Best Books I Read in 2018

The end of the calendar year means best-of lists, and for this blog that means architecture books. Unlike traditional publications that limit their lists to books, buildings, or some other output released or completed between January 1 and December 31, I lean toward the way film critic Jonathan Rosenbaum would include only movies he saw and reviewed during the year (so if a film opened in NYC around Xmas to be eligible for an Oscar but didn't play in Chicago that year he didn't consider it) and therefore have limited my list to books I reviewed on this blog at some point in 2018. In turn, half of these dozen books were published this year but the other half came out last year. Accordingly, the alphabetical list is split into two based on the years the books were released, with links to my reviews or "briefs."


2018



Dimensions of
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So You Want to Learn About: Roberto Burle Marx

The "So You Want to Learn About" series highlights books focused on a particular theme: think "socially responsible architecture" and "Le Corbusier," rather than broad themes like "housing" or "modern architects." Therefore the series aims to be a resource for finding decent reading materials on certain topics, born of a desire to further define noticeable areas of interest in the books I review. And while I haven't reviewed every title, I am familiar with each one; these are not blind recommendations.

About one year ago my book 100 Years, 100 Landscape Designs came out. There were a number of landscape designers that just had to be in the book, one of them being Roberto Burle Marx (1909-1994), the great Brazilian landscape designer and artist who single-handedly defined landscape architecture in South America, not just Brazil. (A couple of his landscapes worked their way into my book, both carrying his
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Old+New Book Review: Kongjian Yu

Designed Ecologies: The Landscape Architecture of Kongjian Yu edited by William S. Saunders
Birkhäuser, 2012
Hardcover, 256 pages

Letters to the Leaders of China: Kongjian Yu and the Future of the Chinese City edited by Terreform
UR Books, 2018
Paperback, 300 pages



One of the most memorable crits I attended during the World Architecture Festival a couple weeks ago was Turenscape's presentation of Puyangjiang River Corridor, which involved the demolition of the channelized river's concrete embankments and subsequent "softening and remediating" of the 10-mile-long river corridor. Even though the concrete-lined river sprouted industrial uses along its banks, Turenscape convinced the city's mayor to remove the concrete and the industry in order to bring the river back to life. How, the jury asked the designer from Turenscape, did they manage to do that? "Six months of drinking with the mayor!" It seemed like a joke and elicited laughter from
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Book Briefs #40

"Book Briefs" are an ongoing series of posts with short first-hand descriptions of some of the numerous books that make their way into my library. These briefs are not full-blown reviews (though some might go on to get that treatment), but they are a way to share more books worthy of attention than find their way into reviews on this blog. This installment features four titles — two from Laurence King and two from Thames & Hudson – that are oriented to design and materials in education and practice.



The Architecture Concept Book by James Tait | Thames & Hudson | 2018 | Amazon / IndieBound
The title page of The Architecture Concept Book includes title, author, and publisher but also one important number: 565 illustrations. Yes, that's a lot of illustrations. I'd say as many of them are sketches by James Tait as they are photographs by others. In
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Triple Dutch

The lack of posts between my roundup of Holiday Gift Books on Thanksgiving and now was due to a trip to Amsterdam to cover the World Architecture Festival for World-Architects. Thankfully I was able to do some sightseeing on what was my first trip to the Netherlands, zipping around Amsterdam and taking day trips to Delft and Rotterdam. Below are photos of some highlights in these three Dutch cities, presented in the order I visited them.

AMSTERDAM

The bathtub-like addition to the Stedelijk Museum (2012) by Benthem Crouwel Architects:


Superlofts Houthaven (2016) by Marc Koehler Architects, which won at WAF in 2017 and was open for tours this year:


Het Schip, the Amsterdam School masterpiece from 1920 by Michel de Klerk:


ARCAM (Architecture Centre Amsterdam), housed in a shapely building designed by René van Zuuk (2003):



DELFT

Delft City Hall and Train Station (2017) by Mecanoo:


BK City
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2018 Holiday Gift Books

For this year's roundup of Holiday Gift Books I'm highlighting 36 books by the same number of publishers, arranged alphabetically by publisher – from Actar to Yale. Titles link to IndieBound and covers link to Amazon for easy gift-buying.

