This is precisely the kind of question which has to be asked of your printer. There are too many kinds of presses and impositions for us to answer that question.
thanks, but... the printer has not been chosen, and won't be until we know what is possible
there are choices all over the world for this project, from USA to Europe to China.
btw: its a 12x9.5" portrait book, (305x240mm)
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A gatefold that goes into a perfect bound book can go anywhere in a book. It would not go in the middle of a printing signature, but is accomplished by placing it in between printing signatures. And, if need be, the printer can print two page signatures to accomodate this. Typically a 160 page book would be ten (16-page) signatures. If you were to place a gatefold between page 24 and 25, the sigs would go 1-16, 17-24, gatefold, 25-32, etc. And obviously, you are adding more sigs, more plates, more production... more cost to the project.
so a 6 page gatefold (3 to view, front and back) is sewn into the book entirely on its own, between sections, not wrapped around an existing section, not stitched into the middle of an 8 or 16 page bound section, right?
For a perfect bound book, yes. And with 160 pages, I am assuming that would be the binding method.
Keep in mind that either binding method, the regular pages will be printed separately than the gatefolds, and then married together at the bindery stage. So inserting a gatefold will have to be in between signatures.
Also keep in mind that perfect binding pagination is different than saddle-stitched binding
Perfect Bound: [1-16] [17-32] etc.
Saddle Stitch [1-8 + 153-160] [9-16 + 145-152] etc.
It would not be perfect binding, as this is a high price hardbound photographic monograph, and most likely be sewn in sections. we just need a lot of gatefolds in there.
I just deconstructed an interesting 2011 hardbound photo book that was 5 sewn sections Listing each individual section in exploded view from outermost (the 'jacket' of the section) to innermost (where stitching is visible in the gutter):
front to back
section of 24pp: outermost > 4pp; 6pp gatefold; 6pp gatefold; 6pp gatefold <innermost
section of 12pp: 4pp; 8pp double gatefold.
section of 10pp: 4pp; 6pp gatefold.
section of 8pp: 4pp; 4pp.
section of 16pp: 4pp; 6pp gatefold; 6pp gatefold.
Obviously this is a very adventurous binding, where only 1 sewn section is a regular 8 pages with no gates. The only thing I notice from this is that no section uses a gatefold as the outermost 'jacket', those are always regular 4pp spreads. Seems to be whatever, whenever, otherwise!
i'm with steve on this, you need to ask these questions of your printer.
if you haven't selected a printer yet, at least make a short-list and ask these questions of the ones on the short-list. this will not be a waste of their time - our estimating/planning section gets involved with jobs in their infancy to plan them so that once files are handed over, the job is already planned and will pass through production seamlessly.
different printing companies have different machinery and therefore different bindery requirements.