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  • Paradises
    by John Hill on January 17, 2020 at 1:00 PM

    a+t 52: Urban Park Strategies - ParadisesAurora Fernández Per, Javier Mozas (Editors)a+t, January 2019Paperback | 9-1/2 x 12-1/2 inches | 120 pages | Spanish/English | ISBN: 978-8409098804 | 26.00 €Publisher's Description:Increasingly, and at a faster pace, nature becomes culture and as this occurs, so continues the construction of an increasingly artificial and imaginary paradise lost. The paradises of today are those public spaces where multiple spiritual postures fit, where each one is built while experiencing them.Javier Mozas traces a walk in search of paradise, through 5 historical models, starting in the 17th Century and ends at the beginning of the 20th Century. Aurora Fernández Per identifies and analyses within the selected works design strategies and actions with which to create accessible paradises for the citizen.The STRATEGY series, initiated in 2010, defines scalar scopes, evidences disciplinary origins and composes a grid that overlaps the project to offer a new vision of it.dDAB Commentary:One of my favorite parks graces the cover of the latest issue in a+t's ongoing Strategy series. I might be biased though, since Hunters Point South Waterfront Park is just a few miles from my home, just a quick ferry ride, which makes going to the park on a warm, sunny day that much more enjoyable. Designed by Weiss/Manfredi, Thomas Balsley, and Arup, the park was realized in two phases, with the first phase comprising active uses (playground, dog run, playing field, cafe, restrooms) and the second phase more passive uses (paths, benches, an overlook). Strategically, the park is a resilient, green edge fronting residential towers, schools, and other buildings just steps from the East River. Waterfront development continues unabated in post-Sandy New York City -- highly questionable when considering the inevitability of rising waters -- but at least Hunters Point South takes the approach that soft edges can deal with future scenarios, while in the meantime providing recreation and other amenities.Like Activators before it, Paradises presents a bakers-dozen of landscape projects. The first five projects are historical, presented in an extended essay by editor Javier Mozas that moves from 18th century England to late-19th century Boston. These "five paradises" can be seen most directly as precedents for the eight contemporary projects that follow, both in terms of how nature is conceptualized and how the landscapes are designed formally and functionally. Following the essay, fellow editor Aurora Fernández Per defines the 50 strategies and actions that apply to the eight projects that follow. Like Activators, these strategies and actions are explained on small playing card-like bubbles that are clearly referenced to the projects; there the "cards" are reiterated so readers -- landscape architects, mainly, I'm guessing -- will know the most important strategies employed. If the other contemporary parks are as enjoyable in person as Hunters Point South (the only one of the eight I've seen in person), then paradise is indeed prevalent -- even in our time of ecological and other crises.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.Purchase Links:(Note: Books bought via these links send a few cents to this blog, keeping it afloat.)

