Book Review: Pictures of the Floating Microcosm

Pictures of the Floating Microcosm: New Representations of Japanese Architecture by Olivier Meystre
Park Books, 2017
Hardcover, 240 pages



It's hard to deny the appeal of drawings by Japanese architects. I've succumbed, for instance, to the intricate perspective sections and plans of Atelier Bow-Wow and "Architectural Ethnography," the Japanese exhibition at this year's Venice Architecture Biennale, which was co-curated by one-half of Atelier Bow-Wow and focused on drawings by architects and non-architects alike. The two-dimensional output of Japanese architects in the last two decades is evident through their high level of detail, lack of hierarchy in lines, abundance of white space, and sometimes cartoonish qualities. But why is it like this and what are these drawings trying to express? These and other questions are addressed by Olivier Meystre in his analytical, accessible, and lavishly illustrated study on drawings and models produced by well-known Japanese architects over the last few decades.



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Today’s archidose #1009

Here are some of my photos of Kansas State University's College of Architecture, Planning and Design (2017) in Manhattan, Kansas, by Ennead Architects. I stopped by my alma mater during a recent road trip through the Great Plains and will be posting more photos from the trip in the coming days.

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Book Review: Sun Path House and Other Cosmic Architectures

Sun Path House and Other Cosmic Architectures by Christian Wassmann
Koenig Books, 2017
Hardcover, 136 pages



A few pages into this case study of Christian Wassmann's Sun Path House -- a freestanding backyard addition to a house in Miami Beach -- is the architect's sketch of the Great Samrat Yantra in Jaipur, India. Wassmann description of the astronomical observatory makes it clear it had a strong influence on him, both during his education, when he saw photos in a book, and at the beginning of his practice, when he visited it in person. Therefore, the link between the 18th-century sundial in India and Wassmann's aptly named Sun Path House, which is anchored -- literally and figuratively -- by a curved concrete wall that traces the arc of the sun on the summer solstice, is readily apparent. But another earlier project comes to the fore in my mind: Le Corbusier's
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Ecological Living Module at the UN

This morning I visited the United Nations to see the Ecological Living Unit. The "tiny house," which was designed to be "efficient, multi-functional and engineered to operate independently," is a collaboration between UN Environment, Yale Center for Ecosystems in Architecture, and Gray Organschi Architecture. Below is a quick tour of the ELM with my photos.

Ecological Living Module
The west-facing facade is covered in a "Microfarming Wall" that is irrigated by rainwater that hits the angled planters but also by rainwater collected on the roof.


Ecological Living Module
Ecological Living Module
These two photos show the solar panels on the sloped roof and the sliding glass wall at the narrow, south-facing porch with its shallow overhang.


Ecological Living Module
Another sliding glass wall opens on the east side to aid in passive ventilation.


Ecological Living Module
A peek inside reveals shadow patterns from the skylight, a wood-lined interior, built-in seating, and a ladder up to the sleeping loft.


Ecological Living Module
The skylight doubles as an Integrated Concentrating
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Book Review: Downward Spiral

Downward Spiral: El Helicoide's Descent from Mall to Prison edited by Celeste Olalquiaga and Lisa Blackmore
UR (Urban Research), 2018
Paperback, 268 pages



If any decade could be called "the driving decade" it would definitely be the 1950s. Domestically, it encompassed the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956, which saw the federal government pay for thousands of miles of highways, many barreling through cities. In turn, buildings downtown had to be designed and reconfigured for the automobile. One bold example, which was proposed in 1959 and built five years later, was William Tabler's "Motor-Pool Hilton" in San Francisco, which wrapped a hotel around a parking garage; people could drive up the ramp and park right next to their room. But a look at the building disappoints, since the automotive aspect driving the design -- turning it into a hybrid between a hotel and a motor lodge -- is hidden. To see
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Today’s archidose #1008

Here's a photo of the Amager Resource Center (2017) in Copenhagen, Denmark, by BIG – Bjarke Ingels Group. The photo, by Jeff Reuben, is looking toward the waste-to-energy plant from Christiania. Although the plant is obviously functioning, the ski slope – Copenhill – that sits atop it won't be complete until later this year.

