Spring 2019 Walking Tours

It’s less than a week until spring, which means my walking tours are starting up again. I have a few scheduled with the 92Y, listed below. Additionally I’ve created a static Walking Tours page where I will maintain a list of upcoming walking tours. That page can be found from the top menu on this blog. Click link for tickets or visit that page for more information on the below tours.

Saturday, March 30, 2019 – 11am-2:30pm
Architectural Tour of Brooklyn via the G Train

Saturday, April 13, 2019 – 11am-1:30pm
Architectural Tour of Pedestrian Lower Manhattan

Saturday, May 4, 2019 – 11am-1:30pm
Architectural Tour of the High Line and Its Environs

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Architecture for the Poor

Architecture for the Poor: An Experiment in Rural Egypt
Hassan Fathy
University of Chicago Press, 1973/2000

Hardcover (1973), Paperback (2000) | 5-1/2 x 9 inches | 366 pages | 132 illustrations | English | ISBN: 978-0226239163 | $38.00

Publisher Description:

Architecture for the Poor describes Hassan Fathy’s plan for building the village of New Gourna, near Luxor, Egypt, without the use of more modern and expensive materials such as steel and concrete. Using mud bricks, the native technique that Fathy learned in Nubia, and such traditional Egyptian architectural designs as enclosed courtyards and vaulted roofing, Fathy worked with the villagers to tailor his designs to their needs. He taught them how to work with the bricks, supervised the erection of the buildings, and encouraged the revival of such ancient crafts as claustra (lattice designs in the mudwork) to adorn the buildings.

dDAB Commentary:

If the juries for the 2014 and 2016 the Pritzker Architecture Prizes, which went to Shigeru Ban and Alejandro Aravena respectively, were around before 1989, when Fathy died at the age of 89, they probably would have awarded one of “architecture’s Nobel” to Egyptian architect Hassan Fathy. Like those architects, Fathy designed buildings for people who could afford to hire an architect (these took the form of villas, mainly), but he devoted a good deal of his energy to “architecture for the poor,” akin to Ban’s refugee and post-disaster housing and Aravena’s incremental housing. Now, thirty years after his death, Fathy is remembered most for projects on the “poor” end of the spectrum (witness Earth & Utopia, the recent book on Fathy); most likely, the same will be the case for Ban and Aravena after they have passed and future generations look back on their work.

Architecture for the Poor (or parts of it, at least) was required reading when I was in architecture school in the early 1990s. I’m not sure if that applies to students today, but the book — first published in 1973 as a hardcover and then released in a paperback edition as recently as 2000 — remains in print. Released when Fathy was 73, the book documents a project he undertook in his mid-40s: New Gourna Village, intended to relocate poor families from a village in Luxor that sat over ancient Egyptian ruins. Fathy was sensitive to the needs of the families and approached the design of the new village as an experiment in building sustainably with low-cost, readily available materials. Yet only a portion of the village was built, due to what Fathy describes in the book (he recounts the failures of the project in detail as much as he does its design and construction) as “the stiffening obstruction from the Department of Antiquities” and the fact many families just didn’t want to move. Architecture for the Poor is an honest account of an ambitious project whose ideas Fathy would try again with similar results; it i is full of narrative details but also details on construction and management and photos of his traditional, yet forward-thinking architecture.

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Author Bio:

Hassan Fathy [1900-1989], an Egyptian architect, … taught on the Faculty of Fine Arts in Cairo and served as head of its architectural section. He … received numerous awards including the 1970 French Literary Prize for this book, which originally appeared in a French edition.

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Modern Spaces

Modern Spaces: A Subjective Atlas of 20th-Century Interiors
Nicolas Grospierre
Prestel, October 2018

Hardcover | 9-1/2 x 11 inches | 224 pages | 176 color illustrations | English | ISBN: 978-3791384689 | $49.95

Publisher Description:

In Modern Forms, Nicolas Grospierre traveled the globe to sample the best modernist buildings from the 20th century. Now, he takes his camera indoors to show how modernist ideas are manifested within the walls of buildings both famous and obscure. Rather than a chronological or geographical tour, these photographs are organized in a visual flow, that allows readers to appreciate similar characteristics in interiors that would normally never be grouped together. Shot in the same distinctive and striking manner as his previous book, these images reveal the forms that define modernism. Built with forward-looking, Utopian ideals, decades later, they exist in a startling range of conditions, from dazzling to downtrodden. Through the visual flow of the book, readers can make connections between a private residence in Sri Lanka, a stairway at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Brasilia, a cinema in Bangkok, a bus station waiting room in Odessa, and the vaults of a bank on Wall Street, New York. Responding to our desires to categorize and catalog, this photographic journey crosses spatial and cultural borders to tell the story of modern architecture.

dDAB Commentary:

A couple weeks ago I featured Modern Forms, a “subjective atlas” of modern architecture photographed by Nicolas Grospierre. This followup takes readers inside more modern buildings, many of them in the photographer’s native Poland. Some of them are found elsewhere, but all of them are obscure, at least to this reviewer. Grospierre does not focus his camera on the icons of architecture; he finds modern buildings that are relatively unknown, often unloved, but always striking formally. So while Modern Forms presents curved, angular, rectilinear and other forms in unexpected yet logical pairs, Modern Spaces does the same inside, finding surfaces, textures, angles, corners, and functions that lead to similar juxtapositions on each spread.

Like its predecessor, Modern Spaces begins and ends with the same photo, in this case a hotel in Warsaw designed by Bohdan Pniewski in the 1960s, in which we look down a linear space marked by illuminated circular openings in the ceiling. Following it at the beginning of the book is another symmetrical composition, this time a museum in Bulgaria with a stair just steps beyond a chandelier hung from a circular opening in the ceiling. Turn the page and we see spiral stairs, a logical transition from the stair and circle we just encountered. With this, we’re off, following the formal gradients in Grospierre photos. Flipping through the book means always having an idea of what comes next but then being surprised at the actual details of those interiors. Information on the buildings comes at the back of the book, just like Modern Forms. But here the projects are ordered alphabetically rather than as laid out in the book. At first I found this confusing, but with many buildings featured more than once it makes sense. Furthermore, this technique points to the way Grospierre seems to be drawn to buildings with a variety of spaces, such as Balneological Hospital, which is on the cover and is found four more times inside — each space as rewarding as all the others.

Spreads (via Fotopolis):

Author Bio:

Nicolas Grospierre was awarded the Golden Lion at the 2008 Venice Architecture Biennale for his joint exhibition in the Polish Pavilion with Kobas Laksa.