  • The Letters of Colin Rowe
    by John Hill on January 16, 2020 at 1:00 PM

    The Letters of Colin Rowe: Five Decades of CorrespondenceDaniel Naegele (Editor)Artifice Press, September 2018Hardcover | 7 x 10 inches | 560 pages | 14 illustrations | English | ISBN: 978-1908967534 | $49.95Publisher's Description:Legendary architect, historian and critic, Colin Rowe taught Architecture and Urban Design at Liverpool University, the University of Texas at Austin, Cambridge University and for another 30 years at Cornell. From the late 1940s through to the early 1960s he wrote a uniquely perceptive series of articles on architecture that remains seminal to the discipline today. His books include The Mathematics of the Ideal villa and Other Essays, The Architecture of Good Intentions, the volume As I Was Saying, and most notably, Collage City, 1978, written with Fred Koetter. The recipient of the profession's highest honours, he was awarded the Topaz Medallion for Excellence in Architectural Education in 1985; and the Gold Medal of the Royal Institute of British Architects in 1995. Rowe was an inveterate letter writer. From his student days at Liverpool in the early 1940s until his death in Washington in 1999, he wrote innumerable letters to his parents, renowned architects and scholars, friends, colleagues and former students on both sides of the Atlantic; and most consistently and intimately to his brother, David, and sister in law, Dorothy, in England. Informal and elegant ruminations, they illuminate moments in Rowe's migratory life, addressing a wide range of subjects from books, furniture, landscapes, politics, history, and education, to architecture and the urban condition and a host of other engaging topics. Rich with wit and an astonishing array of scholarship, each is written in the incomparable style for which Rowe has long been famous, making evident his love affair with words and revealing a man of great humour, warmth and charm.dDAB Commentary:If you would have told me years ago that eventually I'd be reading through nearly 600 pages of letters written by architectural historian Colin Rowe and liking it, I would have vehemently denied it. I'll admit he wrote two of the most important architecture books of the second half of the twentieth century -- Collage City with Fred Koetter and the essays compiled in The Mathematics of the Ideal Villa and Other Essays -- but his writing is very demanding; his words are important but they are hardly enjoyable. Obviously there's a difference between scholarly writing for academic journals and books aimed at architects and architectural students, on the one hand, and correspondences between people, both professionally and personally, on the other -- therein lies the qualities of The Letters of Colin Rowe. Sentences with many phrases separated by columns and hyphens are in abundance in the letters, just like in his essays and books, but the letters are unedited (or just lightly edited in the short path between mind and pen on paper) and therefore are highly revealing. I feel like I know Colin Rowe from reading some of the letters in this collection, while at the same time gaining some new insights on Collage City, his other academic writings, and his teachings.The book was edited by Daniel Naegele, who had written theses on the Colin Rowe's text after he was in touch with Dorothy Rowe, Colin Rowe's sister-in-law, while at the Architectural Association in the late 1980s. One of the 303 numbered letters (spanning from August 1943 to March 1999) in the book is addressed to Naegele after he sent Rowe his AA thesis. Although Rowe berates Naegele for not reaching out to him for input during his research, he goes on to generously share information on, among other things, the gestation of Collage City. Like the 302 other letters, Naegele provides footnotes to the references to people and things that might be unknown to the reader (after a while these references repeat, as if one has entered Rowe's fold). Further, people who Rowe wrote letters to are marked throughout with asterisks, while a short biography of each recipient is provided at the back of the book. The book reveals a lot about Rowe (a lot more than I'm guessing he ever would have made public), but one thing in particular comes across to me: writing was his life. His printed output was not prolific, but his letter-writing surely was -- or at least it seems that way in this era of email and social media. The Letters of Colin Rowe is a nice respite to another time and a rewarding peek into the mind of a great thinker.Images:Author Bio:Daniel Naegele is an architect and associate professor of architecture at Iowa State University. A graduate of Yale University and of the Architectural Association in London ... Naegele wrote theses on Colin Rowe at the AA and at Yale University. His analyses and reviews of Rowe's writing have been published in Harvard Design Magazine and elsewhere.Purchase Links:(Note: Books bought via these links send a few cents to this blog, keeping it afloat.)   

  • Sir Banister Fletcher's Global History of Architecture
    by John Hill on January 9, 2020 at 1:00 PM

    Sir Banister Fletcher's Global History of ArchitectureMurray Fraser (General Editor) with Catherine Gregg (Managing Editor)Bloomsbury Visual Arts, December 2019Two-volume hardcover w/slipcase | 8 x 10 inches | 2,540 pages | 2,200 illustrations | English | ISBN: 978-1472589989 | $472.00Publisher's Description:Sir Banister Fletcher's Global History of Architecture is the acknowledged classic reference work for architectural history. It has been essential reading for generations of architects and students since the first edition was published in 1896 – and this tradition continues today as the new 21st edition provides the most up-to-date, authoritative and detailed account of the global history of architecture available in any form.Thousands of major buildings from around the world are described and explained, accompanied by over 2,200 photographs, plans, and drawings. Architectural styles and traditions are placed within a clear framework, and the chronological and geographical arrangement of the work's 102 chapters allows for easy comparative analysis of cultural contexts, resources, and technologies.Published for the first time in full color, and entirely rewritten throughout by over 80 leading international architectural historians, this is a landmark new edition of a classic work – one which reflects the very latest scholarship and brings a thoroughly contemporary understanding to over 5,500 years of global architectural history.dDAB Commentary:Major changes to the book that has served as a textbook for architectural history classes for many decades are evident in the title of its 21st edition: Sir Banister Fletcher's Global History of Architecture. Fletcher's history has been global since before the 18th edition in 1975 — the one I also have in my possession, with chapters on China, India, Japan, and other places beyond Britain and Europe — but now that fact is front and center. More importantly, this global nature permeates the entirely rewritten text undertaken by general editor Murray Fraser, managing editor Catherine Gregg, and 88 contributing authors. But as Fraser writes in his Introduction, "it was not possible to have developed a more globalized architectural history before." He has relied on recent scholarship that critiques Western cultural dominance, while at the same time relying upon the chronological and geographical format of previous editions, in which buildings in certain eras and countries/regions are explained in easily digestible chunks.The new edition's 7-part, 102-chapter structure (most chapters end up being around 20 to 40 pages) makes the daunting tome a bit less daunting, while at the same time admitting truly international coverage of architecture over the last 5,500 years. Additionally, the online version offers today's students a format more in line with their native digital skills and perhaps foreshadows future editions, which may "shift [architectural history] away from something that is closed and synthetic and seemingly fixed," in Fraser's words, "to one that is open and relational and provisional."Visit World-Architects to read the entirety of my review of Sir Banister Fletcher's Global History of Architecture.Spreads:Author Bio:Murray Fraser is Professor of Architecture and Global Culture at The Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL, UK and Vice-Dean of Research for The Bartlett Faculty of the Built Environment. He has published extensively on design, architectural history and theory, urbanism, post-colonialism and cultural studies.Purchase Links:(Note: Books bought via these links send a few cents to this blog, keeping it afloat.)   

  • Avant-Garde in the Cornfields
    by John Hill on January 8, 2020 at 1:00 PM

    Avant-Garde in the Cornfields: Architecture, Landscape, and Preservation in New HarmonyMichelangelo Sabatino, Ben Nicholson (Editors)University of Minnesota Press, October 2019Paperback | 8 x 10 inches | 408 pages | 178 illustrations | English | ISBN: 978-1517903145 | $40.00Publisher's Description:Avant-Garde in the Cornfields is an in-depth study of New Harmony, Indiana, a unique town in the American Midwest renowned as the site of two successive Utopian settlements during the nineteenth century: the Harmonists and the Owenites. During the Cold War years of the twentieth century, New Harmony became a spiritual “living community” and attracted a wide variety of creative artists and architects who left behind landmarks that are now world famous.This engrossing and well-documented book explores the architecture, topography, and preservation of New Harmony during both periods and addresses troubling questions about the origin, production, and meaning of the town’s modern structures, landscapes, and gardens. It analyzes how these were preserved, recognizing the funding that has made New Harmony so vital, and details the elaborate ways in which the town remains an ongoing experiment in defining the role of patronage in historic preservation.An important reappraisal of postwar American architecture from a rural perspective, Avant-Garde in the Cornfields presents provocative ideas about how history is interpreted through design and historic preservation—and about how the extraordinary past and present of New Harmony continue to thrive today.dDAB Commentary:Although I grew up just 300 miles away from New Harmony (a five-hour car ride, or about the same distance from Chicago to St. Louis), I didn't visit the small Indiana town until 2015. The reason was to visit and photograph the Atheneum designed by Richard Meier and completed in 1979 for my book 100 Years, 100 Buildings. I'm guessing many architects know New Harmony because of Meier's building. I had learned about the Atheneum in the early 1990s in architecture school, when our class watched a documentary explaining the geometries Meier used to integrate his bright white building into the nearly 175-year-old town. For all I know the documentary also delved into the town's 1814 founding, abandonment ten years later, the subsequent attempt by Welshman Robert Owen to create a Utopian community there, and the architecture that preceded Meier's visitor center for the town — but what stuck in my memory was the Atheneum's geometry. The same drew me to include the building in my 2016 book but also learn a little bit more about the town and its earlier buildings when I visited.With my rudimentary background on New Harmony, Avant-Garde in the Cornfields, a scholarly history of New Harmony's built environment in the second half of the twentieth century, is very welcome. Yet I couldn't help but first jump to the chapter devoted to the Atheneum. It's the last chapter in the book, written by Ben Nicholson, who edited it with Michelangelo Sabatino, who wrote the Introduction. Nicholson's contribution comes after a half-dozen chapters by various historians on preservation, patronage, gardens, art, and architecture; they are in a roughly chronological order and also move from a broad canvas to specific case studies (one is on Philip Johnson's Roofless Church, the building on the cover). These long essays — three of them, with notes, clock in at 50 or more pages — can stand on their own, but each one reflects the intertwining strands of architecture, landscape, and preservation signaled in the book's subtitle. So reading Nicholson's essay on the "white collage" of the Atheneum indirectly prompts readers to Nancy Magnum McCaslin's chapter on Jane Blaffer and Kenneth Dale Owen, the first who spent six years revitalizing New Harmony after she first visited the town in 1941; and to the chapter in which Stephen Fox focuses on patronage, since Meier's client, Ralph G. Schwarz, is as important to the Atheneum as the architect. All together, the seven essays give a comprehensive picture of a unique place whose built environment is rooted in 19th century ideals and accepting of mid- and late-20th century expression.Spreads:Author Bio:Ben Nicholson is professor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Michelangelo Sabatino is educated as an architect and historian and is dean of the College of Architecture at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago. Purchase Links:(Note: Books bought via these links send a few cents to this blog, keeping it afloat.)   

