Mortal Cities & Forgotten Monuments is the winner of the Best Dutch Book Design 2014.
Design by Bas Koopmans
Architect Arna Mačkić fled to the Netherlands in the nineties from what is now Bosnia. In this book her research focuses on the heroic antifascist monuments erected during and after the establishment of communist Yugoslavia in 1942, on the destruction of cultural heritage during the Bosnian war of 1992-95, and on what role, in the years that followed those periods architecture or monuments may have played and may yet play in public space.
Mortal Cities Forgotten Monuments is the result of a highly personal investigation. In it, Mačkić and the designers use the historical material to tell their story. They create typologies of the shapes of monuments, the basic forms of which are used on the text pages. Existing historical photographic and textual material is liberally employed to document the changing city. Parts of older works are included in facsimile form, and in the last part of the book Mačkić documents her own future-oriented research into the famous bridge in Mostar as the city’s new unifying cultural element.
The result is a hybrid, layered collection. With its rigidly enforced use of mainly monochrome illustrations, uncoated paper and robust typography it gives an impression of stolidity which in its imagery suggests parallels with the monuments of the communist era. On the matter of the book’s qualities the panel were divided: it is difficult to penetrate the contents through the structure of its design, and the pages in which the text forms an image prompted some debate about design for design’s sake. Nevertheless, this is an unusual book in that within the genre of architecture books it occupies a necessary political niche that is entirely its own. It is individual in both content and design and explores the medium’s intrinsic boundaries, such as the use of illustrations, shaped typography, documentary conventions and perception of truth, to create an investigative statement.