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  • Toshiko Mori Architect
    by John Hill on July 13, 2020 at 12:00 PM

    Toshiko Mori Architect: ObservationsCristina Steingräber (Editor), with texts by Toshiko Mori, Landon Brown, Charles Burke, Nicolas Fox Weber, and Andres LepikArchiTangle, April 2020Hardcover | 9-1/2 x 12-1/4 inches | 240 pages | 396 illustrations | English | ISBN: 978-3966800044 | 48.00 €PUBLISHER'S DESCRIPTION:Toshiko Mori is a New York-based architect and Professor in the Practice of Architecture at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design for many years. As a long-time member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on the Future of Cities, Mori led research and inquiry into sustainable architecture, enhancing cities’ livability, and creating efficient urban services.  Mori is also on the board of Dassault Systems, a company connecting technology to environment and life science. And she has founded the platform VisionArc, a think tank dedicated to exploring the role of design within complex social and environmental issues. This book will focus on TMA’s projects based on research, and the impact of socially valuable projects to society. The book illustrates how the observation of the architect operates as opposed to how the imagination of the architect manifests itself. Different chapters in the book are describing various ways of approaching the task of observation. Seven chapters are divided into specific projects and provide a look at the hidden thought processes that can take place behind the ideas, solutions, and physical manifestations or architecture. Presented projects include the Portable Concert Hall, called Paracoustica, which is an ongoing nonprofit work to come up with an affordable and shareable concert hall among many constituents in remote and underserved community; the Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research focusing on socialization among scientists as a new model of work that promotes further discovery and teamwork. And i.e. the research on the role of libraries in the future using the example of the Brooklyn Public Library Central Branch. Another chapter is dedicated to the vernacular typology development in Senegal with the Albers Foundation, and the research on social spaces for collaborative educational environments.Toshiko Mori is the founding principal of Toshiko Mori Architect PLLC, and she is the Robert F. Hubbard Professor of the Practice of Architecture at the Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD).REFERRAL LINKS:  dDAB COMMENTARY:My first exposure to the work of architect Toshiko Mori was the Issey Miyake Pleats Please store on a corner in SoHo, seen on my first trip to New York City, in the late 1990s. Although small, the project made a big impression through its glass storefront, which was hazy when seen at an angle but clear when seen straight on. The design, since changed with the whims of fashion, then indicated the architect's interest in material exploration. Most recently, in my duties curating the U.S. Building of the Week feature on World-Architects.com, I included Mori's Thread, an artists' residency and cultural center in Sinthian, Senegal, during a year when I focused the feature on overseas buildings designed by American architects (Toshiko Mori Architects is based in NYC). This later project saw the firm continuing material exploration, but with bamboo and sun-baked brick. But it heralded something new: an appreciation of the vernacular and an intelligent response to climatic and social concerns. Thread — and Fass, the adjacent school that followed  a few years later — has received a fair amount of press, and I think the pair will define Mori's legacy.Thread and Fass comprise one of the seven chapters in Observations, an unconventional monograph on TMA, the first I've seen on her firm since the first, the eponymous monograph published in 2008. Fittingly, one of the other chapters is devoted to projects and material research, focusing on projects much more recent than Pleats Please but indicating that her preference for glass has not abated. Of the remaining five chapters, the other "must" is about material research through exhibitions, most of which TMA has designed for the Cooper Hewitt in New York. The other four chapters don't hold as much interest for me, even though one of them details VisionArc, the think tank she founded in 2009 "dedicated to exploring the role of design within complex social and environmental issues." VisionArc is probably the most ambitious thing to come out of TMA, and it just might be the thing Mori hopes will shape her legacy, but I'm not convinced that the output of VisionArc is any more impactful than Thread and other TMA buildings. And if the VisionArc website is any indication, the think tank has done little to nothing since 2016.VisionArc is directed by Landon Brown, who is one of five people contributing texts to Observations. Each chapter begins with an essay, most by Mori, some previously published, that explains the projects and explorations that follow. The chapters give the book a flow, but with them ranging from ten to sixty pages, and with them focusing on individual projects in detail or groups of them briefly, Observations feels more like an idea book than a traditional monograph. Thread and Fass, for instance, are the only buildings explained at length in both words in and images, with photos by Iwan Baan as well as drawings. Projects elsewhere in the book are given primarily photos, with drawings serving to elucidate the material elements or other areas of interest. The "observations" of the book's title revolve around infrastructure, which is used throughout the book in its widest meaning and therefore applies to just about everything, from architectural details to cultural institutions. If an intellectual exploration of infrastructure is what has led to TMA's buildings, be it Thread and Fass or the houses and other stateside buildings, then I'm all for it. But in these pages I would have appreciated more information on more projects; even the project details in the back of the book omit completion dates, locations, and other information that historians and scholars need. For more architecture and less "observations," one should consider the recently published issue of a+u devoted to Mori.SPREADS:

  • Broadway
    by John Hill on July 12, 2020 at 12:00 PM

    Broadway: From the Battery to the BronxCarin Drechsler-Marx, Richard F. ShepardHarry N. Abrams, 1988Spiral-bound paperback | 5-3/4 x 10 inches | 160 pages | 200+ illustrations | English | ISBN: 0810907453 | $19.95PUBLISHER'S DESCRIPTION:An entertaining guide to the people, culture, and history of 293 New York City blocks.Photography by Carin Drechsler-Marx; text by Richard F. Shepard.REFERRAL LINKS: dDAB COMMENTARY:A few days ago, I featured Walking Broadway, a guidebook to "Thirteen Miles of Architecture and History" by William J. Hennessey. In my review I mentioned that the new book is not alone in focusing on Manhattan's most famous street; many books came before. One of them is Broadway: From the Battery to the Bronx, which features photography by Carin Drechsler-Marx and text by Richard F. Shepard. Although it has a map at the back and the chapters move in the preferred south-to-north route of books about Broadway, this 32-year-old book is less a guidebook and more a history of New York City told through the thoroughfare, plus a snapshot of the Big Apple in the late 1980s.Shepard, who died in 1998, was a writer and cultural news editor at the New York Times for decades. The Times obituary linked above points out how he asked to step down from his editorial post "because he liked writing and talking to people and getting around town." These dual qualities — a Times position and a desire to get around town — come across in his Broadway text, which is a pleasure to read and shows both his deep knowledge of the city and fondness for its people and places. Most of the spreads in the book are a balance of Shepard's words and Drechsler-Marx's photographs, which veer between straightforward images of buildings and vignettes of street life, the latter strongly conveying the character of the city ca. 1988.The book, which can be found online and in used bookstores for cheap (I did the latter), has a few interesting things going for it in terms of layout, design, and organization. Most obvious is the spiral binding, a rarity in book publishing for fairly obvious reasons ($$). Second is the choice to rotate the content 90 degrees to the page, which makes some sense with the lay-flat spiral binding and makes flipping through the book a unique experience. The last thing is the chapters, which follow from the avenues that Broadway intersects with: the book starts with "Lower Broadway" and is followed by "Broadway Crosses 5th Avenue," "Broadway Crosses 6th Avenue," and so forth. This approach amplifies the fact that, even though it departs from Manhattan's grid, Broadway intersects with the north-south avenues and east-west streets to create some of the most important nodes on the island, such as Times Square (the spreads, below) and Columbus Circle. Anyone who has this book can look at these and other areas and instantly see how much the city has changed — and stayed the same — in the last three decades.SPREADS:

  • 50 Hybrid Buildings
    by John Hill on July 10, 2020 at 12:00 PM

    50 Hybrid Buildings: Catalogue on the Art of Mixing Usesa+t research group: Aurora Fernández Per, Javier Mozasa+t, 2020Paperback | 5 x 6-1/2 inches | 360 pages | English/Spanish | ISBN: 978-8409188222 | 26.00 €PUBLISHER'S DESCRIPTION:Hybrid buildings are urban artifacts which are characterized by the mix of uses. They share a hazardous life, full of obstacles and setbacks. Those which manage to be built and endure are true survivors of a rare and vigorous species that grows in places of opportunity, making its way through the speculative weeds. In this Catalogue on the Art of Mixing Uses, a+t research group rescues 50 HYBRID BUILDINGS, designed from the end of the 19th century to the present. Each of them is drawn in section, with its functions in sight, and tells us a stimulating story. 50 HYBRID BUILDINGS is a powerful learning tool for students, faculty and architects combining history, design and graphics to reveal how to break with typology.The a+t research group was founded in 2011 by Aurora Fernández Per and Javier Mozas. Its aim is to spread their research on collective housing, density, mixed uses and public space.PURCHASE LINK:dDAB COMMENTARY:A little over ten years ago, a+t released three issues of its large-format (9-1/4 x 12-1/2") magazine devoted to mixed-use buildings, or "hybrids," as they preferred to call them. Each issue focused on a particular form of hybrids: Hybrids I on high-rises; Hybrids II on low-rises; and Hybrids III on mixed-use buildings whose primary use is residential. In 2014, five years after the third issue, a+t released This Is Hybrid, "an updated and enlarged selection of the articles and projects" from those issues. Needless to say, Aurora Fernández Per and Javier Mozas, founders of a+t and its research group, have a thing for hybrid buildings. Their infatuation continues with 50 Hybrid Buildings, a compact catalog of hybrids the duo previously analyzed alongside some newcomers. Given its small, roughly postcard-size pages, as well as the inclusion of a lot of projects and having the texts in English and Spanish, the presentation of each hybrid is short, cursory at best. Each project is given six pages: a title page with an aerial, two pages of text (one for each language), one page with a site plan and a section, and a two-page spread with a large, color-coded section. The last features corresponding colored bubbles that illustrate how much area is devoted to each use. Accordingly, the 50 projects are arranged in eight chapters that correspond to the primary function: living, hotel, office, retail, civic, culture, education, and sport. Not surprisingly, the longest chapters are "Living+" (the plus indicating additional functions) and "Office+."Given the small size and short entries, 50 Hybrid Buildings is all about the selection and having them together in one place, in a consistent graphic format, which a+t excels at. I like that the projects are a mix of the built, the unbuilt, and, in one case, the (partially) demolished. This mix puts the emphasis on the utopian intentions of mixing uses in large projects, rather than the realities of their actual use. I also like the selection, which ranges from Louis Sullivan's Auditorium Building in the late 1800s to MVRDV's WERK 12 completed one year ago. It's a fairly diverse selection, but given the theme of hybrids one should expect plenty of OMA, MVRDV, BIG, and Steven Holl Architects, which combined make up 13 of the 50 projects. The book is a good introduction to hybrid buildings, but anyone with a strong interest in them should consider the earlier a+t publications, which have a lot more documentation for the projects included in their pages.SPREADS:

  • Walking Broadway
    by John Hill on July 8, 2020 at 12:00 PM

    Walking Broadway: Thirteen Miles of Architecture and HistoryWilliam J. HennesseyThe Monacelli Press, June 2020Paperback | 5-1/2 x 9-1/4 inches | 240 pages | English | ISBN: 978-1580935357 | $25.00PUBLISHER'S DESCRIPTION:Walking Broadway offers readers an architectural tour of the entire length of Broadway from Bowling Green to the Harlem River. Through fourteen structured walks the book not only presents the history of New York’s most famous avenue, but also explores its architecture in depth, block by block, building by building.This is a book about what can be seen and experienced on Broadway today. Buildings are chosen for discussion first and foremost because they are interesting to look at. In a relaxed and engaging style, the author presents the building’s story, explores the reasons why it is there, and explains why it looks the way it does. Along the way, the reader not only has the chance to discover fascinating and unusual buildings, but also gains a comprehensive understanding of the historic, social, economic, and political forces which shaped Broadway’s growth and character.Art historian William Hennessey has taught at Vassar College, the University of Kansas, the University of Kentucky, and the University of Michigan and directed the art museums at each of those institutions. From 1997 to 2014 he was director of the Chrysler Museum of Art in Norfolk, Virginia. Hennessey is the author of catalogues and articles on a variety of art and design topics, including nineteenth-century architecture and twentieth-century industrial design.REFERRAL LINKS:    dDAB COMMENTARY:Although I've pondered it every now and then, I've never gotten around to walking the entire length of Broadway, Manhattan's tip-to-tip snaking thoroughfare, all at once. If and when I do, I want to start in the north, in the Bronx, where Broadway extends (it actually continues well into Westchester County), then cross the bridge into Manhattan's Inwood neighborhood and continue walking through Washington Heights, Harlem, Morningside Heights, the Upper West Side, Midtown, and so on down to the Financial District and Bowling Green, the small park where Broadway begins. Such a walk would effectively be backwards, considering that New York's development started at the southern tip of Manhattan and moved progressively northward over time until the whole island was basically leveled and filled with millions of residents. Nevertheless, I like the idea of going "back in time" as I walk down Broadway.South to north is the preferred route for guides to Broadway, of which there are many, including Fran Leadon's recent "history of Manhattan told through its most celebrated street," Michelle Young's contribution to the Images of America series, Kevin Dann's forthcoming Enchanted New York: A Journey along Broadway through Manhattan's Magical Past, and William Hennessey's new on-foot guidebook to "thirteen miles of architecture and history."Walking Broadway is arranged as fourteen walks, ranging from less than a half mile to nearly three miles. The different lengths "correspond to distinct stretches of Broadway," as Hennessey explains, with an average of about twenty buildings of note in each walk. These buildings are numbered and keyed to maps, but the author departs from them — and from Broadway — to point out important nearby landmarks that are given letter designations and also shown on the maps. The organization and layout is straightforward and is aided by most of the buildings being given a photograph, most of them exteriors, but occasionally inside a building. (The blue of the book's page design, it should be noted, is not as bright as the spreads below indicate; it's more akin to the trace of Broadway on the cover.)In terms of the selection, Hennessey does not discriminate between historical buildings and contemporary ones, but he tends to lavish more words on the former than the latter. This stems from the fact there is more history to tell with older buildings. And he does so with an accessible voice that should make the book appealing to a wide audience, not just architects. Without as much history, though, descriptions of recent buildings tend to focus on formal characteristics; of course, he describes the appearances of the older buildings as well, rounding out the "architecture and history" of the book's subtitle. Walking Broadway spurs me to consider, once again, walking all of Broadway; I hope soon to determine if the guidebook works well back to front.SPREADS:

  • The Artful Plan
    by John Hill on July 7, 2020 at 12:00 PM

    The Artful Plan: Architectural Drawing ReconfiguredMartin Søberg, Anna Hougaard (Editors)Birkhäuser, April 2020Hardcover | 6-3/4 x 9-1/2 inches | 376 pages | 250 illustrations | English | ISBN: 978-3035618747 | $59.99PUBLISHER'S DESCRIPTION:The Artful Plan explores the potentials of architectural drawing at a turning point where digitization is setting drawing free from its conventional function of conveying technical information. What can architectural drawing be today? What new options does it offer for creativity in design? Which new ways does it open for including knowledge and methods from the arts, academic research and current architectural practice?The Artful Plan lays out the theory and practice of alternative innovation in architectural drawing in three parts: reconfiguring the conventional drawing; drawing responding to the influence of the digital; and the expanded field of drawing today. The contributions comprise many high-quality drawings that are in themselves stunning examples of Artful Plans.Ass. Prof. Martin Søberg, Anna Hougaard, PhD, Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts School of Architecture, Copenhagen.REFERRAL LINKS:    dDAB COMMENTARY:In November 2017, the The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts' Schools of Architecture, Design and Conservation hosted the three-day conference Drawing Millions of Plans. The Artful Plan, edited by Anna Hougaard and Martin Søberg, is the outcome of the conference they organized. Keynotes were given by Martino Tattara of Dogma and KU Leuven and Penelope Haralambidou of The Bartlett. In between were presentations by participants asked "to investigate and discuss contemporary architectural drawing and, in particular, the drawn plan." Essays by Tattara and Haralambidou are among the 24 included in The Artful Plan, though they are not given any special prominence paralleling that of the conference. The fact the conference was a starting point for the book is played down dramatically; Drawing Millions of Plans is mentioned in the preface, but the only other places I found reference to it were a footnote in the introduction to part three and, fittingly, in Rachel Hurst's "A Million Hours of Plans," which has some layered drawings that remind me of the cover of the Floor Plan Manual Housing. I take this downplaying to mean that the editors and publisher want the book to stand alone, to be a definitive statement on the transition in architectural education and practice from orthogonal drawings to the diversity of representation afforded by digital tools.The 24 contributions in The Artful Plan are separated into three chapters of eight essays each: "The Conventional Plan, Its Formation and Reconfiguration," "Point Clouds, Chance Operations, and the Disappearance of the Plan," and "The Plan and the Expanded Field of Architectural Drawing." To give a sense of these three parts, here's a brief description of one essay from each. "The Project of Mapping" expands upon Tattara's keynote and is found in part one. He explores the use of urban mapping in architectural education, including such examples as Aldo Rossi's map of Zurich done with students from ETH Zurich in 1973. (I was pleased to learn about this project here.) Part two delves into the digital. There, Natalie P. Koerner analyzes Diller + Scofidio's Blur Building (2002) and Christian Kerez's Incidental Space from the 2016 Venice Architecture Biennale; these projects — a "cloud" and a cloud-like lump — required departures from traditional plan drawings for conceptualization and realization. Last is Haralambidou's keynote in book form, "The Veiled Matrix of Architectural Drawing," found in part three.  She looks to an artwork by Marcel Duchamp and a film by Alain Resnais — more specifically, her representations of those media pulled from beyond architecture — to analyze "how geometry conditions our gaze," in the words of the editors. Pervading the book, both in specific references and in spirit, is Robin Evans, who wrote at length and in depth greater than anyone about drawings. Put simply, he questioned conventions of representation, just like the contributors to Drawing Millions of Plans and The Artful Plan do. Architects with an interest in Evans's influential writings will find plenty of rewarding material in the latter.SPREADS:

  • La Jetée
    by John Hill on July 4, 2020 at 2:00 PM

    La Jetée: Ciné-RomanChris MarkerZone Books, 1992Hardcover | 9-1/2 x 7-1/2 inches | 258 pages | 290 illustrations | English/French | ISBN: 978-0942299663 | $39.95PUBLISHER'S DESCRIPTION:La Jetée is the book version of the legendary 1964 science fiction film about time and memory after a nuclear apocalypse. Chris Marker, the undisputed master of the filmic essay, composed the film almost entirely of still photographs.It traces a desperate experiment by the few remaining survivors of World War III to recover and change the past, and gain access to the future, through the action of memory. A man is chosen for his unique quality of having retained a single clear image from prewar days: no more than an ambiguous memory fragment from childhood — a visit to the jetty at Orly airport, the troubling glance of an unknown woman, the crumpling body of a dying man.Chris Marker is a filmmaker, photographer, traveler, and he likes cats.REFERRAL LINKS:    dDAB COMMENTARY:The first time I watched La Jetée, Chris Marker's classic 1964 sci-fi film, was about 20 years ago at Facets in Chicago, when it was on a double-bill with Jean-Luc Godard's Alphaville. Much more than Godard's film, Marker's half-hour film has stuck with me ever since. La Jetée, which was co-opted by Terry Gilliam for 12 Monkeys, tells the story of a man from the future — when people live underground due to radioactive devastation on the surface — who travels through time to help humanity. Pivotal is a vision he had as a boy on the jetty at Orly airport, a scene that lends the film its name but which I won't spoil for anybody here. Most amazing is the way Marker tells the story solely through still images and voiceover narration; there is only one brief moving image, but I won't spoil that powerful scene either.Given its structure as a series of stills, Marker's film lends itself perfectly to a shot-by-shot documentation in print. First released in hardcover in 1992 (I have the 1996 paperback the below spreads are taken from), La Jetée was masterfully designed by Bruce Mau, who was involved in designing more than 100 titles by Zone Books starting with the famous Zone 1/2 published in 1985. Instead of giving each still its own full-bleed page (something he does occasionally), here he varies the size and layout of the images to give the book some variety as well as the same rhythm and tension as the film. The black-and-white images are set in deep, dark purplish blue background that gives them some definition and makes the transcription of the voiceover narration easy to read. This book is a must for fans of the film, but given that the binding of my paperback copy has come apart out over the years, I'd recommend the hardcover.SPREADS:

  • The Architecture of Cinematic Spaces by Interiors
    by John Hill on July 3, 2020 at 3:00 PM

