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  • April Break
    by John Hill on April 6, 2020 at 12:00 PM

    At the end of April I need to turn in a manuscript and hundreds of photos to my publisher. With that deadline fast approaching, I've decided to stop posting to this blog for the rest of April, a month that is seeing architects and other white-collar workers staying at home. Be safe and healthy — and see you in May!Consolidated Life by David Lawrey and Jaki Middleton (2010), from the 2011 exhibition Otherworldy: Optical Delusions and Small Realities at the Museum of Arts and Design.

  • The Brooklyn Nobody Knows
    by John Hill on April 1, 2020 at 12:00 PM

    The Brooklyn Nobody Knows: An Urban Walking GuideWilliam B. HelmreichPrinceton University Press, October 2016Paperback | 5.5 x 8 inches | 424 pages | 89 illustrations | English | ISBN: 978-0691166827 | $24.95Publisher's Description:Bill Helmreich walked every block of New York City—6,000 miles in all—to write the award-winning The New York Nobody Knows. Now he has re-walked Brooklyn—some 816 miles—to write this one-of-a-kind walking guide to the city’s hottest borough. Drawing on hundreds of conversations he had with residents during his block-by-block journeys, The Brooklyn Nobody Knows captures the heart and soul of a diverse, booming, and constantly changing borough that defines cool around the world. The guide covers every one of Brooklyn’s forty-four neighborhoods, from Greenpoint to Coney Island, providing a colorful portrait of each section’s most interesting, unusual, and unknown people, places, and things. Along the way you will learn about a Greenpoint park devoted to plants and trees that produce materials used in industry; a hornsmith who practices his craft in Prospect-Lefferts Gardens; a collection of 1,140 stuffed animals hanging from a tree in Bergen Beach; a five-story Brownsville mural that depicts Zionist leader Theodor Herzl—and that was the brainchild of black teenagers; Brooklyn’s most private—yet public—beach in Manhattan Beach; and much, much more. An unforgettably vivid chronicle of today’s Brooklyn, the book can also be enjoyed without ever leaving home—but it’s almost guaranteed to inspire you to get out and explore one of the most fascinating urban areas anywhere.dDAB Commentary:Recently the New York Times set up a "Those We've Lost" section on its website, where obituaries for those who died from the coronavirus are being compiled. The first obituary on that page is an architect, Vittorio Gregotti, who died in Milan on March 15th at the age of 92. Closer to my NYC home are Michael Sorkin, who was just 71 when he died on Thursday (I studied under at City College and wrote about one of his books over the weekend), and William B. Helmreich, who died at the age of 74 on Saturday. Helmreich may not be as familiar a name in architecture circles as Sorkin's, but the two treaded very similar territories in life: Helmreich also taught in the City University (CUNY) system, at the Graduate Center; they both lived in New York City most of their lives; and both were walkers. In our design studios at CCNY Sorkin promoted walking as the preferred mode of getting around — and therefore designing — the city, while Helmreich, a professor of sociology, walked to experience not just the city, but the city's inhabitants. Further, both were progressive voices, Sorkin more overtly so, fighting for a just, free metropolis, and Helmreich often throwing himself into controversial or even dangerous situations out of his curiosity and gregariousness, to use a couple words from the Times obit.Helmreich walked a lot: every street in New York City — more than 6,000 miles. He put his experiences, anecdotes of those he encountered, and his sociological takes on immigrants, gentrification, and other aspects of the five boroughs into The New York Nobody Knows, published by Princeton University Press in 2013. Helmreich and the Press were releasing more detailed accounts for each borough, structured more as guides than the first book: The Brooklyn Nobody Knows came out in 2016 and The Manhattan Nobody Knows in 2018. I'm not sure the status of the remaining three boroughs, but the fact the Press made covers for each makes me hopeful that Helmreich may have gotten those all on paper before he died. Even if he didn't, the Nobody Knows he wrote are valuable for revealing parts of the city most people — tourists and residents — don't encounter. I used the first book and the Brooklyn book when researching my NYC Walks architecture guidebook. I particularly liked his chapter on gentrification in The New York, while for me The Brooklyn illuminated social aspects of neighborhoods, things that made it feel like I was exploring them with a local. One need only look at the maps, which label restaurants, shops, and other haunts rather than architectural landmarks, to see what Helmreich was attracted to: the places where people live their lives and make a mark on the communities they are part of.Images:Author Bio:William B. Helmreich is the author of many books, including The New York Nobody Knows (Princeton), which won the inaugural 2014–15 Guides Association of New York Award for Outstanding Achievement in Book Writing. He is Distinguished Professor of Sociology at the City College of New York's Colin Powell School for Civic and Global Leadership and at CUNY Graduate Center. The Brooklyn Nobody Knows is the first of five planned walking guides, one for each borough of New York City.Purchase Links:(Note: Books bought via these links send a few cents to this blog, keeping it afloat.)   Email Subscriptions:Subscribe to A Daily Dose of Architecture Books by Email

