The “Manifesto Series” of discussions presented by the Storefront of Art and Architecture in New York invites artists, architects, critics and historians to participate in a spirited exchange of ideas about architecture. Established in 2010, the ongoing series is one of Storefront's signature programs and reinvents the manifesto form as a way to develop and encourage new thinking in short, concise events with a polemical context.
Pentagram’s Natasha Jen and team have designed a new series of books based on the talks. Issued by Storefront in partnership with Lars Müller Publishers, the first two titles in the series are 01: Formless and 02: Double, with more to follow. Jen’s design for the series captures the immediacy and inventiveness of the talks with a dynamic format that rethinks the structure of the book as an object.
The new series helps document the events and, in the spirit of a manifesto, carry the ideas of the discussions forward to a larger audience. Like the talks, each volume in the series focuses on a different theme and has its own editors and writers. The only continuity is the format, which has been devised as a kit of parts that can accommodate a wide range of themes.
The books are designed to feel ad hoc, informal and immediate, reflecting the experience of the talks as intimate discussions. The books are presented in the appealing format of a small paperback that is tactile and handy and can be easily stashed in a bag or passed around. The binding is one huge saddle-stitched signature with untrimmed edges. The fonts used in the design include Times MT and Akzidenz Grotesk, which are deployed in different ways depending on the topic at hand.
Jen is also currently working with the Storefront for Art and Architecture on the design of the identity and exhibition graphics for the US Pavilion at the 2014 Venice Architecture Biennale.
Formless, the first book in the Manifesto Series, is based on the discussion "Finding the Formless," which was originally presented at Storefront in 2011 and organized by Garrett Ricciardi and Julian Rose, co-founders of the architectural laboratory FORMLESSFINDER. Ricciardi and Rose have returned as editors of the volume, which considers trends of dematerialization in architecture: atmospheric buildings, randomized structures, and the weaving of the discipline into other fields.
For the design of Formless, Jen looked at the particular form of a book as an object and, respecting its basic elements as non-negotiable—and working within the perimeters of the Manifesto format—has taken apart the structure of the book’s linearity, creating a different way to read. The text of the essays appears sequentially on the right pages; the left page has nothing to do with the right. At the end of the book, the reader flips the volume over to continue reading, eventually looping around the entire form. The orientation changes from essay to essay, transitioning from horizontal to vertical and back again. The table of contents appears on the cover, with the orientation of essay titles aligned to the direction of the corresponding pieces inside.
The second volume in the series is appropriately titled Double and looks at the idea of copying and reproductions in art and media and how facsimiles often replace the real. The book has been edited by the Turkish contemporary artist Serkan Özkaya and features his 2005 double-size replica David (inspired by Michelangelo), rendered in Styrofoam and painted gold, mirrored on the front and back cover.
The original "Double" discussion coincided with the arrival of Ozkaya’s David at the Storefront gallery on March 6, 2012. The sculpture’s journey through the streets of New York was documented in a video filmed from the back of the truck. Echoing the book's theme, the designers have used stills from the footage to recreate the video as a flipbook that punctuates the pages. The book’s fore-edge features a distorted graphic made by a photocopier, and images of other famous doubles and series in art and architecture appear throughout the book, most notably in a collage by Pentagram designer Yenwei Liu.
Double was recently reviewed on Varoom!, where the artist Pablo Soler-Jones writes, "the book plays out the textual narrative in physical form, giving the text another dimension."