Fantastic Architecture is an artists’ book, it measures 21 x 15cm with 184 pages and is hardbound. The dust-jacket is illustrated with the black and sepia toned Guggenheim Collage by Richard Hamilton from 1967, which consists of a background image of an aerial view of a group of high-rise Manhattan buildings, with the artist leaning over an architectural model of the Guggenheim Museum in the foreground. The book title and editors are listed vertically along the right-hand side, and the publisher horizontally along the bottom left edge. The type was produced from a label-maker, so it looks embossed and is printed in strips as white type on black. The inside left fly-leaf contains a list of the contributors and the right has two black and white portrait images of the editors. Originally published in German in 1969 by Droste Verlag under the title, Pop Architecture, this 1971 edition was printed and bound in Germany by Kleins Druck-und Verlangsanstadt, and both were designed by Wolf Vostell.
As the title suggests, Fantastic Architecture explores the boundaries between art and architecture as imagined and proposed by artists associated with a range of movements, from Pop and Conceptualism to Fluxus, and from those who worked in composition and music as well as performance outside of the discipline of architecture. It is an anthology described by the editors to “restore a spirit of aesthetic research to architecture” through a range of contributions such as manifestos, scores and collage as well as experimental writing and essay forms. Many engage explicitly with the built environment as a backdrop to fantastical additions, as detailed by several of Claes Oldenburg’s proposals for various sites around America that take the form of drawn and collaged images, which are distributed throughout the book. Similarly, the contributions by Joseph Beuys and Buckminster Fuller along with several ‘décollages’ by Wolf Vostell, are featured throughout.
The publication begins with two documentary images of nuclear mushroom clouds, which are duplicated at the back, followed by a handwritten introduction by Vostel, which is printed on mylar, a translucent plasticized material similar to tracing paper. A formal introduction by Higgins follows immediately after, which is set in Helvetica bold. A combination of these two editorial formats is interspersed throughout the book in the form of numbered captions, formatted in Helvetica, transcribed onto mylar and inserted within each artist’s contribution. The captions reflect on the artworks more broadly as well as providing contextual analysis and opinions, and are written in the third person which lends a tone of unified commentary. The interior of the book is dominated with images, which are reproduced in black and white and often full-bleed across several spreads, with overprinted text and orientation shifts from horizontal to vertical.
The full list of contributors included, Ay-O, Joseph Beuys, Erich Buchholz, Pol Bury, John Cage, Philip Corner, Jan Dibbets, Robert Filliou, Buckminster Fuller, Geoffrey Hendricks, Richard Hamilton, Raoul Hausmann, Michael Heizer, Jan Jacob Herman, Bici Hendricks, Dick Higgins, K.H. Hoedicke, Hans Hollein, Douglas Huebler, Milan Knizak, Alison Knowles, Addi Koepcke, Franz Mon, Claes Oldenburg, Dennis Oppenheim, Gerhard Rühm, Diter Rot, Carolee Schneemann, Kurt Schwitters, Daniel Spoerri, Frances Starr, Jean Tinguely, Ben Vautier, Wolf Vostell, Lawrence Weiner, Stefan Wewerka.