  • Variations on a Theme Park
    by John Hill on March 29, 2020 at 12:00 PM

    Variations on a Theme Park: The New American City and the End of Public SpaceMichael Sorkin (Editor)Hill and Wang, 1992Paperback | 6 x 9 inches | 252 pages | 9 illustrations | English | ISBN: 978-0374523145 | $20.00Publisher's Description:America's cities are being rapidly transformed by a sinister and homogenous design. A new kind of urbanism--manipulative, dispersed, and hostile to traditional public space--is emerging both at the heart and at the edge of town in megamalls, corporate enclaves, gentrified zones, and psuedo-historic marketplaces. If anything can be described as a paradigm for these places, it's the theme park, an apparently benign environment in which all is structured to achieve maximum control and in which the idea of authentic interaction among citizens has been thoroughly purged. In this bold collection, eight of our leading urbanists and architectural critics explore the emblematic sites of this new cityscape--from Silicon Valley to Epcot Center, South Street Seaport to downtown Los Angeles--and reveal their disturbing implications for American public life.dDAB Commentary:On Thursday evening I sat down to compose a review for this blog for the following day, when a text alerted me to the death of Michael Sorkin, the great architecture critic and a mentor of mine. I studied under Sorkin in the Urban Design program at the City College of New York back in 2006 and 2007. Although a short, two-semester graduate degree, the UD program led to lasting friendships with my classmates and a relationship with Sorkin beyond graduation day. In the years since, I saw Michael at least a few times a year and in a couple instances worked with him on things, most notably helping him launch the UR Books imprint of Terreform in 2015. One year ago Michael generously donated his time and energies to do a book talk for my NYC Walks at Rizzoli Bookstore; never would I have thought that he would be asking me questions in such a venue. Last month we corresponded via email, when he agreed to contribute something to the book I'm finishing up and we made plans to have lunch when things warmed up. Although I knew he had health issues, I did not want to entertain the thought that he would be an at-risk victim of COVID-19. The devastating news on Thursday shocked me and the many admirers and colleagues of Sorkin. Sadly, just as Michael died alone (COVID-19 patients in hospitals don't have contact with people, even at their moments of death), we are forced to grieve alone and online: through Twitter, Facebook, and tributes on websites. Who knows if and when Michael will get the funeral he deserves, one that many people no doubt would want to attend.Most of the tributes posted online have touched on the influence of Michael's writings: his criticism at The Village Voice in the 1980s and in many publications in the decades since; the more than 20 books he wrote and edited; and his teaching and the lively lectures he gave all over the world. There was also the aforementioned UR Books imprint, which is getting ready to release its 13th book and saw Michael continuing the progressive provocations of his writings, but with authors culled from China, Venezuela, and other places, not just New York City. I devoted a "so you want to learn about" post to Michael's books in October 2018, when his latest collection of critical essays — What Goes Up: The Rights and Wrongs of the City — was released. I couldn't help tweet that post on Thursday night, assuming other people, like me, would want to read some of Michael's words.Of all the Sorkin books I've read, the ones that influenced me the most are Exquisite Corpse, a collection of essays from his Village Voice years, published in 1991; Variations on a Theme Park, a collection of critical essays on public spaces in the United States that he edited around that time; and Twenty Minutes in Manhattan, published in 2010, a highly descriptive account of Sorkin's daily walk from his Greenwich Village home to his Tribeca studio and a summation of his takes on New York City and cities in general. Variations is a solid collection of essays with a great list of contributors, most part of Sorkin's strong network of progressive scholars: M. Christine Boyer, Margaret Crawford, Mike Davis, Neil Smith, and Edward Soja. About half of the essays are devoted to places in NYC and LA, but Sorkin left himself the tastiest place in need of skewering: Walt Disney World. Of course, the essay is about much more than Disneyland and Disney World, but the main point is how those theme parks influenced the American psyche and actual American cities; Disney World may resemble Utopia, but it's all spectacle and fabrication. Variations has not even ten illustrations, but the one accompanying "See You In Disneyland" is perfect (click image to enlarge the caption), both for the essay and as a summary of Sorkin's criticism: acerbic and humorous but always with a clear position. Spreads:Author Bio:Michael Sorkin, an architect and writer, teaches at Cooper Union and Yale, and is the author of The Exquisite Corpse. For ten years, he was the architecture critic of The Village Voice. [from back cover]Purchase Links:(Note: Books bought via these links send a few cents to this blog, keeping it afloat.)   Email Subscriptions:Subscribe to A Daily Dose of Architecture Books by Email

  • SOS Brutalism
    by John Hill on March 26, 2020 at 12:00 PM

    SOS Brutalism: A Global SurveyOliver Elser, Philip Kurz, Peter Cachola Schmal (Editors)Park Books, November 2017Hardback with paperback supplement | 9 x 11 inches | 716 pages | 1,080 illustrations | English | ISBN: 978-3038600756 | $69.00Publisher's Description:Widely disliked in their heyday and only recently beginning to be appreciated, brutalist buildings around the world are at risk of being lost—in many cases to demolition, and in some to insensitive reconstructions that would forever alter buildings’ appearance beyond recognition. SOS Brutalism is a distress signal, an attempt to galvanize public awareness of the architectural heritage that is at risk of being forever lost. The book, result of a major collaborative research undertaking by Deutsches Architektur Museum DAM and Wüstenrot Foundation, presents a global survey of brutalist architecture of the 1950s, ’60s, and ’70s, covering around 120 key buildings from the period from around the world, many of them little-known and in imminent danger of destruction. Case studies of hotspots such as the Macedonian capital Skopje or New Haven, Connecticut, and essays on the history and theory of brutalism round out this groundbreaking and lavishly illustrated book.dDAB Commentary:One of the displays at the 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale, part of the FREESPACE exhibition curated by Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara, was a remnant of Robin Hood Gardens, the large public housing estate in East London designed by Alison and Peter Smithson and completed in 1972. The three-story chunk of a facade was acquired by the V&A before the building was demolished starting in August 2017. While I never learned much about Robin Hood Gardens, the large building with its exterior "access decks" was eminently recognizable, and its importance in the history of modern architecture — especially Brutalism, obviously — was also very clear. As such, it seemed to me unlikely that such an important building, if unloved by some, could be demolished. But attempts to save it were unsuccessful and now all that's left is the three-story section of concrete and glass. In the midst of Robin Hood's demolition, from November 2017 to April 2018, the Deutsches Architekturmuseum (DAM) in Frankfurt hosted SOS Brutalism – Save the Concrete Monsters! The name of the exhibition clearly expresses the urgency over threats to Brutalist architecture, with the Smithsons' building only the latest of many demolitions or transformations of "concrete monsters" from the 1960s and 70s, every other threatened one apparently designed by Paul Rudolph. Although Brutalism's rising popularity last decade led to a slew of books — both coffee table and scholarly — on the short-lived architectural style, the inflexibility of the monolithic buildings and the rough, textured concrete surfaces they had in common made them easy targets for "ugly" labels in arguments to replace them with smaller, friendlier designs, though arguably of less architectural merit. SOS Brutalism: A Global Survey, the companion to the exhibition and the start of an ongoing online project, admirably balances the visual and historical qualities of architectural publishing, presenting dozens of buildings around the world (many I was never familiar with) through photos and drawings, with intelligent texts on the characteristics of Brutalism in different contexts as well as on the individual projects themselves.The 536-page hardcover book that is the global survey is accompanied by a slimmer paperback: Brutalism: Contributions to the international symposium in Berlin 2012. Essays by Kenneth Frampton, Beatriz Colomina, Stanislaus von Moos, Joan Ockman, Laurent Stadler, Philip Ursprung, and others make this volume an extremely valuable extension of the survey. The geographic specificity of the survey is found here too, with the essays honing in on particular places and architects, such as Britain, where Brutalism was most popular, and Switzerland, usually not considered important in the history of the style. One thread running throughout the two-volume book is that Brutalism was far from just a style, a word I nevertheless can't help using here. The Smithsons popularized the term "New Brutalism" in the mid-1950s, but by the time Reyner Banham published his book of the same name one decade later its subtitle — Ethic or Aesthetic? — it appears the social concerns of buildings like Robin Hood had given way to merely formal considerations. To which I contend, so what? Many of the wide-ranging buildings around the world that fall under the Brutalist banner are worth saving for reasons outside of social intentions: for being strong architectural statements, one-of-a-kind creations, and actually beautiful — beautiful monsters. Spreads:Author Bio:Peter Cachola Schmal is director of Deutsches Architekturmuseum DAM in Frankfurt on the Main. In 2016, he curated together with Oliver Elser and Anna Scheuermann the exhibition Making Heimat in the German pavilion at the International Architecture Exhibition of the Venice Biennale. Oliver Elser is a curator at Deutsches Architekturmuseum DAM in Frankfurt on the Main. In 2016, he was co-curator of the German pavilion at the International Architecture Exhibition of the Venice Biennale. Philipp Kurz is managing director of Wüstenrot Foundation in Ludwigsburg, Germany, and teaches as a professor at the Institute of Design and Building Technology, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology.Purchase Links:(Note: Books bought via these links send a few cents to this blog, keeping it afloat.)   Email Subscriptions:Subscribe to A Daily Dose of Architecture Books by Email

