but installed to be experienced large scale and not handheld, as a private act of consumption. The relaxed informal setting can be used to sit, lie down, recline while photographs flip through their order.




Where as the photographic slideshows has one coordinate for fidelity—the image—Book for Architects as an installation has a different priority: that of space, edges, and the shapes that cut through the expanse of skylines. The cinema traditionally also relies a single coordinate for final presentation: the flat horizontal surface onto which the image is delivered. With Book for Architects, Tillmans takes two perpendicular walls and changes the scale of the book experience, making it social and public: themes present in each photograph and often contested in architecture.  Tillmans places viewers in the very middle of that conversation, using space and scale to show us the commodified structure of many spaces, and many scales.



All images: Wolfgang Tillmans, Book for Architects, 2014. Two channel video installation. Book for Architects installed as part of the 14th International Architecture Biennale: Elements of Architecture at the Central Pavilion, Giardini, Venice, 2014. Courtesy the artist and David Zwirner, New York, Maureen Paley, London, Galerie Chantal Crousel, Paris, Galerie Buchholz, Cologne/Berlin.


Wolfgang Tillmans, Book for Architects
Metropolitan Museum of Art
January 26–November 1, 2015