Amager Landscape

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Rosario Candela, Sutton Place, and ‘Elegance in the Sky’

Elegance in the Sky
[All photos by John Hill, unless noted otherwise]

Although the 57th Street tour I've given in recent years focuses on the tall towers of "Billionaire's Row," my walk goes all the way from river to river, starting at a small plaza overlooking the East River and ending at 12th Avenue near the Hudson River. Extending the tour to 2.5 miles enabled it to embrace such projects as BIG's VIA 57 West overlooking the Hudson and to historically contextualize the supertall residential towers that have sprung up this century in the blocks of 57th Street between Park Avenue and Broadway. In the case of the latter, Sutton Place (named for the north-south avenue that intersects 57th Street just shy of the East River) is a quiet residential neighborhood with townhouses and apartment buildings from the early 1900s. A couple apartment buildings in Sutton Place were designed by Rosario Candela, a
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Hard Hat Tour: The Forum

Set to open in September, The Forum is third building to open on Columbia University's Manhattanville Campus. Designed by Renzo Piano Building Workshop, the 56,000-sf building follows the Jerome L. Greene Science Center and the Lenfest Center for the Arts, both of which opened in 2017 and were also designed by RPBW. Last week, Columbia held a press tour of The Forum with architects from RPBW; below are my photos and a tour through the building.

The Forum
The Forum is located on the northeast corner of Broadway and 125th Street, on a triangular lot formed by the angle of 125th Street. At this location the concrete-and-glass Forum acts as a gateway to the Manhattanville Campus.


The Forum
The Forum sits south of the Greene and Lenfest buildings, on the left in the photo above, and just west of the 125th Street subway station, which runs as a viaduct due to the low topography
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AB and FOOD

Although I've lived in Astoria, Queens, for twelve years and worked in nearby Long Island City for a few years, I'd never been to Brooklyn Grange until earlier this month. Although the name points to that hipper borough to the south, the Grange's first rooftop farm is located in Queens, specifically on Northern Boulevard, a car-oriented thoroughfare that leads to and from the Queensboro Bridge. I work on Northern Boulevard and frequent the coffee shop in the base of the building where the Grange has its one-acre farm. Faced with a cold- or allergy-related sore throat that wouldn't go away, I headed to the Grange on one of its open Saturdays in June to buy some honey – what turned out to be the most delicious honey I've ever eaten.


[Photos from my visit to the Brooklyn Grange]

I'm bringing up Brooklyn Grange here, in the context of AB's Food
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Today’s archidose #1005

Here is a photo of Frank Gehry's LUMA Arles under construction in Arles, France. (Photo: Jacqueline Poggi)



See also Today's archidose #915 from August 2016.

An aerial rendering (screenshots via luma-arles.org) of what the completed project, which also consists of five industrial buildings being restored by Selldorf Architects, will look like:


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Hunters Point South Park Phase 2

I'm still catching up on things after the AIA Conference on Architecture last week and a walking tour over the weekend. The latter, of Brooklyn Bridge Park, led me to take the East River Ferry home. On the ride I noticed the second phase of Hunters Point South Park was open, so I hopped off the ferry and took a few photos of the park designed by ARUP, Thomas Balsley, and Weiss/Manfredi.

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Storefront’s Empty Bookshelves

I'm still swamped with the AIA Conference on Architecture being in town this week, so here's something to tide people over until I'm able to post about it or something else. Here are some photos from the opening of Architecture Books – Yet to be Written at the Storefront for Art and Architecture. Exhibition design is by Abruzzo Bodziak Architects and Pentagram.


Although the shelves – some of them attached to the Storefront's iconic pivoting panels – are empty, they should fill up a bit between now and the installation's closing in late August.

‘Architecture Books’ Opens at Storefront

In September last year I attended the Storefront for Art and Architecture's Architecture Books / Yet to be Written / 1982-2017-2052 at the Cooper Union. The five-hour-long event marked the beginning stages of Storefront's New York Architecture Book Fair, which takes place this week and consists of numerous components, such as Book Salons, a Bookstore Network, and an exhibition in Storefront's distinctive space. The last, called Architecture Books – Yet to be Written opens tomorrow evening and runs until late August. Details are below.



Description from the Storefront website:
April 19th Exhibition Opening:
6 – 7 pm: Press and Members Preview
7 – 9 pm: Public Opening

As part of the first edition of the New York Architecture Book Fair, Storefront for Art and Architecture presents Architecture Books – Yet to be Written, an exhibition that invites us to reflect upon the cultural contribution of architecture through the
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