Oasis in the City

The MoMA Trustees commissioned William Hall Work to create them a book that would be a fitting record of the sculpture garden’s storied history and cultural significance. William’s intention was to recreate a sense of place in the materiality of the publication, and also to invoke various elements of the garden’s history, both explicit and implicit, through the design treatments employed. The most immediate aspect of the book, when encountered, is its size. It is 40cm wide, with almost 300 pages on 150gsm and 170gsm paper. It is monumental, and the format is exactly 1/6 of the size of one paving slab from the garden, bound in a grey that mirrors the marble slabs themselves, emphasised by the book’s weight. My role in this project was working on the cover. On it we invoked MoMA’s Modernist heritage, and rich design collection with its restrained usage of Univers superimposed onto a delicate grid, that also reproduces the proportions of the sculpture garden’s paving grid. William devised a 16 column grid on the interior to provide flexibility to accommodate the wildly varying content, and provide novel layout options. Since the format was so unique, it was possible to place three quite different sets of constraints on text and image placement across the main sections of the book. These were all unified by certain strict guiding principles such as all body text starting at the upper margin of the page, and all image captions in grey on the rightmost quarter of each verso. This helped to create a book that satisfied some unusual dichotomies. It is opulent but subtle, rigid but playful and rarefied but also inviting.

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Categorised as Books

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