  • dDAB in 2020
    by John Hill on January 6, 2020 at 1:00 PM

    My blogging activities have just reached drinking age! It was 21 years ago this month that I started A Weekly Dose of Architecture. That website, which I stopped in 2014, was joined in 2004 by A Daily Dose of Architecture, what is now the one-year-old A Daily Dose of Architecture Books (or dDAB, which I say in my head as "dee-dabb").So what will 2020 hold for dDAB? It will continue, but posts in the first third of the year will be less frequent than most of 2019, which averaged about four books per week. I'm in the thick of writing my latest book — a book, coincidentally, about architecture books, currently titled Buildings in Print — so will be posting just two books per week to this blog until May, after I turn in my manuscript to my publisher, Prestel. dDAB might even go on hiatus in April as my deadline nears — that remains to be seen.That said, posts will resume later this week. In the meantime, Happy 2020 to all!

  • 2019 Favorite Books
    by John Hill on December 16, 2019 at 1:00 PM

    In 2019, the first year for A Daily Dose of Architecture Books (dDAB), I featured nearly 200 books in six day-of-the-week categories: Monograph Monday, Technical Tuesday, World Wednesday, History/Theory Thursday, Free-for-all Friday, and Wayback Weekend. With the year drawing to a close, I've decided to take a look back at all these books and pick my favorite in each category. This is not a "Best of 2019" list, though, since the books I reviewed in 2019 weren't necessarily released in 2019 (obviously this is the case with the Wayback Weekend books).Below are my favorite books reviewed on dDAB in 2019, with just minor commentary provided for each. Reviews on dDAB will resume the second week of 2020.Monograph Monday (31 books):Studio 804: Design Build. Expanding the Pedagogy of Architectural Education by Dan Rockhill with David Sain (Oscar Riera Ojeda Publishers, October 2018) This long-overdue monograph covers the first 25 years of Studio 804, the design-build program started by architect Dan Rockhill at the University of Kansas (KU). The handsome, slipcase volume rose to the top due to Rockhill's honest interviews with David Sain, in which he recounts the difficulties and successes of each projects, as well as the thorough documentation of the buildings in photos and drawings.Technical Tuesday (17 books):Reglazing Modernism: Intervention Strategies for 20th-Century Icons by Angel Ayón, Uta Pottgiesser and Nathaniel Richards (Birkhäuser, October 2019)I feature so few technical books on this blog that at one point I considered changes this day's category to something else. But books like Reglazing Modernism made me realize how important it is to present books that are geared to professional practice. Its 20 case studies on bringing mid-20th century icons up to 21st century energy standards are aided by rendered perspectival wall sections and axonometric details.World Wednesday (40 books):Forms of Practice: German-Swiss Architecture, 1980-2000 (second edition) by Irina Davidovici (gta Verlag, June 2019)There are certain times when certain architects from certain places gain the attention of architects in other parts of the world. This happened in the last two decades of the 20th century with architects from the German-speaking areas of Switzerland, most notably Herzog & de Meuron and Peter Zumthor. This phenomenon is beautifully and intelligently explored through case studies of eight buildings by these famous architects and a half-dozen of their contemporaries. First published in 2012, the second edition of Forms of Practice fleshes out Davidovici's interpretation of German-Swiss architecture in those years through a few new essays and other updates.History/Theory Thursday (38 books):X-Ray Architecture by Beatriz Colomina (Lars Müller Publishers, March 2019)While this is the trickiest category for me to decide on, since I am drawn to books on history and theory, ultimately the best barometer for these books is how well they make me see something familiar in a different way. In this regard, the book standing out from the rest is Colomina's fascinating take on the relationship between architecture and medicine in the early 20th century. In particular, it's the chapter on how tuberculosis forced architects to create a truly modern architecture -- a take that will stay with me for a long time.Free-for-all Friday (37 books):Your Guide to Downtown Denise Scott Brown: Hintergrund 56 by Jeremy Eric Tenenbaum with Denise Scott Brown (Architekturzentrum Wien & Park Books, March 2019)I love architecture exhibitions, but I never seem to have enough time to digest them when I see them in person. So exhibition catalogs and other companion publications are a must for me. But when it comes to exhibitions I haven't seen, those same books aren't very dear to me, mainly because they don't put me in the exhibition. That's not the case with this printed companion to AzW's Downtown Denise Scott Brown, which uses the exhibition plan as a framework for the book's colorful and revealing contents.Wayback Weekend (34 books):Ladders (Architecture at Rice 34) by Albert Pope (Rice School of Architecture & Princeton Architectural Press, December 1996)Most of the time when I feature old books on the weekends they're books I've read in the past. Spurred on by a book earlier in the week, I'll revisit such a book and use the blog to discover what I like about it or what has stuck with me over the years. Not Ladders, which I wasn't really aware of until this year, when I learned it was an important book, read it, and then realized why it was so important, and why it was given a second edition nearly 20 years after publication. Pope explains things we think we know -- sprawl -- in a way that is fresh. It's dense, with a writing style that is demanding at times, but it's one of the most rewarding books I've read in a long time -- too bad it took me so long to discover it.

  • The Story of New York's Staircase
    by John Hill on December 13, 2019 at 1:00 PM

