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GIFT BOOKS IN BRIEF : 100 CONTEMPORARY ARCHITECTS: Drawings and Sketches, edited by Bill Lacy (Harry N. Abrams: $49.50).

December 01, 1991|Leon Whiteson

Anyone who's ever talked to an architect about his work will soon be bombarded with quick sketches and drawings in place of words. Any stray piece of paper at hand, including table napkins and used envelopes, becomes a mini-canvas for the expression of a designer's ideas.

In "100 Contemporary Architects," editor Bill Lacy has assembled a vivid compendium of architectural jottings. Ranging from rough schematics to highly finished drawings that are artworks in their own right, this collection provides a fascinating insight into the way in which architects conceive and develop ideas.

Lacy, a prominent academic and consultant to such high profile projects as the proposed Getty Center in Brentwood, states up front that the book is a personal selection, not meant to be a list of architecture's Top 100. He quotes Frank Gehry's preference for the "messiness" of sketches that illuminate a work in progress over the finished design's "presumption of finality."

There are delights here aplenty, from Gehry's childlike scribbles to New Yorker John Hejduk's artful watercolors and Chicagoan Helmut Jahn's frenetic ink-and-wash sketches. They reveal, in novelist John Hersey's graphic phrase, a "conspiracy of meaning" that is often more expressive than any actual building.

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