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!