  • Countryside, A Report
    by John Hill on March 20, 2020 at 12:00 PM

    Countryside, A ReportAMO, Rem KoolhaasGuggenheim/Taschen, March 2020Paperback | 4 x 6-1/4 inches | 352 pages | English | ISBN: 978-3836583312 | $25.00Publisher's Description:The rural, remote, and wild territories we call “countryside”, or the 98% of the earth’s surface not occupied by cities, make up the front line where today’s most powerful forces—climate and ecological devastation, migration, tech, demographic lurches—are playing out. Increasingly under a ‘Cartesian’ regime—gridded, mechanized, and optimized for maximal production—these sites are changing beyond recognition. In his latest publication, Rem Koolhaas explores the rapid and often hidden transformations underway across the Earth’s vast non-urban areas.Countryside, A Report gathers travelogue essays exploring territories marked by global forces and experimentation at the edge of our consciousness: a test site near Fukushima, where the robots that will maintain Japan’s infrastructure and agriculture are tested; a greenhouse city in the Netherlands that may be the origin for the cosmology of today’s countryside; the rapidly thawing permafrost of Central Siberia, a region wrestling with the possibility of relocation; refugees populating dying villages in the German countryside and intersecting with climate change activists; habituated mountain gorillas confronting humans on ‘their’ territory in Uganda; the American Midwest, where industrial-scale farming operations are coming to grips with regenerative agriculture; and Chinese villages transformed into all-in-one factory, e-commerce stores, and fulfillment centers.This book is the official companion to the Guggenheim Museum exhibition Countryside, The Future. The exhibition and book mark a new area of investigation for architect and urbanist Rem Koolhaas, who launched his career with two city-centric entities: The Office for Metropolitan Architecture (1975) and Delirious New York (1978). It’s designed by Irma Boom, who drew inspiration for the book’s pocket-sized concept, as well as its innovative typography and layout, from her research in the Vatican library.dDAB Commentary:It's hard not to be cynical in the era of Trump, a liar who uses — flaunting at times — the presidency for personal gain. When it was announced what seems like ages ago that Rem Koolhaas would be taking over the rotunda of the Guggenheim Museum for an exhibition about the countryside, I couldn't help wonder if OMA projects outside of the studio's usual bastion of cities would soon follow. Koolhaas is nothing like Trump, mind you, but I was disappointed to see press releases from AMO/OMA following so closely on the heels of the opening of Countryside, The Future last month: AMO partnering with Volkswagen to "research the future of rural mobility" and OMA being commissioned to design "a shopping center with integrated community spaces in Melbourne's countryside." Perhaps I'm just naive, and it should be expected that the efforts of an architect in one realm (cultural production) should and will lead to work in their practice, but I like the idea of the former standing on its own — or at least not displaying its reciprocity with business as soon as the VW partnership did, which waited all of two weeks.I didn't know of any AMO/OMA commissions extending from Countryside when I visited the Guggenheim one week after it opened (I've yet to write a review of it, mainly because museums are closed these days in response to COVID-19, but also because it's hard to say more about Countryside than what's already been said), but I was aware of them as I read through some of the essays in the pocket-size companion book. Even so, that cynicism didn't really tinge my reading, since the book is comprised mainly of "travelogue essays": Koolhaas, AMO director and Countryside co-curator Samir Bantal, and their collaborators traveling all over the world to learn about "the other 98% of the earth's surface not occupied by cities." There is sincerity in these pieces, which range from industrial farming in the American Midwest to the depleting permafrost in Russia's Yakutia region. The best essays involve experts and therefore exhibit a desire to learn how things actually work in the countryside, as opposed to just observing things from a distance and then fitting those views into intuitive theories, as Koolhaas is wont to do. Compared to the exhibition, I find the book much more rewarding, since it delves (a little bit) deeper into the subjects that are presented on the ramps of the Guggenheim in bite-size illustrations, collaged together in a manner that is confusing at times. The book, designed by Irma Boom, has a welcome clarity, while its small size belies Countryside's pretensions.Spreads:Author Bio:AMO is the think tank of the Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA), co-founded by Rem Koolhaas in 1999. Rem Koolhaas is a co-founder of the Office for Metropolitan Architecture. ... Among many international awards, he has received the Pritzker Prize (2000) and the Praemium Imperiale (2003).Purchase Links:(Note: Books bought via these links send a few cents to this blog, keeping it afloat.)   Email Subscriptions:Subscribe to A Daily Dose of Architecture Books by Email

  • Justice Is Beauty
    by John Hill on March 16, 2020 at 12:00 PM

    Justice Is Beauty: MASS Design GroupMichael Murphy, Alan RicksThe Monacelli Press, December 2019Hardcover | 8 x 10 inches | 384 pages | English | ISBN: 978-1580935272 | $60.00Publisher's Description:Founded in 2008, MASS Design Group collaborated with Partners In Health and the Rwanda Ministry of Health to design and build the Butaro District Hospital in Rwanda, a masterwork of architecture that also uniquely serves a community in need. Since then, MASS has grown into a dynamic collaborative of architects, planners, engineers, filmmakers, researchers, and public health professionals working in more than a dozen countries in the fields of design, research, policy, education, and strategic planning.Amid ongoing recognition (the 2018 American Academy of Arts and Letters Award in Architecture, the 2017 Cooper Hewitt National Design Award in Architecture), MASS’s most recent project, the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Alabama, has been featured in more than 400 publications, including the New York Times, the New Yorker, and the Washington Post. Mark Lamster of Dallas Morning News called the memorial “the single greatest work of American architecture of the twenty-first century.”Justice Is Beauty highlights MASS’s first decade of designing, researching, and advocating for an architecture of justice and human dignity. With more than thirty projects built or under construction and some 200,000 people served, MASS has pioneered an immersive approach in the practice of architecture that provides the infrastructure, buildings, and physical systems necessary for growth, dignity, and well-being, while always engaging local communities with attention to the specifics of cultural context and social needs.dDAB Commentary:I'm writing this review on Sunday, March 15, two days after Trump declared a national emergency over COVID-19. Universities are closed, moving to online classrooms; sporting and other events have been canceled; and Americans are hunkering down to stave off a virus that has hit other countries hard, especially Italy, which has a countrywide quarantine. It's a strange time, to say the least, and it's hard to think of other things besides the welfare of family, friends, and other loved ones, and anticipating how the virus will reshape lives in the coming weeks and months. It's particularly difficult to find much relevance in architecture (though I'm sure there will be attempts in the coming days and weeks); so far the death of Vittorio Gregotti from coronavirus earlier today is the only news where architecture is aligned with what is on most people's minds.So as I rummaged through the books I've received from publishers to discover any alignments between architecture and the virus sweeping the world, one book stood high above the rest: Justice Is Beauty. The book is a monograph of MASS Design Group, the Boston-area firm founded by Michael Murphy and Alan Ricks in 2007. Their first project — "The Genesis" in the monograph — was the Butaro District Hospital in Rwanda, an impressive project that drew a lot of attention to MASS and led them to take on other projects in Butaro and elsewhere in Rwanda (they now have an office in Kigali), a country many US architects would never dare to tread. Beyond Rwanda, but in a similar vein, the firm designed a Tuberculosis Hospital and Cholera Treatment Center in Haiti. Put another way, MASS has worked in places and on building types that make them more accustomed to what's happening in the wake of COVID-19 than any architects I can think of.Setting aside the fortuitous nature of the coronavirus, MASS Design Group, and this review, Justice Is Beauty is a beautiful and thought-provoking monograph. Like other monographs it has plenty of professional photography (Iwan Baan shoots all their work), but Justice Is Beauty departs from the norm by focusing exclusively on built work, diving deeply into a few of the dozen buildings presented in the book, and including conversations that, among other things, revisit their Butaro Hospital ten years after it was completed. One of those deep(er) dives is the last project in the book, the National Memorial for Peace and Justice, which was dedicated in Montgomery, Alabama, in October 2018. The project received lots of positive attention when it opened and revealed that MASS is capable of applying their unique design approach to projects beyond hospitals. It comes 300 pages after Murphy explains the "Or, and, Is" of the cover, how a choice between justice and beauty is a false dichotomy; MASS's work shows that the two can work together remarkably well.Spreads:Author Bio:Michael Murphy is the founding principal and executive director of MASS Design Group. As a designer, writer, and teacher, his work investigates the social and political consequences of the built world. ... Alan Ricks is a founding principal and the chief design officer of MASS Design Group. He leads strategy and design of the firm, which has projects in over a dozen countries that range from design to research to policy ... Purchase Links:(Note: Books bought via these links send a few cents to this blog, keeping it afloat.)   Email Subscriptions:Subscribe to A Daily Dose of Architecture Books by Email