    The Story of New York's StaircasePrestel, November 2019Paperback | 10 x 10 inches | 144 pages | 100 illustrations | English | ISBN: 978-3791384733 | $25.00Publisher's Description:A public space like no other, the staircase was designed by the award-winning Heatherwick Studio to give New Yorkers and visitors a unique vertical experience. In this book, readers can witness every part of its development, from initial designs to the finished structure. They'll learn why and how the staircase came to be and the significance of its placement in the Nelson Byrd Woltz-designed Public Square and Gardens at Hudson Yards. An essay by architecture critic Paul Goldberger explores the importance of public spaces, while additional texts explain the evolution of the neighbourhood and discuss the staircase’s dramatic design. A wealth of photography follows the structure's incredible path to completion and the final result, with a total of 2,500 steps, 154 interconnected staircases, 80 viewing landings, and one mile of pathways reaching 150 feet into the air. Documenting one of the most complex pieces of architectural steelwork ever built at this scale, this book offers a fascinating, detailed, and unforgettable look at a dazzling new structure.dDAB Commentary:Thomas Heatherwick's Vessel opened in March 2019 with a lot of fanfare but also a good deal of criticism. Appreciation of the $150 million-plus climbable sculpture was bound up with the many aspects of the huge Hudson Yards development whose first phase it anchors. For one, although a folly that rightfully garners attention, the 150-foot-tall Vessel is surrounded by five mediocre skyscrapers that make the public space somewhat lacking. (These towers tend to make ascending it a battle against funneled breezes at times too.) Most of the criticism though was levied at access to its many steps, since it required reserving a timed ticket online beforehand (tickets were free at first but later they had fee options added to them), and at the legal language in those tickets that would grant Hudson Yards' developers the rights to any photos taken of the Vessel. The developers "tweaked" their photo policy following uproar over the latter, but Vessel and the "public square and gardens" it sits within are technically private, so access to the sculpture can be restricted at the mercy of the owners. (The only truly public component of Hudson Yards is The Shed, what's also the most liked piece of the development.)One thing missing from this book devoted to Vessel is just that: the name "Vessel." The sculpture will eventually carry a different name, perhaps arising from a naming contest banded about earlier this year, but the book simply calls the creation "New York's Staircase." Who knows, maybe it will eventually be known just as that. Whatever the case, the book is for fans of Heatherwick's sculpture rather than its detractors. It's loaded with photographs taken since its March opening, a few drawings and models, some construction photos, some cute illustrations with walking figures, and a serrated corner that extends the sculpture's steps all the way to the book's pages. People with a genuine curiosity about Vessel will want to read the three essays, in which Jeff Chu documents the evolution of the design and some details of its overseas construction and transatlantic voyage, Sarah Medford puts the artwork and development into the larger historical and geographic context of Manhattan's West Side, and Paul Goldberger speculates on the meaning of Vessel as a 21st century public space. Not surprisingly, like "Vessel," these essays don't mention the photo rights (the book has plenty of photos that look like they might have been obtained via that photo policy though), just how "public" the heart of Hudson Yards is, or other controversial aspects of the sculpture and development. New York's Staircase is clearly a celebration of "New York's Staircase," and those who love the sculpture will find plenty to love in the book.Spreads:Author Bio:N/APurchase Links:(Note: Books bought via these links send a few cents to this blog, keeping it afloat.)   

  • MoMA PS1
