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Bolles+Wilson: A Handful of Productive Paradigms by Julia Bolles-Wilson and Peter Wilson

A rich cross section of the work produced by Bolles + Wilson so far

Peter Wilson and Julia Bolles met as students at the Architectural Association in London, where Wilson became one of Alvin Boyarsky’s lavishly published protégés. They later set up in practice in Bolles’ native town of Münster, Germany, on the strength of winning the competition for the new City Library in 1985, which counted among the best works of the 1990s internationally (AR February 1994).

Bolles+Wilson grew, accomplishing several good commercial buildings in its home town. Its next great masterpiece was the Luxor Theatre in Rotterdam (AR September 2001), a key element in a series of interventions on the quayside. The challenge of managing great changes of scale and achieving long visual connections was met magnificently.

The firm’s new monograph provides a rich cross section of buildings and projects so far. Well-chosen pictures combine with commentaries and texts, sometimes derived from lectures, like Wilson’s fascinating commentary on modernism in Australia and Bolles’ timely theories on urban space.

’The tone is refreshingly untriumphant: there are honest reflections about the limitations of dispatching projects across the world, and the kinds of misunderstandings that occur’

Many exciting projects in progress are included, including the vast BEIC library in Milan and the Monteluce development in Perugia. This book will be an essential for historians of the period, but it does not quite succeed as a general monograph because the work is too thinly described. It also hinges on an aesthetic dilemma: the large photos of perfect details in empty offices seem beautiful but sterile, while the complex narratives of urban interaction are allowed to fall short. The contextual virtues of the Münster library and Luxor Theatre proved this architecture to be much more than mere play of form and icon, and this is surely where its most valuable lessons lie.

Bolles + Wilson: A Handful of Productive Paradigms

Author: Julia Bolles-Wilson and Peter Wilson

Publisher: Bolles+Wilson, 2009

Price: £57.50

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