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  • (Almost) Spring Break
    by John Hill on March 1, 2021 at 1:00 PM

    After two solid months of posts — 44 reviews so far in 2021! — I'm taking a week off. Posts will resume on Monday, March 8.In the meantime, please consider funding The Notebooks and Drawings of Louis I. Kahn: A Facsimile from our good friends at Designers & Books. Some details are below the animation.If funded, the project will create a linen cloth-covered facsimile of The Notebooks and Drawings of Louis I. Kahn, the hard-to-find book edited by Richard Saul Wurman and Eugene Feldman that was first published in 1962 and then reprinted in 1973. The 96-page book with 76 drawings will be accompanied by a new 120-page "Reader's Guide" with "new writings from a variety of contributors as well as extensive visual material from the Louis I. Kahn Collection at the Architectural Archives of the University of Pennsylvania, much of it previously unpublished."The last day for the all-or-nothing Kickstarter campaign is Wednesday, March 31 2021 at 6:00 PM EDT.

  • Drawing Ambience
    by John Hill on February 27, 2021 at 1:00 PM

    Drawing Ambience: Alvin Boyarsky and the Architectural AssociationIgor Marjanović, Jan HowardMildred Lane Kemper Art Museum/RISD Museum, February 2015Paperback | 6-1/2 x 9-3/4 inches | 156 pages | English | ISBN: 978-0936316390 | $35.00PUBLISHER'S DESCRIPTION:This richly illustrated volume showcases the impressive collection of drawings assembled by Alvin Boyarsky during his pivotal tenure as chairman of the Architectural Association (AA) in London from 1971 until his death in 1990. As chairman, Boyarsky orchestrated an ambitious exhibition and publication program that situated drawing as not only a representational tool but as a form of architecture in its own right. This book brings together an iconic set of drawings by some of the most prominent architects and artists of our time—including Frank Gehry, Zaha Hadid, Daniel Libeskind, Mary Miss, OMA–Rem Koolhaas, Eduardo Paolozzi, Bernard Tschumi, Shin Takamatsu, and others. The combination of critical texts and close-up reproductions of prints, drawings, and the limited edition AA Folio series provides an unprecedented opportunity to explore both the techniques and the imaginative spirit of drawing practices that permeated this time of change and experimentation in architecture worldwide.Igor Marjanovic is Associate Professor at the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts at Washington University in St. Louis. He has published extensively on Alvin Boyarsky's pedagogical experiments as agents of wider architectural culture, including in Chicagoisms: The City as Catalyst for Architectural Speculation. Jan Howard is curator of prints, drawings, and photographs and curatorial chair at the RISD Museum.REFERRAL LINKS:   dDAB COMMENTARY:And Drawing Ambience makes three: 3 days in a row of books by or about the Architectural Association in London. Thursday was The Architectural Association in the Postwar Years by Patrick Zamarian and Friday was the 77th issue of AA Files. Digging an older AA-related book out of my library to go along with these two recently published books meant one thing: a book on Alvin Boyarsky, chairman of the AA from 1971 to his untimely death in 1990. There's The Idea of the City, the document of a 1996 symposium and tribute to Boyarsky that is most valuable for reprinting Boyarsky's pre-AA Chicago à la Carte. And there's the more recent Drawing Ambience, the catalog to a 2014/15 exhibition that started at the Kemper Art Museum, then traveled to co-organizer RISD Museum, and finally made its way to The Cooper Union. The last venue is where I was able to see in person (no photos in my archive, unfortunately) the roughly fifty drawings pulled from Boyarsky's collection.As I mentioned in my commentary on Zamarian's book, the AA is often equated with Boyarsky since his two-decade tenure saw the London school blossom internationally, attracting notable talent that in turn educated some famous future architects; Zaha Hadid, under Rem Koolhaas, being the most notable. The projects that these and other AA-related architects produced in those years are famous in large part for their drawings: Hadid's competition-winning Peak, Bernard Tschumi's winning Parc de la Villette, and Koolhaas/OMA's runner-up entry to the same competition, to name just a few. This era of postmodernism, especially in the 1970s, is often labeled, somewhat dismissively, "paper architecture," given the glut of architectural commissions and the preference for drawings on paper. But Igor Marjanović, in his lengthy and illuminating introductory essay to the book, explains how Boyarsky saw drawings as architecture: "works of art in their own right," he wrote, "as opposed to being simply illustrations of a building." Boyarsky had fashioned an environment for the creation and display of architectural drawings, with the unit studios pushing professors and students to create visually striking work, and the school's exhibitions and publications disseminating that work to wider audiences.Boyarsky assembled an impressive collection of original drawings and prints by professors, students, and friends in those two decades, and Drawing Ambience put them on display for museum-goers in Missouri, Rhode Island, and New York. The book is a decent, lasting surrogate for the exhibition, but as I have discovered on the occasions when I've been fortunate enough to see the paintings of Zaha Hadid in person, their size impresses. Most of the reproductions in the catalog are as large on the page as possible. They are accompanied by descriptions written by Marjanović and Jan Howard with Beau Johnson and Sarah Rovang; these texts spend little time on the architects/artists themselves, since they're so well-known, focusing instead on their links with the AA, discussing the works displayed, and providing further references. In addition to Marjanović's essay and the catalog of works, the book includes a short text by Boyarsky's son Nicholas (he's, no surprise, an architect), photos of the exhibition at the Kemper, and a list of the exhibition catalogs and other books produced at the AA during Boyarsky's tenure. The last, which were part of the exhibition, are some of the most coveted architectural publications around, with the Folios fetching hundreds of dollars each. Their rarity and appeal are one outcome of the special environment Boyarsky created at the AA, where the projects certainly became "works of art in their own right."IMAGES:Coop Himmelblau, “Super Spaces,” c. 1969. Color photo-offset lithograph (poster), 27 1/2 x 37 5/8”. Collection of the Alvin Boyarsky Archive.Zaha Hadid (British, b. Iraq 1950), “The World (89 Degrees),” 1984. Arial view; compilation of projects to date. Print with hand-applied acrylic and wash on paper, 27 1/2 x 22 5/8”. Collection of the Alvin Boyarsky Archive. Courtesy of Zaha Hadid Architects.Alex Wall, Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA), “The Pleasure of Architecture,” 1983. Poster based on competition drawings for Parc de la Villette, Paris, 1982–83. Color screen print on paper, 30 11/16 x 20 3/16”. Collection of the Alvin Boyarsky Archive. © OMA.Bernard Tschumi, “#4 K Series,” 1985. Study for “La Case Vide: La Villette,” Folio VIII, 1985. Photostat with hand-applied enamel paint, 16 15/16 x 17”. Collection of the Alvin Boyarsky Archive.

