Architect, art collector, friend to some of the most influential artists of the 1970s and 80s, and giver of legendary parties - Max Gordon made an indelible mark on both sides of the Atlantic before his death at the age of 59 in 1990. Yet his most important built works, like his transformation of a London paint warehouse into art powerhouse the Saatchi Gallery, are famed for their subtlety rather than grand statements. 'Never was there a trace of sensationalism or self-advertisement in Max's designs,' says Doris Lockhart Saatchi. 'Instead he skilfully used the simplest, and often least expensive, means to achieve calm and beautiful effects.'

Completed in 1985, the flowing volumes of the Saatchi Gallery at 98a Boundary Road quickly made him the go-to architect for spaces pertaining to contemporary art, be they private homes for big collectors or galleries like the Fisher Landau Centre for Art in New York - seven of which are documented in Architect for Art. An extremely personal new tome, penned by his brother David (a former director of the Milwaukee Art Museum in the US and secretary of London's Royal Academy of Arts) - and also including contributions by Tate director Nicholas Serota, the Saatchis and Emily Fisher Landau - it even features an essay by the man himself.

'Everything possible must be done to allow pictures to breathe and be enjoyed without distraction,' he wrote - a theory that saw him set the standard for the relationship between art and architecture. In his own home on London's Mount Street (featured in the book and the site of his famous parties), this meant paring things right back and banishing objects behind white doors, long before such minimalist tendencies had taken hold. This ensured there were no detractions from important pieces by the likes of Michael Craig-Martin, Sol LeWitt, Jennifer Bartlett and Stephen Buckley - which comprised what Serota describes as 'one of the most adventurous collections of contemporary British and American art in London'.

Alongside his architectural work, Gordon also acted as a launch pad for British artists in America, propelling the careers of Craig-Martin and Buckley. Meanwhile, in the UK he is even credited with initiating the Turner Prize. As Serota puts it, his legacy lies not just in the spaces he created, 'but in the fruits of his ability to bring together artists, designers, collectors, and curators, and to cajole and inspire them into striving for more ambitious means.' And so, with its lively mix of anecdotes and insights, Architect for Art gives a rare glimpse inside the art world of this extraordinary period, as well as being a fitting tribute to one of its catalysts.

Image of a gallery of wooden shapes in a windowed tunnel shaped room

Gallery designed by Gordon for the Museo Reina Soía, featuring Richard Serra’s ’Equal-Parallel; Guernica Bengasi,’ 1986

(Image credit: Rafael S. Lobato)

Image inside Max Gordon's home 120 mount street showing a large circular pillar, a chest and pieces of art

Gordon’s own home between 1977 and 1981 at 120 Mount Street, London

(Image credit: TBC)

Image of a free-hand drawing of early plans and annotations for 120 mount street

One of his freehand early plans for 120 Mount Street, showing walls in red, most of which were removed in the final design

(Image credit: TBC)

Image showing gallery two Saatchi Gallery including paintings on the walls

Gallery two of the Saatchi Gallery at 98a Boundary Road, London, featuring paintings by Andy Warhol

(Image credit: Doris Lockhart Saatchi)

Image showing gallery five, featuring a windowed roof and floor with metal girders

Gallery five at 98a Boundary Road, London, featuring Richard Wilson’s site-specific installation, ’20:50,’ 1987’

(Image credit: Anthony Oliver)

Image of the parlour floor showing a table with chairs and flower arrangement floor to ceiling window blocks,

The parlor floor of Brody House, New York, featuring Ellsworth Kelly’s ’White Brown,’ 1968

(Image credit: John M. Hall Photographs)

Image showing a view of the main gallery at Annely Juda Fine Art, London, featuring paintings on all walls

View of the main gallery at Annely Juda Fine Art, London, featuring paintings by Prunella Clough

(Image credit: Annely Juda Fine Art)

Image of a large room featuring a wooden sculpture and double open doors open behind it, with glass doors closed to the right

Sachs House, Philadelphia, featuring Joel Shapiro’s sculpture ’Untitled,’ 1989-90
© 2010 Halkin Architectural Photography

(Image credit: TBC)

Image shows exterior view of the Manilow House, Chicago

Eastern view of the exterior of Manilow House, Chicago

(Image credit: TBC)

Image shows the Manilow House, Chicago featuring comfy chairs, low table with lamp and art hanging on the walls

The second-floor gallery of Manilow House, Chicago
© 2004 Waye Cable

(Image credit: TBC)

Malaika Byng is an editor, writer and consultant covering everything from architecture, design and ecology to art and craft. She was online editor for Wallpaper* magazine for three years and more recently editor of Crafts magazine, until she decided to go freelance in 2022. Based in London, she now writes for the Financial Times, Metropolis, Kinfolk and The Plant, among others.