Definitive Collections

Definitive Collections

By Jordan Kushins
We all know not to judge a book by its cover, or people by the company they keep. Unpacking My Library: Architects and Their Books offers a guided tour across the shelves of ten famous architects, each of whom gives a brief yet intimate take on the titles that shaped their lives and careers. It tempts us to conflate and contradict the opening adages: We are invited to judge these people by the covers they keep.

Unpacking opens with a reprint from literary critic and essayist Walter Benjamin’s 1969 book, Illuminations. "There are spirits, or at least little genii, which have seen to it that for a collector…ownership is the most intimate relationship that one can have to objects," he writes. "Not that they come alive in him; it is he who lives in them." In the chapters that follow, we browse the personal libraries on a curated tour, from Steven Holl to Stan Allen, Toshiko Mori to Michael Graves. Photographs of individual shelves are shown—Henry N. Cobb houses a set of tattered back issues of L’Esprit Nouveau, while Hitchcock and Frankenstein sit by side on Bernard Tschumi’s shelves. Also included is a top-ten-books list from each featured architect.

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