  • AA Files 77
    by John Hill on February 26, 2021 at 1:00 PM

    AA Files 77Maria Sheherazade Giudici (Editor)AA Publications, December 2020Paperback | 9-1/2 x 11-1/2 inches | 224 pages | English | ISBN: 978-1999627737 | £25.00PUBLISHER'S DESCRIPTION:AA Files is the Architectural Association’s journal of record and offers a platform for exchange connecting the research produced by the AA community to a larger architectural debate globally. Organised in a series of thematic sections that emerged from the AA Files Issue 76 Glossary, each ‘file’ contains two or more contributions that explore a common keyword constructing a dialogue between a heterogeneous set of authors with the aim to reframe architecture as a critical point of entry through which the most urgent social and environmental questions of today can be addressed. In Issue 77, the themes are Body, Care, Economy, Environment, Labour, Project and Resistance. A special feature ‘file’ on Home gathers ten perspectives on domestic living during lockdown from Mexico City to Teheran, while ARÓ (Allies Against Discrimination and Disparity) writes on four keywords that have been added to our AA Files Glossary: Afrofuturism, Exile, Third Space and Transience.With contributions by ARÓ, Panos Dragonas and Lydia Kallipoliti, Cooking Sections, Andrea Bagnato, Geoff Manaugh and Nicola Twilley, Leonard Ma, Brittany Utting and Daniel Jacobs, James Westcott and Federico Martelli, Ludovico Centis and Ed Ruscha, Georgios Eftaxiopoulos, Elena Palacios Carral, Neeraj Bhatia, Pietro Bonomi and Nicoló Ornaghi, Christophe van Gerrewey, Hugh Strange, Alejandra Celedón Forster, Hamed Khosravi, Ethel Baraona Pohl, Alessandro Bava, Fernanda Canales, Brendon Carlin, Mariabruna Fabrizi and Fosco Lucarelli, Dan Handel, Harriet Harriss, Peer Illner, Kaveh Rashidzadeh, Charles Rice, Francesca Romana Dell’Aglio, Gabrielle Eglen, Jeremy Lecomte, Oli Surel and Max Turnheim.REFERRAL LINKS:   dDAB COMMENTARY:Oddly, critical silence followed the completion of Apple Campus 2 in Cupertino, California, in 2018. Designed by Foster + Partners as a ring in the landscape, the much-anticipated building was off limits to architecture critics — to most people, actually — leading to a lack of first-hand critiques. Therefore the only reviews to be found were from a distance, either focusing on the urban demerits of, or the hype around, the massive, nearly decade-long project. Things were a bit different a few years earlier, when Facebook moved into MPK20, its new home designed by Gehry Partners in Menlo Park, twenty miles north of Apple's campus. Employees were allowed to post a curated selection of photos of the new office environment to Instagram, the photo app owned by Facebook, and articles on the building were in abundance, including reviews in the LA Times and the Wall Street Journal. I'm mentioning Apple and Facebook here since one of the standouts in the latest issue of the Architectural Association's AA Files is Georgios Eftaxiopoulos's in-depth review of MPK20. It's the kind of review that can only be pulled off in an academic setting, be it AA Files or The Avery Review or JAE. It is long; it explores a lot of territory within and beyond architecture; it has an abundance of footnotes (maybe even an overabundance, to the point of distraction — three footnotes in one sentence?!); and it has a number of drawings, by the author (first spread, below), accompanying the photographs (second spread). The review falls under "Labour," one of eight sections used to organize the sixteen "files" that comprise most of the issue. Other themes for the paired files include "Care," "Economy," "Logistics," and "Resistance." As explained by issue editor Maria Sheherazade Giudici, these one-word themes are pulled from an ongoing glossary of terms carried out by the AA and started in a previous issue of AA Files. It sounds like what Eva Franch i Gilabert presented at The World Around in January 2020, "Architecture in Translation," the Graham Foundation-funded project that "identifies terms, concepts, and values inherent to different linguistic and cultural contexts to produce a 'multilingual dictionary of architectural terms' in the twenty-first century." I'm not sure how the production of issue 77 overlapped with the firing of Franch i Gilabert last year, but there appears to be a strong correlation between the paired contributions and their respective terms. The essay on MPK20, for example, illuminates how the engineers, Mark Zuckerberg included, actually work in the Gehry-designed "largest room in the world."Other highlights of the issue include AA's interview with Geoff Manaugh and Nicola Twilley, who curated the 2010 exhibition Landscapes of Quarantine and are finishing a book about quarantine. Their timely contribution in the "Care" section of this pandemic-era issue is echoed by the "Home" section at the back, where a number of contributors discuss their experiences in their places of lockdown. Christophe Van Gerrewey, editor of the great OMA/Rem Koolhaas: A Critical Reader, delves into Nikolaus Pevsner's little known Some Architectural Writers of the Nineteenth Century in the "Project" section (third and fourth spread), while Franco Martelli and James Westcott, in "Environment," discuss the late Douglas Tompkins' efforts to protect parts of Patagonia in Chile. Uniting the divergent stories and themes is a pleasing design by Pentagram that uses the eight terms as a way to organize the issue.SPREADS:

