The design of the book "Termas Romanas de São Pedro do Sul”
Maria João Macedo
Porto, July 19th, 2021
The book is designed with a fifth colour, a greyish green evoking water, the central element of João Mendes Ribeiro's architectural project for the rehabilitation of the Roman Baths of São Pedro do Sul. It is also used as a mirror between the Portuguese and English texts, where the indentation of the first line of each text is receded, suggesting the image of the Roman pools' water surface.
Besides the colour, the choice of paper also helps in this suggestion of water. Its sheerness and layering - of text over text, text over image, drawing over drawing - create different instances of overlay, like tints that mark the passage of time.
Typographically, we went for a contemporary take on text layout, to contrast with the chosen typeface - rather condensed and slightly cursive - which, not being classic, echoes a historical time, a past era. Graphically, as we were working on old references seeking to update them, we also took into account some of the concerns dictating the building's rehabilitation.
The small draughtman's sketches done by the architect were laid out on the book pages as if they could have been found in his sketchbook, the reason why they are reproduced in real scale.
As for the photos, rejecting a white frame allows them to transcend the limits of the page for a more immersive experience. Moreover, this also releases the images from the grid other contents are confined to, imprinting the photos a dignity of their own: more than mere records of the building, they are the work of another artist, João Pedro Cortes.
Each part of the book is thus treated autonomously. Sections are visibly organized: the text, then the sketches, the photos, the technical designs - always using different kinds of paper and textures, trying to make the book-as-object diverse and plentiful throughout the different contents, which are simple, clear and thorough. Almost like a river. At each new turn, the reader is asked to perform a different reading choreography.