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Kengo Kuma: Complete Works

Kengo Kuma: Complete Works
Kengo Kuma, Kenneth Frampton
Thames & Hudson, October 2018 (Second Edition)

Hardcover | 9-3/4 x 12 inches | 352 pages | 420 illustrations | English | ISBN: 978-0500343425 | $75.00

Publisher Description:

Since establishing his practice in 1990, Kengo Kuma has brought contemporary vigor to Japan’s already rich modern architectural heritage and developed projects far beyond his native country. Influenced by a period at Columbia University in New York and by the lessons of his mentor, Hiroshi Hara, Kuma has forged his own pared-back language: responsive to local nature and traditional construction, entirely contemporary in its execution, yet rooted in a Japanese sensibility.

The experience of his buildings is hypnotic and highly sensory. Much of this powerful effect is achieved by Kuma’s deft, sometimes dramatic, use of materials. Projects in the past five years alone include two museums in France, landscape projects in Italy, hotels and large- scale retail and commercial projects in China, and numerous projects in Japan, including a kindergarten.

Published to coincide with the opening of Kuma’s new Victoria & Albert Museum in Dundee, Scotland, with the architect’s direct involvement, this volume, expanded to include five new projects, offers unparalleled insight into the mind of one of the great architects of the twenty-first century.

dDAB Commentary:

In the realm of architectural monographs, what constitutes a “complete works”? The most obvious precedent for such publications is Le Corbusier’s Oeuvre Complete, which was produced in eight volumes from 1929 to 1970. Some architects have used the same tactic, producing a series of “complete works” over time in a series. One of the best is Renzo Piano’s now five-volume set, all published by Phaidon and done with Peter Buchanan. Another approach to the “complete works” is a single volume that is updated over time. Such could be the case with Frank O. Gehry: The Complete Works, which was first published as a 614-page hardcover tome in 1998 and then reprinted in paperback five years later. Best I can tell, it was going to be updated in 2012 but that never happened for reasons I don’t know. Regardless of the apparent lack of updates, I love the 1998 book for including every building and furnishing Gehry designed, from the high to the low, the known to the unknown; it is exhaustive and therefore indispensable. Other architects given single-volume “complete works” include Tadao Ando, Shigeru Ban, and Zaha Hadid (all done by Taschen).

Receiving a copy of the second edition of Kengo Kuma: Complete Works, I thought I was getting something akin to the Gehry monograph, with documentation on all of the Japanese architect’s output. Unfortunately it’s far from that. The hefty book presents 30 completed buildings by Kengo Kuma and Associates, far less than the “complete” output of the prolific architect. (In fact, the “Architecture” section of Kuma’s website shows completed buildings in a grid of 30 projects — and there are nearly 6 full pages of them!) The only thing that makes this monograph a “complete works” is the chronological list of projects at the back of the book; but a list doesn’t make a “complete works.” When seen as a more traditional monograph, in which those 30 buildings are grouped into thematic chapters by prevalent building material and follow a scholarly essay by Kenneth Frampton, it’s a very good book, one that makes a good argument for Kengo Kuma to one day receive the Pritzker Architecture Prize. But as a “complete works,” the book is deceitful, disappointing. Thames & Hudson should change the name of the third edition or offer a literal “complete works” for an architect deserving of the treatment.

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Author Bio:

Kengo Kuma is a leading Japanese architect whose work artfully combines the country’s traditional building crafts with sophisticated technologies and materials. He is the author of several books, including Anti- Object and Kyokai: A Japanese Technique for Articulating Space. Kenneth Frampton is Ware Professor of Architecture at the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation at Columbia University.

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Tadao Ando: The Colours of Light

Tadao Ando: The Colours of Light
Richard Pare
Phaidon, January 2000 (Mini Edition)

Hardcover | 5-1/2 x 6-1/2 inches | 284 pages | 350 illustrations | English | ISBN: 978-0714839998

Publisher Description:

An exquisite work of art in its own right, this book is the result of ten years’ collaboration between the English photographer Richard Pare and the internationally renowned Japanese architect Tadao Ando. This new edition features all the same extraordinary photographs, completely remastered from the original negatives, bringing this beautiful volume back to life. Pare’s remarkable images shed new light on this important body of work, while Ando’s original line drawings and sketches provide unparalleled insight into his creative process.

dDAB Commentary:

In 1996, when the first, large edition of Richard Pare’s The Colours of Light was published by Phaidon, Japanese architect Tadao Ando was known for some small commissions: houses, churches, and museums, mainly. It was, in a way, the end of the golden era of Ando, before his style of sensual concrete architecture was supersized for many more museums as well as offices and other buildings all over the world. Ask an architect what their favorite Ando building is and you’ll probably hear Church of the Light (1989) before, say, the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth (2002). Translating his tactile concrete architecture suited for intimate spaces of contemplation to larger, more impersonal commissions could not have been easy, but Ando carried his design sense through to such projects, making them recognizably his. (This view of Ando’s architecture is not absolute, though, as projects like Wrightwood 659, completed last year, attest.)

There is something about Ando’s architecture that makes his buildings well suited to the large-scale monographs that publishers started churning out in the post-S,M,L,XL era. In addition to the first edition of Pare’s photographs is Taschen’s “XXL” Complete Works, which was first published in 2004 and has been updated twice since, most recently last year. Understandably, Phaidon put out a mini edition of Pare’s book in 2000: a scaled-down version of the coffee table book that fits easily on bookshelves and in one’s hands. It collects Pare’s detail-oriented photos of nearly 30 Ando buildings over the course of more than a decade, much like what he did with Le Corbusier. The book also includes an introductory essay by Tom Heneghan (“Architecture and Ethics”), brief project descriptions and data with sketches by Ando at the back of the book, and some words by Pare on photographing Ando’s buildings. The appeal of his photos is not lost on Phaidon, which published a second edition of the large-sized book twelve months ago; subtitled “Volume 1,” the new book portends that more is to come, bringing us up to date with photos of Ando’s architecture over the last two decades.

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Author Bio:

Richard Pare is consulting curator of photography for the Canadian Center for Architecture and has exhibited at the Art Institute of Chicago and the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

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Brandscapes

Brandscapes: Architecture in the Experience Economy
Anna Klingmann
The MIT Press, 2007

Paperback (2010) | 7 x 9 inches | 378 pages | 100 b/w illustrations | English | ISBN: 978-0262515030 | $31.00

Publisher Description:

In the twenty-first century, we must learn to look at cities not as skylines but as brandscapes and at buildings not as objects but as advertisements and destinations. In the experience economy, experience itself has become the product: we’re no longer consuming objects but sensations, even lifestyles. In the new environment of brandscapes, buildings are not about where we work and live but who we imagine ourselves to be. In Brandscapes, Anna Klingmann looks critically at the controversial practice of branding by examining its benefits, and considering the damage it may do.

