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  • Chicago Apartments
    by John Hill on December 2, 2020 at 1:00 PM

    Chicago Apartments: A Century and Beyond of Lakefront LuxuryNeil Harris, Teri J. EdelsteinUniversity of Chicago Press, July 2020 (Second Edition)Hardcover | 8-1/2 x 11 inches | 368 pages | 344 illustrations | English | ISBN: 978-0226610870 | $85.00PUBLISHER'S DESCRIPTION: The Chicago lakefront is one of America’s urban wonders. The ribbon of high-rise luxury apartment buildings along the Lake Michigan shore has few, if any, rivals nationwide for sustained architectural significance. This historic confluence of site, money, style, and development lies at the heart of the updated edition of Neil Harris's Chicago Apartments: A Century and Beyond of Lakefront Luxury. The book features more than one hundred buildings, stretching from south to north and across more than a century, each with its own special combination of design choice, floor plans, and background story. Harris, with the assistance of Teri J. Edelstein, proves to be an affable and knowledgeable tour guide, guiding us through dozens of buildings, detailing a host of inimitable development histories, design choices, floor plans, and more along the way. Of particular note are recent structures on the Chicago River and south of the Loop that are proposing new definitions of comfort and extravagance. Featuring nearly 350 stunning images and a foreword by renowned Chicago author Sara Paretsky, this new edition of Chicago Apartments offers a wide-ranging look inside some of the Windy City’s most magnificent abodes. Neil Harris is the Preston and Sterling Morton Professor of History and Art History Emeritus at the University of Chicago. His books include Capital Culture, The Chicagoan, The Artist in American Society, Humbug, and Cultural Excursions. Teri J. Edelstein is an art historian and museum professional. Her scholarly work has focused on the intersection of high art and popular culture. Most recently, she was editor of and contributor to Art for All: British Posters for Transport. REFERRAL LINKS:    dDAB COMMENTARY: When I think of lakefront luxury living in Chicago, a roughly one-mile, zigzag stretch of Lake Shore Drive, from East Pearson Street on the south to North Avenue on the north, comes to mind. Found here, between Northwestern Medicine and Lincoln Park, are Mies van der Rohe's modern masterpieces at 860-800 North Lake Shore Drive (later "twinned" by two more towers at 900-910 LSD), the impressive north-facing street wall of old apartment buildings on East Lake Shore Drive, and the too-tall towers sitting between the low-rise Gold Coast and Lake Michigan. When I lived in Chicago and often rode my bike along the lakefront, it was hard to not think what it was like to live inside one of those apartment buildings. The second edition of Chicago Apartments does just that. Like my brief stretch of Lake Shore Drive above, Chicago Apartments moves from south to north, presenting dozens of buildings from South Shore and Hyde Park well south of the Loop to those in Lincoln Park, Lakeview, and other neighborhoods farther north. Not surprisingly, the glut of buildings in the book is localized on the Near North Side, from Chicago Avenue up to Fullerton Avenue, including the one-mile stretch I remember so well. Not all of the apartment buildings are immediately on the lakefront, but most of them have views on Lake Michigan, the huge body of water that makes the flat Midwestern city so special. "Thousands and thousands of windows look out on Lake Michigan," Neil Harris writes, "and behind them are the residents of an apartment city."  Sixty of the 107 buildings in the book were built in the latter half of the 1920s. The Depression halted new luxury housing, while the city's newly enforced height cap deterred tall building along the lake until around 1950, when Mies's innovative pair of glass towers (third and fourth spreads below) were built. Although the majority of the Chicago Apartments features what could be called pre-modern luxury, the "dozen or so recent projects" that Harris added to the book since it was first published in 2004 make the overall offering quite diverse, if in certain stretches of the lakefront (esp. the Loop and Lakeshore East) over others. As an architect, for me the most appealing aspect of Chicago Apartments is the inclusion of floor plans for each of the 107 projects. Unfortunately, the floor plans are also a source of dissatisfaction, especially with the dozen or so additions. The problem is that the floor plans were found and then presented in a manner that is far from consistent. Older towers appear to be culled from old magazines and books, meaning the plans are pochéd and the text is legible on the page. Newer projects, such as Aqua in Lakeshore East (first spread), often feature unit plans instead of full floor plans, with text that is sized for computer screens or other page formats and therefore illegible. Furthermore, with "lakefront luxury" being the theme of the book, it would make sense for the plans to have the same orientation, such as north being up and therefore the lake being on the right. So, with the older apartment buildings in abundance and just about all of them beautifully presented in floor plans (second spread), I found myself gravitating to them, learning a good deal about century-old luxury in the process. SPREADS:

  • Underground Cities
    by John Hill on December 1, 2020 at 1:00 PM

    Underground Cities: Mapping the tunnels, transits and networks underneath our feetMark OvendenFrances Lincoln, September 2020Hardcover | 9-1/4 x 11-/12 inches | 224 pages | English | ISBN: 978-1781318935 | $40.00PUBLISHER'S DESCRIPTION: With over 60 per cent of the world’s population living in cities, the networks beneath our feet – which keep the cities above moving – are more important than ever before. Yet we never truly see how these amazing feats of engineering work.   Just how deep do the tunnels go? Where do the sewers, bunkers and postal trains run? And, how many tunnels are there under our streets? Each featured city presents a ‘skyline of the underground’  through specially commissioned cut-away illustrations and unique cartography.  Drawing on geography, cartography and historical oddities, Mark Ovenden explores what our cities look like from the bottom up. Mark Ovenden is a British writer and broadcaster. At the age of seven, he travelled alone ten miles on the London Underground, armed only with a map. He later gained entry to a Graphic Design course by submitting a reworking of the London tube map. His previous books are Transit Maps of the World, Great Railway Maps of the World, Metro Maps of the World, Paris Metro Style and London Underground by Design. He is a Fellow of the Royal Geographic Society. REFERRAL LINKS:    dDAB COMMENTARY: "Transit geek" is not a phrase I lob at people readily, but Mark Ovenden, author of Transit Maps of the World is definitely one. He calls himself just that in the introduction to the recently published Underground Cities, an examination of the human-made structures that sit beneath 32 cities on five continents. While the transit geek label might point to a book about 32 subway systems, Underground Cities is much more than that, since it digs deep beneath cities to reveal what lies buried, be it tunnels for transit or sewers, or underground vaults for burying the dead or even storing cheese.  A couple cities, two I know best, can serve as examples for the whole book. Chicago is known for its elevated "L," not subways, but it yields many treats for subterranean urban explorers of the armchair variety. Ovenden does describe how Chicago built subways — yet without tearing down its elevated lines, unlike other cities — but not before discussing the "city's unplanned and mismanaged early years." The 19th-century developments include raising of the city by about six feet starting 1858, which created a new grade level above new sewers, and tunnels for freight and transit under the city and Chicago River, all of which were eventually abandoned and sealed off. Most fascinating are the tunnels that remain: the water tunnels and "cribs" built miles into Lake Michigan to bring clean water to the city's residents and the extensive Pedway network that links many buildings in and beyond the Loop. New York City, on the other hand, is known for its subway system: 424 stations, by Ovenden's count, with 281 of them underground. (In addition to his book of transit maps, Ovenden also co-wrote a book dedicated to Massimo Vignelli's maps of the NYC subway.) The author goes into some depth on the subways, from its predecessors and early days to the recently completed stations on the Second Avenue line and even abandoned subway stations. He also describes steam tunnels and a few "quirky underground spaces," including the Doyers Street tunnel in Chinatown, the catacombs beneath Old St. Patrick's in SoHo, and the cheese stored in former "lagering tunnels" in Brooklyn. That's a lot to cover in just ten pages, meaning many descriptions are short, just enough to pique the reader's interest. The underground cities in Underground Cities are described through a combination of four media: Ovenden's text, heavy on history but very descriptive; photographs, most of them historical; specially made maps that are consistently drawn; and cutaway illustrations that highlight some of the most unique subterranean places. Accompanying the last, which often consists of subway tunnels and platforms but also other spaces carved from the earth, are vertical markers along the left edge of the page (see first and last spreads below). Here, color-coded rectangles indicate how deep subways, sewers, and other pieces of infrastructure are located beneath ground level. Deepest in the book are the off-the-chart Ramenki bunker in Moscow ("supposedly" -200 meters), the Molnár János Cave in Budapest (-150m to -250m), and the Tunel Emisor Oriente (-150m) and drainage tunnels (up to -250m), both in Mexico City. With such depths plumbed by Ovenden, transit geeks won't be the only ones liking this book.  SPREADS:

  • 1 Finsbury Avenue
    by John Hill on November 30, 2020 at 1:00 PM

    1 Finsbury Avenue: Innovative Office Architecture from Arup to AHMMKenneth PowellLund Humphries, March 2020Hardcover | 10 x 10-3/4 inches | 128 pages | 150 illustrations | English | ISBN: 978-1848223721 | $79.99PUBLISHER'S DESCRIPTION: Completed in 1984 by Arup Associates 1 Finsbury Avenue (1FA), the first section of the Broadgate masterplan, was widely acclaimed at the time and has since been listed as a Grade II building by Historic England. It was commonly acknowledged as having set the exemplar for future commercial architecture in the UK, introducing major innovations in construction methods and materials from the US and adopting a whole new approach to the design and planning of an office block. 1FA has recently undergone a prestigious mixed-use restoration by British Land, in liaison with Historic England, designed by award-winning architects Allford Hall Monaghan Morris. While retaining the distinctive listed facade and reintroducing the original plan's full-height interior atrium, AHMM have taken a similarly innovative and experimental approach to the complex, and in doing so, have set a new exemplar for the future of office design in the 21st Century. This book sets the iconic building in its historic context, before detailing the story of its initial development, design and construction, its listing and the effect of this listing on a commercial property in terms of planning and adaptive re-use. It then critically examines the current, similarly innovative scheme and the reimagining of this late 20th-century landmark. REFERRAL LINKS:    dDAB COMMENTARY: Most of the building monographs — or book-length case studies — that I gravitate toward are architectural icons (Villa Savoye, Sendai Mediatheque), notable buildings I'm researching for other projects (Multihalle, Parc de la Villette), buildings by architects I love (Therme Vals, Walmer Yard), buildings I've been to and want to learn more about (TWA Flight Center, Castelvecchio), or, more likely, a combination of these characteristics. Yet every now and then I come across a case study of a building I know nothing about. Such is the case with 1 Finsbury Avenue, a City of London office building designed by Arup Associates in the 1980s, given a Grade II Heritage listing in 2015, and recently refurbished by AHMM. 1FA was built as part of the first phase of Broadgate, a large office development on the northern edge of the City of London. I was as unfamiliar with Broadgate as a whole as much as I was with 1FA, though the name of the development brought to mind what is most likely the development's most adventurous piece of architecture: SOM's Exchange House from 1990. The 10-story building was designed as "a building-bridge hybrid" expressed in structural arches across its north and south elevations. This hybrid condition was due to the building spanning the train tracks of Liverpool Street Station. Although it first opened in the 1870s, parts of the station were torn down in 1985 when British Rail reconfigured the station as part of its Broadgate development. How Broadgate, what is now considered the largest pedestrianized neighborhood in London, grew on 32 acres around and above BR's tracks is a good chunk of the story told by Kenneth Powell. He devotes about 20 pages of the 128-page book to the railways and the planning battles over the adjacent Broad Street and Liverpool Street stations. Given that the former station is history and the latter station is now part of Broadgate, issues of preservation are an important part of the book, both in the creation of the development in the 1980s and the listing of 1FA five years ago. The latter was hardly a given, especially since the building's main tenant, UBS, moved out of the building and into a new building that involved the demolition of two other Broadgate buildings also designed by Arup. As designed by Arup's Peter Foggo, 1FA's most characteristic features are the steel exoskeleton with diagonal bracing and the central atrium. The latter had to be maintained given the building's Grade II listing, but the interior renovation, in AHMM's "retain/reuse/recondition" approach, was more dramatic. Simply put, the old banking floors were stripped to their bare bones, the structure painted black and the services exposed: interiors more in keeping with the tech companies that would eventually move in. Powell explains the old and "new" building in a handful of chapters, aided by lots of archival and contemporary photographs, as well as floor plans and other drawings. The book is highly recommended for Londoners and architects interested in the preservation of late modern architecture. SPREADS:

  • Open(ing) Spaces
    by John Hill on November 28, 2020 at 1:00 PM

    Open(ing) Spaces: Design as Landscape ArchitectureHans Loidl, Stefan BernardBirkhäuser, 2003Hardcover | 9 x 9 inches | 192 pages | 300 illustrations | English (translated from German by Michael Robinson) | ISBN: 978-3038214878 | $22.99 (2014 reprint)PUBLISHER'S DESCRIPTION: “What does the landscape architect actually do as a design?” The authors investigate this seemingly simple question. What resources are available for designing open spaces? What part is played by conditions deriving from nature? How are locations and spaces created in the open air, how are paths routed and boundaries set, how are hard and soft materials used? Drawing on practical and theoretical experience, this introduction, often used as a textbook, reveals the central components of design and the intellectual paths followed in the design process. “The book is not so much for reading but for doing. It plays with shapes, imagining how people feel in these shapes and seeing how shapes create a different experience of landscape. Vegetation can make the relief of a hill clearer, less clear, indistinct or hidden. The authors show this by sketches illustrating the text … As an example of the way Loidl and Bernard set their readers thinking for themselves, I quote what they regard as good design: ‘The paradox of a good design solution: more uniformity needs more variety.’Food for thought. Or read Open(ing) Spaces.” (Martin Woestenburg in 'scape, 2006) Hans Loidl (1944-2015) studied in Vienna and Copenhagen; from 1982 professor of landscape architecture at Technische University Berlin; from 1984 landscape architecture studio in Berlin. Stefan Bernard (born 1969) studied in Venice, Vienna and Berlin; diploma under Professor Hans Loidl; from 2001 partner in the b+m+s Landschaftsarchitekten practice in Berlin; in 2001 established Stefan Bernard Landschaftsarchitekten. REFERRAL LINKS:    dDAB COMMENTARY: The 500 illustrations comprising the five-volume Landscape for Architects, which I reviewed a few days ago, reminded me immediately of an earlier book on landscape architecture also published by Birkhäuser. First published in German as Freiräumen, Open(ing) Spaces works similarly as a solid introduction to how landscape designers think and how they approach projects that shape nature. Whereas the just-published Landscape for Architects is heavy on precedents — some merely listed as starting points for readers, some explored through b/w illustrations and a series of questions — Open(ing) Spaces eschews built projects in favor of step-by-step diagrams that reveal the spatial thinking of landscape architects. The first edition of Open(ing) Spaces was published in 2003, around the time landscape architect Hans Loidl stepped down from his eponymous office in Berlin. Little did I know, when buying the book around that time, that a severe stroke led Loidl to stop practicing, at not even 60 years old. Eleven years later, the book that Loidl wrote with Stefan Bernard, a former student who also designed the book, was reprinted. One year later, in 2015, Loidl died from another stroke. An obituary in Topos magazine explains that, instead of a textbook, Loidl was "interested in the idea of a 'toolbox' to be used by designers according to their own needs and desires," of which Open(ing) Spaces was the result. Beyond such landscapes as the award-winning Lustgarden in Berlin, Open(ing) Spaces defines Hans Loidl's legacy as a designer and educator. [I wrote the below paragraph in a 2006 review of the book on this blog. I'm migrating it here, as it still summarizes my position on the book, now amended by the information in the above paragraphs.] "What does the landscape architect actually do as a designer?" The authors tackle this question in this heavily illustrated and beautifully designed book. But do they answer the question? If one expects the authors to explain the day-to-day activities of professional landscape architects, there's only disappointment, but if the reader is instead looking for an explication of the relationship between basic, abstract design and the outdoor spaces we inhabit, this book delivers. The authors cover space, place, and path in one section and then they detail how these can be made good in the next section. These subjects are treated both broadly and specifically, though this book does not try to be completely exhaustive or prescriptive, so the former predominates. While this book is clearly aimed at students of landscape architecture, as well as young professionals, it also serves as a clear reminder of those basics of good design — be it landscape architecture or building design — that can get lost in the pursuit of something novel or progressive. The authors surely don't take a reactionary stance, but they definitely believe that certain considerations underlie all good design, and they present that in an understandable way. SPREADS:

  • Snowbound
    by John Hill on November 27, 2020 at 1:00 PM

    Snowbound: Dwelling in Winter William MorganPrinceton Architectural Press, October 2020Hardcover | 8 x 10 inches | 224 pages | 100 illustrations | English | ISBN: 978-1616898670 | $50.00PUBLISHER'S DESCRIPTION: From the ski slopes of Utah to the frigid tundra of northwestern Russia, Snowbound celebrates contemporary design in cold climates with a focus on sustainability. Tailor-made for architects, designers, snowbirds, and aspiring second-home owners, this tour of twenty dwellings is equal parts escapist photo essay and practical sourcebook, with immersive photography, architectural plans, and location, climate, and building-systems data. Architectural historian William Morgan documents winter dwellings and trekker cabins from high-profile firms like MacKay-Lyons Sweetapple and rising stars like Scott & Scott. Readers are transported to beautiful, pristine, and, in some cases, remote locations in the snowier regions of the world. William Morgan is a Providence RI-based architectural writer. He has taught about cities and their history at Princeton, the University of Louisville, and Roger Williams University. He is the author of Louisville: Architecture and the Urban Environment. REFERRAL LINKS:    dDAB COMMENTARY: When I think of snow and buildings, two Alps I've been to come to mind: those in Switzerland and those in Japan. The latter is home to the Mountain Pavilion in Bambajima, which British architect Peter Salter designed, in part, to provide spaces for animals to dwell during the winter months; it also features an elaborate system of pipes to slow the trickle of water after the snow melts in the spring. Although I didn't experience the building nor the Japanese Alps in the snowy months, I was able to visit Muzeum Susch, St. Moritz, and other parts of Switzerland in February 2019, when I noticed snow-covered buildings of all sorts and realized how the snow creates a thermal blanket that aids in keeping the interiors relatively warm. Cleary, designing buildings for cold places requires taking into account snow, even if the reliable patterns of snowy weather is changing due to climate change. Snowbound collects 20 recently completed residential projects across four continents: 20 examples of "design that is based on respect for a harsh climate," in author William Morgan's words. Although he acknowledges the projects "are still the result of aesthetic decisions," they share some traits that arise from confronting cold climates, many counter to business-as-usual residential design. These range from small footprints (though admittedly, some are cabins, not full-blown houses) and local materials to alternative energy sources, heavily insulated exteriors, and touching the earth lightly. The selection of projects is solid in terms of quality and diversity, and accompanying Morgan's descriptive text are stats that drive home the differences between these "snowbound" houses and others: square footage, building materials, energy systems, latitude/longitude, and average winter lows. The last tend to hover just below 0˚C, though a shelter in Russia dips down to a -14˚C (6˚F) average winter low. Snowbound functions as a contemporary collection of dwellings united by climate and the architectural considerations mentioned above. Cold-weather houses aren't really a typology per se, so the practical application of this book is less than its appeal as eye candy, especially on coffee tables located next fireplaces in cozy winter cabins. That said, I must applaud the inclusion of floor plans and other drawings for each house, an element missing from too many architecture books these days. Nevertheless, the book made me think about the suitability of certain subjects as books or as online content. Would this have been better as a curated collection of projects on a website? Most, if not all, of the projects are online on various platforms already, so it's certainly feasible. But pulling them together into one bound book, with floor plans drawn consistently (something that also happens in magazines, not websites), does something websites can't do: it creates a mood and helps readers focus on things they might not otherwise see on the computer screen. SPREADS:

  • Impact
    by John Hill on November 25, 2020 at 1:00 PM

    Impact: The Effect of Climate Change on CoastlinesAlex MacLeanBirkhäuser, August 2020Hardcover | 9 x 13 inches | 336 pages | 200 illustrations | English | ISBN: 978-3035621785 | $68.99PUBLISHER'S DESCRIPTION: The rise in sea level is a visible and remorseless indicator of global warming, the consequences of which can be experienced worldwide – in contrast to other effects of climate change that are not yet noticeable at a larger scale. The book illustrates, in an impressive way, the ecological, commercial, and social impact associated with the rise in sea levels, taking the examples of the American East Coast and the Gulf of Mexico: the author has documented this region from his Cessna between 2005 and 2018 using large-format aerial photography. The pictures illustrate the different conditions of the areas documented at different times of the year, before and after major weather events, and thereby provide evidence of how dramatically the geography and landscape are altered due to climate change. Alex MacLean, architect, photographer, and pilot; founder of Landslides Aerial Photography, Boston, MA, USA. REFERRAL LINKS:    dDAB COMMENTARY: On page 18, between Bill McKibben's foreword and Alex MacLean's introduction to his latest book of aerial photography, is a map of the Eastern Seaboard and Gulf Coast of the United States. From Maine in the northeast to Texas in the southwest, the states are outlined and labeled simply, with just white lines and text on a black background, and with the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico in yellow. Colored lines are traced atop the states and bodies of water, each one representing the path of a major hurricane, from Katrina in August 2005 to Michael in October 2018. Stats list the category of each hurricane, its maximum wind speed, confirmed damage (in billions of dollars), and number of deaths. This two-page map is a straightforward but provocative key to the 300 pages of aerial photos that follow, each one depicting a small part of the roughly 3,600 miles of coastline along the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico. This coastline is seeing more frequent and stronger storms every year, but it is also seeing population growth that is faster than the country's rate of growth. As of 2016, around 60 million people lived in coastal counties in these states, many of them reckoning with the twelve named storms that made landfall in 2020: the highest number since 1916. Clearly, the situation and trend are dangerous and unsustainable, but stats and facts aren't always the most effective ways of changing how and where people live. Sometimes images work best. Enter Alex MacLean, who has been flying small planes and photographing the built and natural landscapes of the United States for 45 years. He has already confronted unsustainable practice of land use in previous books, such as Over: The American Landscape at the Tipping Point, but with Impact he focuses squarely on the meandering and gauzy line between the United States and the bodies of salty water that are slowly rising due to climate change. Hundreds of photos are presented in six thematic chapters: Geography, Passion, Impact, Resistance, Threat, and Escape. Smaller maps at the start of each chapter label the places where MacLean photographed the aerials. A brief text also starts each chapter, but Impact is all about the photographs, each of which includes a caption that aids in adding environmental meaning to the beauty. The power of aerial photography is clear every flip of the book. Depending on the height of MacLean's plane, he can capture a wide vista that shows, for example, how a large power plant relates to the ever-creeping coastline or how a coastal community is dependent upon a solitary bridge for access — and escape. These infrastructural vulnerabilities are echoed in closer views, be it in the Casino Pier in Seaside Heights, New Jersey, thrown into the Atlantic during Hurricane Sandy in 2012, or a motor boat lifted onto the patio of a home by the same storm. Although aerials rarely capture people, they almost certainly convey their impact on the natural world, be it in the places where they live and play or the massive infrastructure needed to move them in cars or power their buildings. Ideally, the book's arrival in the midst of the worst hurricane season on record will make people consider the warnings cloaked in MacLean's stunning images. IMAGES:

  • Landscape for Architects
    by John Hill on November 24, 2020 at 1:00 PM

    Landscape for Architects: Landscape, Park, Building, Qualities, UseGabriele G. Kiefer, Anika Neubauer Birkhäuser, August 2020Paperback (5 volumes) | 4-1/4 x 6 inches | 1,072 pages | 500 illustrations | English, German, Spanish | ISBN: 978-3035616767 | $57.99PUBLISHER'S DESCRIPTION: Designing landscapes requires a holistic approach. It also requires extensive specialist knowledge. In courses and manuals the generalist or in-depth levels are frequently under-represented, or the attempted comprehensive view becomes too complex. Landscape for Architects now offers a fundamental reference work which is as comprehensive as it is practical and as holistic as it is detailed. Created in cooperation with the Architecture Department of Braunschweig Technical University, Landscape for Architects addresses the aspects of landscape architecture: "questions" are raised with abstract schematic drawings, and possible "answers" are illustrated with analytical drawings of case studies from the 20th and 21st centuries in order to inspire the reader’s own creativity and to support the design process. The entire field of landscape design is dealt with in individual thematic volumes. The numbers of pages in the volumes differ, adding up to a total of more than 1,000 pages in five volumes, published with clear color marking as the "green block". Each volume fully covers the respective subject and can be used on its own — compact and user-friendly. The illustrations are uniformly structured, with the guiding idea on the left-hand side and the associated drawing on the right-hand side. The drawings demonstrate how design concepts can be illustrated, and the three-language format provides an international vocabulary of design. Prof. Gabriele G. Kiefer, Anika Neubauer, Architecture Department, Technical University Braunschweig. REFERRAL LINKS:    dDAB COMMENTARY: In "Building," the largest of the five volumes of Landscape for Architects, the authors describe their ambitious whole as "a manual for interactive design." As such, considering that all design briefs start with questions (What is the program? Who will the user be? What is the budget? Where is the site? ...), the five volumes are structured as a series of questions, with three of the volumes providing "possible answers" in the form of built precedents. Each question is accompanied by an illustration and a list of projects, some of the latter keyed to answers/projects in the same volume. Working the other way around, each answer lists the questions that refer to them. So cross referencing is in abundance, except from volume to volume: Building, Landscape, Park, Qualities, and Use stand alone from each other, even though they are bound together through subject, format, and even a wraparound cover. So how would an architect, landscape architect, or urban designer use Landscape for Architects? If the project they are working on is clearly a building, rather than a park or some other kind of landscape, they could jump into that volume and peruse the questions. There are many questions in "Building," but thankfully they are broken down into ten categories, such as "Context," "Courtyard," and "Indoor green," all of them tailored to the natural landscapes that interact with buildings. Although each question gets just two pages, many precedents are listed, occasionally keyed directly to the illustration, as in 4.7 shown below. The combinations of question, list, and illustration are provocations for the designer to think about their own project but also explore the many projects that answered just those questions. Sure, there is overlap in the lists of precedents, particularly within the same category, but if a designer followed each precedent they would be busy for hours and hours on end — not necessarily a bad thing. Another way of using the book is for readers to flip to the answers, the built precedents explored in six pages of illustrations and references, and find projects that strike their fancy. For example, the last of the 24 projects in the "Building" volume is Office KGDVS's Solo House, which is a circular building with four habitable sides facing the forest beyond as well as the open space at its center. It's an amazing project I was shocked I didn't know about before confronting it here. The line drawings capture some of the unique qualities of the building and its landscape, an opposite them are eight questions, such as "How can a courtyard contribute to a building's identity?" Readers can follow that question and then see a list of 14 more projects, three of them in the book; the rest requires an internet connection or a decent library. Whatever the case, the book is, like I said before, an invitation to explore. Given how the questions range from very broad ("What characterizes space in landscape architecture?" in "Qualities") to less broad, but not necessarily specific, ("Does the landscape have a memorable image?" in "Parks"), the book is ideally suited for students and young designers. The book is clearly about landscape architecture, but I think it applies just as much to architects, though maybe not throughout all five volumes. The questions raised are important for considering how designed landscapes are used, but also in terms of their climate impact and resource use: important considerations for all designers of the built environment. Seasoned designers might find the questions/answers and illustrations too basic, but they might also be intrigued by the mix of important projects spanning centuries that comprise the lists. I, for one, was pleased to find so many projects of which I had no familiarity. Like Solo House, I'm looking forward to further explorations sparked by Landscape for Architects. SPREADS:

  • Steven Holl
    by John Hill on November 23, 2020 at 1:00 PM

    Steven Holl: Inspiration and Process in Architecture Steven HollPrinceton Architectural Press, October 2020Hardcover | 5 x 8-1/4 inches | 144 pages | 100 illustrations | English | ISBN: 978-1616898977 | $24.95PUBLISHER'S DESCRIPTION: Internationally recognized for his ability to blend space and light with great contextual sensitivity, architect Steven Holl achieves his award-winning designs by beginning each commission with a small watercolor exploring light, color, and form. Paintings help Holl create a concept-driven design that showcases the unique qualities of each project. This collection of watercolors, which are works of art themselves, includes his most recent projects, from the JFK Center for the Performing Arts expansion and Hunters Point Public Library to University College Dublin. Steven Holl established Steven Holl Architects in New York City in 1977. Considered one of the most influential practitioners of his generation, Holl received the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum's National Design Award in Architecture in 2002. A year earlier, Time declared him America's Best Architect for "buildings that satisfy the spirit as well as the eye." He is a professor of architecture at Columbia University. His most recent book is Compression. REFERRAL LINKS:    dDAB COMMENTARY: The latest "inspiration and process in architecture" notebook from Moleskine is devoted to Steven Holl, who is famous for his daily watercolors collected in hundreds of spiral-bound notebooks, all five by seven inches. A selection of his watercolors were collected at 1:1 scale in two books published by Lars Müller: Scale, in 2012, and Written in Water, in 2002. The earlier book provides a short introductory text for the new Moleskine notebook, which collects watercolor drawings from fifteen projects designed by Steven Holl Architects: a greatest hits collection that ranges from the Chapel of St. Ignatius, completed in 1997, to the just-opened Kinder Building at MFAH and a few in-progress projects.  The projects in Inspiration and Process in Architecture are presented in a consistent and straightforward manner, with one page of descriptive text, a few pages of watercolors, sometimes a drawing (usually a floor plan), and at least one short poem. The last often float on the page opposite a watercolor that is more intuitive than architectural; their relationship to the completed building is only known fully to the man who created them. Here the poetic words (e.g., "Meet the belly king... Fling that shadow pit... Sing solid air... Scrubbing the wet raw oyster") and daily watercolors reinforce the image of the architect as a lone creator, an artist more than a technician or a service provider. Of course, the project credits at the back of the book, where the architects in Holl's office and engineers and other consultants merge into long lists of names, shatters any myths readers may still hold about architects. Given that there are only a few photographs of the completed buildings, this notebook does not come close to fully explaining the projects that come out of Holl's office. One would need to look at Compression and his earlier monographs to understand context, construction, and other qualities that fall well outside the borders of the watercolor paper; here, it's all about intention. So this notebook is for fans of Holl who already know his buildings, like his watercolors, and want to see more of them, more than what are found in his monographs. And who knows, maybe the watercolors will instill an appreciation of the media in young architects, who are more comfortable with bits and bytes than brushes and water.  SPREADS:

  • American Masterworks
    by John Hill on November 21, 2020 at 1:00 PM

    American Masterworks: The Twentieth Century HouseKenneth Frampton; edited by Frampton and David Larkin Rizzoli, 1995Paperback | 11-1/4 x 11-1/4 inches | 300 pages | English | ISBN: 9780847823543PUBLISHER'S DESCRIPTION: Throughout the twentieth century the United States has provided remarkably fertile ground for innovative residential architecture, from the Shingle Style pioneered on the East Coast in the late nineteenth century to the deconstructivist experiments in California today. Over the decades, American and international architects alike responded to this country's rising standard of living, rapidly expanding suburbs, and receptive often liberal clients - factors that encouraged the creative use of both unorthodox building materials and mass-produced components. One chapter is devoted to each of 34 houses by such luminaries as Richard Neutra, Eliel Saarinen, Frank Lloyd Wright, Walter Gropius, Philip Johnson, Charles Moore, Louis Kahn, and Frank Gehry. Selections of the architects' plans and finest freehand drawings complement the photographs in this history of exceptional American house design. The text by Kenneth Frampton explores each house in depth, discussing its context in the progression of American architecture, its role in the architect's oeuvre, and its broader relationship to the history of twentieth-century American cultural and artistic movements. REFERRAL LINKS:  dDAB COMMENTARY: Earlier in the week I reviewed The Iconic American House, a presentation of 50 "Architectural Masterworks Since 1900" by Dominic Bradbury with photos by Richard Powers, as well as Modern Architecture and the Lifeworld: Essays in Honor of Kenneth Frampton, edited by Karla Cavarra Britton and Robert McCarter. It seemed fitting then to follow them up with a quick look at American Masterworks: The Twentieth Century House, which was written by Frampton and very much resembles The Iconic American House, both in its format (a selection of important American houses described in brief texts and documented through color photographs) and its size (big squares). I criticized Bradbury's book for the lack of plans, and unfortunately that same critique can be levied at Frampton's earlier book, which has some drawings, but not for every house and not always plans. American Masterworks was an excellent resource for me when I was writing a series of "10 Must-Know Modern Homes" for Houzz back in 2012. Although I didn't limit myself to US houses in that series, there's plenty of overlap between my American selections and what's in this book: Greene & Greene's Gamble House (1908), R.M. Schindler's Lovell Beach House (1926), Walter Gropius's Gropius House (1937), Charles and Ray Eames's Eames House (1949), Philip Johnson's Glass House (1949), and Mies van der Rohe's Farnsworth House (1951).  While my series stopped in the early 1950s, Frampton devotes half of his book to "late-modern" houses, those from 1965 to 1994 (first spread below). These houses make the book more interesting, since the selection of modern masterpieces from the late 19th century to the middle of the 20th century is fairly obvious (he and Bradbury agree on most of them), but those from the latter half of the book haven't had as much time to become ingrained in histories of architecture. There are houses by Kahn, Meier, Rudolph, Eisenman, Graves, Gehry, Predock, and Holl. Tying these later houses together are what Frampton describes as "a certain level of complexity and poetic depth," though, like my critique of Bradbury's book, all of the houses suffer from a shortage of women (only the Eames House, a house by Arquitectonica, and one by Smith-Miller Hawkinson were designed by women). Thirteen years later, in 2008, Rizzoli published a revised edition of American Masterworks, subtitling it "Houses of the Twentieth & Twenty-first Centuries" and therefore bringing it closer to the present. I haven't seen that edition, so I can't say anything about the dozen or so additional houses included in the book, but I'd wager on some overlap between it and Bradbury's book. What makes either edition of Masterworks valuable beyond the photographs and house descriptions are Frampton's chapter introductions; these texts give some historical context to the periods covered by the book (1869-1929, 1929-1945, 1945-1965, and 1965-1994 in the first edition) and discuss many more houses than those documented in the book. But if you want floor plans, you'll have to search for something like Key Houses of the Twentieth Century: Plans, Sections and Elevations.  SPREADS:

  • urbainable/stadthaltig
    by John Hill on November 20, 2020 at 1:00 PM

    urbainable/stadthaltig: Positions on the European City for the 21st CenturyTim Rieniets, Matthias Sauerbruch, Jörn Walter (Editors)Akademie der Künste/ArchiTangle, November 2020Hardcover | 8-1/2 x 10-3/4 inches | 224 pages | 240 illustrations | English | ISBN: 978-3966800105 | 38.00 €PUBLISHER'S DESCRIPTION: Constant change is what marks the history of the European city. Over centuries, architecture’s reactions to social disruptions—natural disaster, plague, or war—have fashioned the city into an engine of civilization. And bound up with this has been the promise of economic independence, social cohesion, and individual freedom. Now fundamental challenges, such as climate change, are bringing cities face to face with new transformations that call into question the continuity and sustainability of the ethical foundations underpinning urban ways of life. Bold and decisive steps are needed. How far can urban planning, landscape planning, and architecture foster the vital processes of change? How can the city offset possible losses caused by altered lifestyles, integrate new technologies, or rehearse new forms of behaviour and ultimately sublimate them into a functioning culture? In this volume, the members of the Architecture Section of the Akademie der Künste Berlin and their invited guests from all over Europe introduce their positions by means of projects, visions, and manifestos. Essays by selected authors with different viewpoints supplement the practical discourse. REFERRAL LINKS:    dDAB COMMENTARY: The cover of urbainable/stadthaltig, the catalog to an exhibition of the same name at Akademie der Künste Berlin (September 5 – November 22; it closed early due to the pandemic) is a photograph of the former runway at Tempelhof Field in Berlin. Yet it's people, not planes, that are on the tarmac. The airport closed in 2008 and opened two years later as Tempelhof Park (officially Tempelhof Feld), more than "300 hectares of green space for skating, strolling, gardening, picnicking, bird watching, kite-surfing and much more." Since it opened, the park's development has undergone a participatory planning process, such that in 2014, "Berliners decided in a referendum not to allow construction on the edge of the airfield and to largely keep Tempelhofer Feld as it was." The saying goes that you can't judge a book by its cover, but I don't think that applies to illustrated books, especially architecture books. In this case, the cover says to me that the "European City for the 21st Century" will be built with, and upon,  the bones of the past. Climate change demands that retrofit and renovation are the preferred means of development, not demolition and new construction. In addition to retaining the embodied energy and carbon of existing construction, the retention of old places — historic or not — strengthens psychic bonds with the past. Fostering a sense of belonging for residents fo a place is important, in Europe and elsewhere. Tempelhof Feld is one example of this, warts and all: it was a parade ground before it was an airport, though during World War II it was used as a Nazi concentration camp. If the old tarmac of Tempelhof is the chosen image of urbainable/stadthaltig, then both the book and the exhibition should be full of similarly minded ideas and projects. There are some transformations on display in the book, but like Europe itself, the assemblage of voices is diverse, if a bit heavy on German contributions and settings. Opening the book, one is confronted immediately with drawings on the endpapers (first spread below) that present some queries about cities relative to people and nature. They are followed by photo essays by Erik-Jan Ouwerkerk (second spread and last spread) that show the European city as crumbling, wild and empty, but also ordered and lively, especially at night. Fifty pages of essays follow the table of contents, after which are 125 pages of projects: the meat of the book and the exhibition.  With sometimes as little as just a page and a half, and at most four pages, the projects are merely snapshots of the architectural ideas hoping to transform the continent. It's hard to find a logic to the ordering of the projects, so thumbing through the book is like wading through a hodgepodge of buildings, landscapes, and urban plans. The subject matter is wide-ranging, resulting in an uneven book with as many hits as misses. As my commentary above should make clear, I was drawn to projects focused on urban transformations, and the book has a fair amount, such as Grüntuch Ernst's Kantstraße 79 project ("from prison to guesthouse"), Lacaton & Vassal's award-winning transformation of housing blocks on urban peripheries, and Marco Venturi's call for focusing on the peripheries rather than city centers. Most of the projects resist such easy categorization though. Ultimately, what's consistent throughout the book is the notion that solutions to today's crises — most of them centered on the places where people living densely and in abundance — will happen there: in cities. SPREADS: