Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Looking and Seeing


Today is my birthday, and along with planning a party for me tonight my beautiful wife also gave me a wonderful vintage set of Kurt Rowland's Looking and Seeing books. I love them. There are four books in the series and they are all beautiful. Originally intended to promote visual education in secondary schools in the UK, they feature photographs and drawings of the built and natural environment along with Rowland's striking graphics. It's all about shapes and patterns and towns and the reasons why they hold our attention the way they do.


Rowland's folk modernism, a bit like that of contemporaries Robin and Lucienne Day, is very much in keeping with the kind of stuff I've been posting here. There's a social democratic spirit to the books reflected in their belief that kids can learn to see -- to take greater pleasure in their environments -- as well as in the notion that good design is one of the ways we can plan for a better world: "The shapes, patterns and textures of reinforced concrete structures such as the staircase and the water tower are the result of the efficient use of this material." But it's not all concrete here; Rowland is fascinated with ancient folk artefacts like textiles and arrow-heads and clay-pots, in the ancient patterns visibly etched into the countryside. One of the books, Looking and Seeing 4: The Shape of Towns, has the feeling of a visitors pamphlet from some imaginary nether-England the likes of Belbury or Pinvin. Such covetable little books!

In other news, I'm going to be traveling for the month of July and probably won't be posting here until I return in August. Toys & Techniques is going to take a little break but I will be back soon. Thanks so much for tuning in so far, and be sure to check back in August for more goodies. Have a great summer!


16 comments:

  1. I wish my wife gave me those books, I get socks...anyway enjoy your break as I weep into my Lucienne Day kitchen curtains {true} and scratch the long days of July away with a rusty nail in to the plaster walls of my despair. Take care and thanks for all this, flinty

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  2. Happy birthday, Ben, love you.

    Have a good time, hurry back.

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  3. Wow, great b-day gift! Have fun on your trip. Wish I could pop down for a visit.

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  4. Happy Happy Birthday! Nice books!

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  5. Happy Birthday. How much do you want for 'em ? Come on...

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  6. Hi Jim! Talk to my wife...

    Thanks for the b-day good wishes everybody!

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  7. Darn it, my secret stash of graphical loveliness is out for all to see. My dad used these as a teaching resource - I've a few multiple sets of the softcover for those that require them......

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  8. I should also say happy birthday and hols to the man that runs the best blog in the universe. You have a good one! ......and let's have a few more new mixes Ben!

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  9. There's a review of the books which was written at the time they were published:

    http://vads.ahds.ac.uk/diad/article.php?title=236&year=1968&article=d.236.26

    I had to rush out to the local library after seeing this post courtesy of ministry of kindred information - so many thanks!

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  10. Just to say a happy (belated) birthday!

    )O(

    - Jb.

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  11. Thanks, Jon! Really digging your new split 7".

    Martin -- sorry for outing your secret stash!

    Chris, thanks for stopping by. Hope you were able to find those books. Cool blog you have!

    Holiday is going well -- writing from California where the weather is beautiful and everything tastes good. Be back in a few weeks!

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  12. What an amazing set of books. A birthday present to truly wish for.

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  13. Thanks for writing, Keith. Planning on posting more from these books soon.

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  14. Ben I am really looking forward to seeing more from these books.
    I will now stare at my bookcase and imagine that I have them.

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  15. martin! can i have a copy! i m an architecture student! and i need those books!

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