Klingmann argues that architecture can use the concepts and methods of branding—not as a quick-and-easy selling tool for architects but as a strategic tool for economic and cultural transformation. Branding in architecture means the expression of identity, whether of an enterprise or a city; New York, Bilbao, and Shanghai have used architecture to enhance their images, generate economic growth, and elevate their positions in the global village. Klingmann looks at different kinds of brandscaping today, from Disneyland, Las Vegas, and Times Square—prototypes and case studies in branding—to Prada’s superstar-architect-designed shopping epicenters and the banalities of Niketown.

dDAB Commentary:

A couple things this week prompted me to grab this 12-year-old book off my shelf: the 29th issue of MONU, themed “Narrative Urbanism,” and a visit to the brand new Nike House of Innovation on Fifth Avenue. Architect and brand consultant Anna Klingmann is all about extending the techniques of branding to cities by examining how companies brand spaces, how they create “brandscapes.” One critique in her book is NikeTown on 57th Street, which closed upon the completion of the House of Innovation five blocks to the south, and which Klingmann calls “the weakest part” of the company’s branding and devoid of any “exceptional experiential value.” I’m guessing she’d be pleased with Nike’s House of Innovation, even though it’s derivative of Apple’s highly successful stores. (What corporate retailers these days aren’t though?) For one, Nike put a small basketball court in the middle of the store, something Klingmann argues for one in Brandscapes. Nike layered digital features over the court (the lines on the floor are digitally painted, the bouncing basketball creates splashes of color, and cameras are everywhere) to make it an exclusive innovation lab rather than just a place to shoot some hoops. Digital features permeate the store’s six floors, hybridizing traditional stores and online e-commerce into an overstimulating experience of all things Nike.

For me, Nike and Apple and other brands have every right to design their stores, giving customers unique experiences that allow the brands to compete effectively at a time when stores are hurting. But I draw the line at the building; I’m not interested in the lessons of branding being applied to cities, democratic spaces that shouldn’t be guided entirely by corporate strategies, or “brandism,” Klingmann’s trademarked, stomach-churning term. This isn’t to say that brands have not infiltrated public spaces. One lasting effect of the Bloomberg administration (though hardly limited to NYC) is the overtaking of parks and other public spaces for corporate events, be it parties, promotions, or commercials. These events temporarily remove public space from public use, turning the city into just another branding opportunity. Taking branding one step further, Klingmann thinks cities should brand themselves to transform themselves and remain competitive. This makes sense in the realm of marketing targeted at tourists, but when it comes to the creation and use of public spaces, branding should hardly usurp the democratic process, which is often messy and indifferent to such a concept. Amazon’s departure from Long Island City comes to mind here. The deal it brokered with Governor Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio would have allowed the corporate giant to bypass ULURP, the process by which the public has a say in large developments. Amazon didn’t get this original deal once local politicians entered the picture, so it left. Nevertheless, the company’s year-long search for HQ2, in which hundreds of cities had to pitch themselves as if they were brands, makes it appear that Klingmann’s take on city branding has become the reality.

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Author Bio:

Anna Klingmann, an architect and critic, is the founder and principal of KL!NGMANN, an agency for architecture and brand building in New York. Her work has been published in AD Magazine, Daidalos, Architectural Record, Architecture d’Aujourd’hui, and other periodicals.

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Sources of Modern Architecture

Sources of Modern Architecture: A Critical Bibliography
Dennis Sharp
Granada Publishing, 1981 (Second Edition)

Hardcover | Page Size inches | # pages | # illustrations | Languages | ISBN: 0246112182 | $X.00

Publisher Description:

This unique guide to the literature of modern architecture has been completely revised, expanded and redesigned for its second edition.

The first section is devoted to books and articles on individual architects and to one or two influential critics and painters. This section is arranged alphabetically. After a brief biography each part is arranged in date order with the books and articles written by the person appearing first; then follow the books and monographs on the individual and by other writers, and finally articles on the individual. The subject bibliography is concerned with general works on modern architecture and theory. The last section is devoted to books concerned with national trends and a selective list of magazines, related to the Modern Movement in architecture.

dDAB Commentary:

If Sources of Modern Architecture — first published in 1967 and then revised and enlarged in 1981 — were released in the same form today it would carry the subtitle “A Bunch of Dead White Male Architects.” The cover displays twelve of them, including Frank Lloyd Wright, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, and Le Corbusier. Inside are dozens more (with quite a few I’ve never heard of … Jaramir Krejcar, anyone?), with most accompanied by portraits just like the cover. With these portraits rather than photos of their buildings or even covers of their books (this is a bibliographic book, after all), the book draws attention to the who as much as the what. Fifty years ago, the fact they were in the majority white men (only two women are included: Alison Smithson and Denise Scott Brown, but only Smithson is pictured and both are included alongside their male partners) was no biggie, but the lack of diversity in the field is an issue today, when women make up the majority of architecture students but don’t get registered or advance to the level of partner in the same numbers, and when the stats around architects of color are just as depressing.

Featuring this book was prompted by The Ordinary, a book about books I reviewed a few days ago. I have very few such books, but a few years ago I was prompted to buy a used copy of Sources of Modern Architecture as a means of finding books and other resources on modern architecture for a book I was writing. This “critical biography” by the late Dennis Sharp was helpful in terms of biographical information but it was so far out of date, and included many foreign-language books, that the bibliography did not do me much good. (Sharp’s Twentieth Century Architecture: A Visual History was more helpful for my research.) Considering its publication dates, this is hardly a surprise. But would a book like this make sense today, when Wikipedia and other online resources are the go-to references on architects? No, unless it were critical in myriad ways to make it both relevant and helpful to scholars of architecture.

Spreads:

Author Bio:

Dennis Sharp (1933-2010) was best known as an author, teacher and critic, with countless articles, books, exhibitions, events and magazines to his name. He helped set up Docomomo International and worked tirelessly to save modern buildings from demolition. He maintained an architectural practice throughout his working life.

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Activators

a+t 51: Public Space Strategies – Activators
Aurora Fernández Per, Javier Mozas (Editors)
a+t architecture publishers, December 2018

Paperback | 9-1/2 x 12-1/2 inches | 120 pages | Spanish/English | ISBN: 978-8409049295 | 26.00 €

Publisher Description:

a + t magazine returns to the public realm through the STRATEGY series, which began in 2010 with the aim of highlighting and naming the strategies and actions underlying each project.

85 actions are identified within the 13 projects included in the issue. They are grouped according to: Scale of influence (Context, Site, Objects) and Type of strategy (Environmental, Socioeconomic, Aesthetic).