Actar
Álvaro Siza Viera: A Pool in the Sea
By Kenneth Frampton, Vincent Mentzel

A slim, 92-page book that sees Siza, with Kenneth Frampton, revisiting the great pool he designed more than 50 years ago in Leça de Palmeira, Portugal.


ar+d (Applied Research + Design)
Towards Openness
By Li Hu, Huang Wenjing

A really nice monograph on OPEN, the firm led by Li Hu and Huang Wenjing that recently completed the UCCA Dune Art Museum.


Arquine
Mexico City Architecture Guide
By Miquel Adrià, Andrea Griborio, Alejandro Gálvez, Juan José Kochen

One of these days I'll make it south of the border to see the great architecture in Mexico City. When I
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Book Review: A Feeling of History

A Feeling of History by Peter Zumthor, Mari Lending
Scheidegger & Spiess, 2018
Paperback, 80 pages



Swiss architect Peter Zumthor finishes buildings so sporadically that the presence of each in various strands of architectural communication lasts years rather than days or weeks. It was five years, for instance, between two recently completed works: the Steilneset Memorial (2011) and the Allmannajuvet Zinc Mining Museum (2016), both in Norway. When I saw Zumthor speak with Paul Goldberger at the Guggenheim in February 2017, these were the two projects Zumthor focused on. In general, discussions around these and other Zumthor projects unfold over time, unlike projects by prolific firms such as BIG or Kengo Kuma Associates, where lots of attention follows an opening, only to give way quickly to the next project's completion. In turn, Zumthor's slowness invites interviews — but ones that play out over time rather than ones that take place
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Book Briefs #39: More Biennale Publications

"Book Briefs" are an ongoing series of posts with short first-hand descriptions of some of the numerous books that make their way into my library. These briefs are not full-blown reviews (though some might go on to get that treatment), but they are a way to share more books worthy of attention than find their way into reviews on this blog

On Sunday, November 25th, the 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale wraps up its six-month run. Back in June I featured a half-dozen publications, including the main catalog, from my visit to the Biennale when it opened in May. Not all exhibition catalogs were available at the time, so here are a few that followed (with one from the 2016 Biennale): on the Australian, Chinese, Catalan, and Spanish pavilions.



Repair: Australian Pavilion, 16th International Architecture Exhibition, La Biennale di Venezia 2018 edited by Mauro Baracco, Louise Wright | Actar |
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Three Exhibitions to See Now in NYC

Archive and Artifact: The Virtual and the Physical
October 23 - December 1, 2018
The Cooper Union, Foundation Building
7 East 7th Street


Archive and Artifact "celebrates The Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture's experimental and influential pedagogy by presenting undergraduate Thesis projects completed at the school over the past 50 years." The show, in Cooper Union's Foundation Building, includes some big names (Elizabeth Diller, Daniel Libeskind, Stan Allen) but mostly people who didn't go on to such familiarity. Of course, the show isn't merely a before-they-were-famous peek at the student work of architects; it is an expression of the influence of founding School of Architecture dean John Hejduk (1975-2000) as well as how Anthony Vidler (2001-2013) and Nader Tehrani (2015-present) have carried on that legacy. This is a great show
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Book Review: The Man in the Glass House

The Man in the Glass House: Philip Johnson, Architect of the Modern Century by Mark Lamster
Little Brown, 2018
Hardcover, 528 pages



Mark Lamster had me in the Prologue. The Dallas Morning News architecture critic begins his biography of Philip Johnson on the famous architect's death bed. Like his iconic Glass House from 1949, Johnson's life was full of myth, arising from his architecture, his words, and his actions — all of them controversial throughout his many decades. But Lamster opens The Man in the Glass House by focusing on Johnson's humanity: his ill health, his difficulty in eating, the list of drugs he took to prolong his life, the tai chi master that came to the house a few days a week. When Johnson dies on the last page of the Prologue, I actually shed a tear; not out of sadness for Johnson's passing, which happened in January 2005
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Stop the Presses!

Seeing a TV commercial for Verzenio the other day, I was reminded of that day I made the cover of my local newspaper after getting an architectural commission.



