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Spacesuit: Fashioning Apollo Paperback – March 18, 2011
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– Adam Gopnik, THE NEW YORKER.COM
The density of ideas and connections is intoxicating. De Monchaux swings masterfully between subjects, teasing out unexpected connections and spotting the seeds of contemporary life that were planted by the space race.
– ICON (UK)
[a] wonderful material history...
– LOS ANGELES REVIEW OF BOOKS
... a broad and creative appraisal of [the] suit's many contexts, encouraging readers to consider technology as design, shaped by the circumstances of its time, unfailingly and elegantly layered and crafted to serve a purpose.
... now the definitive investigation of this terrain.
– THE ATLANTIC.COM
"Berkeley architecture professor de Monchaux's thorough and artful history of the American spacesuit takes readers at a leisurely pace through the past...a wholly absorbing capsule of our history. "
- PUBLISHER'S WEEKLY, Starred Review
Woven, as befits its topic, with multiple and colored threads borrowed from an astounding variety of fields and domains--technology, politics, media, and fashion design, to name only a few--this path-breaking book provides an innovative reading of the space race. Above all, it illuminates the relevance of this race for designers from yesterday and today.
– ANTOINE PICON, Travelstead Professor of the History of Architecture and Technology, Harvard Graduate School of Design
…This surely is one of the most deeply researched books on design ever written.
– RALPH CAPLAN, author of _By Design: Why There Are No Locks on the Bathroom Doors in the Hotel Louis XIV and Other Object Lessons
de Monchaux offers in this remarkable book a far-reaching and broad-based analysis of the spacesuit, interpreting it as far more than a functional garment protecting astronauts but also as an artifact at the nexus of society, science, and spacefaring...
– ROGER LAUNIUS, Senior Curator, Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum
About the Author
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More About the Author
de Monchaux's design work and criticism have been published in Architectural Design, Log, the New York Times, and The New York Times Magazine. His parametric study of ecologically transformed "gutterspace," Local Code/Real Estates, was a finalist in the WPA 2.0 Competition in 2009 and was featured at the 2010 Biennial of the Americas.
Top Customer Reviews
Virtually all of these books, excepting Mailer's "Of a Fire on the Moon," of course, were written by the anointed for the choir. They focus narrowly, or not too broadly, anyway, on a specific subject and the straightforward tangents of that subject. Michael de Monchaux's "Spacesuit - Fashioning Apollo" was not written for this audience, and the difference is compelling and fascinating. De Monchaux is Assistant Professor of Architecture at the College of Environmental Design at UC Berkeley.
Put succinctly, "Spacesuit - Fashioning Apollo" is the history of the spacesuit as a technology, specifically the Apollo spacesuit. To anyone who has explored the history of any technology - the photocopier, cell phone towers, bar codes, VCRs, etc., etc. - the gist that emerges quickly and throughout is how far back in time are the beginnings, and how divergent are the seminal paths that eventually merge to create this new thing. The beginnings of the Apollo spacesuit reach back to a Russian Jewish immigrant born in 1901, Abram Spanel. Spanel started the International Latex Corporation (ILC), better known as Playtex. Yep, the spacesuits that allowed moon-walking astronauts to survive were made by master seamstresses who had once made bras and girdles. Just imagine how this went over with the fighter jock personalities at NASA.
But moreover, this book is a cultural treatise about clothing the human body. NASA basically did not want the suit ILC proposed, which was an actual garment.Read more ›
We are treated to a smart romp that deftly combines fashion, politics, ergonomics, space travel, architecture, history, corporate culture and an iconic journey to the brave new frontier. There are lots of books on the Apollo moon missions, but however many you have this will be a unique addition to the understanding of how we got to make that first step on another world. Wonderfully illustrated, fully referenced. I hope you find this review helpful.
If you're looking for a nuts and bolts technical book, this isn't the book for you. There are several other excellent texts that fit that bill. This is more of a series of essays on a variety of subjects, not always directly related to the spacesuit, but somehow always returning. In some ways, it reminds me of "Of a Fire on the Moon" by Normal Mailer - more of a "feeling" than simply straight reportage.
I wasn't quite sure what to expect, but overall, I think it's a great book. It takes a variety of historical viewpoints, ranging from Dior fashions, to the detonation of the first hydrogen bomb, to the shocking state of JFK's health, to the fact that Wylie Post's eyepatch helped warm the icy oxygen that was pumped into his first altitude suit, and manages to pull them all together into a very well-written book.
Any shortcomings would be related to its intended audience: it doesn't seem "technical" enough to satisfy the space-geek-types, but there is not a huge pool of 'non-geeks' who are likely to be interested in this sort of thing. Having said that, "Fashioning Apollo" appears to have been well-researched, Mr. de Manchaux is obviously an accomplished writer, and I highly recommend this book.
The literal layering of this history in 21 "layers", instead of chapters--same as the Apollo suit--works as an astute metaphor for the accrued acumen embodied in the technology that makes "great leaps" possible. By appropriating advanced materials and coupling them with an innovated sense of design, the International Latex Company (Playtex) was able to create a "soft suit" in blatant opposition to the stoic Saturn V rockets. Whereas some insisted the vacuum of space must be met with the solid shell of a "hard suit", Playtex's layered "soft" approach, derived from undergarment design, won out. And it was in the manufacturing of the suits--custom tailored for each astronaut-- that some of the only women involved in the Space-Race took part, a more subtle touch needed to sew the 64 stiches per inch required for the suit's viability.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
"Spacesuit" is a richly presented, exhaustively researched book that uses archival photographs and primary sources to reveal the story of how early spacesuits were produced... Read morePublished 3 months ago by william fries
Well, why have I not gotten this yet?
My grandfather, Harold A. Owen, was the division manager at the Dover, Delaware, ILC plant until his death in 1972. Read more
a good read, Amazon came thru as always, product shipped quickly, and was brand new, as describedPublished 13 months ago by Maverick Artist & Architect
Very interesting read. The book sets up a variety of different story lines that culminate in the space suit itself, an approach that helps in understanding (among others) the... Read morePublished 14 months ago by Lawman
Not the technical overview of the suit that I might have expected. This book covers the historic, political, and cultural background that existed around the engineers that were... Read morePublished 17 months ago by Matthew B Cary
I never knew I needed to know so much about spacesuits, but it was fascinating. Very well written and lots of pictures!Published 18 months ago by Jane Nelson
Very disappointing, the title and description are misleading. This book really doesn't have much to do with spacesuits and their development. I will be requesting a refund.Published 18 months ago by Amazon Customer
I was looking forward to reading this book after reviewing the synopsis. I was absolutley disappointed in the size of the type font, making it impossible to read even with my... Read morePublished 20 months ago by Dennis Frantzen