    by John Hill on December 12, 2019 at 1:00 PM

    MoMA PS1: A HistoryKlaus Biesenbach, Bettina Funcke (Editors)The Museum of Modern Art, October 2019Hardcover | 9-1/4 x 10-3/4 inches | 304 pages | English | ISBN: 978-1633450691 | $65.00Publisher's Description:Since its inception in the early 1970s, MoMA PS1 in Long Island City, Queens, has been a crucible for radical experimentation. Committed to New York City as well as to maintaining an international scope, PS1 has always put the artist at the center, engaging practitioners at work in every discipline from performance, music, dance, poetry and new media to painting, sculpture, photography and architecture. This groundbreaking publication captures the vibrancy of a long and venerable tradition that began with the legendary series of performances and events organized by founder Alanna Heiss under the Brooklyn Bridge in 1971.Organized into four main sections that delve into the former school’s rich history as an art center during the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s up to the present, the book features in-depth conversations between Heiss and Klaus Biesenbach, the director of MoMA PS1 from 2010 to 2018, and more than 40 recollections by artists, curators and critics closely associated with the institution—including Marina Abramovic, James Turrell, agnès b, Rebecca Quaytman, Carolee Schneemann and Andrea Zittel.dDAB Commentary:A couple weeks ago The Architect's Newspaper reported that MoMA PS1 would be putting its 20-year-old, annual Young Architects Program (YAP) on hiatus. This is mildly sad news, since the hiatus might only last one year, but what if it the hiatus is indefinite? The installations that annually graced the courtyard of the Long Island City institution were always something to look forward to, and they were a great barometer for up-and-coming talents in architecture — both the winners and the invited finalists. So for YAP to disappear entirely would be a significant loss to the culture of architecture in New York and beyond (the winners, if memory serves me right, were equal parts from NYC and from outside NYC).This YAP news is relevant in regards to MoMA PS1: A History not only because the book and the installation share a host, but because there is very little said in the book about YAP; photos appear here and there but very few words, if any, address this mainstay of MoMA PS1. Each of the book's four chronological chapters (1970s, 1980s, 1990s, 1999-2019) highlight important artworks or events alongside the interviews that comprise the bulk of the book; the last chapter has one on the New York Art Book Fair, but it completely misses YAP. I'm not surprised, given that the institution that evolved into MoMA PS1 was founded two decades before the 2000 start of YAP (Alanna Heiss founded the Institute for Art and Urban Resources Inc. in 1971) and the institution is more renowned for its numerous art exhibitions than its once-a-year architecture installations.The same year of the YAP start is when P.S. 1 (IAUS took that name in 1976 when it moved into Public School 1 in Queens) merged with MoMA to become MoMA PS1. This merger is discussed at length in the book by Klaus Biesenbach, who directed MoMA PS1 from 2009 until his departure for Los Angeles last year. So art and art-politics take precedence over YAP, echoing Glenn Lowry's comments at a public forum in 2014 on the eventual demolition of the American Folk Art Museum so MoMA could expand: "We don't collect buildings." The importance of architecture — both the existing school renovated by Frederick Fisher and the YAP installations — in the story of MoMA PS1 is obvious to any architect who has hopped on the 7 Train to visit the Queens institution. You just wouldn't know it by reading MoMA PS1: A History.Spreads:Author Bio:Klaus Biesenbach is Director of The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, and former director of MoMA PS1 and Chief Curator at Large at The Museum of Modern Art in New York City. Bettina Funcke is an art historian based in New York.Purchase Links:(Note: Books bought via these links send a few cents to this blog, keeping it afloat.)   