  • MONU #31
    by John Hill on March 13, 2020 at 1:30 PM

    MONU #31: After Life UrbanismMagazine on Urbanism, October 2019Paperback | 7-3/4 x 10-1/2 inches | 128 pages | English | ISSN: 1860-3211 | $23.99Issue Contents:Democratizing Death - Interview with Karla Rothstein by Bernd Upmeyer; The Cemetery of the Living by Miguel Candela; With Seven Bodies in My Backyard by Omar Kassab and Mostafa Youssef; Constructing Memorial Poles as Monuments by David Charles Sloane; Ghost Life Urbanism by Jérémie Dussault-Lefebvre and Sébastien Roy; Death and Burial: In the Past Lies the Future by Carlton Basmajian and Christopher Coutts; Beyond the Grave: Conscious Consumption in Life and Death by Sybil Tong; Cemetery and Crematorium Futures by Julie Rugg; The Silent City by Nicole Hanson; You Could Be Compost by Katrina Spade (Recompose); Mourn by Nienke Hoogvliet; Rest in Pixels - Interview with James Norris by Bernd Upmeyer; Watching the Wakes of Strangers through the Internet by Andréia Martins van den Hurk; Suburban Halloween Decorations by Cameron Jamie; Set in Stone: Humans and Barre Granite by Monica Hutton; Claim Domain: An Urban Case for Burial by Anya Domlesky; Exuberance and Resistance by the Dead by Bruno De Meulder and Kelly Shannon; Coexisting: A Matter of Life and Death by Elissaveta MarinovaReview by Giulio Gonella:On the cover of the latest issue of MONU, After Life Urbanism, a black and white photograph shows a teenager boy performing a backflip jump. Shirtless and barefoot, the picture catches the precise moment when his head is perpendicular to the ground, his legs spread and his body perfectly balanced to accomplish a safe landing. In the back, a few other kids look and gesture at the camera and seem to not pay attention to him. The concrete box he jumped from hosts an embossed tombstone: ‘RIP Agapita M. Cruz, Rosalina M. Cruz’; below each name, the dates of birth and death. A pen-sketched graffiti flower hides the cross carved on the left part of the plate. A number of cement bricks and concrete-casted sarcophagi – each of them hosts a dirty headstone on one side – piles up in the back, like containers ready to ship. The picture is part of one of the most striking contributions of the issue. Miguel Candela’s photographic essay, “The Cemetery of the Living,” depicts the life conditions in the oldest cemetery of Metro Manila, Philippines. As the capital city has endlessly experienced mass immigration since the end of the Second World War, some families that cannot afford a house are making the cemetery their home, while others live there to offer their services as grave diggers.How do the living cope with the dead? MONU #31 aptly explores the relationships between death, life and the built environment. It does so by collecting contributions from researchers, designers and urban planners. Although it is rarely considered as a vector of transformation, death informs the way spaces and cities are designed and built. The discussion of death is often regarded as a taboo topic: it is hardly addressed in the public sphere, as much as it is not considered as a stimulating theme of design. Yet, as Karla Rothstein argues in “Democratizing Death,” the interview that opens the issue, interest in matters of death and the disposition of bodies has grown significantly in the last twenty years. Rothstein indicates demographic changes in societies in the global North among the factors prompting the exploration of these topics in the world of design. Likewise, concerns over our ecological footprint urge us to reconsider the practice of cremation as a way to deal with corpses. The multiplication of spaces and rituals of mourning in our multicultural metropolis also questions the political and legislative apparatuses of government. To talk about death is not just to shed light on social changes, but to stimulate thoughts on different aspects of the way we live together.Throughout modernity, death started to occupy specific places in the Western city. Hospitals, crematoriums, and cemeteries were spaces built to host sick individuals and dead bodies. In 2014, the exhibition Death in Venice at the Venice Biennale dissected a selected number of these architectures, such as the Hospital of the Innocent by Brunelleschi. According to the curator Alison Killing, the exhibition’s aim was to question how, as a society, we approached death. Killing argued that the design and construction of such spaces produced a certain unfamiliarity between the individual and death. In a similar way, the project for the city mirrored the same process on a wider scale. Nineteenth-century Paris and London witnessed the rise of planned enclosed spaces for the ones that were no more; despite these places occupying a relevant position in the urban fabric, they were not considered an active part of urban life. Even if they usually serve as parks or greens where people can walk and relax, when we confront such spaces a nameless friction arises. As death is considered the opposite of life, not as part of it, the same happens in the city. Spaces of death are counterposed to spaces of life. However, as Sybil Tong argues in the article “Beyond the Grave: Conscious Consumption in Life and Death,” graveyards and cemeteries are first and foremost spaces for the living. In as much as they are commemorative places, their function is to remember the dead. Therefore, a cemetery represents “a politicized space of interpretation and collective memory.” The current urban agenda for the dead seems to be primarily concerned with the good management of corpses as part of a smooth administration of city life. Instead, the possibility of a co-existence of the two worlds shows that it is not urban planning for the disposal of dead bodies that is at stake. Less polluting alternatives to common ways of disposition (such as cremation) can elicit a different relationship to death. As Elissaaveta Marinova discusses in the issue, practices like above ground decomposition question the way designers and planners think about space, as the cemetery as we know it will “open for complete reinterpretation.” After all, bodies are not objects to dispose of, to bury and quietly forget about. Dead people are citizens even in the aftermath of their life.We inhabit a city even when our biological bodies do not wander around it anymore. As the Metro Manila graveyard shows, other human beings live upon our rests. The marble mattress they sleep on is the ceiling of our house for eternity. Our future cities should therefore invent new social ecologies between humans, be them dead or alive. There’s life after urbanism. Inside the Issue:About MONU:MONU (Magazine on Urbanism) is a unique biannual international forum for architects, urbanists and theorists that are working on urban topics. MONU focuses on the city in a broad sense, including its politics, economy, geography, ecology, its social aspects, as well as its physical structure and architecture. ... MONU is edited in the city of Rotterdam, the Netherlands. ... MONU is an independent, non-conformist, niche publication that collects critical articles, images, concepts, and urban theories from architects, urbanists and theorists from around the world on a given topic.Purchase Link:

  • Torre Reforma
    by John Hill on March 9, 2020 at 12:00 PM

    Torre ReformaL. Benjamín Romano, with texts by Felipe Leal, Ali Malkawi and Francisco Serrano, and photographs by Iwan BaanArquine, April 2019Hardcover | 8 x 12 inches | 240 pages | 70 illustrations | English | ISBN: 978-6079489434 | $50.00Publisher's Description:LBR&Arquitectos, a firm founded in 1976 by Mexican architect Benjamín Romano, designs and builds architecture projects based on four defining principles: sustainability, structure, high technology and artistic integration. The firm is responsible for one of Mexico City’s tallest skyscrapers, the Reforma Tower (2016), built on the corner of Paseo de la Reforma and Río Elba. At 57 stories and 807 feet high, the tower’s delicate silhouette made a striking addition to the city’s skyline.This book explores the process involved in designing and building the Reforma Tower, narrating how the architects navigated urban regulation in the center of a dense city and considerations of height, circulation, sunlight, wind, ventilation and most importantly, structure (the building is located in a seismic zone). Featuring photographs by Iwan Bann, this volume documents the Reforma Tower project from the first designs to the finished building.dDAB Commentary:In 2017, when I was writing How to Build a Skyscraper I went back and forth with the publisher trying to incorporate skyscrapers that I liked, swapping them out with less appealing ones in the list I was given when the publisher hired me. Many of the towers I saw as important and that added diversity to the selection were included, but a few of them weren't, due in part to scarcity of photographs and other readily available documentation at the time. One such tower was Torre Reforma in Mexico City, designed by L. Benjamín Romano and completed one year earlier, in 2016. If I were writing that book today, Torre Reforma would be in there for sure, since this eponymous building monograph published by Arquine provides loads of information and lots of photos on the 56-story office tower at Paseo de la Reforma 483.I'll admit that when I argued for the inclusion of Torre Reforma in my book, I didn't know much about the building. I was struck by the prismatic form of the building, which changes subtly at each floor and has a tapered top; the exterior materials, concrete on two sides and curtain wall on the bent third side; and the way the tower rises next to and above a historic building. It was only later that I learned how the form of the building relates to its interior spaces, responds to local regulations, actually stands up structurally, and how well the office building performs environmentally. It seems that my instincts were correct, as evidenced by it winning DAM's International Highrise Award 2018.Devoting a whole book to Torre Reforma means learning the above and many other characteristics of the building in depth. A series of axonometric diagrams is most helpful in understanding the tower's various services and systems (e.g., air flow, vertical circulation, water, etc.). Although the same diagrams are found on the architect's website, in the book they are printed on acetate sheets, as visible in the first spread below; a loose sheet of paper with a drawing of the tower serves as an underlayment for the diagrams. The rest of the book, more traditional in its presentation, has floor plans, sections, enlarged sections, and detail drawings, as well as plenty of photos: 50 pages of construction photos and about twice as many with finished photos by Iwan Baan. With short essays by Romano and others rounding out the book, Torre Reforma is an excellent case study on a tower deserving such a treatment.Spreads:Author Bio:Benjamín Romano is an architect from the Universidad Iberoamericana in Mexico City with studies in Israel on “Precast elements”. Romano is the founder of the firm LBR&A Arquitectos that has a broad professional history of over 40 years.Purchase Links:(Note: Books bought via these links send a few cents to this blog, keeping it afloat.)   Email Subscriptions:Subscribe to A Daily Dose of Architecture Books by Email

  • At the Book Fair
    by John Hill on March 6, 2020 at 3:15 PM

    I'm taking a break from my sporadic reviews these days to presents some finds made at the New York International Antiquarian Book Fair that is taking place this weekend. These are not books I purchased — they are far too expensive for my wallet — but they are some of the few books on modern architecture that I found in a sea of leather bindings, signed first editions, maps, and other older bound and unbound volumes. If you're in the market for some rare architecture books, take a look at the books below (in alphabetical order by bookseller) and then head over to the Park Avenue Armory between now and Sunday.Walter Gropius, work and teamwork (1954) by Sigfried Giedion, signed by Walter GropiusAppledore Books (booth E24), $1,500:Junge Französische Architektur (1930) by Roger GinsburgerMarilyn Braiterman Rare Books (booth C7), $400:Knoll Center/Ceiling Design (1989) lithograph by Robert VenturiMarilyn Braiterman Rare Books (booth C7), $1,500:Anonyme Skulpturen: A Typology of Technical Constructions (1970) by Bernhard and Hilla Becher, signed by the BechersJeff Hirsch Books (booth E33), $5,000:Mysteries and Realities of the Site (1951) by Richard Neutra, signed by NeutraJeff Hirsch Books (booth E33), $850:Amerika: Bilderbuch eines Architekten (1926) by Erich MendelsohnEric Chaim Kline Bookseller (booth D18), $650:Arkhitekturnye fantazii. 101 kompozitsiia v kraskakh. 101 arkhitekturnaia miniatiura (1933) by Iakov ChernikhovEric Chaim Kline Bookseller (booth D18), $8,750:Le Poème Electronique (1958) by Le CorbusierWilliam Reese Company (booth B17), $300:SHV Think Book (1996) by Irma BoomUrsus Rare Books (booth A2), $7,500:Changing New York (1939) by Berenice AbbottRoy Young Bookseller (booth A40), $2,750:Aircraft: The New Vision (1935) by Le CorbusierIrving Zucker Art Books (booth A28), $8,000:

  • Postmodern Architecture
    by John Hill on March 5, 2020 at 1:00 PM

    Postmodern Architecture: Less Is a BoreOwen HopkinsPhaidon, February 2020Hardcover | 10 x 11-1/2 inches | 224 pages | 200 illustrations | English | ISBN: 978-0714878126 | $49.95Publisher's Description:This unprecedented book takes its subtitle from Postmodernist icon Robert Venturi's spirited response to Mies van der Rohe's dictum that ‘less is more'. One of the 20th century's most controversial styles, Postmodernism began in the 1970s, reached a fever pitch of eclectic non-conformity in the 1980s and 90s, and after nearly 40 years is now enjoying a newfound popularity. Postmodern Architecture showcases examples of the movement in a rainbow of hues and forms from around the globe.dDAB Commentary:What is Postmodern architecture (PoMo for short)? If we go the Wikipedia route — and why not? — it is "a style or movement which emerged in the 1960s as a reaction against the austerity, formality, and lack of variety of modern architecture." Later, it "flourished from the 1980s through the 1990s" and then "in the late 1990s, it divided into a multitude of new tendencies, including high-tech architecture, modern classicism and deconstructivism." This definition is a broad one, with PoMo encompassing the "styles" that splintered from it. But for me, somebody trained in architecture in the first half of the 1990s, PoMo was simply the historically ironic architecture that was produced in those flourishing years before it "divided" into -isms that didn't have the same embrace of history. So one view of PoMo sees it as a style with well-defined boundaries — from the demolition of Pruitt-Igoe, if we ascribe to Charles Jencks' exact marking of the end of Modernism, to the completion of Frank Gehry's Guggenheim Bilbao (1997, the same year as the Longaberger Building), which ushered in something else: let's call it the era of the icon. The other view sees PoMo continuing to this day, alive and well. I side with the first definition, partly because of my education and partly because applying PoMo to recent work means applying it to just about anything that departs from strictly Modernist tendencies. And because of this, I find Phaidon's new Postmodern Architecture book equally illuminating and frustrating.Let's start with the illuminating. I'm a (non-practicing) architect who writes about architecture, so I feel like I know a good deal about the buildings of the last few decades, jus as I try to keep abreast of what's happening now. Regardless, there's a number of surprises in this book, particularly those in the UK, the home turf of Owen Hopkins, whose excellent five-page essay prefaces the 200 pages of color photos that follow. It's always great to be subjected to more architecture, even if it's just one image per building. The frustrating: There's just too many buildings that veer outside of what I consider PoMo. Ricardo Bofill's 77 West Wacker in Chicago (third spread below) is suitably PoMo, but is Cesar Pelli's Petronas Towers, completed in 1996, just four years later? I think not; and there are numerous other cases. In place of such buildings, it would have been great to have even more obscure PoMo buildings from the 1970s through the 90s. But that approach would have embalmed the style (and probably made it harder for the Phaidon editors to dig up good photos). In its broad view, Less Is a Bore lifts Postmodern architecture from its past, makes it a colorful, living part of our present, and makes an argument for its continuation into the future.Spreads:Author Bio:London-based Owen Hopkins is the Senior Curator of Exhibitions and Education at Sir John Soane's Museum where he curated ‘The Return of the Past: Postmodernism in British Architecture' in 2018. He was also the editor of Conversations on Postmodernism, a book of interviews with eight figures associated with the movement.Purchase Links:(Note: Books bought via these links send a few cents to this blog, keeping it afloat.)   Email Subscriptions:Subscribe to A Daily Dose of Architecture Books by Email

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