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  • After Art
    by John Hill on September 19, 2020 at 12:00 PM

    After ArtDavid JoselitPrinceton University Press, 2013Flexicover | 6 x 7-1/4 inches | 136 pages | 40 illustrations | English | ISBN: 978-0691150444 | $26.95PUBLISHER'S DESCRIPTION:Art as we know it is dramatically changing, but popular and critical responses lag behind. In this trenchant illustrated essay, David Joselit describes how art and architecture are being transformed in the age of Google. Under the dual pressures of digital technology, which allows images to be reformatted and disseminated effortlessly, and the exponential acceleration of cultural exchange enabled by globalization, artists and architects are emphasizing networks as never before. Some of the most interesting contemporary work in both fields is now based on visualizing patterns of dissemination after objects and structures are produced, and after they enter into, and even establish, diverse networks. Behaving like human search engines, artists and architects sort, capture, and reformat existing content. Works of art crystallize out of populations of images, and buildings emerge out of the dynamics of the circulation patterns they will house.Examining the work of architectural firms such as OMA, Reiser + Umemoto, and Foreign Office, as well as the art of Matthew Barney, Ai Weiwei, Sherrie Levine, and many others, After Art provides a compelling and original theory of art and architecture in the age of global networks. David Joselit is the Carnegie Professor of the History of Art at Yale University. His books include American Art Since 1945 (Thames & Hudson) and Feedback: Television against Democracy.REFERRAL LINKS:    dDAB COMMENTARY:David Joselit's After Art is the second book in the POINT series edited by Sarah Whiting, which began with Sylvia Lavin's Kissing Architecture in 2012 and finally resumed this year with Lateness by Peter Eisenman and Elise Iturbe, reviewed a couple days ago. Although the now three-book series is subtitled "Essays on Architecture," the subject of Joselit's book, as the name makes clear, is art: he recognizes a cultural shift enabled by the digital transfer of images and theorizes, not a post-art, but what art is becoming after the breakdown of traditional mediums like painting and sculpture. Lavin is actually quoted on the back of the book, saying After Art "will be of great interest to art historians and readers of contemporary art and media theory." Nevertheless, the book does incorporate architecture, both as the setting for new types of art and for playing a role in art's increasing commodification.At less than 100 pages, minus the front and back matter, Joselit's essay doesn't have much space to touch on numerous references, and most of those are fittingly art rather than architecture. Of the latter, he discusses Bernard Tschumi's Acropolis Museum in terms of traditional place-based art, considering the museum was designed as a new home for the Elgin Marbles that were taken from the Acropolis to Britain centuries ago. He also mentions the work of Greg Lynn, Reiser + Umemoto, and Foreign Office Architects, all regarding the incorporation of parametric modeling that began in the 1990s. But Frank Gehry and Rem Koolhaas are brought up the most, with Gehry's Guggenheim Bilbao fittingly discussed at some lengthy, and Koolhaas touched upon in regards to S,M,L,XL, his unbuilt plan for LACMA, the Seattle Public Library, and the CCTV Headquarters.The most interesting aspects of After Art, for me, are when Joselit confronts the commodification of art and artists' attempts to work beyond it. In the former, architecture plays a great role, considering that non-profit museums give millionaires and billionaires cultural cachet when they donate money and artworks, sit on their boards, and benefit tax-wise. Joselit actually refers to contemporary museums, quite accurately I think, as money-launderers for rich people. But artists like Ai Weiwei point to future arts, ones that use digital networks as mediums for artistic expression while drawing attention to inequities and oppression. Considering that Joselit wrote After Art seven years ago, and the fact it's artists — more than architects — who use social media and other digital networks to proactively address such issues as systemic racism, his book comes across as a prescient one.SPREADS:

  • Megastructure
    by John Hill on September 18, 2020 at 12:00 PM

    Megastructure: Urban Futures of the Recent PastReyner BanhamThe Monacelli Press, June 2020Hardcover | 8-1/2 x 11 inches | 232 pages | 222 illustrations | English | ISBN: 978-1580935401 | $50.00PUBLISHER'S DESCRIPTION:It is an architectural concept as alluring as it is elusive, as futuristic as it is primordial. Megastructure is what it sounds like: a vastly scaled edifice that can contain potentially countless uses, contexts, and adaptations. Theorized and briefly experimented with in built form in the 1960s, megastructures almost as quickly went out of fashion in the profession. But Reyner Banham’s 1976 book compiled the origin stories and ongoing mythos of this visionary movement, seeking to chart its lively rise, rapid fall, and ongoing meaning.Now back in print after decades and with original editions fetching well over $100 on the secondary market, Megastructure: Urban Futures of the Recent Past is part of the recent surge in attention to this quixotic form, of which some examples were built but to this day remains–decades after its codification–more of a poetic idea than a real architectural type.Banham, among the most gifted and incisive architectural critics and historians of his time, sought connections between theoretical origins in Le Corbusier’s more starry-eyed drawings to the flurry of theories by the Japanese Metabolist architects, to less intentional examples in military architecture, industry, infrastructure, and the emerging instances in pop culture and art. Had he written the book a few years later he would find an abundance of examples in speculative art and science fiction cinema, mediums where it continues to provoke wonder to this day.A long-sought study by an author who combined imagination, wit, and pioneering scholarship, the republication of Megastructure is an opportunity for scholars and laypeople alike to return to the origins of this fantastic urban idea.REFERRAL LINKS:    dDAB COMMENTARY:I can't think of anyone who has written as many classic books on architecture as Reyner Banham, particularly considering how few books he wrote. Using Wikipedia as a source, the English critic wrote just eight books that were released between 1960 and 1989 (the last came one year after he died at just 66), but at least three of them are musts in any self-respecting architect's library: Theory and Design in the First Machine Age, his first; Architecture of the Well-tempered Environment, published in 1969; and Los Angeles: The Architecture of Four Ecologies, from 1971. Two more Banham books are also considered important though not indispensable, in part because they have been so damn hard to find: The New Brutalism: Ethic or Aesthetic?, which was published in 1966 and is now going for close to $400 on Amazon; and Megastructure: Urban Futures of the Recent Past, which has just been reissued by The Monacelli Press and is now within the grasp of most architects.The cover of Megastructure, both the 1976 original and 2020 facsimile, features Paul Rudolph's Lower Manhattan Expressway project of 1970. Banham describes it, in a caption to one of the book's many images, as "a 'mainstream' megastructure if ever there was one." Following from Fumihiko Maki's Investigations in Collective Form from 1964 and other precedents, Banham basically defined a megastructure as an obviously large structure enabling modules to be plugged into it and expanded at will, consisting of multiple functions, and taking on an appearance that denies one singular characteristic or reading. In addition to Rudolph's unbuilt proposal, Banham was drawn to the plug-in, walking, and other fantastical "cities" of Archigram, the work of the Japanese Metabolists, and other architects in the 1960s embracing urban-scaled architecture. The book is exhaustive in its presentation of megastructures, even revealing designs to me that I was unaware of.What about built megastructures? Banham wrote of megastructures in the past tense, acknowledging that by 1976 the trend was already history. Built examples must have existed, even if less ambitious than Kenzo Tange's Tokyo Bay project or considerably more realistic than Yona Friedman's "space frames in the air." A key comes courtesy of Mary Banham, Reyner's wife and an artist who illustrated his books, most notably the helpful sections and cutaway axons in The Architecture of the Well-tempered Environment. On pages 134 and 135 of Megastructure is a diagram comparing silhouettes of ten megastructures, all realized and all depicted at the same scale. Nine of them float in the white space of the pages, but one of them spans across the bottom of the spread: the George Washington Bridge approach structures. Consisting of a roadway spanned by a bus terminal and four apartment blocks, Banham called the assemblage an "accidental megastructure" with "gigantic dimensions [that] accurately reflect the scale of the architectural ambitions entertained by many deliberate megastructure designers." If Rudolph's Lower Manhattan project is what architects envision when they hear "megastructure," the George Washington Bridge structures is the built reality when something of that size actually happens: architecturally uncoordinated and courtesy a strong hand, in this case "power broker" Robert Moses.The sole addition in Megastructure's facsimile edition is a foreword by Todd Gannon, the Ohio State professor whose most recent book is about the book on high-tech architecture that Banham was writing at the time of his death and therefore never finished. Gannon's foreword situates Megastructure in Banham's wider oeuvre of books, which balanced aesthetics and technology, and which tended to save overt criticisms for their last chapters. Gannon calls them "melancholy conclusions" and finds the same in Megastructure. But by marking the end of the megastructure trend with the Centre Pompidou in Paris, Banham also marked the beginning of what would become high-tech, whose story Banham unfortunately was unable to tell — melancholy, indeed.SPREADS:

  • Lateness
    by John Hill on September 17, 2020 at 12:00 PM

    LatenessPeter Eisenman with Elisa IturbePrinceton University Press, July 2020Flexicover | 6 x 7-1/4 inches | 120 pages | 39 illustrations | English | ISBN: 978-0691147222 | $26.95PUBLISHER'S DESCRIPTION:Conceptions of modernity in architecture are often expressed in the idea of the zeitgeist, or “spirit of the age,” an attitude toward architectural form that is embedded in a belief in progressive time. Lateness explores how architecture can work against these linear currents in startling and compelling ways. In this incisive book, internationally renowned architect Peter Eisenman, with Elisa Iturbe, proposes a different perspective on form and time in architecture, one that circumvents the temporal constraints on style that require it to be “of the times”—lateness. He focuses on three twentieth-century architects who exhibited the qualities of lateness in their designs: Adolf Loos, Aldo Rossi, and John Hejduk. Drawing on the critical theory of Theodor Adorno and his study of Beethoven’s final works, Eisenman shows how the architecture of these canonical figures was temporally out of sync with conventions and expectations, and how lateness can serve as a form of release from the restraints of the moment.Bringing together architecture, music, and philosophy, and drawing on illuminating examples from the Renaissance and Baroque periods, Lateness demonstrates how today’s architecture can use the concept of lateness to break free of stylistic limitations, expand architecture’s critical capacity, and provide a new mode of analysis.Peter Eisenman is founder and principal of Eisenman Architects and visiting professor at the Yale School of Architecture. His many books include Written into the Void: Selected Writings, 1990–2004 and Tracing Eisenman. Elisa Iturbe is cofounder of the firm Outside Development and a critic at the Yale School of Architecture and the Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture at the Cooper Union.REFERRAL LINKS:    dDAB COMMENTARY:Lateness is the third book in the POINT series edited by Sarah Whiting, following Sylvia Lavin's Kissing Architecture from 2011 and David Joselit's After Art from 2013. Clocking in at around 100 pages each, the series provides short, accessible essays with arguments for looking at architecture in unique, somewhat marginal ways. For architect Peter Eisenman, writing with Elisa Iturbe, the target of Lateness is architecture's infatuation with the new, something that is rooted in 20th-century Modernism but is also promoted through Parametricism's gung-ho embrace of digital technologies this century. A definition of "lateness" is hard to pin down, but it basically consists of architectural designs that are not interested in novelty or trying to fit in with the zeitgeist of contemporary architecture.The argument is laid out in six chapters, three of them focused on individual architects: Adolf Loos, Aldo Rossi, and John Hejduk. The two chapters at the start of the book tread familiar ground for followers of Eisenman, since he looks outside of architecture to explicate "lateness." Most important here is not Jacques Derrida, as in decades past, but Theodor Adorno, who analyzed Beethoven's final works in a way that gave Eisenman ammunition for his argument. Writing of "lateness" as "the resistance to personal expression," "an alternative view of form in time," and "neither an explicit break with history nor an overt return to the past," Eisenman and Iturbe seem to be favoring a critical architecture that fits somewhere between Modernism and Postmodernism, echoing Colin St. John Wilson's The Other Tradition of Modern Architecture."Lateness" is explored in the projects of Loos, Rossi, and Hejduk through words and images, the latter in the black-and-red drawing technique Eisenman has used for decades and that has appeared in such books as Ten Canonical Buildings 1950-2000. Loos is examined through two houses, Villa Karma and Villa Müller; Rossi through Gallaratese Housing and San Cataldo Cemetery; and Hedjuk through the Texas Houses and the Wall Houses. The analyses discover different ways of appearing "late" — formally, temporally, dialectically — yet the book does not go so far as to offer a template for designing buildings in a "late" style. If it did, I'm guessing architecture students would create myriad variations on Hejduk's famous Wall House 2, whose piano curves were neo-Corbusian but whose circulation and programmatic relationships were entirely unique to Hejduk. Architects interested in critical alternatives to architecture's infatuation with novelty will appreciate Lateness, even as it provokes more questions than providing answers.SPREADS:

  • The Alternative Guide to the London Boroughs
    by John Hill on September 16, 2020 at 12:00 PM

    The Alternative Guide to the London BoroughsOwen Hatherley (Editor)Open House, September 2020Paperback | 6-3/4 x 9-1/2 inches | 274 pages | English | £14.99PUBLISHER'S DESCRIPTION:The Alternative Guide to the London Boroughs is not just a catalogue of the places that may or may not be opening their doors in autumn 2020 for the Open House festival, this book is an exploration of the ordinary neighbourhoods, housing estates and public buildings that lie round the corner, rather than on a tube or a bus into town.In this new guide, guest-edited by Owen Hatherley and designed by Studio Christopher Victor, thirty-three writers, architects, activists, and Londoners present thirty-three essays exploring famous and unheralded buildings, streets, estates and neighbourhoods — some open for the Open House Festival, some not — across the thirty-three London boroughs.With contributions from columnist Aditya Chakrabortty to the historian Gillian Darley, via playwright Hanif Kureishi and the politician Emma Dent Coad, The Alternative Guide to the London Boroughs will present a picture of an extraordinary ordinary London made up of the places just outside the front door. Whether you have spent the lock down in a Georgian terrace, a thirties semi, an LCC tenement or a modernist high-rise, this book will be a refreshing journey into the city you have been missing and a celebration of the everyday buildings, places and landscapes which make it special.Owen Hatherley is the culture editor of Tribune and the author of several books, most recently Red Metropolis – Socialism and the Government of London, published by Repeater Books. Since 2015 he has been working on a gazetteer, Modernist Buildings in Britain, to be published by Penguin Books in 2021.dDAB COMMENTARY:With the need for face masks, social distancing, and other measures to deter its spread, the coronavirus has impacted every aspect of contemporary life, but perhaps none more dramatically than events that bring many people together. Events that would normally welcome the fall are the various Open House weekends — taking place in London, New York, Chicago, and other cities — that provide access to otherwise off-limits interiors, making them lots of fun for urban explorers like myself. Such open-door invitations are nearly impossible during the pandemic, so the Open House organizations are retooling by focusing on outdoor places, self-guided tours, and virtual presentations. Open House London — the original Open House — is mixing small tours and other in-person events over its festival weekend, September 19-20, with online offerings that extend this year's event to the 27th. It is also publishing a book that is part guidebook, part anthology, part archive, anchored by 33 contributions, one for each of London's 33 boroughs.The three parts that are intertwined throughout The Alternative Guide to the London Boroughs are: 1) the 33 essays by the 33 contributors, which include architects but also historians, curators, photographers, writers, and artists; 2) highlights of a few buildings in each borough, much like other Open House guides, coming directly after each corresponding essay (visible in the second spread below); and 3) a selection of artifacts from the Museum of London's collection (fourth spread) accompanied by descriptions that give them context. The mix by editor Owen Hatherley is very effective, allowing people to sit down with the book and read the essays that strike their fancy, learning the characteristics of the boroughs through personal and historical anecdotes on a particular place within each. With guidebook in hand, they can also use the listed buildings to venture into the city during or after the weekend, seeing some interesting places in each borough and getting as close to the traditional Open House experience as possible. Skimming the essays and highlighted buildings on my computer screen in my New York City apartment made me wish I could pick up a copy and do just that: explore London on foot. From a distance, though, and as a non-Londoner, the book made me feel like an outsider, with numerous references I couldn't grasp without Google and a geographical naiveté that made me wish the book came with maps. This is clearly a guide to London by and for Londoners. And that's fine. After all, the Open House weekends are about spurring residents to see parts of their cities they wouldn't normally see, enticing them with doors open to hidden domains. With COVID-19, these domains have shifted to the printed page and the mental insights provided by the contributors — splendid alternatives, indeed.SPREADS:

  • Designed Future
    by John Hill on September 14, 2020 at 12:00 PM

    Designed Future: Or Selected Writings by Paulo Mendes da RochaDaniela Sá, Guilherme Wisnik, João Carmo Simões (Editors)monade, January 2019Hardcover | 6 x 8-1/2 inches | 248 pages | 41 illustrations | English (translated from Portuguese by Mick Greer) | ISBN: 978-9899948563 | €33.00PUBLISHER'S DESCRIPTION:Designed Future is a journey through the modern era: our life in cities, the Americas, new territories and the old continent, of vision and design as essential tools for building the future.As the most complete collection of essays, interviews and lectures, this book is an in-depth view of the journey and particular thinking of one of the most relevant living architects, the Brazilian modern master, Paulo Mendes da Rocha (b. 1928).For the first time translated in English, it disclosures a must-read intense and provocative thinker in contemporary times.REFERRAL LINKS:    dDAB COMMENTARY:In 2006 Brazilian architect Paulo Mendes da Rocha won the Pritzker Architecture Prize and one year later Rizzoli released a monograph presenting fifty years of his buildings and projects. I was familiar with some of Mendes da Rocha's buildings beforehand, having featured the Brazilian Museum of Sculpture and Square of the Patriarch on my weekly website a few years before, but all of a sudden the architect and his buildings were receiving a lot of attention — deservedly so. Mendes da Rocha's words in print are few, though, compared to the dissemination of photographs and his distinctive, minimal sketches, so this collection of essays, interviews, and lectures is very welcome.Instead of presenting these three types of texts (essays, interviews, lectures) in their own chapters, the 34 texts spanning a half-century (1970-2018) are structured in three parts that are more thematic: Essential Texts, Architecture Texts, and Project Texts. While the last part, which is also the shortest of the three, includes texts that are clearly focused on individual projects, the other two parts don't have such evident clarity in their partitioning. What makes one interview, for instance, "essential," while another is "architecture"? If anything, the first part is more philosophical and addresses political and urban issues. But the city is evidently a favorite subject of Mendes da Rocha, so the subject suffuses the whole book.Skimming some of the texts compiled by the editors, the most beneficial to me were the interviews. Lacking some much-needed context, I found the shorter essays and longer lectures to be, if not confusing, not entirely revealing. The interviews, on the other hand, are highly revealing, particularly in terms of Mendes da Rocha's liberal politics, idealism toward his profession, and unwavering belief in cities — not just São Paulo, the one he calls home. Reading a few of them gives a very strong impression of Mendes da Rocha the person as well as the architect; in one interview he even wonders if he's given so many of them that he's repeating himself too much. Some of that repetition is evident in this collection, but it is a welcome thing when the modern and democratic ideas and ideals at the root of this architect and his buildings come to the fore.SPREADS:

  • Built in USA
    by John Hill on September 12, 2020 at 12:00 PM

    Built in USA: Post-war ArchitectureHenry-Russell Hitchcock, Arthur Drexler (Editors)The Museum of Modern Art, 1952Hardcover | 7-1/4 x 10 inches | 128 pages | 190 illustrations | English | ISBN: 978-1199554352 | $7.50PUBLISHER'S DESCRIPTION:This book is the Museum of Modern Art's report on the best of American architecture today. Private houses, skyscrapers, schools, a hospital, a retail store, a chapel and a stadium are among the 43 buildings amply illustrated by plans and photographs.With the mid-century modern architecture has come of age, and American architecture in particular has come to occupy a position of special prominence in the world. The qualities that have brought our building to this preeminent position are reviewed in an introductory essay by Professor Henry-Russell Hitchcock, America's leading historian of modern architecture. Arthur Drexler, Curator of the Museum of Modern Art's Department of Architecture and Design, has provided a critical text appraising individual buildings for their stature as works of art and for their significance in the development of American architecture.REFERRAL LINKS: dDAB COMMENTARY:In Thomas Hines's Architecture and Design at the Museum of Modern Art: The Arthur Drexler Years, 1951-1986, which I reviewed a couple days ago, the author delves into some detail on a few of the exhibitions curated by Drexler in his three-and-a-half-decade tenure at MoMA. One of these exhibitions, Built in USA: Post-war Architecture, one of Drexler's first, happens to be one of the catalogs I have in my library. (Anyone interested can download a PDF of the book from the MoMA website.) On display in the museum in 1953, the show Drexler co-curated with Henry-Russell Hitchcock took its name from the 1944 exhibition curated by Elizabeth Mock, Built in U.S.A., 1932-44.Given that both exhibitions basically presented what the curators and their advisors deemed the best in American architecture in the decades before and after World War II, the selections were of utmost importance. For Post-war Architecture, Hines elucidates much of the politics behind the selection process. The book lists the many people on the advisory committee — including Mock, a few deans of architecture schools, and many editors of architectural magazines — but Hines dug through the MoMA archives to find correspondences among the advisors and curators that reveal disagreements over what should be included. Hitchcock, for example, wanted to feature Jack Hillmer's "Wrightian" Ludekens House, but Drexler and others vetoed it, with Drexler even going so far as to say, in an informal note, that "if it is included, Hitchcock or not, I will resign from the museum."With two curators, a 12-story advisory committee, and Philip Johnson as director, the resulting selection of 43 projects is a grab-bag, mixing clear masterpieces (Mies's Farnsworth House, the Eames House, SOM's Lever House, Wright's Johnson Wax) with numerous buildings that have become, along with their architects, forgotten in the ensuing decades (Frank Whitney's Bluebonnet Plant, Igor Polevitsky's House for Michael Heller, Ernest J. Kump's San Jose High School). Most of the book fits snugly between these two poles, ultimately expressing an unbridled enthusiasm for modern architecture and its potential in creating a better future for all. The future would not be so rosy, but the book is valuable as a snapshot of an optimistic time, and of a curator — Drexler — getting a foothold at the institution he would devote more than half of his life to.SPREADS:

  • MONU #32
    by John Hill on September 11, 2020 at 12:00 PM

    MONU #32: Affordable UrbanismMagazine on Urbanism, April 2020Paperback | 7-3/4 x 10-1/2 inches | 128 pages | English | ISSN: 1860-3211 | $23.99ISSUE CONTENTS:Redefining a Radical Social Market Economy - Interview with Jörn Walter by Bernd Upmeyer; The Architecture of the People’s Housing Plan by Sasha Plotnikova; Normal City by Christopher de Vries; Urbanism for All by Richard Florida; Can Affordability Be Flexible? by Savia Palate; The Good Fight - Interview with Anne Mie Depuydt by Bernd Upmeyer; Fair Game by Ellen Donnelly and Marc Maxey; Affordable Housing in New York by David Schalliol; Cologne, Open City by Steffan Robel; Benign Neglect by Fani Kostourou, Cecily Chua, and Elahe Karimnia; Affordable Access: the Economic Impacts of Makerspaces by Nate Bicak; City in the Making by Matthias Lamberts, Ken Vervaet, Jeroen Stevens, and Bruno De Meulder; For the Right to Occupy and Hold Ground by Ana Paula Pimentel Walker, María Arquero de Alarcón, Luciana Nicolau Ferrara, and Benedito Roberto Barbosa; The Problem Is the Solution by Tanzil Shafique; Squatting in London by Will Hartley; Kiosk Culture by DK Osseo-Asare; A Home for Housing by Jonathan Tate; Affording Tightness by John Doyle and Graham Crist; The Distributed Cooperative by Scott Lloyd, Alexis Kalagas, and Nemanja ZimonjicREVIEW BY MARIA HEINRICH:The 32nd issue of MONU, "Affordable Urbanism," was published in April, when the Covid-19 crisis was already showing us the aftermath of deficient social housing. In some cities, it is made agonizingly clear how bad housing conditions are directly linked to high infection and mortality rates. One of the contributors, Sasha Plotnikova, makes this strikingly clear: "Like an epidemic, LA’s eviction crisis hits the most vulnerable the hardest."Next to Plotnikova, the other contributions in the magazine offer a varied account on affordable housing that ranges from theoretical framework to implementations that are already in place, and in some cases are even under the threat of extinction. Privatization of land and gentrification are making ground and construction value soar while there is a polarization into a richer middle class and a poorer working class. This is causing an accelerating need for affordable housing all around the world. Solutions for these problems can be found in both top-down and bottom-up measures.These top-down measures can include policy renewals such as in Paris, Hamburg, or Zurich, where around one-quarter to one-third of newly built rental housing has to be affordable. Scott Lloyd, Alexis Kalagas, and Nemanja Zimonjic illustrate how in Zurich the involvement of housing cooperatives is decisive to achieve this goal. As the offer of large building sites is decreasing steadily, they propose a "distributed cooperative" that is built on dispersed plots. Other solutions that are implemented by cities are hereditary or emphyteutic leases where buildings are in private possession but the land underneath belongs to the city. This way the municipality has the authority to mandate the ratio of social housing on this "private property."Bottom-up efforts include land occupations, flexible DIY-spaces and informal business solutions. Melbourne-based architects John Doyle and Graham Christ point out that East Asian cities offer a wide portfolio of what they call "tight architecture." These buildings stand on small pieces of residual land and thereby adopt the whole of the city and make land cheaper because a dense city is an affordable city. This can happen by bottom-up appropriation or top-down planning.While many answers are given to how housing can be made affordable, other integral aspects of urbanism are left unsolved. Are there ways to apply these measures to public space, transportation and infrastructure in an attempt to create an affordable city? Two articles, one on the Green belt of Cologne and the other on informal kiosk culture in Ghana’s harbor town of Tema take the aspect of affordability into the public realm. Apart from that, Richard Florida’s contribution, "Urbanism for All," is a call for politicians to care more about urban policy, including infrastructure. Whereas these features shed some light on what affordable urbanism could mean, a bigger variety of urban cases would have been instructive.After reading the magazine, one is closer to understanding how to build cities that are fair because they offer affordable space to citizens of all backgrounds. While no article serves as a solution for all cases, the different contributions form a set of tools that can be applied by citizens, planners, and politicians. The varieties of precedents from neighborhoods and cities that are mentioned make it clear that the most resilient solutions are community-driven and are facilitated by local policy-makers. Because ofcurrent discussions, it will be interesting to see if affordability will play a role in the next issue of MONU, "Pandemic Urbanism." that is expected this fall.Maria Heinrich is a master student in Architecture at the Technical University Delft.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:SPREADS:

  • Architecture and Design at the Museum of Modern Art
    by John Hill on September 10, 2020 at 12:00 PM

    Architecture and Design at the Museum of Modern Art: The Arthur Drexler Years, 1951-1986Thomas S. HinesGetty Publications, January 2019Hardcover | 8 x 10 inches | 208 pages | 106 illustrations | English | ISBN: 978-1606065815 | $50.00PUBLISHER'S DESCRIPTION:Arthur Drexler (1925–1987) served as the curator and director of the Architecture and Design Department at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) from 1951 until 1986 — the longest curatorship in the museum’s history. Over four decades he conceived and oversaw trailblazing exhibitions that not only reflected but also anticipated major stylistic developments.During Drexler’s tenure, MoMA played a pivotal role in examining the work and confirming the reputations of twentieth-century architects, among them Frank Lloyd Wright, Le Corbusier, Richard Neutra, Marcel Breuer, and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. Exploring unexpected subjects — from the design of automobiles to a reconstruction of a Japanese house and garden — Drexler’s boundary-pushing shows promoted new ideas about architecture and design as modern arts.Drawing on rigorous archival research, Architecture and Design at the Museum of Modern Art analyzes how MoMA became a touchstone for the practice and study of midcentury architecture.Thomas S. Hines is professor emeritus of history and architecture at the University of California, Los Angeles.REFERRAL LINKS:    dDAB COMMENTARY:Arthur Drexler died from pancreatic cancer in January 1987 at just 61 years old. He worked at MoMA, first as curator and then as director of the Architecture and Design (A&D) department, for 35 years — more than half his life, though not long enough, considering he had plans for exhibitions and books in the months leading up to his death. With three-and-a-half decades at MoMA, Drexler devoted more time to the museum than anybody but founding director Alfred H. Barr, Jr., who held various roles there for 39 years, and Philip Johnson, who had a lasting but sporadic relationship with the museum from 1932 until 1988. Barr and Johnson have had numerous books written about them individually, including one book about their collaboration, so it's fitting that a book about Drexler's tenure at MoMA should follow.Thomas Hines met Drexler in 1980, when Hines had a contract to write a book about Richard Neutra and interviewed Philip Johnson for research on the book. Johnson connected Hines and Drexler right after the interview, an event that began a two-year collaboration on The Architecture of Richard Neutra: From International Style to California Modern at MoMA. Accordingly, Hines is as good a person as any to have written a book about Drexler, though he does admit in the preface to Architecture and Design at the Museum of Modern Art that the book "cannot claim to be a biography of Drexler" due to a dearth of archival information on his personal life. Even so, there is a lot to be learned about Drexler and the many exhibitions he curated and those created under his directorship.One of the main things that comes to the fore in Hines's book is the quality of Drexler's writing, something I had not noticed previously, even though I have copies of publications for a few of his many exhibitions. Drexler actually served as editor at Interiors magazine before Johnson brought him into the MoMA fold; he wrote a piece on Johnson's Glass House in October 1949 and started two years later as curator — at just 26 years old. Drexler was clearly good at crafting phrases in the copy he would write for the exhibitions, though more importantly they expressed his astute eye and ability to hone in on the important issues being explored in contemporary architecture and design.Anyone interested in A&D at MoMA should read The Arthur Drexler Years, 1951-1986, especially those who want to know more about such important exhibitions as Built in USA: Post-War Architecture (1953), The New City: Architecture and Urban Renewal (1967), The Architecture of the École des Beaux-Arts (1975), and Mies van der Rohe Centennial Exhibition (1986). Unfortunately, in a book focused on a curator and his exhibitions, only 13 of the 106 images in the book are installation views of the exhibitions, with three of those capturing Junzō Yoshimura's Japanese Exhibition House installed in MoMA's courtyard in 1954. I might not have noticed otherwise, but given that nearly all of the seven chapters begins with a large installation view, I couldn't help yearn for more views of the exhibitions that were — besides the books accompanying them — the fruits of Drexler's many years of labor.SPREADS:

  • CIVITAS / São Paulo
    by John Hill on September 9, 2020 at 12:00 PM

    CIVITAS / São PauloJoão Carmo Simõesmonade, November 2018Hardcover | 8-1/2 x 11-3/4 inches | 354 pages | 400 illustrations | English/Portuguese | ISBN: 978-9899948532 | €58.00PUBLISHER'S DESCRIPTION:This richly illustrated monograph explores the city-building aspirations of the Brazilian modern masters through their buildings in São Paulo. Works by Vilanova Artigas, Lina Bo Bardi, Salvador Candia, Rino Levi, Oscar Niemeyer and Paulo Mendes da Rocha were designed in response to the chaotic growth of one of the world’s largest metropolises. CIVITAS brings together for the first time a unique collection of nineteen buildings, proposing a fresh take on them through new photographs especially taken for the book and graphic elements re-drawn by the author. Some of the works are today references in the urban public space, underlining the contemporary relevance of this architecture.João Carmo Simões received the National Architecture Prize Secil Universities (2010). Following his studies, he works on key buildings of architects like Álvaro Siza or Paulo Mendes da Rocha, editing books and photographing.REFERRAL LINKS:    dDAB COMMENTARY:I've never been to São Paulo, but I'm still a big fan of many of the Brazilian city's buildings and architects. Of the seven buildings in Brazil in my book 100 Years, 100 Buildings, three of them are in São Paulo, three buildings I hope to see in person someday: Faculty of Architecture and Urbanism, University of São Paulo by Joao Batista Vilanova Artigas and Carlos Cascaldi; SESC Pompeia by Lino Bo Bardi; and Brazilian Museum of Sculpture (MuBE) by Paulo Mendes da Rocha. These three projects are also part of CIVITAS / São Paulo, which features nineteen buildings completed in the city over the course of a half century, from 1951 to 2002.Although the book of photographs and drawings by architect João Carmo Simões starts with a page defining the term civitas — "...a place of politics; polis. A sense of community established through a common bond to a place..." — the book presents a variety of building types, including single-family houses, which can be understood in some contexts as the antithesis of civitas. Lina Bo Bardi's Casa de Vidro and Mendes da Rocha's Casa Butantã, Casa Masetti, and Casa Milan alongside public buildings by them and other Brazilian architects struck me as odd at first. But I'm guessing they serve to express "the spirit of a city," another aspect of civitas spelled out by Simões. Other than the one-page definition of the title phrase, a two-page essay by Mendes da Rocha, and data and bios on the projects, the book is basically cover-to-cover presentations of the buildings, comprising 324 of the book's 354 pages. The format is consistent, with one page of text by the architects, a few pages of drawings by the author, and many pages of his own photographs. As explained at the back of the book, the descriptions and the drawings reflect the buildings when they were complete (reading about a 1950s project in first-person present-tense struck me as odd initially too), but the photographs bring them into the present. Although the descriptions are candid at times and the drawings are consistently drawn and keyed (and are therefore easy to read and very helpful), CIVITAS / São Paulo is all about the photographs, particularly given the number of pages devoted to them. While there are very few people in any of the photos, I would describe them as documentary-style, being more interested in capturing the reality of a building rather than portraying it in its best light like most architectural photography. At the same time, the darks are very dark, which gives the photos something of an artistic bent that is fine outside (I like the intimacy and coolness conveyed by the darkness of the overhead planes at MuBE, Bo Bardi's MASP, and Niemeyer's Marquise do Ibirapuera) but unfortunate inside, where some spaces are hard to grasp. But perhaps Simões's photos, along with the selection of buildings, are meant to express "the spirit of a city," with a selection that leans toward modernism rendered in concrete and photos that capture the city's shadows as much as its architecture.SPREADS:

  • Modern Architecture and Climate
    by John Hill on September 8, 2020 at 12:00 PM

