"Termas Romanas de São Pedro do Sul" book
João Gomes da Silva
Lisboa, December 17th, 2021
I think that architecture books usually contain information, either graphic or written (in the form of text), which is generally very centered and focused on the architectural object itself, a building or a garden, sometimes benefited from someone's critical eye - I am talking about your typical monographs on architecture or landscape architecture. There is usually information and also critical texts. In this book what strikes me as different is that, in addition to objective information, because there are drawings and photographs - which are also critical ways of viewing a space, and these photos have a certain movement as they speak of different building moments of the space, of its construction - there are interviews, which is yet another way of receiving the book’s contents, but also texts written from other perspectives: in this case, Marcelo Mendes Pinto’s, an archaeologist who participated in the work, and Jorge de Alarcão’s, professor of archaeology, with his unbiased, critical view on the subject. José Pedro Cortes’ photography make up an essay, a visual text, which, in my opinion, introduces not only his subjective reading and perception, as a photographer, but also another more complex, graphic text. Therefore, as I see it, there is in this book a convergence of ways of seeing widening the range of perspectives on the theme: the Roman Baths. Meaning, it provides much more information than we usually get about a work of architecture.
Knowing that the Roman Baths rehabilitation is a work involving the archaeologist, the architect, the landscape architect – and because of this, but also because of how it was thought out by its editor - this book provides a much diverse approach than that of a monograph on architecture or landscape architecture. So, that is the difference, the novelty of the book, from the start.
I also really enjoyed the graphic part, the composition of the book. Being bilingual allowed or made it possible for the text to be arranged in two colours, with the two languages put running horizontally. We usually see the texts in English and then in Portuguese. Here, we don’t have that, the texts run through the pages in a kind of horizontal cut. Another aspect I really enjoyed was the suitable variation in material, in paper: there is a specific paper for text, another for drawings, another used for the photos, and the dividers are in sheer tracing paper. So, the book itself has this variation which I think is very interesting and enriching. Then, the graphic composition seems quite right to me, whether in the format of the drawings, texts or the photography arrangement. On the other hand, there is the book's size, which is also quite unusual: it is not an A4, nor an A3, and it makes us leave the standards aside and embrace a special format. The composition is interesting and rich not just because of how its organized and the graphics, but also for the types of paper used, meaning that the book can adapt itself: we have really soft pages – for photography -, we have rougher, thicker pages – for drawings -, and then there are the thinnest pages – for transparencies.
I quite like all this differentiation enriching the book in its every aspect.