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Monumental letters in art and architecture

Posted by Kevin Hartnett  October 23, 2013 09:03 AM

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Two weeks ago I blogged about a new book by the prolific Steven Heller called "Shadow Type." A few days later I received an email about another new Steven Heller book that's just as visually interesting as the first. In "Lettering Large," Heller and his co-author Mirko Ilić look at the diverse ways that artists and architects are using "monumental typography" in buildings, sculptures, and outdoor displays. "[I]t might seem curious to think of type as an art," they write in the book's introduction, noting that letters have traditionally been used more for practical than aesthetic purposes. But as you can see in the book and the images below, type is evocative apart from any particular message it might carry. In some buildings, like Ogijima’s Soul in Japan (third image, below) three-dimensional type is used to create an irregular, appealing lattice form. In others, two-dimensional printed lettering creates a sense of frenetic intellectual activity, as if to say what's going on in this building is so turbo-charged, ideas are actually condensing onto the walls.

Centro de Ciência Viva, Lisbon, Portugal, 2008-10
1a centro-de-ciencia-viva.jpeg

Circus, Schirn Kunsthalle, Frankfurt, Germany, 2010
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Ogijima’s Soul (Ogijima Community Hall),Ogijima, Seto Inland Sea, Kagawa Prefecture, Japan, 2010
3a ogijimas-soul.jpeg

Zavrtnica Business Centre, Zagreb, Croatia, 2011
4a zavrtnica.jpeg

Images courtesy of Mirko Ilić and Steven Heller.

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About brainiac Brainiac is the daily blog of the Globe's Sunday Ideas section, covering news and delights from the worlds of art, science, literature, history, design, and more. You can follow us on Twitter @GlobeIdeas.
Brainiac blogger Kevin Hartnett is a writer in Columbia, South Carolina. He can be reached here.

Leon Neyfakh is the staff writer for Ideas. Amanda Katz is the deputy Ideas editor. Stephen Heuser is the Ideas editor.

Guest blogger Simon Waxman is Managing Editor of Boston Review and has written for WBUR, Alternet, McSweeney's, Jacobin, and others.

Guest blogger Elizabeth Manus is a writer living in New York City. She has been a book review editor at the Boston Phoenix, and a columnist for The New York Observer and Metro.

Guest blogger Sarah Laskow is a freelance writer and editor in New York City. She edits Smithsonian's SmartNews blog and has contributed to Salon, Good, The American Prospect, Bloomberg News, and other publications.

Guest blogger Joshua Glenn is a Boston-based writer, publisher, and freelance semiotician. He was the original Brainiac blogger, and is currently editor of the blog HiLobrow, publisher of a series of Radium Age science fiction novels, and co-author/co-editor of several books, including the story collection "Significant Objects" and the kids' field guide to life "Unbored."

Guest blogger Ruth Graham is a freelance journalist in New Hampshire, and a frequent Ideas contributor. She is a former features editor for the New York Sun, and has written for publications including Slate and the Wall Street Journal.

Joshua Rothman is a graduate student and Teaching Fellow in the Harvard English department, and an Instructor in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. He teaches novels and political writing.


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