Assignment // Design an environment for 20 books, 20 years in the future.
I would like to start with the assumption that a book is the physical object we know and love today – printed pages bound together by a cover. In this case of twenty books presented twenty years from now, the physical object of the book must have relevance outside of the information contained therein because the information could likely be displayed in any number of more convenient ways. So what is the significance of the book then? Well it depends upon both the book itself and who the reader is.
For me the book will always be an object to which I have formed an emotional connection. I am one of those people who reads certain books over and over again. There just are some books which are my happy place, my escape. If I had to pick twenty books to have in twenty years, it would be these – in their highly specific form that I know so well. Because it is not just about the familiarity with the story or the images, it is also the familiarity of the book object containing them. This familiarity brings with it a sense of self. I recall who I was and how I felt when I read this book before, the many times, and it resonates. The book offers this permanence.
At the same time, I think it is interesting to consider the role of the book in relation to others. Books certainly communicate an impression to others and carrying a book in public can be a statement. I knew kids in high school who carried around War and Peace because they wanted people to think they were reading it even though they weren’t. The bookshelf is still a status symbol in many peoples homes – you can actually hire a consultant to stage your personal library to present yourself a certain way to others. The book acts as an identity signifier. This presentation of identity is transient in nature. The book offers both permanence of self and transience of presentation.
In light of this discussion, I have designed an environment for my twenty books in twenty years. It is an escape, a place where I can read my books without giving thought of their presentation to others. The books are not on display and it is a space for one.