    Modern Architecture and Climate: Design before Air ConditioningDaniel A. BarberPrinceton University Press, July 2020Hardcover | 8 x 10-1/2 inches | 336 pages | 272 illustrations | English | ISBN: 978-0691170039 | $60.00PUBLISHER'S DESCRIPTION:Modern Architecture and Climate explores how leading architects of the twentieth century incorporated climate-mediating strategies into their designs, and shows how regional approaches to climate adaptability were essential to the development of modern architecture. Focusing on the period surrounding World War II—before fossil-fuel powered air-conditioning became widely available—Daniel Barber brings to light a vibrant and dynamic architectural discussion involving design, materials, and shading systems as means of interior climate control. He looks at projects by well-known architects such as Richard Neutra, Le Corbusier, Lúcio Costa, Mies van der Rohe, and Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill, and the work of climate-focused architects such as MMM Roberto, Olgyay and Olgyay, and Cliff May. Drawing on the editorial projects of James Marston Fitch, Elizabeth Gordon, and others, he demonstrates how images and diagrams produced by architects helped conceptualize climate knowledge, alongside the work of meteorologists, physicists, engineers, and social scientists. Barber describes how this novel type of environmental media catalyzed new ways of thinking about climate and architectural design.Extensively illustrated with archival material, Modern Architecture and Climate provides global perspectives on modern architecture and its evolving relationship with a changing climate, showcasing designs from Latin America, Europe, the United States, the Middle East, and Africa. This timely and important book reconciles the cultural dynamism of architecture with the material realities of ever-increasing carbon emissions from the mechanical cooling systems of buildings, and offers a historical foundation for today’s zero-carbon design.Daniel A. Barber is associate professor of architecture at the University of Pennsylvania Weitzman School of Design. He is the author of A House in the Sun: Modern Architecture and Solar Energy in the Cold War. He lives in Philadelphia.REFERRAL LINKS:    dDAB COMMENTARY:The September 7th "Style & Design" issue of The New Yorker features an article by Jill Lepore about a place that has been on many people's minds since the coronavirus pandemic forced many people to work remotely and therefore spend even more time in their own homes: the indoors. Even before the pandemic, people in the US and Europe were spending most of their time inside buildings and automobiles: 90% per the article quoting from Healthy Buildings: How Indoor Spaces Drive Performance and Productivity, a new book by two Harvard professors, one public health and one business. Speculating on the changes coming to indoor environments in our post-pandemic near future, Lepore also quotes from another new book, journalist Emily Anthes's The Great Indoors: The Surprising Science of How Buildings Shape Our Behavior, Health, and Happiness. It appears that the time is ripe — pandemic or not — for books discussing air quality, work productivity, microbes, and other aspects of our indoor lives.Lepore cites just one architecture book: Imperfect Health: The Medicalization of Architecture, which accompanied a 2011 exhibition at the Canadian Centre for Architecture, is so old it would appear to indicate that architects are not on the same wavelength as doctors, business people, and journalists. Not so, given Daniel A. Barber's excellent Modern Architecture and Climate. Carrying the subtitled Design before Air Conditioning, the second book by the UPenn professor is clearly historical, focusing on buildings straddling World War II, but it is highly relevant to our present condition, considering the increasing time spent indoors intertwined with the need to reduce energy usage on air conditioning in order to have any hope of addressing climate change. Some of the buildings and research examined by Barber offer lessons for today's architects, even as the contexts spanning more than half a century are so dramatically different.Modern Architecture and Climate consists of six chapters in two parts, both of which are the flip side of the widespread integration of air conditioning into buildings starting in the 1950s. The first part, "The Globalization of the International Style," discusses architecture before air conditioning, starting with buildings designed by Le Corbusier as early as 1930 and continuing to buildings by numerous architects in South America and other parts of the world after the war. The facade was the focus of Corbu and other architects, and therefore it is where Barber devotes most of his attention. Although he presents many images of buildings whose facades shade occupants from the sun or channel breezes (e.g., Josep Lluís Sert's US embassy in Baghdad, which is on the cover and in a spread below), the book is not a catalog of designs or techniques. It is a deeply researched history on a half-dozen strands of modern architecture where buildings were designed to harness the local climate for the comfort of its occupants but then to do the opposite: digest large amounts of cheap fossil fuels once the Great Acceleration kicked in.Barber's introduction is called "Architecture, Media, and Climate," and one sense of the word "media" is prevalent in the second half of his book, "The American Acceleration," when climate-minded architects confronted oppositional architects who wanted freedom in their designs and other powers that eventually led to what he calls "The Planetary Interior." American houses pulled from the pages of House Beautiful are found in one chapter, for instance, followed by the research of the Olgyay brothers at Princeton University in the 1950s and 60s, when they wrote the classic Design with Climate. Many books and journals are illustrated in Modern Architecture and Climate, giving readers peeks at content they probably wouldn't see otherwise, but more importantly elevating the importance of these venues in presenting research and developing technical solutions at the time. The book ends with the Seagram Building and other hermetically sealed interiors exploding into the urban-scaled, conditioned spaces of John Portman in the 1970s. The following decades were basically a Postmodern pause, one the current generation is now forced to reckon with by considering "design after air conditioning": architecture that provides comfort without requiring so much energy use or cutting people off from outdoor environments. Given the reality of climate change — the next crisis to deal with urgently, after the pandemic — this "after" is nearly here.SPREADS:

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