This new volume of the STRATEGY series, called ACTIVATORS, includes works by MVRDV, Jaja, Adept, Nendo, Vaumm, Wowhaus, and Ola, among others. They are all projects that add new dynamics to the public space through the incorporation of facilities for leisure, sports or recreational learning.

dDAB Commentary:

It seems like it was just yesterday that a+t architecture publishers released their trio of issues in the Strategies series. But it was a while ago, between seven and nine years ago, in fact, that numbers 35/36, 37, and 38 were released, each one presenting numerous projects in the public realm. Thirteen issues later, with number 51, a+t picks up the series again, focusing on so-called activators in public space: 13 projects in Asia, Europe, and North America. These include a planted bridge over railroad tracks (yes, that one) that “activates interstitial spaces”; a trio of pools that respectively “invigorate communities,” “make connections,” and “raise eco-awareness”; a series of urban lifts (my favorite project in the issue) that “ensures accessibility” while also “blurring the limits” by “camouflaging” itself into its context; and a plaza, depicted on the cover, that “induces experiences,” among other highlighted strategies.

In the half-dozen years between issues 38 and 51, a+t put out magazines in its Reclaim, Workforce, Solid, and Complex series, but it also produced a couple sets of cards, one devoted to housing floor plans and one on urban blocks. These cards, with their rounded edges and myriad data sets, seem to have infiltrated Activators, as the first spread below indicates. Before the presentation of the 13 projects, the a+t editors lay out the strategies found throughout the book in terms of scale (context, site, objects) and types of strategies (environmental, socioeconomic, and aesthetic). The card-like, bilingual bubbles allow designers who gobble up books and magazines like these to find traits aligned with projects they are working on. The strategies and actions are keyed to the projects in the magazine and then reiterated alongside the photographs and drawings of the many commendable projects.

Spreads:

Author Bio:

a+t architecture publishers is an editorial company on architecture, founded in 1992 in Vitoria-Gasteiz, Spain. Aurora Fernández Per is Publisher and Editor in Chief; Javier Mozas is Editorial Advisor.

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The Condition of Chinese Architecture

The Condition of Chinese Architecture
Pier Alessio Rizzardi, Zhang Hankun
TCA Think Tank, September 2018

Paperback | 7 x 10 inches | 480 pages | English | ISBN: 978-1916453722

Publisher Description:

In China, 1% of the world’s architects have to design 50% of all the buildings and must do so for 15% of the profit. This extreme situation in which architects have to operate, design and build, creates the theoretical basis for The Condition of Chinese Architecture.

In addition to interviewing the critical voices of contemporary Chinese architecture, the authors report the nowadays reality of the country, the architectural evolution since the first contacts with the West in 1582 and the issues affecting its contemporary practice.

The result is a groundbreaking, cumulative reckoning teased out through layers of personal accounts and cross-disciplinary research, drawing on architecture, aesthetics, philosophy, politics, and society.

dDAB Commentary:

Chinese architecture, a staple of news about the built environment for the last dozen or so years, tends to veer between two poles: the cookie-cutter high-rise housing developments that are enabling the mass migration from the countryside to cities, and architectural icons screaming for attention, many designed by foreign architects. Most books tend to focus on one or the other (e.g., Bianca Bosker’s study of Chinese developments that copy European and other contexts, and Clare Jacobson’s collection of a few of the country’s many new museums) rather than both phenomena. The Condition of Chinese Architecture takes a different approach and attempts to create what the authors call a “cumulative reckoning” of contemporary Chinese architecture.

The theoretical basis behind the book written and published by TCA Think Tank (it is the product of their contribution to the Chinese Pavilion at the 2014 Venice Architecture Biennale) is spelled out in the first paragraph of the publisher’s description above and is found on page 12, in the first of the book’s three sections. Here, and in the following 125 pages, the authors paint a portrait of China through words and images; the former (translated words?) are in dire need of grammatical revision, but the latter’s photos, diagrams, and historical illustrations are a helpful layer that aids in understanding what the authors are trying to convey in words. (Given that the book is apparently self-published/print-on-demand, it should be noted that the image quality is inferior to traditional publishers; but the quality is still satisfactory given the large number of images and the book’s low price tag; less than $20 on Amazon.)

Starting on page 140 is the book’s second section: interviews with sixteen Chinese architects, among them Ma Yansong (MAD), Li Xiaodong, Li Hu (OPEN), and Lu Wenyu (Amateur Architecture Studio). This section is what will be most appealing to readers, to fans of contemporary Chinese architecture. The selection of architects is highly commendable, the interviews are easier to read than the first section, and the images accompanying the Q&As highlight important works, some in the form of collages by TCA Think Tank. Following the roughly 150 pages of interviews is the third and last section, “Issues.” Incorporating statements from the interviewees and words by the authors, this section explores six issues that embrace the book’s “cumulative reckoning”: Do What Is Taught, Peasant Construction Workers, Pushed by Practice, Visual Impact, Immaterial Legacy, and World Culture. “Issues” is a satisfying conclusion to a substantial book about a place often misunderstood by foreigners.

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Author Bios:

Pier Alessio Rizzardi graduated from Polytechnic University of Milan and University of São Paulo. Since 2007, he worked in Milan, São Paulo, Melbourne, Shanghai, London, Beijing, Bangkok, Seoul, and Singapore. Zhang Hankun is an architect and writer graduated from Polytechnic University of Milan and Northwestern Polytechnic University in Xi’an.

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Concrete

Concrete: Case Studies in Conservation Practice
Catherine Croft, Susan Macdonald (Editors)
Getty Publications, January 2019

Paperback | 8-1/2 x 10-1/2 inches | 208 pages | 183 illustrations | English | ISBN: 978-1606065761 | $59.95

Publisher Description:

This timely volume brings together fourteen case studies that address the challenges of conserving the twentieth century’s most ubiquitous building material—concrete. Following a meeting of international heritage conservation professionals in 2013, the need for recent, thorough, and well-vetted case studies on conserving twentieth century heritage became clear. This book answers that need and kicks off a new series, Conserving Modern Heritage, aimed at sharing best practices.

The projects selected represent a range of building typologies, uses, and sizes, from the high-rise housing blocks of Le Corbusier’s Unité d’Habitation and public buildings such as London’s National Theatre to small monuments like the structures at Dudley Zoological Gardens and a sculpture by Donald Judd. The projects also represent a range of environmental and economic contexts. Some projects benefit from high levels of heritage protection and access to funding, while others have had to negotiate conservation with stringent cost limitations. All follow a rigorous conservation approach, beginning with a process of investigation and diagnosis to identify causes and target repairs, balanced with conservation requirements to preserve significance.

dDAB Commentary:

Last month a modern masterpiece in concrete entered the news, when Berthold Lubetkin’s daughter said that “perhaps it’s time to blow [the Penguin Pool at London Zoo] to smithereens.” The 1934 structure by Lubetkin, with structural engineering by Ove Arup, has intertwining, paper-thin ramps that exploited the potential of reinforced concrete at the time. Sasha Lubetkin’s call for its demolition arose from the pool having sat empty since the penguins were moved to a larger habitat in 2004. It was the innovative concrete that caused the penguin exodus: the concrete surfaces led to an infection, “bumblefoot,” on the feet of the birds. So concrete drew attention to the small structure and its inhabitants, and concrete led to its irrelevance. While most innovative applications of reinforced concrete from the modern era eventually required technical attention (the Penguin Pool was restored in the 1980s), the circumstances of the bumblefoot seem unforeseeable. But reactions to Sasha Lubetkin’s words (one architect said tearing it down would be “vandalism”) point to the beloved nature of modern architecture in concrete and the myriad technical issues that accompanied such buildings.

Although the Penguin Pool is not one of the 14 “case studies in conservation practice” in Concrete, the book does include the Dudley Zoological Gardens, also designed by Lubetkin and his firm, Tecton, with Ove Arup. A few of the other impressive and varied case studies in Concrete are the Listening Mirrors in Denge, the rotating Villa Girasole in Verona, Oscar Niemeyer’s Church of Saint Francis of Assisi in Belo Horizonte, Le Corbusier’s Unité d’Habitation in Marseille, and even an outdoor Donald Judd sculpture in England. There is a diversity of function, geography, and form, equating to an equal diversity of conservation issues arising from the use of reinforced concrete. A common format for each case study presents background on the buildings and then allows Croft and Macdonald to delve into some highly technical information on research, analysis, and conservation efforts. Aiding them are lots of photographs that illustrate both the deterioration and the fixes. The conservation of innovative modern structures in reinforced concrete is very niche, but for practitioners dealing with such buildings Concrete is a must.

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Author Bios:

Catherine Croft is director of the Twentieth-Century Society and editor of C20 Magazine. Susan Macdonald is head of Buildings and Sites at the Getty Conservation Institute and oversees the Conserving Modern Architecture Initiative.

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Week Off + Reading List

It’s only been one month since this “new” blog started, and I already need to take a week off. (No worries though; it’s a break for work.) Before posts resume next week check out the Reading List I posted a few days ago. It features “100 must-know architecture books, presented in chronological order ― from Vitruvius to Koolhaas.”

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Over

Over: The American Landscape at the Tipping Point
Alex S. MacLean
Abrams, October 2008

Hardcover | 9 x 13-1/2 inches | 336 pages | 300 color photos | English | ISBN: 978-0810971455 | $50.00

Publisher Description:

For more than 30 years, Alex MacLean’s aerial photographs have captured the evolution of the American landscape and the complex relationship between its natural and constructed environments that contribute to climate change. Over: The American Landscape at the Tipping Point is an ambitious and visually breathtaking catalogue of the extraordinary patterns and profound physical consequences brought about by natural processes and human intervention.

The book allows readers to visualize climate change and our culture’s excessive use of resources and energy, which account for our oversized carbon footprint. It demonstrates the extent to which the human ecosystem, and our economic and social well being, are dependant upon our wise use of land and its resources. Over is divided into sections covering such as Atmosphere; Way of Life; Automobile Dependency; Electricity Generation; Deserts; Water Use; Sea-Level Rise; Waste and Recycling; and Urbanism. MacLean’s powerful photographs and insightful text make it clear that maintenance of the current American lifestyle is incompatible with a planet of diminishing natural resources and a finite atmosphere. Over compels us all to reconsider our basic assumptions about how we live, work, and play, and reveals that, while the challenges we face today are not insurmountable, the future depends on our collective vision, passion, and commitment.

dDAB Commentary:

Although the types of imagery are different, the satellite images of City Unseen reminded me of the aerial photography of Alex S. MacLean, particularly his large-format Over. Where the former collects satellite images in various wavelengths to show, for instance, the “vulnerabilities of cities to the effects of climate change,” the latter finds MacLean pointing his camera at parts of the United States that express the sprawl and destruction we have unleashed across it, from the Atlantic to the Pacific. The book’s subtitle, The American Landscape at the Tipping Point, makes it clear this isn’t a celebratory book, but MacLean’s photos of highway interchanges and the like are nevertheless full of beauty. And even when we think we’re looking at a piece of untouched nature, such as the snowy peaks of the Rockies, the photographer’s captions link the photos to one of the themes explored in this book of “aerial activism.”

The years, or maybe decades, of MacLean’s aerials photos collected in Over are clustered in Arizona, Florida, and other fraught areas. They are spread across nine thematic chapters (atmosphere, ways of life, automobile dependency, electricity generation, deserts, water use, sea-level rise, waste and recycling, urbanism) and are accompanied by, as noted, short captions. Given that the only other text is a short introduction by Bill McKibben (he seemed to write an intro to every environmentally minded book last decade), these captions are important in conveying information we might not immediately grasp. Regardless, the ideas MacLean is trying to express are often very clear. MacLean’s photos convey the scale and circumstance of our impact on the land while still portraying its beauty, though their impact would be strongest if they swayed Americans in their choices about where they live, work, shop and play.

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Author Bio:

Pilot and photographer, Alex MacLean, has flown his plane over much of the United States documenting the landscape. Trained as an architect, he … maintains a studio and lives in Lincoln, Massachusetts.

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Norman’s Architecture Adventure

Norman’s Architecture Adventure
Joshua P. Sanabria
GoArchitect, October 2018

Hardcover | 8-1/2 x 8-1/2 inches | # pages | # illustrations | English | ISBN: 978-1732945104 | $24.99

Publisher Description:

Norman is a young boy who wants to be an architect just like his mom. One day he goes on an unexpected adventure and along the way explores his imagination, meets new friends, and learns about the joy of architecture.

Through gorgeous illustrations and a relatable story Norman’s Architecture Adventure teaches children how having an imagination is the greatest adventure anyone can have. Nothing holds Norman back, he sees what could be and he creates it. He is unrestricted by age, ethnicity, or preconceptions.

dDAB Commentary:

Norman is a young child whose mother is an architect. Like anybody his age, Norman is impatient, so much so that instead of waiting for his mother to take him on “an adventure,” he heads out for his own adventure ― all alone. Or so it seems. As Norman wanders about a construction site, the workers are anything but human: an architect (not his mother but clearly an architect given the suit and roll of drawings) is a robot, ironworkers are “giggling gorillas,” painters are “pompous penguins.” They are hints that something else, something imaginative is going on. What that is I won’t say here, even as it’s unlikely that the intended audience for this picture book ― the kids whose parents would read it to them before bed ―  would read this blog.

The setting for Norman’s adventure may be decipherable by the cover and the couple spreads included here. The glass and steel building with diagonal bracing is Norman Foster’s Hearst Tower in New York City. When Foster’s tower was completed a decade ago, I was not a fan; I called it one of the ugliest buildings in New York because it was an insensitive addition to the 1928 stone base and it was far less elegant than most Foster buildings before it, particularly in regard to the oversized diagonals. In the ensuing years I’ve warmed up to the tower, realizing how the thickened diagonal lines allow the building to stand out as buildings along 57th Street tower over it; and I got to go on my own adventure inside the building with some friends, seeing the atrium and office floors firsthand on a tour. My point here is that I can sympathize with the author’s decision to have Norman play in and around Hearst Tower; its atrium teases at people who enter the lobby, while the diagonals and “bird beaks” on the exterior make passersby wonder what it’s like to work inside the tower. But of course writing this commentary makes me wonder, which Norman is going on an adventure in the book?

Spreads:

Author Bio:

Joshua Sanabria is CEO of GoArchitect, an independent publisher of design and leadership books that foster curious and creative confidence. Josh lives in California and enjoys bringing architecture to life through sketching, writing, and creating software.

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Cutting Matta-Clark

Cutting Matta-Clark: The Anarchitecture Investigation
Mark Wigley
Lars Müller Publishers in collaboration with CCA and Columbia GSAPP, June 2018

Paperback | 6-1/2 x 9-1/2 inches | 528 pages | 813 illustrations | English | ISBN: 978-3037784273 | $39.00

Publisher Description:

The Anarchitecture group show at the fabled 112 Greene Street gallery – an artistic epicenter of New York’s downtown scene in the 1970s – in March 1974 has been the subject of an enduring discussion, despite a complete lack of documentation about it. Anarchitecture, a collective challenging all conventional understandings of architecture, has become a foundational myth, but one that remains to be properly understood. Cutting Matta-Clark investigates the group through extensive interviews with the protagonists and a dossier of all the available evidence.

Stemming from a series of meetings, organized by Gordon Matta-Clark and reflecting his long-standing interest in architecture, the Anarchitecture exhibition was conceived as an anonymous group statement in photographs about the intersection of art and building. But did it actually happen? It exists only through oblique archival traces and the memories of the participants.

This publication features unpublished archival evidence; The dossier is subjected to ever deeper forensic analysis – cutting into both the concepts and the cuts to see what the elusive, mysterious, seductive, yet viral word Anarchitecture offers us today.

dDAB Commentary:

Gordon Matta-Clark, who died way too young in 1978 at the age of 35, is a favorite of architects, if for no other reason than the way used buildings as canvases. But were the buildings that he sliced up before they were demolished the art? Or was it the photographs documenting the relatively short lives (relative to the time span of the buildings he cut up) of his interventions? Or going further, was it his preparatory notes and sketches? One answer, filtered through Mark Wigley’s thorough yet circuitous and at-times perplexing investigation of a 1974 exhibition that involved Matta-Clark is yes, his art was all of these things. The buildings are gone, but the photographs (the primary way people become familiar with and envision his art) remain as do the preparatory materials and other artifacts in the archives of the Canadian Centre for Architecture, which Wigley raided for his forensic investigation.

The exhibition that is the subject of Wigley’s book — and the source of its perplexity — is Anarchitecture, a group show at 112 Greene Street in New York’s SoHo area in 1974. Turns out there is voluminous evidence of the exhibition’s preparation and promotion but none that it ever took place. What was the exhibition like? What is the meaning of its name and how did it end up labeling Matta-Clark’s art to such a great degree? And did it actually happen? The show and the mystery surrounding it is are excuses for Wigley’s scouring of CCA’s archives, unearthing of “evidence,” and interviews with “accomplices,” but they also allow him to run through many of Matta-Clark’s artworks (especially the famous Splitting) that led up to the Anarchitecture show, as he does in the book’s first section. While following Wigley’s prose is for die-hard Matta-Clark fans, the hundreds of illustrations make for a revealing look at an artist who still holds our attention, even though he’s now been dead longer than he lived.

Spreads:

Author Bio:

Mark Wigley is professor of architecture at Columbia University. He was born in New Zealand, trained there as an architect then as an architect then as a scholar, and is based in New York.

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City Unseen

City Unseen: New Visions of an Urban Planet
Karen C. Seto, Meredith Reba
Yale University Press, September 2018

Hardcover | 9 x 10 inches | 268 pages | 188 illustrations | English | ISBN: 978-0300221695 | $35.00

Publisher Description:

Seeing cities around the globe in their larger environmental contexts, we begin to understand how the world shapes urban landscapes and how urban landscapes shape the world. Authors Karen Seto and Meredith Reba provide these revealing views to enhance readers’ understanding of the shape, growth, and life of urban settlements of all sizes—from the remote town of Namche Bazaar in Nepal to the vast metropolitan prefecture of Tokyo, Japan.

Using satellite data, the authors show urban landscapes in new perspectives. The book’s beautiful and surprising images pull back the veil on familiar scenes to highlight the growth of cities over time, the symbiosis between urban form and natural landscapes, and the vulnerabilities of cities to the effects of climate change. We see the growth of Las Vegas and Lagos, the importance of rivers to both connecting and dividing cities like Seoul and London, and the vulnerability of Fukushima and San Juan to floods from tsunami or hurricanes. The result is a compelling book that shows cities’ relationships with geography, food, and society.

dDAB Commentary:

I remember the first time I saw the Keyhole technology, what eventually became Google Earth. A friend who got his hands on it showed it to me and I was blown away at being able to pan and zoom around the globe so effortlessly; I recall it being hard to pull me away from it. Now, roughly 20 years later, the ability to see satellite imagery of any spot on the globe at any time on any device is taken for granted, as if we all have the right to see the earth from space. But as Karen Seto and Meredith Reba put it in their introduction to City Unseen, “with access [to satellite imagery] comes responsibility – to make more informed decisions about how to design, plan, construct, and operate cities in better, healthier, more sustainable ways.” They have assembled satellite imagery of 100 places around the globe as an expression of that responsibility.

The 100 places are put into three chapters that focus on the landscapes around cities, more detailed views of urban agglomerations, and the way “demand for urban resources is changing landscapes.” But first is “views from space,” a chapter that explains why, for instance, the cover image (of Detroit, Michigan) looks the way it does. By combining visible and nonvisible wavelengths of light in various ways, Seto and Reba are able to emphasize certain characteristics, which they spell out in the text alongside the images. The choices of location, time, scale, and wavelengths of light combine to create an illuminating if often dour depiction of how we inhabit the earth. But it’s also powerful. Two nighttime satellite images one day apart draw attention to the island-wide power outages that plagued Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria – just one of many examples where satellite data holds deeper meanings.

Spreads:

Author Bio:

Karen C. Seto is the Frederick C. Hixon Professor of Geography and Urbanization Science at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies and a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences. Meredith Reba is research associate at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.

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Ornament and Identity

Ornament & Identity: Neutelings Riedijk Architects
Neutelings Riedijk Architects
Hatje Cantz, March 2018

Hardcover | 9-3/4 x 11-1/2 inches | 336 pages | 260 illustrations | English | ISBN: 978-3775742153 | $85.00

Publisher Description:

Ornament and Identity is the successor of the well-received At Work, a publication by renowned Rotterdam based architecture firm Neutelings Riedijk. In their new publication they convincingly demonstrate that buildings with a powerful expression create new local identities in a globalized world.

In twelve themed chapters Moiré, Image, Seam, Emblem, Letter, Pattern, Cutout, Ridge, Grid, Lozenge, Relief and Filigree, readers are guided on the exploration of the connection between form, meaning and contemporary ornaments.

Images of realized buildings, intriguing scale models, material samples, and unique ornaments designed by Neutelings Riedijk Architects illustrate the craftsmanship and their search for expression and identity.

dDAB Commentary:

Neutelings Riedijk‘s buildings are easily recognizable: covered in dimples, ripples, and other surface textures, and with complex, sometimes Piranesi-like interiors that belie their relatively straightforward exteriors. The Dutch firm presents their palette of formal maneuvers in Ornament and Identity, a title that clearly expresses why they design buildings the way they do. To fully explain what drives their practice, partners Willem Jan Neutelings, Michiel Riedijk, and Carl Meeusen fill the book’s introduction with a series of paired terms (order and type, abstraction and figuration, whole and fragment, etc.) that argue for “fresh views” as a means of constructing local identities. Following are twelve chapters that “can be interpreted as the architectural representation of the binary terms” from the introduction.
The twelve chapters, with names like emblem, pattern, and lozenge, are used to structure 36 buildings and projects, three per chapter. The buildings are presented solely with full-color photographs (no plans or other drawings), while the projects are described with model photos rather than renderings or drawings. The former’s photos put the emphasis squarely on the various types of ornament — such as the hands on the facades of the City History Museum MAS — while the models convey the porosity and spatial ingenuity of their projects. Each chapter is prefaced by a grid of four detailed images, but those images do not necessarily refer to projects in the same chapter. Without an index or table of contents for the projects, therefore the only way to find a particular building or project is to flip through the book, slowly absorbing the many ways Neutelings Riedijk use ornament to infuse their buildings with identity for its users and residents.

Spreads:

Author Bio:

Neutelings Riedijk Architects was established in Rotterdam in 1987. Its partners are Willem Jan Neutelings, Michiel Riedijk, and Carl Meeusen.

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Body, Memory, and Architecture

Body, Memory, and Architecture
Kent C. Bloomer, Charles W. Moore, with a contribution by Robert J. Yudell
Yale University Press, September 1977

Paperback | 10-1/4 x 8-1/4 inches | 148 pages | English | ISBN: 978-0300021424 | $X.00

Publisher Description:

As teachers of architectural design, Kent Bloomer and Charles Moore have attempted to introduce architecture from the standpoint of how buildings are experienced, how the affect individuals and communities emotionally and provide us with a sense of joy, identity, and place.

In giving priority to these issues and in questioning the professional reliance on abstract two-dimensional drawings, they often find themselves in conflict with a general and undebated assumption that architecture is a highly specialized system with a set of prescribed technical goals, rather than a sensual social art historically derived from experiences and memories of the human body. This book, an outgrowth of their joint teaching efforts, places the human body at the center of our understanding of architectural form.

Body, Memory, and Architecture traces the significance of the body from its place as the divine organizing principle in the earliest built forms to its near elimination from architectural thought in this century. The authors draw on contemporary models of spatial perception as well as on body-image theory in arguing for a return of the body to its proper place in the architectural equation.

dDAB Commentary:

Briefly mentioned in Avigail Sachs’s history of environmental design in architecture schools in the United States last century, Body, Memory, and Architecture summarizes how Kent Bloomer and Charles Moore taught fundamentals of architecture to students at Yale School of Architecture. Although I didn’t have it as a textbook in the Midwestern architecture school I went to (in one class we did read Chambers for a Memory Palace by Moore and Donlyn Lyndon), some of the ideas entered into my education: namely, to consider the experience of the body in space over the geometric, formal attributes of a building.

Published in 1977, and with the guiding hand of Moore, the book arrived on the hinge between Modernism and Postmodernism, obviously coming down for the latter rather than the former. After chapters that take a historical look at the book’s two broad approaches to architectural design — sensual, bodily experience vs. cerebral, formal geometry — and argue for considering the movements and feelings of bodies in space, the authors discuss Kresge College, which Moore designed with William Turnbull and is now in the process of renewal. The laid back plan in the midst of a redwood forest was a strong counterpart to strict Modernism. But with projects like the Portland Building (1982) by Michael Graves and Moore’s own Piazza d’Italia (1978) pushing Postmodernism into formal irony and two-dimensionality, the spatial interest of Kresge College, which embodied the lessons of Body, Memory, and Architecture, unfortunately got lost in the ensuing years.

Spreads:

Author Bio:

Yadda…

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XPOSITIONS

XPOSITIONS: Pavilion Dialogues
Studio Link-Arc
Actar, June 2018

Paperback | 7-1/2 x 10-1/2 inches | 176 pages | English | ISBN: 978-1945150623 | $39.95

Publisher Description:

In May 2015, Studio Link-Arc completed its most prominent work to date, the China Pavilion for Expo Milano 2015. The project was China’s first free-standing Expo Pavilion outside of its own borders. XPOSITIONS is not conceived as a monograph that focuses on one project. Instead, it carefully examines the larger ideas woven into the design of the China Pavilion and explores their implications for design and global culture. In addition to presenting the story of the project—from conception through construction and occupancy—the book addresses the larger design forces at play via discussions with key figures in the architecture community: Stefano Boeri, Xiangning Li, and Daniel Libeskind.

dDAB Commentary:

One of the most photogenic pavilions at the Expo 2015 in Milan was the China Pavilion designed by the Academy of Art & Design, Tsinghua University and New York’s Studio Link-Arc. The team conceived of the pavilion as “a field of spaces located beneath a floating cloud.” The roof, serving as the cloud surrogate, was the most striking formal aspect of the pavilion, undulating gently toward the Expo’s main circulation spine and stepping sharply, like a city skyline, at the other end. Made of latticed bamboo panels above glulam beams and a translucent membrane, the roof filtered light to the spaces below, which consisted of cultural, dining, and other functions. The careful balance of complex formal geometries and more traditional materials (wood and bamboo), as well as the fact the pavilion was up for only six months, warrants a book-length case study to explain the design process to those who did and did not attend Expo 2015.

Edited by Original CopyXPOSITIONS is a two-part narrative told in four acts. One of the two intertwining parts is “Dialogues,” interviews with Studio Link-Arc as well Daniel Libeskind, who designed a pavilion for Vanke at the same Expo; Stefano Boeri, who worked on the masterplan for the Expo; and Xiangning Li, who curated the Chinese Pavilion at the 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale. These interviews — turned horizontally on the page, apparent in a spread below — are split into four themes: borders, digital, time, and place. Alternating with them is the second part: “Pavilion,” Link-Arc’s documentation and explanations of the competition-winning concept, the development of the design, the pavilion’s construction, and its final state. An appendix includes drawings, a timeline of the project, and data on the pavilion and its design team. The whole is thorough, insightful, and handsome, making me wish I would have experienced the pavilion during its all-too-brief run on the outskirts of Milan.

Spreads:

Author Bio:

Studio Link-Arc is an international team of architects and designers based in New York, led by Yichen Lu, Principal and Associate Professor at Tsinghua University.

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Environmental Design

Environmental Design: Architecture, Politics, and Science in Postwar America
Avigail Sachs
University of Virginia Press, July 2018

Hardcover | 7 x 8 inches | 240 pages | | English | ISBN: 978-0813941271 | $39.50

Publisher Description:

Much of twentieth-century design was animated by the creative tension of its essential duality: is design an art or a science? In the postwar era, American architects sought to calibrate architectural practice to evolving scientific knowledge about humans and environments, thus elevating the discipline’s stature and enmeshing their work in a progressive restructuring of society. This political and scientific effort was called “environmental design,” a term expanded in the 1960s to include ecological and liberal ideas. In her expansive new study, Avigail Sachs examines the theoretical scaffolding and practical legacy of this professional effort.

Inspired by Lewis Mumford’s 1932 challenge enjoining architects to go beyond visual experimentation and create complete human environments, Environmental Design details the rise of modernist ideas in the architectural disciplines within the novel context of sociopolitical rather than aesthetic responsibilities. Unlike today’s “starchitects,” environmental designers saw themselves as orchestrators of decision making more than auteurs of form and style. Viewing architectural practice as rooted in Progressive Era politics and the democratic process rather than the European avant-garde, Sachs plots how these social concepts spread via influential architecture schools. This rich examination of pedagogy and practice is a map to both the history of environmental design and the contemporary consequences of architecture understood as a pressing social concern.

dDAB Commentary:

When I attended undergraduate architecture school at Kansas State University in the early 1990s, I thought the situation was unique: two years of environmental design followed by three years of architecture. The two years of environmental design consisted of design studios in architecture, interiors, and landscape architecture and history classes; at the same time we got science, math, writing, and public speaking out of the way to focus on the degree program we applied to (architecture, interiors, or landscape architecture) for the last three years. The 2/3 program, as we called it, changed one year after me to 1/4, meaning less environmental design and more specialized degree classes. Yet I appreciated the 2/3 model, as I liked being exposed to the various disciplines and in that time switched from landscape architecture to architecture as my degree program. Nevertheless, environmental design infused the whole degree program (and still does, per the current curriculum; PDF link), with classes on environmental systems and environment and behavior in the last three years – classes that emphasized a building’s role in nature and the experience of people within buildings.

While I understood environmental design from my experience in school, I had no clue about its history: how did it come about and develop as a curriculum in architecture schools? That story is revealed by Avigail Sachs‘s great Environmental Design. She traces it back to Lewis Mumford’s essay, “Housing,” in the catalog to MoMA’s International Style show in 1932, when he “issued a challenge to architects in the United States, calling on them to use architecture to create complete environments for humans,” per Sachs’s introduction. What follows are the teachings and writings of architects heavily involved in academia, such as Catherine Bauer, William Wurster, Richard Neutra, James Marston Fitch, and Christopher Alexander. The book traces the rise and fall of environmental design, as degree programs were built around it but then pushed out of academia by figures who wanted to maintain the status of “architects” and not have them broaden their scope as “environmental designers.” By the time I started at KSU in 1991, environmental design was well on the way out, meaning the education I received was unique after all. That kind of education is as important now as then and before, with the crisis of climate change calling for designers skilled in creating “complete environments for humans.”

Spreads:

Author Bio:

Avigail Sachs is Assistant Professor of Architecture and Landscape History and Theory in the College of Architecture and Design at the University of Tennessee.

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Groundscapes

Groundscapes: Other Topographies
Dominique Perrault
Editions HYX, December 2016

Paperback | 6-1/4 x 9-1/2 inches | 208 pages | 265 illustrations | English | ISBN: 978-2910385989 | 28 €

Publisher Description:

In this book, the architect Dominique Perrault presents his thoughts on the architecture of the “Groundscape”. An idea, a concept, the architect has been exploring and experimenting with for many years in his projects and through his fictions. “It is a work on shaping reality, through subterranean architecture, where is not a question of living but of marking and carving out places for urban life in the earth, this epidermis open to the sky”.

dDAB Commentary:

If there is one architect who could be best associated with buildings that merge with the land, or “landscrapers” (as in the title of the 2002 book by Aaron Betsky), or “groundscapes,” or whatever one wants to label them, it’s Dominique Perrault. His French National Library from 1989 placed a sunken garden at the center of four “open-book” towers; the Velodrome and Olympic Swimming Pool from ten years later depressed a circle and a square into a raised landscape; and the Ewha Womans University from 2008 featured a Michael Heizer-esque cut through two parallel wings. These projects illustrate that Perrault spends a good deal of time thinking about how buildings relate to the landscape they sit upon, how they can be cut into the earth, and how buildings and landscapes can, in a sense, merge. Groundscape lays out the theoretical foundations (no pun intended) for subterranean architecture.

Perrault’s arguments are organized into eight chapters (Fictions, Archi-tectonics, Geographic Extension, The Generic Void, Transition Zones, Logics of Density, Ontologies of the Ground, and The Urban Substance), each organized as text followed by images. The texts (“the fruits of exchanges and interviews with Frédéric Migayrou”) are dense, often times hard to decipher. I chalk this up partly to the text being theoretical and full of pronouncements free of any necessary support, but I think the translation from French to English is also to blame. There are enough instances of poor punctuation, odd phrasing, and run-on sentences to make me think otherwise. The images, on the other hand, are a treat, ranging from Perrault’s own projects to artworks to photographs of subterranean spaces most people will never venture into. But why separate the words and images? Why not integrate the two, allowing the images to clarify and carry along the theoretical text? Groundscapes would have made a much stronger argument if such an editorial approach were taken.

Spreads:

Author Bio:

Born in 1953 in Clermont-Ferrand, Dominique Perrault studied in Paris and received his diploma as an architect from the École des Beaux-Arts in 1978. He created his own firm in 1981 in Paris.

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