E.s is one of the most ambitious publications on the non-fiction market this year. Around 850 outstanding buildings and construction projects in the 49 countries of sub-Saharan Africa are presented in seven volumes on 3400 pages by 350 authors from all over the world. In the advertising text, the weight of the bundle is even stated (eight kilos, for each 18.50 euros are to be paid). What is more important is that the architectural guide just published by the Berlin publisher Dom Publishers is a pioneering act. It is a journey of discovery through a remarkably unexplored continent: Nobody has systematically recorded and described important buildings between the Sahara and Cape Town. And also endeavors to bring the individual findings together in overview articles to form an overall view of the history and theory of African architecture.
The project is the Opus Magnum of the publishing house, which was founded in 2005 by the architect couple Natascha and Philipp Meuser. Dom Publishers is now the leader among the small publishers, which in this country provide interesting new publications on architectural topics. Together they fill the void that houses with once great names have left behind. In the meantime, they have sunk to imprints of publishing groups, they throw the same titles à la “The Hundred Most Beautiful Single Family Homes” on the market or publish an illustrated book on Le Corbusier. It is more than deserved that Dom Publishers’ achievements were honored with one of the main prizes of the German Publishing Award, which was awarded 60,000 euros last year; part of the amount went to the sub-Saharan project, which had stalled due to the effects of the pandemic.
In a conversation via Zoom, the Meusers report on how they work. The employees of the publishing house share the premises with those of the architecture office (if not all, as currently, sit in the home office). Where the paths are short, the roles are fluid: editors edit construction site reports and explanatory texts for competition entries, architects look through the manuscripts for errors in the description of structural details, and graphic designers are useful on both sides anyway. There are currently twelve employees in total.
The Meusers are a couple who often interrupt each other in a conversation to contradict or add something, and they clearly enjoy it. The distribution of roles is probably not as clear in practice as the professor at the Anhalt University of Applied Sciences in Dessau describes with a good dose of irony: “I worry about cracks in the screed on the construction site while my husband philosophizes about new urban planning ideas. “And while she tends to design from the gut, he is responsible for thinking things through in retrospect. Writing and thinking about architecture was something he had from the beginning: While his fellow students were working in architecture offices, he was doing internships at newspapers. And while he was already working, he saddled up a degree in architectural history and theory.
Freshly printed books in your luggage
The fact that Natascha Meuser is currently sitting in Tunisia, where she is supervising a kindergarten project, and Philipp Meuser in Berlin, is rather untypical, she says. Unless a pandemic is throwing the world out of rhythm, he is traveling, up to 200 days a year. That goes so far that during a stopover in Berlin he just leaves his suitcase in the hallway, arranges a few things and leaves for the airport straight away, with fresh underwear in his luggage, but above all books fresh off the press, which he then sends to students, for example South Africa distribute.
The couple share their cosmopolitan flair. Her parents founded a company in North Africa in the late 1970s, which is why she regularly spent her summer holidays in the region. Philipp Meuser received a travel grant and his first commissions as an architect in Central Asia. There he developed the self-confidence to be able to assert himself in a strange environment. “There is no hesitation with us when it comes to doing a planning project abroad.”
#Dom #Publishers #Traveling #architects #suitcases #full #books