Space for Architecture
Book Review

A successful architect is not only a talented designer but also a powerful persuader. Anyone who has seen John Tuomey talk will know that his eloquent and lyrical explanations demonstrate real powers of persuasion.

In this context, it is a fascinating exercise to compare the beautiful watercolour sketches, graphic plans, working models and pithy conceptual notions with final photographs of buildings. How cannily and wonderfully they portray architectural ideas. But it’s one thing to persuade, another to deliver: here is a practice that can do both.

I think the secret lies in O’Donnell & Tuomey’s mastery of storytelling. The book reflects this, identifying themes and weaving stories between chapters, buildings and places. Links are made between their life experiences and their architecture, and between their thinking / research (typified by the phased conversion of their own home and their exhibitions at the Venice Biennale) and their projects. These are thought-provoking and offer a glimpse into their world. It is, of course, a carefully crafted glimpse, but one that offers reassurance that - with perseverance - astonishing architecture can be achieved.

The book is a lovely thing. It is hard-backed, weighty, serious, with quality paper and print, well-set text, and carefully chosen fonts.

Who is the book aimed at? Pre-established fans of the practice looking for a stylish book to admire, a few lessons on how to portray ideas, as well as for some clues to help read the “tortured geometry” of their buildings. The book consciously tries to capture and reflect the personality and preoccupations of the practice. It does so pretty well. After all, this is a team with the power of persuasion.

This article first appeared on bdonline on 28 October 2014