  • The Architectural Association in the Postwar Years
    by John Hill on February 25, 2021 at 1:00 PM

    The Architectural Association in the Postwar YearsPatrick ZamarianLund Humphries, November 2020Hardcover | 7-1/2 x 9-3/4 inches | 208 pages | 115 illustrations | English | ISBN: 978-1848224063 | £45.00PUBLISHER'S DESCRIPTION:In the period following the Second World War, the Architectural Association (AA) became the only British school of architecture of truly global renown. It was one of only two schools in the world which fully embraced and promoted the pedagogical ideals put forward by CIAM (Congrès Internationaux d’Architecture Moderne) — the other being Walter Gropius’s Harvard Graduate School of Design — and emerged as an admired example for architectural education in other countries. Many of the most famous British architects and critics of the past 60 years attended the AA, including Ahrends, Burton + Koralek, Alan Colquhoun and John Miller, Jeremy Dixon and Edward Jones, Frank Duffy, Eldred Evans, Kenneth Frampton, Bill Howell, John Killick, Robert Maguire, Cedric Price, Graeme Shankland and Oliver Cox, Quinlan Terry, John Voelcker, and almost a dozen recipients of the RIBA Gold Medal, viz. Neave Brown, Peter Cook, Edward Cullinan, Philip Dowson, Nicholas Grimshaw, Michael and Patricia Hopkins, Powell + Moya, Richard Rogers, and Joseph Rykvert.The book traces the history of the school from the end of the war until the mid-1960s, when it surrendered its position as the pacemaker in British architectural education in order to safeguard its institutional independence. Alvin Boyarsky, who became chairman in 1971, remodelled the AA as a postmodern, ‘internationalist’ school and detached it from its modernist, British origins. In keeping with this (and partly as a result of it), there has been no research into the AA’s postwar history, which remains dominated by myths and half-truths. The book replaces these myths with an in-depth account of what really happened.Patrick Zamarian is a Lecturer in Architecture at the University of Liverpool, where he was awarded a PhD for his thesis on The AA School of Architecture in the Postwar Period (1945-1965). He also holds master degrees in architecture and the history and theory of architecture, both awarded by ETH Zurich.REFERRAL LINKS:   dDAB COMMENTARY:Although the Architectural Association is nearly 175 years old, the London institution is guilty of severe amnesia. The "History of the AA" page on the AA's website has just three paragraphs of text, situated below a photograph of a young Zaha Hadid in the middle of an exhibition. So people interested in the background of the AA see its most famous former student and they learn it "was established as a student-centered collective in 1847" and moved to Bedford Square in 1917, but the rest remains an enigma. Wikipedia isn't much better, especially if we hone in on the people who directed the school from its founding to its recent past: only eight former directors are listed, with a huge gap before 1929 and another sizable one between 1935 and 1971; Patrick Zamarian's The Architectural Association in the Postwar Years exhaustively fills in the second gap.The year 1971 is important to the AA, and may even be understood by architects with some knowledge of the school. That is the year Alvin Boyarsky took over as chairman. He stayed in that position until his death in 1990, seeing the school attract many international students, including Hadid and Rem Koolhaas, but many more not so famous. The school was also known in those years for the talent it attracted to teach in its famous — and famously innovative — unit system; these included Peter Cook, Daniel Libeskind, and Bernard Tschumi. So for many people, myself included, the AA is Boyarsky; it is forever associated with that two-decade period, the blossoming of the school on the international architecture scene. But what about the years and decades before, between the AA's abandonment of the Beaux-Arts methods in the 1930s and Boyarsky's reinvention of the school as an "intellectual infrastructure for architectural postmodernism."Zamarian admits in his introduction that Boyarsky's tenure has been given considerable attention by architectural historians. Even though his book focuses on the years 1945 to 1965, an epilogue addresses the Boyarsky years, from 1965 to 1990. That's where I jumped into the book, finding myself a bit lost with references to previous school directors but interested to see just how Boyarsky came to power. Zamarian goes into a lot of detail on the transition from William Allen (AA head from 1961–65) to John Lloyd (1966–71) to Boyarsky, whose main competitor for the role was Kenneth Frampton, a graduate of the AA (Boyarsky went to McGill and Cornell). Amazingly, Lloyd actually predicted at the end of 1970 that the AA would be closed permanently within two years, "with no alternative funding in sight and the school literally disintegrating before his eyes," in Zamarian's words. Boyarsky could be seen as the school's savior, but Zamarian tempers the myths around him, describing Boyarsky as the facilitator of the AA's internationalization — still in effect today — not the instigator of it.Zamarian's chronological chapters start with a brief history of the AA, from its 1847 formation to the end of WWII. The heads of the school structure the chapters between this first chapter and the Boyarsky epilogue that comprises chapter 9. Gordon Brown's tenure (1945–49) is covered in chapter 2, while the next discusses his successor Robert Furneaux Jordan (1949–51). The fourth chapter covers student work in the same years as chapter 3, after which come three chapters devoted to the longer tenure of Michael Pattrick (1951–61). Chapter 7 details some of the problems in the second half of the 1950s that would lead to Lloyd's pessimistic prediction, followed by chapter 8, on Allen's efforts to overcome the "growing political and financial pressure."Politics and finances, as well as architectural ideology, make up a lot of Zamarian's text, which is the product of his doctoral research carried out in England after studies at ETH Zurich, as far removed from the AA as any architecture school. As such, the book will be of particular interest to people interested specifically in the AA, more generally in architectural pedagogy, and/or in the evolution of architectural education in the middle of the 20th century. Accompanying the detailed though readable text are dozens of illustrations by students over those postwar years: most are b/w, presented alongside the text, though 25 color plates are found in the back of the book (spreads, below). These student projects are at a far remove architecturally from Hadid's Malevich's Tectonik, but the names are just as familiar: Nigel Coates, Nicholas Grimshaw, Cedric Price, and Richard Rogers, among numerous others. With lengthy captions on each student project, the illustrations are more than eye candy; they add even more information concerning a time and a place that previously had only a shortage of it.SPREADS:

  • Arvo Pärt Centre & Nieto Sobejano Arquitectos
    by John Hill on February 24, 2021 at 1:00 PM

    Arvo Pärt Centre & Nieto Sobejano Arquitectos: A Common DenominatorMichael Pärt (Editor)ArchiTangle, February 2021Hardcover | 11-1/4 x 11-1/4 inches | 212 pages | 110 illustrations | English + Estonian (plus booklet with German + Spanish translations) | ISBN: 978-3966800037 | $68.00PUBLISHER'S DESCRIPTION:The book embodies a bridge between the dimensions of music, architecture and landscape: the music of Arvo Pärt with the architecture of Fuensanta Nieto and Enrique Sobejano in the surrounding pine forest landscape in Laulasmaa, Estonia, to form one infused entity.This book is many books. The first takes the reader on a journey throughout the spaces within the Arvo Pärt Centre. The second is a book of words. It reveals quotations from Arvo Pärt’s musical diaries. The third book embraces us with score elements turning into architecture elements. The fourth book is an architecture sketchbook. It contains a graphical description of the whole project from an architectural view. Plans, sections, elevations, structural schemes of the landscape project, the main building, and the tower and the chapel show technical details and proportions of the spaces. Finally, the fifth book provides a deeper view on the synthesis of the arts through the words of five authors: Michael Pärt, Fuensanta Nieto & Enrique Sobejano, Kristina Kõrver, Nikita Andrejev and Covadonga Blasco Veganzones.Arvo Pärt (born 11 September 1935) is an Estonian composer of classical music, whose compositions are mostly based on Christian texts. From 2011 to 2018, Pärt was the most performed living composer in the world. The Arvo Pärt Centre, in Laulasmaa, was opened to the public in 2018. Fuensanta Nieto has worked as an architect since graduating from the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid and the Graduate School of Architecture and Planning at Columbia University in New York in 1983. She is a founding partner, with Enrique Sobejano, of Nieto Sobejano Arquitectos and a professor at the Universidad Europea de Madrid. Enrique Sobejano has worked as an architect since graduating from the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid and the Graduate School of Architecture and Planning at Columbia University in New York in 1983. He is professor at the Universität der Künste Berlin (UdK), where he holds the chair of Principles of Design. REFERRAL LINKS:   dDAB COMMENTARY:One of the project categories — or filters — on the website of Nieto Sobejano Arquitectos is "roofscape" (the others are light, material, landscape, geometry, and history). One of the eight projects in that category is the Arvo Pärt Centre in Laulasmaa, Estonia, the subject of a new book. The building shares formal similarities with some of the other roofscapes, namely the piercing lightwells of the earlier Joanneumsviertel in Graz, Austria, and the Contemporary Art Center in Córdoba, Spain. As depicted in the aerial on the cover of the new book-length case study, the cuts in the roof are the Arvo Pärt Centre's most striking aspect, at least outside of the heavily wooded site near Lahepere Bay.No building is just its form, its architecture. Accordingly, this book is presented as five books in one: a book of photographs, a book of draft and scores of composer Arvo Pärt's "In Principio," a book of quotes, a book of architectural drawings, and a book of essays. Of course, A Common Denominator is a single bound book (only a booklet with German and Spanish translations of the text is separate), but the design and layout of its 212 large-format pages draws attention to the multiplicity of its contents and gives the "five-book" book a noticeable rhythm, as in the spreads below.The book starts simply with a quote from Pärt: "I could compare my music to white light which contains all colors. Only a prism can divide the colors and make them appear; this prism could be the spirit of the listener." Empty musical staffs are on the following page, next to four sheets of vellum with dots, lines, and other drawings that start to express the building devoted to the Estonian composer. The drawings on these sheets, as visible in the first spread below, overlay the staffs and express an interaction of music and architecture. These two "books" — of "In Principio" and of architectural drawings — are found six more times in the book, situated between the photographs, quotes, and essays of the other "books."Just as the initial quote by Pärt puts great weight on "the spirit of the listener," the short essays, un-captioned photos, and layering of drawings across musical notation do the same, but for the reader. This is not a building monograph that tries to explain everything. Rather it leisurely presents the building in words and images, inviting the reader to get from it what they put into it. The ideal audience would have already visited the Arvo Pärt Centre, but for me, who has never set foot on Estonian soil, the book is a strong invitation to see the building in person, hear Pärt's music fill its spaces, and take in the beautiful landscape beyond the roofscape.SPREADS:

  • Atlas of Digital Architecture
    by John Hill on February 23, 2021 at 1:00 PM

    Atlas of Digital Architecture: Terminology, Concepts, Methods, Tools, Examples, PhenomenaSebastian Michael; edited by Ludger Hovestadt, Urs Hirschberg, Oliver FritzBirkhäuser, October 2020Paperback | 8-1/4 x 11-1/4 inches | 760 pages | 750 illustrations | English | ISBN: 978-3035619898 | $68.99BOOK DESCRIPTION:Digital technology and architecture have become inseparable, with new approaches and methodologies not just affecting the workflows and practice of architects, but shaping the very character of architecture. In this compendious work, two dozen university professors and lecturers share their vast range of expertise with a professional writer who assembles this into an array of engaging, episodic chapters.Structured into six parts, the Atlas offers an orientation to the myriad ways in which computers are used in architecture today, such as: 3D Modelling and CAD; Rendering and Visualisation; Scripting, Typography, Text & Code; Digital Manufacturing and Model Making; GIS, BIM, Simulation, and Big Data & Machine Learning, to name but these.Throughout, the Atlas provides both a historical perspective and a conceptual outlook to convey a sense of continuity between past, present, and future; and going beyond the confines of the traditional textbook, it also postulates a theoretical framework for architecture in the 21st century. The Atlas of Digital Architecture then understands itself as an invitation to the rich feast of possibilities and professional profiles that digital technology puts on the table today, and hopes to whet the reader’s appetite for exploring and sampling their great potential.Sebastian Michael thinks, writes, and creates across disciplines in theatre, film, video, print, and online with a deepening interest in humans, the universe, and a quantum philosophy. Ludger Hovestadt is Professor of Architecture and CAAD at the chair of Digital Architectonics, Institute for Technology in Architecture, ETH Zürich. Urs Leonhard Hirschberg is Professor for the Representation of Architecture and New Media and Head of the Institute of Architecture and Media (IAM) at Graz University of Technology (TU Graz). Oliver Fritz is Professor for Digital Media and Architectural Representation at HTWG Konstanz University of Applied Sciences.REFERRAL LINKS:   dDAB COMMENTARY:In my "book brief" on the 2013 reprint of Sigfried Giedeon's classic 1948 book Mechanization Takes Command — an "anonymous history" of technology then taking hold of every aspect of people's lives — I asked rhetorically if someone has written a history of computers doing the same thing. I didn't know of such a book at the time, but Atlas of Digital Architecture is as close to a digital Giedion as I am aware of now, even though it's geared to architects rather than society in general. Just as Giedion traced the 20th-century changes in producing foods, manufacturing goods, sitting, bathing, cooking, and so forth, the editors of Atlas of Digital Architecture present every conceivable way architects use computers. Readers see where we are now, with BIM and parametricism and digital fabrication, but they also see how we got to this point.Although the ambitious Atlas does not resemble a traditional atlas, it is not structured like a dictionary or encyclopedia either. With 760 large-format pages and almost as many illustrations, the book is clearly a reference rather than something to be read cover to cover. So how to read it? A chapter gallery starts the book, giving users a visual means of mentally structuring the book's six sections and two-dozen contributions. Architects or students interested in 3d modeling, for instance, can easily find the parts of the book with relevant content, while those who want to learn about code — and learn a little coding in the process — can see where to go. With most contributions around twenty pages long, the best way to tackle the book is to find a subject-essay of interest and digest it in its entirety.An example: "Visualization" is one of three chapters in the second section, "The Image: Visualizing Architecture." Written by Dominik Lengyel and Philipp Schaerer, the essay starts — as do all of them in the book — with an overview of its subject, in this case a brief history of architectural visualization in a couple columns of text. This history gives way to "visualizing now," which the authors carefully fit somewhere between 3d modeling and rendering, two topics that are covered in other chapters. With Lengyel, "we find ourselves at the intersection of archaeology, architecture, and photography," whereas with Schaerer, of Bildbauten fame, "we find ourselves at the intersection of architecture, photography, and design." So the authors' text and image selection balance these respective poles of reconstructing and imagining through visualization. As in other essays, the text is keyed to chapters and terms throughout the book, creating another way of navigating the book, while the images are presented as thumbnails between the text and larger at the end of the essay (this increases the flow of text but requires a good deal of flipping back and forth between pages). The pair's essay ends, like most in the book, with an outlook: some thoughts on the future of visualization and the potential virtual reality of all things, be they from the past, present, or future.What ties this massive book together, besides the design elements (by Onlab) described in the Visualization chapter above and shown in the spreads below, is the text, which was written entirely by Sebastian Michael. But if Lengyel and Schaerer wrote their chapter, how is that the case? As Michael describes in the book's preface, the collaborators sent him their abstracts (per the editors' guidelines) and then, after a one- to two-hour interview with them, Michael would write their chapter. Some back-and-forth logically followed that process, but the result is a readable text, in English (even though many of the contributors are German, as are many references cited); it is consistent in tone and language but also highly accessible. It's a bit like Giedion's nearly 75-year-old Mechanization book, except that Atlas is the product of two-dozen experts, three editors, one writer, one design firm — and the unlimited possibilities of computers.SPREADS:

  • E=mc2
    by John Hill on February 22, 2021 at 1:00 PM

    E=mc2: The Project in the Age of RelativityAndrea Branzi; edited by Elisa C. CattaneoActar Publishers, October 2020Paperback | 7-1/2 x 10-1/2 inches | 600 pages | English | ISBN: 978-1945150739 | $64.95PUBLISHER'S DESCRIPTION:From radical research to contemporary design, this book collects Andrea Branzi’s work about city-design and a new opportunity to interpret and anticipate the next dynamics of society. Territories that are conceptual categories, through spaces that are offered up by reality such that design can act and perform cognitively: in this sense, the city becomes a critical concept capable of overcoming its own image. Each passage presents a precise anthropological articulation: from the concept of commodity civilization of the Sixties to that of immateriality, from the concept of the metropolis to that of the anthropological territory, in which the infinitely small and the immensely large coincide, to the point of generating and passing beyond our commonly held concept of the city.The publication begins from Andrea Branzi’s reflection on the relationship civility-design, from the Radical’s research on mass-production civilization to the “infinite territories”, proposing new territories able to interpret and anticipate the new dynamics of society. In particular, if the first chapters review the historical/critical works of Andrea Branzi and of Radical Movement, the last opens a new parenthesis of research, right now never expressed: the issues ignored by Modernity, like life, death, destiny and the sacred: themes which underline the new drama and the fracture between tragedy and normality, between consumerism and death, between theology and technology, between the silence of reason and the voice of an irrational reality.Andrea Branzi lives and works in Milan. Protagonist and theorist of Radical Movement Archizoom, he is dedicated to theoretical research and to the promotion of culture. He’s author of numerous theoretical and historical books. Elisa Cristiana Cattaneo researches experimental ecological design and its theoretical implications, to generate new territories of imagination. In particular, considering the design as a “weak” field evolvable and renewable through new transdisciplinary approaches.REFERRAL LINKS:   dDAB COMMENTARY:Archizoom was founded in Florence in 1966 by architects Andrea Branzi, Gilberto Corretti, Paolo Deganello, and Massimo Morozzi, later joined by designers Dario Bartolini and Lucia Bartolini. The name was derived from Zoom!, the fourth — and most famous — issue of Archigram's numbered zines. Along with Superstudio, which was formed by Adolfo Natalini and Cristiano Toraldo di Francia also in Florence and also in 1966, these three comprised the most influential and visible of the 1960s utopian radicals in architecture. Numerous books have been written about each group, though not nearly as many as the books written by the members of Archigram, Archizoom, and Superstudio themselves, both then and since. A new addition to the latter is Andrea Branzi's impressive E=mc2, which is like a monograph, historical archive, and theoretical treatise on cities in one large package.The book is organized into four "sessions": (1) "Commodity Civilization: The Radical Movement and the Season of the Announced Deaths," (2) "No-Stop City: The Infinitive Metropolis and the Hypothesis of a Non Figurative Language," (3) "Weak and Diffuse Metropolis of the Second Modernity," (4) "Territories for a New Urban Dramaturgy." Following a lengthy, analytical "Session 0" essay by book editor (and archivist and co-translator and co-proofreader!) Elisa C. Cattaneo, the sessions are comprised primarily of texts written by Branzi between 1966 and 2017, with clusters in the late 60s/early 70s, ca. 2006, and the 2010s. Even though each chapter includes texts written within the last decade, there is a noticeable chronological arc throughout the whole book, such that it covers Archizoom in the first two sections, moves on to Branzi's post-Archizoom work in the third, and then ends with propositions for the future.Although E=mc2 is profusely illustrated, there is a lot to read in its pages. Most of the texts are in English, though some are in Italian and English, and a small amount are in Italian only, a situation that arises from facsimiles of original sources included in the book, either on full pages or smaller sheets inserted into the book (the last three spreads, below, hint at the latter condition). A standout facsimile is found in Session 2, with 27 essays Branzi contributed to Casabella between 1972 and 1976: "Radical Notes," as the regular series was called. The rest of that section focuses on Archizoom's most famous project, No-Stop City, seen in more pages pulled from Casabella but also in numerous drawings and models. These archives are a treat for someone like me, who had only the most cursory knowledge of such projects beforehand, but they also set the scene for the second half of the book, which is more contemporary and polemical.Branzi proffers "weak urbanization" in the third session, in distinction to "the strong and concentrated modernity of the twentieth century." Many short texts written in the 1990s and 2000s argue for non-figurative architecture, mainly in response to the virtual spaces of technology. The essays are accompanied by a few of Branzi's urban projects (Agronica, Bosco d’Architettura, 2010 Venice Architecture Biennale, etc.) that exhibit an almost Broadacre-like vision of cities, with roads and green spaces extending into the horizon through the use of mirrors. Session 4 has more projects and essays, the first culminating in a gatefold of "Ten Modest Advices for a New Athens Chart" (only in Italian, unfortunately) and the second in a "Probable Autobiography" inserted into the book on smaller pages. The latter, coming before a few external contributions, is a satisfying end to a book that functions like a heady, collaged version of an autobiography — one from a life of prolonged, compelling ideas on cities. SPREADS:

  • St. Louis and the Arch
    by John Hill on February 20, 2021 at 1:00 PM

    St. Louis and the ArchJoel MeyerowitzNew York Graphic Society, 1980Paperback | 10-1/2 x 9-1/2 inches | 112 pages | 60 photographs | English | ISBN: 978-0821211205PUBLISHER'S DESCRIPTION:At the invitation of The St. Louis Art Museum, Joel Meyerowitz came to St. Louis to record photographically the look and spirit of the city. The Gateway Arch, Eero Saarinen's monumental sculpture, which dominates the city, became at once the the subject and nonsubject of Meyerowitz's photographs. In some of the photographs, one has to search to find it; in others, it fills the frame.Clearly, the Arch exerted a powerful force on Meyerowitz's vision. He speaks of it as a mirror, sundial, tuning fork, pyramid — a mysterious, changing presence that transforms the space around it and the city itself.Four visits and 400 negatives later, Meyerowitz's portrait of the city emerged — a revealing record of its history and architecture, its life and presence. The St. Louis seen here no longer depends on the Mississippi that fed and built it; now the Arch, the city's gate and icon, is central.Joel Meyerowitz (born in New York, 1938) is an award-winning photographer whose work has appeared in over 350 exhibitions in museums and galleries around the world. Celebrated as a pioneer of color photography, he is a two-time Guggenheim Fellow, a recipient of both National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities awards, and a recipient of The Royal Photographic Society's Centenary Medal. He has published over 30 books.REFERRAL LINKS: dDAB COMMENTARY:When looking at Wayne Thom's photographs of buildings completed in the decades centered around the 1970s earlier this week, one book in my library that sprang to mind was Joel Meyerowitz's portrait of St. Louis ca. 1980. Although Thom was hired to by architects, most in Los Angeles, to take photos focused on individual buildings and Meyerowitz was invited by the St. Louis Art Museum to "record photographically the look and spirit of the city," the overlapping timeframes of the books lend them a certain similar flavor. Differences can also be found in the way Los Angeles's downtown was growing vertically in those decades, while people continued to leave St. Louis for its surrounding counties, but the photographers' use of large-format view cameras (Thom 4x3, Meyerowitz 8x10) to capture urban settings made their images very much of their time. Looking at each is to be transported in time and place.Meyerowitz's book, released in 1980, is titled St. Louis and the Arch, indicating that its subjects are both the city and its most recognizable monument; or put another way, it's about the interaction of the two. The book shouldn't be confused with The Arch, a repackaged version published in 1988, in which all of the photos focused on the landmark designed by Eero Saarinen and inaugurated twenty years earlier. As the spreads from St. Louis and the Arch below reveal, the photographs shift from direct confrontations with the Gateway Arch to settings where the Arch is barely visible (search for it in the third spread) to frames devoid of the iconic structure. Some of the most interesting photographs find formal similarities in the cityscape, such as the arching structure of the roof of the old Busch Stadium seen juxtaposed against the distant Arch, as found on the book's cover. While a similar view at the new Busch Stadium doesn't hold the same visual appeal, it also shows how little things have changed with St. Louis's skyline in the decades since Meyerowitz's book.SPREADS:

  • Opening Lines I – IV
    by John Hill on February 19, 2021 at 1:00 PM

    Opening Lines I – IVTina di Carlo (Editor)Drawing Matter, 2018Paperback | 7-3/4 x 11-1/2 inches | 592 pages in four volumes | English | ISBN: | £100.00PUBLISHER'S DESCRIPTION:This series of books is generated, very simply, from conversations with architects sitting again in front of their old sketchbooks. Often, he or she may not have opened them for many years; we found them ready to speak now quite as unselfconsciously as they had been drawing decades before.The Drawing Matter collection has a focus on material of this kind, and we have long recognized that sketchbooks are generally the most personal – and the least casually accessible – medium for the production of architectural thinking. To understand the collection better, we have tried here to invent an instrument in which the ideas of the architect, as expressed in the sketchbook and through the spoken word, might once again be synchronized.The publication of the four volumes is timed to coincide with an exhibition of the same title at the Tchoban Foundation Museum for Architectural Drawing, in Berlin.dDAB COMMENTARY:In June 2013 Portuguese architect Álvaro Siza spoke at the Museum of Modern Art about the Foundation Iberê Camargo in Porto Alegre, Brazil. It was a memorable lecture in part because of the format, with page after page from Siza's sketchbooks displayed large on the screen behind him. It was like a peek into his design process, his words revealing what was happening with his distinctive sketches. There were photographs of the building as well, but really the talk was about drawing and the process of making architecture. He even described how he liked to sit at a cafe with coffee and pastry, sketching his surroundings; if someone recognized him or he received special treatment he would move on to another cafe and resume his anonymity. In this sense, sketching is highly personal to Siza, so hearing him explain his sketches was an intimate experience, even in a room with hundreds of spectators.A similar intimate experience is found in the first of four (and counting?) Opening Lines books from Somerset's Drawing Matter, published on the occasion of a 2018 exhibition at the Tchoban Foundation in Berlin. Opening Lines I: Álvaro Siza Vieira finds Siza literally sitting down one afternoon with Manuel Montenegro and Niall Hobhouse and describing the pages from seven early sketchbooks. (Videos of the conversations are available on Drawing Matter's Vimeo channel.) Siza's sketchbooks are numbered and here he talks about numbers 4, 8, 13, 34, 40 and 41. That those sketchbooks span from 1977 to 1979 should indicate just how much Siza draws and give a hint of how many sketchbooks he has accumulated and completed since. The originals are beautifully reproduced on the book's large pages, while the transcribed conversations are found on smaller pages that are keyed to the numbered drawings. (This format extends to the rest of the series.) There are an abundance of sketches pertaining to SAAL Bouça Housing in Porto, the Borges & Irmão Bank in Vila do Conde, and other buildings, but we also see sketches of people and other things that drew his attention; one drawing even has Siza sketching himself sketching his legs — a drawing within a drawing.The four Opening Lines books are available individually from Drawing Matter or as a bundle. I'm guessing the 240-page book on Siza would be the most appealing to architects. It's definitely the case with me, even if I had not seen Siza speak at MoMA all those years ago — so recognizable are his sketches, always set at an angle to the page. This doesn't mean the other three books in the series are throwaways. Hardly. The Siza book can be seen as an invitation to explore the sketchbooks of the three other architects: Adolfo Natalini of Superstudio, British architect Tony Fretton, and Irish, London-based architect Níall McLaughlin. Although these three books are shorter (126, 86, and 140 pages, respectively), they are just as rewarding in their drawings combined with conversations. Natalini focuses on The Continuous Monument, revealing the rough sketches that led to the iconic montages Superstudio is known for. Fretton walks through the sketchbooks for the 30-year-old Lisson Gallery in London. And McLaughlin, who has, in my opinion, the most beautiful hand in the lot, talks through a number of his sketchbooks, culminating in drawings for the Alzheimer’s Respite Centre in Dublin, which was creatively exhibited at the 2016 Venice Architecture Biennale. Series editor Tina di Carlo writes that "Drawing Matter will continue the series as the occasion arises," so I'm crossing my fingers for some such occasion.SPREADS:Opening Lines I: Álvaro Siza VieiraOpening Lines I: Álvaro Siza VieiraOpening Lines II: Adolfo NataliniOpening Lines II: Adolfo NataliniOpening Lines III: Tony FrettonOpening Lines III: Tony FrettonOpening Lines IV: Níall McLaughlinOpening Lines IV: Níall McLaughlin

