BY Emily King in Opinion | 01 OCT 11
Featured in
Issue 62

Architectural Folly

Emily King grapples with The Designers Republic's firt book

BY Emily King in Opinion | 01 OCT 11

The Designer Republic's new book is a big event. Best known for its music industry work, the design group has a huge following, and most companies of its status would have dropped at least a couple of publications by now. Holding out for so long, The Designer Republic's refusal to publish had hardened into yet another qualification for its members' position as design revolutionaries. Self-conscious about their non-comformity, the group's other radical credentials include their location (Sheffield), launch date (Bastille Day, 1986) and lack of an apostrophe. This agitatory self-promotion is bearable only because their work has remained consistently great throughout.

Entitled 3D>2D: The Designers Republic's Adventures In and Out of Architecture with Sadar Vuga Arhitekti and Spela Mlakar (2001), the book is a celebration of the new Ljubjana Chamber of Commerce designed by the young, experimental Slovenian architectural practice Sadar Vuga.  Given The Designers Republic's past trickiness, the obscurity of the subject matter should come as no suprise. Although the publication might raise the profile of the architectural project in the long term, it initially seems to have been obscured by the first-ever-book fuss. In a rare reversal of roles, architecture has been reduced to a vehicle for graphic design. The central question of 3D>2D is 'how can a book be made from a  building?' or 'how can architectural publications (clear photographs of the building reproductions of the architects' plans...), the book is devoted to The Designers Republic's apparantly heroic struggle with the problem of rendering three dimensions in only two.

Their first solution to the loss of a dimension is to make it big. 3D>2D falls into an already well established tradition of unwieldy architectural tomes: it is large and heavy, with unusual dimensions and an obtrusive ring binder. Try to shelve 3D>2D and you will experience its three-dimensionality all too vividly. The Designers Republic's second proposal is apparantly to make it dumb. The book looks fabulous (no one could make a more elegant page) but it is littered with superfuous and fanciful information, including instructions on both how it ought to be read and how it should not be laundered. Althouth 3D>2D contains several pieces of conventional architectural criticism, their impact is minimized by impenetrable writing and cruel typography. All in all, 3D>2D falls between two camps: it escapes the restrictive two dimensionality pof print by being neither flat or readable. 

Emily King is a London-based writer and curator with a specialism in design.