Oh, wait. That never happened. Because architects DON'T MAKE IT ON THE FRONT PAGE OF NEWSPAPERS! Much less above the fold – and with a photo, a smiling photo.

Sure, there are exceptions: your name is Frank Gehry; the newspaper is The Architect's Newspaper; or the design contract being awarded is the most coveted one in the entire world, and you're a young architect from a small "central community" nobody's ever heard of. In that case, this example of architectural advertising is, unlike others, spot-on.

So You Want To Learn About: Michael Sorkin

The "So You Want to Learn About" series highlights books focused on a particular theme: think "socially responsible architecture" and "Le Corbusier," rather than broad themes like "housing" or "modern architects." Therefore the series aims to be a resource for finding decent reading materials on certain topics, born of a desire to further define noticeable areas of interest in the books I review. And while I haven't reviewed every title, I am familiar with each one; these are not blind recommendations.

This year's release of Michael Sorkin's latest collection of critical essays, What Goes Up: The Rights and Wrongs to the City, prompted me to put together a "learn about" post on the influential critic, educator, and designer of buildings and cities. An outspoken critic of misguided architecture, urban inequality, oppressive ideologies, and other impediments to truly egalitarian and sustainable societies, Sorkin is principal of Michael Sorkin Studio
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Today’s archidose #1021

Here are some photos of the Campinarana House in Manaus, Brazil, by Laurent Troost and Raquel Reis. See also photographs by Leonardo Finotti.








To contribute your Flickr images for consideration, just:
:: Join and add photos to
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Kongjian Yu at GSAPP

On Monday, October 29 at 6:30pm, Kongjian Yu, founder of Turenscape, is giving the 2018 Kenneth Frampton Endowed Lecture at Columbia GSAPP. The lecture is a must. Michael Van Valkenburgh describes Yu, on the back cover of the new Terreform/UR book, Letters to the Leaders of China: Kongjian Yu and the Future of the Chinese City, as "the Olmsted of China."


[Harbin Qunli Stormwater Park in Haerbin City, Heilongjiang Province, China, by Turenscape]

From Columbia GSAPP's website:
Creating Deep Connections and Deep Forms
A lecture by Kongjian Yu, founder of Turenscape, Beijing.
Response by Kenneth Frampton.

Kongjian Yu is the Dean of the College of Architecture and Landscape at Peking University and the founder of the award-winning landscape and architecture firm Turenscape, based in Beijing. His pioneering research on ‘ecological security patterns’ and ‘sponge cities’ have been adopted by the Chinese government as the guiding theory
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Book Review: Exposed Architecture

Exposed Architecture: Exhibitions, Interludes and Essays by LIGA
Park Books, 2018
Paperback, 312 pages



Five years ago, coinciding with a couple conferences on architectural exhibitions, I did a short survey of venues devoted to architecture for World-Architects. With only eleven institutions, the survey was far from comprehensive, though it made up for this with a diversity of locales and approaches to displaying architecture. One of the youngest – two years old at the time of publication – of the bunch was LIGA, Space for Architecture in Mexico City, which I had only marginal knowledge of at the time. An "uneven balance between lots of construction and no discussion" in Latin America led to the creation of LIGA and made it "a necessary platform to create a local architectural culture." Amazingly, the ambitious impetus of LIGA and its diverse seasonal programming (four exhibitions per year) took place in a corner
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Jenny Sabin Studio at House of Peroni

Last night I attended the opening of LUSTER, an installation designed by Jenny Sabin Studio and curated by Art Production Fund for House of Peroni. LUSTER transformed the top floor at 463 West Street (part of Westbeth Artist Housing - PDF link) into a pop-up bar for a few days, after which the piece will travel to LA, Miami, and DC this fall. Before the party got going Jenny Sabin spoke with Christoph a. Kumpusch about the installation and the work of her studio based in Ithaca.

LUSTER

Sabin's work came to my attention, like most people I'm guessing, when she won the MoMA PS1 YAP last year with Lumen, a lightweight canopy of digitally knitted, robotically woven, photo-luminescent, solar-active yarns. Unfortunately, I only saw Lumen during the day, not at night when it glowed in various colors. Thankfully, last night's discussion took place just after sunset, when LUSTER
LUSTER
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