  • The Revolution Will Be Stopped Halfway
    by John Hill on December 11, 2019 at 1:00 PM

    The Revolution Will Be Stopped Halfway: Oscar Niemeyer in AlgeriaJason OddyColumbia Books on Architecture and the City, September 2019Paperback | 9 x 11 inches | 208 pages | English | ISBN: 978-1941332504 | $35.00Publisher's Description:Of all of the Brazilian modernist Oscar Niemeyer’s many built works, his Algerian projects are among the least well known. Beginning in 1968, Algeria’s President Houari Boumediene commissioned Niemeyer to build two universities and an Olympic sports hall, as well as a series of large-scale, never-realized projects across Algeria, in an attempt to forge a modern, independent nation. In 2013, Jason Oddy produced an in-depth photographic survey of these buildings as they exist in Algeria today. The Revolution Will Be Stopped Halfway collects those images alongside archival documents and Oddy’s further research into Niemeyer’s Algerian work in order to explore the revolutionary politics that inspired and formed these buildings.dDAB Commentary:Think of Oscar Niemeyer and most likely Brazil pops to mind, not Algeria. Sure, Niemeyer completed some of the hundreds of buildings he designed outside of Brazil and South America, particularly during his two-decade-long "exile years" starting in 1965, but I'm probably not alone in lacking familiarity with his Algerian projects before seeing this book. I'm glad the book made its way to me, not only for it apprising me of his university and sports projects there, but for the beautiful documentation of them. Jason Oddy's photographs capture the current state (as of 2013) of the extant buildings at the University of Science and Technology Houari Boumediene, La Coupole arena, and the University of Mentouri Constantine, while drawings from the Oscar Niemeyer Foundation describe the same in the architect's lines and words.Oddy also contributes an essay that contextualizes the late-1960s projects and recounts their creation. This lengthy essay might have spurred MTWTF, which designed the book, to alternate photos and words on the flip sides of the pages, making the book an exceptional object. More specifically, each page is glossy on one side and matte on the other, the first for Oddy's photos and the latter for his words (or captions, or the words of Samia Henni, who penned the preface). In turn, two glossy sides make a two-page spread and two matte sides make a spread as well, such that most of the book alternates between the two. A departure happens in the book's last third, where Niemeyer's drawings are found on blue-green paper. With its paper selection, wraparound cover, and lay-flat binding, the book is worth owning solely as a marvelous printed artifact -- thankfully the contents are worth the price as well.Spreads:Author Bio:Jason Oddy is a writer and artist whose work focuses on the politics of place. His photographic investigations of the Pentagon, ex-Soviet sanatoria, and Guantanamo Bay have been published and exhibited internationally, including at the Photographers' Gallery (London), Paris Photo, the Milan Triennale, Tropenmuseum Amsterdam, and the Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisations in Marseilles.Purchase Links:(Note: Books bought via these links send a few cents to this blog, keeping it afloat.)   

  • Peter Salter – Walmer Yard
    by John Hill on December 9, 2019 at 1:00 PM

    Peter Salter – Walmer YardPeter Salter, et. al.Circa Press, July 2019Hardcover | 11-3/4 x 10-1/4 inches | 156 pages | 140 illustrations | English | ISBN: 978-1911422075 | $60.00Publisher's Description:Peter Salter is an architect and teacher whose work has influenced several generations of students. The culmination of ten years of planning, Walmer Yard, in Notting Hill, is his first residential project in the UK and one of only a small number of buildings he has completed worldwide. Although modest in scale, the project is extraordinary in many ways. On an irregularly shaped site, Salter’s design brings four houses into a complex relationship with each other that is half formal, half familiar, interdependent, yet solitary. Similarly, the relationships between the core team members are more nuanced than in most architectural projects, since they all met at the Architectural Association in Peter’s unit, where Crispin Kelly (the client) and Fenella Collingridge (Peter’s current collaborator) were student contemporaries. This book documents the evolution of the project through the medium of Peter Salter’s pen-and-ink drawings and Hélène Binet’s remarkable photographs.dDAB Commentary:Walmer Yard comprises four houses on an irregular, L-shaped lot in London's Notting Hill neighborhood. It is most notable as one of the few built works designed by Peter Salter. I've been fortunate enough to visit a couple of his buildings, both in Japan: the Inami Woodcarving Museum from 1993 and the Mountain Pavilion in Bambajima, also completed around the same time. Seeing those standalone buildings in their respectively village and natural contexts, the prospect of a Salter building in an urban context seemed far-fetched at best. His buildings are just too idiosyncratic to appease to developers, which tend to call the shot in cities such as London, and they have formal expressions that are quite alien, if highly appealing to this architect/writer. But Walmer Yard is obvious proof that Salter pulled if off.This monograph tells the decade-long (I first learned about it in 2006) story of Walmer Yard, designed by Salter with architect Fenella Collingridge for developer Crispin Kelly and documented by photographer Hélène Binet. With essays by the main players as well as a few critics, Salter's distinctive drawings (nude bodies and all), and dozens of large color and b/w photos by Binet, the book is a visual and intellectual treat that capably explains a project that is difficult to grasp when looking at just a few drawings or photos. Therefore the as-built plans on pages 12 and 13, following Kelly's words on the project, are very helpful in navigating the project's documentation in the pages that follow. Arranged around a central courtyard, the four houses are marked by rectangular rooms colliding with angles and curves, irregular-shaped living spaces, carefully cut vertical voids, and exterior spaces that are formed rather than leftover.Like any work of architecture, Peter Salter – Walmer Yard could hardly substitute for seeing Walmer Yard in person (someday I hope to stay there), but it does a great job in explaining the design and capturing its distinct atmospheres. Taking in the words and images in order means continually adding layers of understanding, from the early days of the project and the even-earlier days of the key players (both Kelly and Collingridge were Salter's students at the AA) to the numerous custom details in the courtyard (those shutters!) and throughout the interiors. With its shared courtyard, private "yurt" living spaces, and carefully located windows and skylights, the project's introverted nature comes to the fore. I don't see this as a bad thing. Partly a product of circumstance, and perhaps an expression of Salter and the others involved, the project's introversion leads to an intimacy and a clear indication that this is a very special place. Spreads:Author Bio:Peter Salter began his career in the studio of Alison and Peter Smithson. In the early 1980s, he formed a partnership with Christopher Macdonald, producing a series of projects known for their highly developed and evocative drawings. Throughout the 1980s and ‘90s he taught at the Architectural Association as a unit master. In 1995, he became professor and head of school at the University of East London, and is now Professor of Architectural Design at the Welsh School of Architecture, Cardiff University.Purchase Links:(Note: Books bought via these links send a few cents to this blog, keeping it afloat.)   

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