Parallel [Design] Approaches
Luke Bulman received an M.Arch at Rice School of Architecture, a school deeply dedicated to the book as an instrument of architectural thinking. As a graphic designer he is self-trained, but benefitted from a foundation of study with Bruce Mau. He’s currently teaching at YSOA.
My work as a book designer grows out of my training and experience as an architect. I was very lucky to be educated as an architect and owe almost everything to those lessons and the people who imparted them. I can only hope to do the same for the people I teach.
Conceptual tools such as scale, adaptation, assembly, matter, historical process, functionality, economy, aesthetics, and systematicity I learned from critics and colleagues in architecture. Architecture for me now is a matter of making books: a way of modeling knowledge, giving it a shape that corresponds to the processes of reading, viewing, thinking so that an array of materials can be accessed in a way that is tuned for reception by a reader/viewer. In this way the design of the book is an architectural effort; it is the strategic release of information (in time) over a connected series of surfaces (in space). My work is to design that spatial-temporal experience.
Of course, there are overlaps and differences, possibly important factors that distinguish books from architecture: they are lighter, cheaper, faster (but just as likely to be badly conceived or executed). They are subject to objectification and fetishization to the same degree, but can still be powerfully ordinary. They can be tools for resistance, or political expression—after all, burning books or buildings both make a point.
Mostly, I’m interested in the overlap of books and architecture because they both participate in their time. Like Mies, I still like to see them as expressions of their epoch—though we might chose to measure our time differently. If a book can be open, breathing, osmotic, connecting its many readers and subjects through its particular organization and physicality, then it can be, like architecture, full of potential: affected, uncertain, coquettish, decent, obedient, insolent, found, humble, meek, conceited, matte, bright, strong, necessary, sturdy, gossamer, severe, natural, artificial, vulgar, empty, shiny, taut, loose, accurate, precise, vague, dirty, smart, fancy, thick, warm, abrasive, antique, illegitimate, proud, oblique, ghosted, mute, consistent, clean, problematic, unacceptable, inorganic, clichéd, exquisite, idiosyncratic, decorative, common, nothing, dumb, bland, full.