  • Wayne Thom
    by John Hill on February 18, 2021 at 1:00 PM

    Wayne Thom: Photographing the Late ModernEmily BillsThe Monacelli Press, December 2020Hardcover | 9 x 11 inches | 248 pages | English | ISBN: 978-1580935579 | $60.00PUBLISHER'S DESCRIPTION:A key primer to late-twentieth century Modernism, this monograph devoted to Wayne Thom chronicles his photographic practice and the architectural and urban environment in which he worked. An innovative chronicler of the booming West Coast urbanism of the 1960s and 70s, Thom’s photographs of key projects by path-breaking architecture firms such as William Pereira & Associates, Edward Durell Stone, SOM, Gio Ponti, John Portman, I. M. Pei, and A. Quincy Jones helped establish the idea of cool architectural glamour of the era.Raised in Hong Kong, Thom moved to California in the mid-1960s and trained in the technical craftsmanship of photography, adept at harnessing natural light for both interior and exterior compositions. He soon began working with the figures who would become his clients and benefactors, most importantly William Pereira and A. Quincy Jones, a prolific architect and Dean of the School of Architecture at USC.As Emily Bills critically assess Thom’s career, she demonstrates that his photography became inseparable from Late Modernism in the popular imagination, a period of architectural production that ran from the late 1960s through the 1980s. Wayne Thom: Photographing the Late Modern is a celebration of this key architectural photographer and a unique chronicle of the works of this transformative period of architectural expression. ...Wayne Thom was born in Shanghai in 1933. His work, which spans five decades, documents modern architecture throughout the Western United States and the Pacific Rim, with the bulk of his work documenting the greater Los Angeles area. Emily Bills is an author, curator, and faculty at Woodbury University. Dr. Bills has contributed essays to books on architectural and urban history, including Michigan Modern: Design That Shaped America and Visual Merchandising: The Image of Selling.REFERRAL LINKS:   dDAB COMMENTARY:On page 82 of Photographing the Late Modern, in a chapter titled "The High-Rise Guy," is one of Wayne Thom's photographs of SOM's Bank of America Data Center, built in San Francisco in the late 1970s. Instead of a view of the tower's exterior, we see an interior (second spread, below), a large, low room that is free of people but full of computer disc drives — at least I'm guessing that's what they are, even though they look like washing machines. On the opposite page is another corporate interior, the offices of Capitol Records in Newbury Park, California, designed by Maxwell Starkman & Associates one decade earlier. The office's receding perspective mirrors the data center, but here the space beneath the grid of fluorescent lights is occupied by women sitting at desks, typing on typewriters. This pair of images is not alone in conveying how Wayne Thom managed to capture two -isms across much of his career: Late Modernism and Late Capitalism.At the end of 2015, Woodbury University hosted an exhibition organized by the Julius Shulman Institute, Matter, Light and Form: Architectural Photographs of Wayne Thom, 1968–2003, which coincided with the retirement of the then 82-year-old architectural photographer. Thom's career started in 1968 with his first paid commission, photographing a courthouse in Kern County, northeast of Los Angeles. In those years his contemporaries were Balthazar Korab in Detroit, Ezra Stoller in New York, and the photographers at Hedrich Blessing in Chicago. Accordingly, Thom developed a similar regional focus, shooting buildings in Los Angeles and other parts of California, as well as Arizona, Colorado, British Columbia, and other parts of Western North America, with forays to Hawaii and Singapore. But as much as Wayne Thom is Late Modernism and Late Capitalism, he is Los Angeles even more. To wit, Emily Bills's impressively thorough account of Thom's career points out how the photographer's flat fee system included travel expenses, but just for buildings outside his base of Los Angeles County.Photographing the Late Modern is structured into four chapters: "Visual Sculpture," "The High-Rise Guy," "Mirrored Modernism," and "Expanding Cities, Expanding Practice." The two middle chapters clearly relate to the corporate modernism of the 1960s, 70s and 80s, captured by Thom as Los Angeles and other downtowns in the American West ballooned with office towers. As explained by Bills, Thom's portfolio of tall buildings for corporations was partly timing, with his career following the heyday of Midcentury Modernism's residential architecture, famously documented by Julius Shulman, and his willingness and ability to photograph vertically, which developed out of his technical education at the Brooks Institute. Looking at the photographs in those two chapters, it's easy to imagine some of them gracing the covers of Progressive Architecture, as they did, but just as many finding their way onto the fronts of corporations' annual reports. Looking at page after page of Thom's remarkable photographs (not all the buildings he photographed were remarkable though), I tried to find one that would stand out as an icon of architectural photography. Shulman has Case Study House no. 22; Korab has Saarinen's TWA Flight Center; Stoller has Mies's Seagram Building; and Hedrich Blessing has Mies himself. What about Thom? Perhaps because of his regional focus and his most active years overlapping with mirrored Late Modernism, nothing jumps off the page as an instantly recognizable icon like those by his contemporaries. While there are some that could be candidates —  Security Pacific National Bank (third spread) or CNA Park Place Tower (fourth spread) or UC San Diego Library, among others — perhaps Thom's skill was not creating iconic images. Instead, it was about capturing every building at an equally high level. That Thom worked when and where he did means his photographs are the perfect historical document for the ascension of corporate America, both in cities and in society.SPREADS: