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The Flower Shop

by Leonard Koren
Stone Bridge Press, Berkeley, 2005
112 pp., illus. duotone. paper, $19.95
ISBN: 1-933330-00-7.

Reviewed by Stefaan Van Ryssen
Hogeschool Gent


This is a little book about a Viennese flower shop called ‘Blumenkraft’, or ‘the power of flowers’, not to be understood as ‘flower power’ or any such historically laden concept. For an English-speaking readership, the name of course also carries a reference to ‘craft’. Designed by an Austrian architect called ‘Gregor’ and who’s last name isn’t unveiled, and run by an Austrian lady who goes by the name of Christine, the shop is situated in a posh area of the city and offers floreal extravaganzas to a fashionable customer base.

The most striking feature of the book is the fact that it is printed in duotone, a technique most commonly used to create an ancient look on epoque pictures and involving the printing of practically the same image once in black and once in a supporting colour——in this case browns and beiges. The effect contradicts every aesthetic normally associated with flowers and greens, certainly because the book isn’t printed on glossy but on a matte maco paper. Obviously the author wanted to stress the uniqueness and the eccentricity of the shop by choosing a design strategy that diverges from anything a commercial publisher of flower books would choose. The same rhetoric trick is used in the text, which is not much more than a eulogy of the presumed radicality and originality of the shop and its population (including some customers). For example, none of the characters in the so-called ‘cast’ (as if this shop would be a drama acted out by the employees) appears to have a last name, but their biographies and motivations to work at Blumenkraft are extensively described. Before long, I shall expect these people to be called ‘knowledge workers in a globally competitive floreal workspace’ and ‘serving the cognitive-aesthetic idiosyncratic need for a reversal from virtuality to sensuality of the radically nomadic Viennese beau-monde’. Basically, that is exactly what this book does: supporting the shop’s marketing strategy of avoiding presumed petty bourgeois tastes and, thereby, perversely planting the seeds for a new snobbish (flower) style that will soon be absorbed by the same upper middle classes. Similar strategies have been followed all over the world by e.g. Daniel Ost, to name just one example from my own region, and have been equally successful. I seriously doubt that the love story between Gregor and Christine, with its reminiscences of La Traviata and Der Rosenkavalier will change this book from a marketing prop into a scholarly book on flower shop design.




Updated 1st January 2006

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