From the Library: Karl Lagerfeld: Modern Italian Architecture
A beautifully made two-book volume of Karl Lagerfeld's architectural photography
“The House in the Trees wanted to be a farewell to the normal drawing-room-bedroom house. It was an architect’s dream to change the behavior of men in a new world to come. The sixties were the years of hope for a glorious but unknown future. This house was supposed to be the final goodbye to the homes with wallpaper coziness and comfortable beds. Disloyalty to any old habits was expected. The House in the Trees wanted to illustrate all that. It looked out for an uncertain tomorrow without foreseeing today's life.”
These are the closing remarks on the very last page of this two book volume. The words, inscribed by Karl Lagerfeld, are in relationship with the subject at hand but resonate with equal pointedness of his own storied life and prodigious career. While Karl may have never reached the transparent radicalness of The House in The Trees, Karl's successes did in fact change the behavior of men in a new world to come and the sixties did bring about a glorious but unknown future for him.
While we all know of Karl Lagerfeld the Fashion Icon, we often remind ourselves of Karl Lagerfeld’s lesser known but equally vital outlets for his visionary point of view. From his nothing-but-luxurious interiors praised on high by Vogue to his tenacious political cartoons published by Frankfurter Allgemeine and even his collection of works for Carpenters Workshop Gallery, Karl was perhaps not a master of one but earnestly a jack of all trades. The way Karl saw beauty in the world is perhaps best translated through another passion of his: photography.
The photographs herein were taken by Karl during his travels throughout Italy in 1997. Utilizing a polaroid camera and a signature transfer technique, these photographs come across as masterful paintings; there is seemingly nothing instant about these instant photos. Traversing the grounds of Casa Malaparte (Curzio Malaparte and Adalberto Libera, 1937) and The House in The Trees (Guiseppe Perugini, 1967), Karl captures an atmosphere that can be sensed and felt instantly from the page. Illustrated in both color and black and white, the pages are laid out with sensitivity, accentuated with diptychs and triptychs. Everything is of equal importance here and each frame and its contents surely made an impact on him. From the overall moves in material, scale, and mass to the connections of handrails, windows and light fixtures, we can only wonder what may have informed a silhouette, a collar detail, a piece of jewelry or a handbag’s hardware.
In his closing remarks on Casa Malaparte, Karl says…
“Mythology is present here… It’s the maddest dream a man could make and realize… There is a feeling of immortality difficult to explain.”
We can’t help but feel that these words, once again, might apply to Karl’s life and work: to those who inhabited the voids left behind at Chanel and his eponymous label Karl Lagerfeld, to those who arrived to the Met Gala in his creations, and to those walking through The Met’s current exhibition Karl Lagerfeld: A Line of Beauty.
All images below are of Karl Lagerfeld: Modern Italian Architecture, published by Steidl in 1997. Words by Preston Alba.