A brilliant Observer columnist, the phlegmatic Deyan Sudjic was born in London to Serbo-Croatian parents on 6 September 1952, under the sign of Virgo. His lively but piercing writing style, always up-to-speed with the latest developments worldwide, features a great capacity for analysis and he has a punctilious disposition. He was flanked at the Domus helm by Simon Esterson, his former cohort in the pairs Blueprint adventure of the 1980s. Reserved by nature, the current director of London’s Design Museum and former director of the Venice Architecture Biennale and Glasgow 1999 prefers to work alone. He did away with editorial meetings but not individual exchanges with the editors. When in Rozzano, he could often be found shut away in his office, writing. His Domus, as he declared in his first editorial, was a magazine interested in “reflecting what is happening.” Fashion, or rather “the way that fashion creates imagery”, was to be a key theme of his editorship.
Piece of architecture – I cannot describe the former Commonwealth Institute, originally designed by the partnership of Robert Matthew Johnson Marshall and first opened in 1962, as representing a key moment in the evolution of architecture in the 21st century. Yet, it does have a significance that goes beyond its personal meaning for me, as an adolescent growing up in London at that time, when with its “daring” hyperbolic paraboloid roof it seemed the essence of utopian modernity. It will reopen at the end of this year as the new home of the Design Museum, transformed by John Pawson. It represents a landmark given new significance and a new approach to how we come to terms with the restoration of architecture of the very recent past, made of poor materials, more like industrial design than architecture, for which the prescriptions of neither William Morris, nor Carlo Scarpa for the treatment of ancient buildings have much relevance.
Design Object – Of course, the smartphone developed by software and hardware teams in Apple’s Cupertino studios is the most characteristic object of our times, the one which has turned us all into slaves, constantly on call to the world, constantly visible and monitored, an artefact that has led to the mass extinction of so many other objects we once held precious, from cameras to music systems. But, I am nostalgic enough to remain fascinated by the making of extraordinary physical artefacts. The Airbus A380 lacks the austere authority of a Boeing 747 seen from the front or the terrible beauty of a military drone but the gigantic monster in the sky that is the A380 has a kind of Pharaonic back-story. Bridges have been rebuilt, roads have been reconfigured and massive factories constructed to allow for its manufacture across Europe, making it an extraordinary achievement.
Work of art – Marfa Texas, the Dan Flavin installation. Donald Judd’s transformation of a former US army prison camp in Texas, close to the border with Mexico, was carried out over a number of years and spans architecture, design and art by Judd himself plus a series of installations by other artists he valued. Together, they form a kind of pilgrimage site for art of the late 20th century, a sort of remote Stonehenge that offers a very different art experience from that of urban art galleries overwhelmed by crowds photographing themselves in front of a work. Judd’s own pieces are remarkable here but so too is the retina-burning series of light works by Flavin.
Book – The Museum of Innocence. Orhan Pamuk, who studied architecture before turning to literature, envisaged this novel as a kind of catalogue for a fictional museum, which he later realised is an actual museum in Istanbul. The Museum of Innocence, a novel, seems at first to be an account of a doomed love affair but it is, in fact, a far from innocent exploration of the meaning and significance of collecting. Like so much of Pamuk’s writing, it is also a powerful insight into the very special urban qualities of Istanbul, the city where he grew up.
Associate editor: Stefano Casciani
Creative director: Simon Esterson
Special correspondent: Pierre Restany