    The Architecture of Cinematic Spaces by InteriorsMehruss Jon Ahi, Arman KaraoghlanianIntellect, The University of Chicago Press, April 2020Paperback | 9-1/2 x 9-1/2 inches | 95 pages | 10 illustrations | English | ISBN: 978-1789382051 | $26.50PUBLISHER'S DESCRIPTION:The Architecture of Cinematic Spaces by Interiors is an academic, graphic exploration of architectural spaces in cinema that provides a new perspective on the relationship between architecture and film. Combining critical essays with original architectural floor plan drawings, coauthors Arman Karaoghlanian and Mehruss Jon Ahi discuss production design in key films from the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, including The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, Rope, Le mépris, Playtime, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Home Alone, Panic Room, A Single Man, Her, and Columbus. Each chapter is accompanied by an original floor plan of a key scene, bridging the gap between film criticism and architectural practice. Written by the editors of the critically acclaimed online journal Interiors, the book will appeal to film and architecture communities and everyone in between. A must-read for fans and scholars alike, The Architecture of Cinematic Spaces by Interiors prompts us to reconsider the spaces our favorite characters occupy and to listen to the stories those spaces can tell.Armen Karaoghlanian is a filmmaker, entrepreneur, cofounder of the Armenian Film Society, and cofounder and editor-in-chief of the online publication Interiors. Mehruss Jon Ahi is an architectural designer, real estate developer, graphic artist, and cofounder and creative director of the online publication Interiors.REFERRAL LINKS:    dDAB COMMENTARY:I'm a big fan of architecture and film, particularly articles, websites, and books that explore the relationship between the two fields. The Architecture of Cinematic Spaces by Interiors is the latest entry in the books category, which also includes such notables as The Architecture of Image: Existential Space in Cinema by Juhani Pallasmaa, The Wrong House: The Architecture of Alfred Hitchcock by Steven Jacobs, and Lair: Radical Homes and Hideouts of Movie Villains edited by Chad Oppenheim and Andrea Gollin. What these three books have in abundance that the new Interiors book lacks are stills from the films discussed in their pages. The ten films analyzed in Interiors — more accurately, they are ten scenes from ten films — are documented visually with just two things: a symbol representing the film (first spread below) and a floor plan of the space (third spread) discussed in the text. Clearly, architects will be most interested in the floor plans, though in the end it's the texts that are the most revealing.The by Interiors of the book's title is Interiors, the nine-year-old project by Mehruss Jon Ahi and Arman Karaoghlanian that started as a digital magazine, shifted to online publications, and is now focusing on printed zines. With the last, the duo "plans to piece [all of] this information together in the hopes of creating a well-rounded Publication and the definitive place for analysis on the relationship between Architecture and Film." (emphasis in original) I'm guessing this book is not that definitive publication. The Architecture of Cinematic Spaces is a cursory look at the relationship between architecture and film. Each of the ten films is given eight pages, but with blank pages, oversized symbols, pull quotes, and large titles, the main content (text analysis and floor plan) takes up just three or four pages per film — it's hard to be more than cursory in that amount of space.Even so, I like the analyses of the authors, and it's nice to see the floor plans of the "extra-dimensional hotel" in 2001: A Space Odyssey (an obsession of mine in recent weeks); apartments from Playtime, Her, and Rope; and the house from Home Alone, among other primarily domestic spaces. I don't get the inclusion of Deboarh Berke's Irwin Union Bank (the one on the cover of her firm's 2009 monograph) from Columbus though. Admittedly, the 2017 film is one of the few that seems to be made for architects (it's set in Columbus, Indiana, after all), but the plan of the bank is a roof plan, not an interior. It would have been great to see a plan of one of the film's interiors, such as Eero Saarinen's Miller House or I.M. Pei's Cleo Rogers Memorial Library. But those would be floor plans of actual buildings, rather than floor plans of film sets, like the others. A minor distinction, perhaps, but one that brings up the issue of copyright, the same issue that might have kept film stills out of this book. Whatever the case, I hope the guys at Interiors expand greatly upon The Architecture of Cinematic Spaces for the definitive publication they have been working toward for nearly a decade.SPREADS:

  • City Lust
    by John Hill on July 1, 2020 at 12:00 PM

    City Lust: London Guangzhou Lagos Dubai HoustonCharlie KoolhaasScheidegger & Spiess, April 2020Hardcover | 8 x 11-3/4 inches | 412 pages | 354 illustrations | English | ISBN: 978-3858818041 | $59.00PUBLISHER'S DESCRIPTION:City Lust is a timely dialogue between words and images about a crucial moment in our recent history: the apotheosis of globalization and its current unraveling. In this book, Charlie Koolhaas—an artist, photographer, and writer—takes us to London, Guangzhou, Lagos, Dubai, and Houston, cities in which she has either lived or worked. Her personal and humorous account explores the rapid changes taking place in these culturally vastly different metropolises that are being united by the influences of global trade and the evolution of a shared global culture.A captivating combination of photographic documentary and written testimony, City Lust portrays a global landscape that contradicts the current pessimism—to reveal unexpected creativities, connections, and collective references that emerge despite huge global and economic divides.Charlie Koolhaas lives and works as an artist, photographer, and writer in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. She has taught at various universities internationally, such as Sandberg Instituut in Amsterdam, Strelka Institute in Moscow, ETH Zurich, and Harvard Graduate School of Design.REFERRAL LINKS:    dDAB COMMENTARY:On page 232, in the section of City Lust devoted to Dubai, is a photograph Charlie Koolhaas (daughter of architect Rem) took of a box of perfume sitting on a shelf. It is, as is apparent in the first spread below, labeled "City Lust" and carries a stylized skyline of a generic city of high-rises. In the text opposite the photograph, Koolhaas says the box that mimics the design of the Sex and the City perfume was "remade by a Chinese product designer hoping to communicate the sense of hedonism and urbanity that might appeal to women around the world ready to embrace 'Western values.'" Although the perfume that apparently inspired the name of this book might be a far cry from one's first impression upon hearing the phrase (I thought the book would be the passionate document of a passionate city-lover), it really does sum up what Koolhaas is trying to do with her diary of photographs and words. Through documentary-like images of a handful of cities around the world and personal experiences described in words, City Lust captures the paradoxes of contemporary life, namely a diversity of cultures clashing with a homogenizing Western capitalism.I'll admit that Koolhaas's photographs do not strike me as traditionally beautiful or even in some cases telling; at times I'm at a loss as to what was so interesting to make her take some of the photographs. But the images make complete sense when digested with her words. Koolhaas's writing — clear and sharp, humorous and honest — serves to "frame the world through a perspective" rather than record reality, as she admits in the section on Lagos, in which she explains why she contextualizes her images with her experiences. Some of the experiences are harrowing, such as a a run-in with police in Houston that confirmed the fear Koolhaas felt beforehand, given the state's open-carry gun laws, and led her to return to Europe. All of the experiences work with the photographs to describe places where the friction of cultural, economic, and other factors rub up against each other to create lived realities where considerations of authenticity, beauty, or other aesthetic concerns are just preposterous. Photos of perfume bottles, ugly buildings, uglier highways, and other subjects might not convey why some people lust for cities, but they certainly describe how cities accommodate so many people of different religions, ethnicities, and levels of income. It's an ugly mess beautifully captured in Koolhaas's images and words.SPREADS:

  • Animal Architecture
    by John Hill on June 27, 2020 at 1:00 PM

    Animal ArchitectureKarl von Frisch, with the collaboration of Otto von FrischHarcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1974Hardcover | 6 x 8 inches | 306 pages | 282 illustrations | English (translated by Lisbeth Gombrich) | ISBN: 978-0151072514PUBLISHER'S DESCRIPTION:The creative building activity of animals of all species is surveyed in text, drawings, and photographs in this fascinating work by one of the most eminent of animal observers. With an unrivaled grasp of his subject, Professor von Frisch unfolds the marvels of instinct and inventiveness among insects, fish, birds, and mammals. Much earlier than human technicians, termites created systems of air conditioning, dug wells to a depth of 120 feet, and built central cities with satellite suburbs. Wasps may have shown the Chinese how to make paper. Bowerbirds decorate their nests with the aesthetic sense of a painter. Animals have ingeniously used stone, wood, reeds, clay, and wax as building material. They have devised hinged doors, traps, shelters with overhanging roofs, cells with waterproof lining. The precision of their architecture frequently surpasses that of humans.Karl von Frisch, a pioneer in the science of ethology — the comparative study of animal behavior — was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1973. His career began with the study of bees and culminated in his discovery of their mode of communication. He is the author of The Dancing Bees: An Account of the Life and Senses of the Honey Bee. Professor Otto von Frisch, his son and collaborator, is the author of Animal Camouflage and Animal Migration.REFERRAL LINKS:  dDAB COMMENTARY:A couple pages in Jean Dethier's The Art of Earth Architecture, which I featured a few days ago, are devoted to "animal architects": birds using earth to make nests, frogs building ring-shaped nests along shorelines, and crabs building vaults with sandy earth, but also — most remarkable, by far — termite mounds that reach heights of around 20 feet and have internal passive ventilation systems for optimum temperature and humidity. With just two pages among 500, that book can only touch upon how animals build shelters in stunning ways; ways that are sometimes aligned with human dwellings. People wanting more in-depth explorations of animal habitats should pick up Karl von Frisch's classic Animal Architecture, published in 1974, one year after he won, along with Nikolaas Tinbergen and Konrad Lorenz, the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine "for their discoveries concerning organization and elicitation of individual and social behavior patterns."As von Frisch writes on the first pages of his book, "this book will be devoted to the activities of animals that actually build structures of the greatest diversity ... using techniques akin to those that humans employ in masonry, weaving, plaiting, digging, and so on." While here he points out parallels between the built environments of animals and humans, his book is devoted purely to the innate creations of some bugs, birds, and mammals. It is split into two parts: Arthropods and Vertebrates. Von Frisch devoted most of his career to studying bees, and accordingly they take up a large chunk of the first part. But so do wasps, ants, and termites, the last of which he calls "masters in building and civil engineering." Termitaries can be occupied by millions of termites, their oxygen consumption leading to suffocation over a half-day's time without proper ventilation. Through drawings, von Frisch explains the chambers, air spaces, fungus gardens, and structural supports that enable the termite mounds to stand up and vent the air automatically. But he also shows how termitaries in Australia (third spread), for instance, differ from those in Ethiopia (fourth spread); such variety is even evident when comparing the termite mounds in East Africa with those in West Africa.And while von Frisch focuses on the biology of creatures and the science behind their habitats throughout Animal Architecture, he also touches on the social aspects that allow such complex organizations. This draws further parallels with the dwellings of humans and makes me think that architects interested in biomimicry will find plenty of useful information in these pages, both in words and images: the former detailed but accessible, and the latter comprising photographs and drawings. Though given that this classic book is nearly 50 years old, I'm guessing most biomimicry-minded architects already own it.SPREADS:

  • A-frame
    by John Hill on June 25, 2020 at 12:00 PM

    A-frameChad RandlPrinceton Architectural Press, June 2020 (Second Edition)Paperback | 8 x 8-3/4 inches | 224 pages | 225 illustrations | English | ISBN: 978-1616899059 | $29.95PUBLISHER'S DESCRIPTION:The heyday of the national A-frame craze saw tens of thousands of these easy and affordable structures built as vacation homes, roadside restaurants, churches, and even pet stores. A-frame chronicles America's love affair with the A-frame, from postwar getaway to its recent revival among designers and DIYers. In a fascinating look at this architectural phenomenon, Chad Randl tells the story of the triangle house, from prehistoric Japan to its lifestyle-changing prime in the 1960s as a symbol of play, leisure, and outdoor living. Part architectural history and part cultural exploration, the book documents every aspect of A-frame living with cartoons, ads, high-style and do-it-yourself examples, family snapshots, and an appendix with a complete set of blueprints in case you want to build your own.Chad Randl is Art DeMuro Assistant Professor in the Historic Preservation Program, College of Design, at the University of Oregon in Portland. Previously, he taught at Cornell University and worked as an architectural historian for the National Park Service. He is the author of Revolving Architecture: A History of Buildings that Rotate, Swivel, and Pivot.REFERRAL LINKS:    dDAB COMMENTARY:Rudolph Schindler is known for a number of houses he designed after moving to California in 1920, most notably the eponymous dwelling he built for his family and the family of his friend Clyde Chace in 1922, and the beach house he built for Phillip Lovell in 1926. He's not particularly known for a mountain cabin he designed at Lake Arrowhead in the mid-1930s, even though that structure is considered "America's first A-frame house," at least according to USModernist. Chad Randl says as much too, in the first chapter of his excellent 2004 history of the A-frame, where he writes, "[A-frames] were fine for temporary shelters for animals and for storing things, but they were not lived in by choice. This changed in 1934, when Rudolph Schindler designed a triangular cabin for Gisela Bennati in the hills above Lake Arrowhead, California." Yet if this were the first American A-frame, it would take a full twenty years for the novel construction to become at trend in the US and another twenty years for its popularity to wane.Randl's definitive history on A-frames was rereleased last week in paperback. Although the publisher calls it a second edition, the only addition is a two-page preface, the rest staying the same: "perhaps it is best to let this little book stand as written," writes the author. For those wanting examples of residential A-frames beyond the roughly twenty-year period traced by Randl here in words and pictures — plenty of pictures — they need only look for The Modern A-Frame from 2018, with photographs by Ben Rahn (his studio is called A-Frame, in fact) and an introduction by Randl. But if you're looking for an in-depth history of a building form that was applied to churches and restaurants as well as vacation houses and ski chalets — and was even turned into a Fisher-Price play set (bottom spread) — A-frame is just what you need.While the book reminds me of A-frames from my youth (churches mainly, with some restaurants jostling here and there in my head), what's most interesting in the book's visual presentation is the prevalence of popular images: toys, yes, but also cartoons, advertisements, and stories from popular magazines, not architectural journals. The A-frame was a popular form/style, and now with children from that time able to build their own second homes outside of cities, no wonder it's come back in style. For them, this "second edition" is hitting at just the right time.SPREADS:

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