A Daily Dose of Architecture

  • @CH
    by John Hill on August 19, 2019 at 2:00 PM

    The elephants are calling*, so I'm taking this week off and will resume posts next week.*I'm in Zurich for work, actually, but that doesn't sound as interesting. Though now all those Swiss architecture books from last week should make some sense. […]

  • A Matter of Art
    by John Hill on August 18, 2019 at 12:00 PM

    A Matter of Art: Contemporary Architecture in SwitzerlandJacques Lucan (Editor) with Colette Raffaele, Guy Nicollier and Philippe Mivelaz, advised by Martin SteinmannBirkhäuser, May 2001Paperback | 8-1/4 x 10-3/4 inches | 208 pages | French/English | ISBN: 978-3764364458Publisher Description:Contemporary Swiss Architecture has gained considerable international reputation with stars such as Mario Botta, Herzog & de Meuron and Peter Zumthor being celebrated throughout the world. This book reviews the current architectural scene in Switzerland, analysing it from three contrasting perspectives. Examined are 18 individual buildings that are considered representative of the high quality of contemporary Swiss architecture. Subsequently, six chapters focus on specific features which are characteristic of this architecture. Concluding the volume are five essays by Joseph Abram, Jacques Lucan, Bruno Marchand, Stanislaus von Moos and Martin Steinmann, each providing illuminating analyses and setting the present-day situation in a historical context.dDAB Commentary:In my recent review of Forms of Practice, Irina Davidovici's scholarly analysis of Swiss architecture in the 1980s and 1990s, I mentioned that in those decades "Swiss architecture made a name for itself internationally." I learned about Mario Botta, Herzog & de Meuron, Diener & Diener, and Peter Zumthor in architecture school in the mid-1990s, and by the start of the next decade these and other Swiss architects were being celebrated in books and exhibitions. Swiss Made is a well-known example of the first, while A Matter of Art, an exhibition at Centre Culturel Suisse Paris, obviously falls into the latter camp. I did not know about the exhibition at the time, but I had a hard time passing up the handsome catalog when I came across it in a used bookstore many years later. Like Davidovici's book, A Matter of Art examines what makes contemporary Swiss architecture so appealing, but it does it in a more accessible way. I wrote about the book on my Unpacking My Library blog (now on indefinite hiatus) four years ago so am transcribing that commentary here:"This book is a companion to an exhibition held at the Centre Culturel Suisse in Paris in 2001, a time when a number of Swiss architects were gaining international exposure. Nearly 15 years later, a few of the 16 architects collected in the book have gone onto even greater recognition. In particular these are Herzog & de Meuron, Peter Zumthor, and Valerio Olgiati. Yet many of the architects, while known by architects in other parts of the world, still practice primarily within the borders of their landlocked country. These include Brukhalter Sumi, Diener & Diener, Gigon/Guyer, Peter Märkli, Miller & Maranta, Livio Vacchini and others. The book addresses these two realms – the local and the global – and all these years later serves as a nice snapshot of some remarkable Swiss architecture. In addition to 16 buildings [not 18, as in the book description above] by the 16 architects are thematic essays, a few interviews, and some scholarly essays. One highlight is a section called 'the logic of plans' which finds some common strands between the architects by looking at floor plans of various buildings."Spreads:Author Bio:Jacques Lucan is a practicing architect, Professor of Architectural Theory at the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne and co-chair of the ITHA (Institut de Théorie et d'Histoire de l'Architecture). He also teaches as the Ecole d'Architecture de la Ville et des Territoires in Marne-la-Vallée, France, and is on the editorial board of matières - a review published by ITHA.Purchase Links:(Note: Books bought via these links send a few cents to this blog, keeping it afloat.)&nbs […]

  • Zumthor in Mexico
    by John Hill on August 16, 2019 at 12:00 PM

    Zumthor in Mexico: Swiss Architects in MexicoArquine, July 2019Paperback | 5-1/2 x 8 inches | 112 pages | 20 illustrations | Spanish/English | ISBN: 978-6079489311 | $20.00Publisher Description:In 2017, as part of the MEXTRÓPOLI Festival, Pritzker Prize–winning architect Peter Zumthor (born 1943) was invited to Mexico City to participate in a series of public discussions about architecture and the city. Zumthor in Mexico, the first publication in Arquine’s new Swiss Architects in Mexico series, collects the architect’s Mexico City conversations in a handsome volume, featuring edited transcriptions of Zumthor’s talks with journalist Nicolás Alvarado, artist Pedro Reyes and architects Tatiana Bilbao, Gloria Cabral and Rozana Montiel, among others.In these lively interviews, Zumthor explains his personal approach to architecture as it applies to a wide range of subjects, such as: where design ideas come from, how ideas move from conceptualization to materialization, the importance of the landscape and the natural environment to design and his sense of the responsibility of the architect in the present.dDAB Commentary:Just about any book with Peter Zumthor's name on the cover is a desirable title. Peter Zumthor Works and Thinking Architecture, both published in the late 1990s, were expensive, hard-to-find books whose values have respectively diminished slightly (Works goes for $450 and up) and dramatically (a first edition of Thinking can be had for just $40 since two subsequent editions have been published) over time. Numerous books on Zumthor's buildings and words have been released in the two decades since those early titles, each of them tending to focus on a particular building (e.g., Therme Vals and Serpentine Pavilion) or on the architect's own thoughts either directly (Atmospheres) or through interviews (A Feeling of History). Zumthor in Mexico falls into the last camp, coming out of a visit the Swiss architect made to Mexico City in 2017 during MEXTRÓPOLI, the annual festival of architecture and urbanism that started in 2014. The interviews in the book took place at a few venues, including the House of Switzerland designed by Dellkamp Arquitectos.Zumthor in Mexico is short, at just over 100 pages, but it's even shorter considering the bilingual nature of the book: the interviews in Spanish fit on 46 pages, with the English interviews that follow taking up the same number of pages. Given this, and the thrift of photographs (all duotones), I'd say the book is primarily for Zumthor super fans or people who were lucky enough to attend one of the talks during MEXTRÓPOLI 2017. The interviews exhibit Zumthor's honesty and ingrained approach to architecture, but they tend to be too brief, especially the conversations at House of Switzerland, which are summarized through just a handful of quotes. A standout among the four interviews is the longest, "The Source of the Ideas" (# 2 in the table of contents below), particularly the back-and-forths between Zumthor and his four on-stage companions. We learn as much about Zumthor's take on things (not just his buildings) as we do about the artists and academics he asks questions of. It reads like it must have been a great event in-person — here it's a strong argument for attending MEXTRÓPOLI and for seeing what will follow in the Swiss Architects in Mexico series.Spreads:Author Bio:N/APurchase Links:(Note: Books bought via these links send a few cents to this blog, keeping it afloat.)  &nbs […]

  • Fantastic Architecture
    by John Hill on August 15, 2019 at 12:00 PM

    Fantastic ArchitectureWolf Vostell, Dick HigginsPrimary Information, August 2015Hardcover | 5 x 8 inches | 200 pages | 120 illustrations | English | ISBN: 978-0990689607 | $28.00Publisher Description:Primary Information is reprinting the seminal book, Fantastic Architecture, making the book widely available for the first time since it was originally published: first in 1969 by Droste Verlag in German (with the title Pop Architektur) and later in 1970 by Something Else Press as Fantastic Architecture. Edited by Dick Higgins and Wolf Vostell, this artist’s book/anthology explores the boundaries between pop art and architecture through writings and projects by key artists and thinkers of the 1960s and earlier—from John Cage and Buckminster Fuller to Kurt Schwitters and Joseph Beuys. It will retain the book’s unique design, specifically its Mylar inserts, which add unique depth and elaborate the publication’s content.Contributors to this publication are Ay-O, Joseph Beuys, Erich Buchholz, Pol Bury, John Cage, Philip Corner, Jan Dibbets, Robert Filliou, Buckminster Fuller, Geoffrey Hendricks, Richard Hamilton, Raoul Hausmann, Michael Heizer, Jan Jacob Herman, Bici Hendricks, Dick Higgins, K.H. Hoedicke, Hans Hollein, Douglas Huebler, Milan Knizak, Alison Knowles, Addi Koepcke, Franz Mon, Claes Oldenburg, Dennis Oppenheim, Gerhard Rühm, Diter Rot, Carolee Schneemann, Kurt Schwitters, Daniel Spoerri, Frances Starr, Jean Tinguely, Ben Vautier, Wolf Vostell, Lawrence Weiner, Stefan Wewerka.dDAB Commentary:On a recent trip to Washington, DC, I went out of my way to visit Second Story Books, a used bookstore at Dupont Circle. Although I didn't buy anything on my visit, two books I thumbed through stuck in my head after the visit: The Life Work of the American Architect Frank Lloyd Wright, first published by Wendingen in 1925, and Fantastic Architecture, first published in English in 1970. The bookstore had first editions of both — $300 for the Wright book and $100 for Fantastic Architecture (both too much for me) — but it also had a later reprint of the Wright book, apparently a steal at $15. But in comparing the first edition and reprint of the Wright book, it was clear the latter did not embrace every aspect of the original: the buckram hardcover, the beautiful heavyweight paper, the occasional gatefold, and the binding that allowed each spread to lay flat. Needless to say I didn't see the point in buying the inferior reprint after touching the original one. How does this relate to Fantastic Architecture? After seeing the first edition published by Something Else Press at Second Story I learned it was recently reprinted, by Brooklyn's Primary Information. Given how the publisher boasts, "It will retain the book’s unique design, specifically its Mylar inserts," I took the plunge and bought a copy via their website. Compared to my memory of the first edition, the reprint is pretty spot-on, from the dust jacket and buckram cover to the image quality and vellum (not mylar) inserts.Fantastic Architecture consists of contributions by 36 artists, including Wolf Vostell and Dick Higgins, both Fluxus artists and the latter of whom founded Something Else Press in 1963. Among the artists are only a couple architects: Hans Hollein and Bucky Fuller. So the book is not so much "fantastic architecture" as it is a call by artists to make architecture more imaginative and open to different, then-contemporary ways of life. Or as Vostell writes on the vellum pages at the beginning of the book, what follows "are all utopias containing more truth and visualization of present-day thought than the repressive architecture of bureaucracy and luxury that imposes restrictions on people." Additional writing is inserted between the artists' visual and textual contributions (there seems to be a lot more of the latter than I'd expect from such a book) in the form of 14 "captions" by Vostell and Higgins. These captions, combined with now iconic projects, such as Claus Oldenburg's Wing-Nut Monument for Stockholm and Hans Hollein's Aircraft Carrier City (both are visible in the spreads below), make the book some sort of artistic manifesto. I'm not sure what impact the book had at the time, either in German- or English-speaking parts of the world, but Primary Information's decision to create a facsimile indicates it is an important book, at least in historical terms. Reading the captions all these decades later, it seems that architecture has dealt with some of the ideas and questions posed in Fantastic Architecture (caption 7, for instance, about events, makes me think of Bernard Tschumi's writings and buildings), but it has also shied away from the political aspects, such as "dealing ... with the problems of race [and] of nationality." Perhaps an artistic update around the book's theme is needed, not just a reprint.Spreads:Author Bio:Wolf Vostell (1932–1998) was a German painter and sculptor, considered one of the early adopters of video art and installation art and pioneer of Happenings and Fluxus. Dick Higgins (1938–1998) was an American composer, poet, printmaker, artist, and a co-founder of Fluxus.Purchase Links:(Note: Books bought via these links send a few cents to this blog, keeping it afloat.)  &nbs […]

  • Forms of Practice
    by John Hill on August 14, 2019 at 12:00 PM

    Forms of Practice: German-Swiss Architecture, 1980-2000Irina Davidovicigta Verlag, June 2019 (Second Edition)Paperback | 7 x 9-1/2 inches | 340 pages | 186 illustrations | English | ISBN: 978-3856763787 | $75.00Publisher Description:During the 1980s and 1990s, German-Swiss architecture gained worldwide acclaim on account of its structural and aesthetic coherence. Its precision, rigor and sobriety were, however, only outer manifestations of a deeper ethical orientation, reacting against formal arbitrariness and postmodern relativism. Swiss architects resorted to the discipline of concepts and formal reductionism in order to recover a sense of stability, normality, and cultural continuity. In Forms of Practice, Irina Davidovici provides an in-depth analysis of their work during the last decades of the twentieth century, discussing its cultural and theoretical conditions as facets of one artistic and cultural phenomenon. Richly detailed case studies and conceptual frameworks are brought up to reveal, behind the seductive appearance of Swiss architecture, the implicit conflicts between shared values and individual expression, artistic integrity and economic interest.dDAB Commentary:The stereotypical view of Switzerland — visible even in just a quick Google image search — is of a sparsely populated country with small villages of gabled chalets and the occasional church spire sitting in valleys between mountain ranges. This view is of a landlocked country with internal dispersal dictated by nature, but the 21st century reality of Switzerland is much different. Train and car tunnels through the Alps have made travel to and from towns in various regions quick and easy, and have turned the whole country into a massive piece of infrastructure. In turn, some Swiss academics and architects see their country as a large metropolitan region (or "urbanscape") rather than a bucolic landscape of quaint, old-fashioned villages waiting to be photographed.With its balance of historical landscapes and 21st century technology, it's not surprising that such a small country (population 8.4 million, a bit smaller than New York City) is so well regarded internationally in terms of architecture. Peter Zumthor and Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron have won Pritzker Prizes, earning them commissions well beyond Switzerland's borders. Many other Swiss architects practice both in their home country and elsewhere, yet even those that don't go beyond their own region or canton are very well respected by architects around the world. To put it another way, there is something about Swiss architecture that makes it, well, Swiss, but try as other architects might, it's damn near impossible to emulate or replicate the equally high levels of design, craft, and construction of Swiss buildings in other places.Irina Davidovici examines the Swissness of German-speaking Swiss architects (thereby omitting the French-speaking architects around Lausanne and the Italian architects in the Ticino) through case studies of eight building designed in the 1980s and 90s, when Swiss architecture made a name for itself internationally. Presented in chronological order, the projects range from Herzog & de Meuron's Stone House in Tavole, Italy, to Von Ballmoos Krucker's Stöckenacker Housing in Zurich, with buildings by Peter Zumthor, Gigon / Guyer, Valerio Olgiati and others in between. Davidovici bookends the case studies with "Backgrounds" chapters: on culture, theory, and practice; all of which give context to the case studies but also help explain how a variety of architects were able to produce diverse architecture that somehow managed to signal Swissness to the rest of the world. Other essays ("Towards a Swiss Model," "Notions of Resistance," etc.) at the back of the book add layers to Davidovici's analyses and arguments, while new ones for the second, revised edition (the first edition came out in 2012) reiterate the importance of the cities (Basel, Zurich) and schools (ETH Basel, ETH Zurich) in producing some of the world's most distinctive, recognizable, and appreciated architecture today. An important book for fans of Swiss architecture.Spreads (from first edition):Author Bio:Irina Davidovici is an architectural historian. After studying architecture in Bucharest and London, she earned her doctorate in the history and philosophy of architecture at the University of Cambridge. She is currently conducting research at the Institute for History and Theory of Architecture (gta) of ETH Zurich.Purchase Links:(Note: Books bought via these links send a few cents to this blog, keeping it afloat.)  &nbs […]

  • The Elements of Building
    by John Hill on August 13, 2019 at 12:00 PM

    The Elements of Building: A Business Handbook For Residential Builders & TradesmenMark Q. KersonFrom The Ground Up Publishing, January 2014Paperback | 5 x 8 inches | 360 pages | No illustrations | English | ISBN: 978-0991327706 | $37.00Publisher Description:The Elements of Building is about the business of residential construction, that is, how to build and run a construction company. It is a must have resource for new and seasoned tradesmen and builders. With 40 years of experience the author details the skill required to run a successful company. This invaluable handbook offers insightful guidance on hiring and working with employees and subcontractors; choosing and working with clients; estimating and bidding; managing money and marketing; and much more.dDAB Commentary:When this "business handbook for residential builders and tradesmen" arrived in the mail, I immediately flipped to the chapter that best applied to me: Designer, part of the Professional section. After all, how could I comment on a book that is geared to someone an architect like me would be working with rather than to myself in particular? So I figured the best way to judge the whole book was to see what it says about designers, what Mark Q. Kerson defines as "one who studies to become certified or licensed to develop the designs and create the documents used to construct a project." He does not use the word "architect" in the ten-page chapter on Designers, but he does acknowledge that "engineers sometimes develop residential construction construction documents." So the term "designer" is broad in The Elements of Building, but considering that many residential projects in the United States are done without the involvement of architects this generality is not surprising.So what else does Kerson say about designers? He admits, rightly I think, that "many builders and tradesmen act as if [design] is something to be gotten through quickly in order to get to the 'real work of construction'." Thankfully he promptly writes that "this is a mistake" and goes on to champion the benefits of good design. What follows are descriptions of the various "design-planning" approaches (e.g., prefab homes, stock building plans, high-end houses); of the ways builders interact with designers, with plenty of advice on bidding; and of a few "on the job" scenarios. The last, though barely a page long, is especially interesting to me, since I worked for an architect who made many design decisions in the field. She detailed the drawings sufficiently to obtain permits and get bids, but she worked with one builder so often that she could tweak details on site and arrive at a better design that resulted from the interactions between designer, builder, and the realities of the job site. Kerson's advice to builders about working with designers is aligned with this experience, in the sense that good working relationships will benefit everybody involved; builders that respect design and designers that respect trades are a basis of this. That Kerson starts The Elements of Building with a section on Rules, Ethics, and Opinions indicates that those good working relationships permeate every aspect of running a successful construction business.Spreads:N/APurchase Links:(Note: Books bought via these links send a few cents to this blog, keeping it afloat.)  &nbs […]

  • Summer Break
    by John Hill on July 22, 2019 at 1:00 PM

    I'm taking a few weeks off for summer break, resuming posts the week of August 12th. I hope everybody else is enjoying their summers — maybe with a good book. Need a recommendation? Browse this blog, of course, or check out my list of 100 must-know architecture books. […]

  • Education of an Architect
    by John Hill on July 21, 2019 at 2:00 PM

    Education of an Architect: The Cooper Union School of Art and Architecture, 1964-1971John Hejduk, et. al.The Monacelli Press, 1999Paperback | 9-3/4 x 9 inches | 364 pages | 340 illustrations | English | ISBN: 978-1580930406 | $50.00Publisher Description:On November 13, 1971, the exhibition Education of an Architect: A Point of View—featuring the work of Cooper Union students under the direction of the chairman of the Department of Architecture, John Hejduk, and the dean George Sadek—opened at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. The installation of models, drawings, and photographs along with faculty and student statements, documented work from 1964 to 1971.To accompany the exhibition, The Cooper Union published an extremely influential limited edition book—long since out of print—of 54 projects by some 60 students showing their in depth explorations of problems based on the visual discoveries of cubism and neo-plasticism as they related to architectural space and thought.This new volume is a smaller-format reprint that includes all material from the original book—exceptional color and black-and-white drawings and model photographs—and the original introduction by Ulrich Franzen, along with two new texts, a reintroduction by architectural historian and educator Alberto Pérez-Gómez, and an essay by Kim Shkapich, director of the Architecture Archive at The Cooper Union. The reprint charts the foundations of the pedagogical inventions and methodology that a spirited and independent faculty, under the aegis of John Hejduk, brought into what has been called "the best school of architecture in the world."dDAB Commentary:In my review of Diana Agrest's Architecture of Nature/Nature of Architecture I mentioned The Cooper Union's famous Education of an Architect books, one of which was released in 1971 and the second in 1988. I'm most familiar with the latter, which I devoured in my frequent visits to the architecture library during undergraduate architecture school; but the first book is more influential in the wider sense. Somewhere I read that the first Education of an Architect spurred other architecture schools to document the output of their students in print. There existed publications such as Yale's Perspecta that featured articles by professors and architects, but supposedly it was The Cooper Union that made the output of student's acceptable for bound volumes sold to the public. Now we are inundated with annual publications put out by architecture schools, many of them functioning as publicity, as a way to entice students to enroll there. The first Education of Architect, though, was actually an exhibition, held at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in late 1971.The limited-edition first edition from 1971 was long hard to find (there's one on Amazon going for $175) so The Monacelli Press reprinted it in 1999, adding some photos of the MoMA exhibition (first spread below), reviews of the exhibition (one from Ada Louise Huxtable at The New York Times), an essay by Alberto Perez-Gomez, and a new cover for the smaller page size. I'm assuming everything else is the same. This everything else consists of primarily black-on-white ink drawings, with some models, collages, and the occasional photograph. The book starts logically with introductory classes, including then-dean John Hejduk' famous "Nine-Square Problem," and ends with the thesis projects of fifth-year students. In between are page after page of what Huxtable described as "spectacularly beautiful work, elegant, formal, and totally detached from the world around it." This detachment is evident, for instance, in the closer: Peter Saitta's "Design for a Subway Entrance," which used two hollow subway cars projecting from the underground as canopies: more a critique of the (still) failing subways in NYC rather than a realistic proposal. The most famous student name in the book is Daniel Libeskind, who contributed a housing project and a series of collages (two bottom spreads), the latter of which foreshadow his famous drawings from the 1970s and 80s. His projects are just two of many, all highly varied but together indicative of a highly influential school at an important time.Spreads:Author Bio:N/APurchase Links:(Note: Books bought via these links send a few cents to this blog, keeping it afloat.)  &nbs […]

  • Architecture of Nature
    by John Hill on July 19, 2019 at 12:00 PM

    Architecture of Nature/Nature of ArchitectureDiana AgrestApplied Research and Design, January 2019Hardcover | 9 x 11-3/4 inches | 280 pages | English | ISBN: 978-1939621948 | $49.95Publisher Description:Architecture of Nature/Nature of Architecture presents original research work, exploring the materiality and the forces at play in the history of the earth. While nature has always been historically embedded “within” architecture discourse in different forms, Architecture of Nature/Nature of Architecture departs from the traditional ‘nature as a referent’ approach, detaching itself as a free radical to become itself the object of study, transforming that relationship through one common element essential to both science and architecture in the production of knowledge: representation. This work was developed through unique drawings and models over for the past eight years in the context of the Advanced Research graduate studio “Architecture of Nature/ Nature of Architecture,” created and directed by Diana Agrest at the Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture of the Cooper Union. Based on scientific material the complex processes of generation and the transformations of extreme natural phenomena such as glaciers, volcanoes, permafrost, clouds, coral reefs and algae are explored introducing a different dimension of space, time and scale, transcending the established disciplinary boundaries of architecture, urbanism or landscape.dDAB Commentary:Books documenting the work of students from the Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture at The Cooper Union in New York City are highly coveted. In particular I'm thinking of the two Education of an Architect titles, one from 1971 documenting the years 1964 to 1971, and one from twenty years later covering 1972 to 1985; both go for well over $100 online. Just four years ago came Open City: Existential Urbanity, an atlas-sized book with a decade and a half of the "Architecture of the City" studio led by the late Diane Lewis. While the two older books look at contributions across the school, Open City obviously limits itself to one professor, one of the most influential at The Cooper Union. The same can be said of Architecture of Nature/Nature of Architecture, which focuses on the graduate studio of the same name led by Diana Agrest, who has taught at the school for four decades. Yet while the students in Lewis's studio examined the city and proposed interventions within it, Agrest asked them to create architectural representations of purely natural features.The book starts with Agrest's recounting of numerous experiences that foregrounded nature in her thinking and led her, even with most of the work of Agrest + Gandelsonas sited in New York and other cities, to eventually devise the "Architecture of Nature/Nature of Architecture" studio. In it she has her students research and represent extreme natural phenomena, such as volcanoes, plate tectonics, hot springs, glaciers, and tsunamis. Interspersed between the 30-plus works are a handful of contributions from "intersecting fields": interviews with scientists and artists, an excerpt from John McPhee's Pulitzer Prize-winning Annals of the Former World, and Agrest's own "The Returned of the Repressed: Nature" from The Sex of Architecture. But it's the drawings and models of the natural phenomena that are, not surprisingly, the most appealing part of the book. Just about all of them have an undeniable beauty that arises from the subject (nature) but also the means of representation (architecture). Though it's not clear at first glance what each image explains exactly, they all come with captions that help us to decipher the images — and appreciate their beauty even more.Spreads:Author Bio:Diana Agrest is a full-time Professor at The Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture of The Cooper Union. She has taught at Princeton University, Columbia University and Yale, and has been candidate for deanship at The Cooper Union and Pratt Institute.Purchase Links:(Note: Books bought via these links send a few cents to this blog, keeping it afloat.)  &nbs […]

  • Living on Campus
    by John Hill on July 18, 2019 at 12:00 PM

    Living on Campus: An Architectural History of the American DormitoryCarla YanniUniversity of Minnesota Press, April 2019Paperback | 7 x 10 inches | 304 pages | 146 illustrations | English | ISBN: 978-1517904562 | $34.95Publisher Description:Every fall on move-in day, parents tearfully bid farewell to their beloved sons and daughters at college dormitories: it is an age-old ritual. The residence hall has come to mark the threshold between childhood and adulthood, housing young people during a transformational time in their lives. Whether a Gothic stone pile, a quaint Colonial box, or a concrete slab, the dormitory is decidedly unhomelike, yet it takes center stage in the dramatic arc of many American families. This richly illustrated book examines the architecture of dormitories in the United States from the eighteenth century to 1968, asking fundamental questions: Why have American educators believed for so long that housing students is essential to educating them? And how has architecture validated that idea? Living on Campus is the first architectural history of this critical building type. Grounded in extensive archival research, Carla Yanni’s study highlights the opinions of architects, professors, and deans, and also includes the voices of students. For centuries, academic leaders in the United States asserted that on-campus living enhanced the moral character of youth; that somewhat dubious claim nonetheless influenced the design and planning of these ubiquitous yet often overlooked campus buildings. Through nuanced architectural analysis and detailed social history, Yanni offers unexpected glimpses into the past: double-loaded corridors (which made surveillance easy but echoed with noise), staircase plans (which prevented roughhousing but offered no communal space), lavish lounges in women’s halls (intended to civilize male visitors), specially designed upholstered benches for courting couples, mixed-gender saunas for students in the radical 1960s, and lazy rivers for the twenty-first century’s stressed-out undergraduates. Against the backdrop of sweeping societal changes, communal living endured because it bolstered networking, if not studying. Housing policies often enabled discrimination according to class, race, and gender, despite the fact that deans envisioned the residence hall as a democratic alternative to the elitist fraternity. Yanni focuses on the dormitory as a place of exclusion as much as a site of fellowship, and considers the uncertain future of residence halls in the age of distance learning.dDAB Commentary:Like many people who went to college away from home, I lived in a dormitory. Well, technically I lived in two of them: My first year it was a nine-story all-boys dorm at a four-dorm complex, and the following year it was a relatively quaint co-ed dorm in a smaller complex nearby. The latter one looked old, with rough limestone walls and a gable roof, while the taller dorm was clearly modern, with a flat roof and windows set into horizontal bands between stone strips; they were built in 1951 and 1967, respectively, but looked decades more apart. Although the last three years of my five years of architecture school were spent living in houses off campus, it seemed to be a given that I would live in "the dorms" for at least one year; it was just what frosh did if they weren't, like me, going to pledge to a fraternity or sorority. So from that time on I basically figured everyone else who went away to college had the same experience of dorm life followed by off-campus living. That's not the case, obviously, but neither is the given of living in a dorm at all.On the first page of Carla Yanni's Living on Campus, the author clearly states how the book explains "why Americans have believed for so long that college students should reside in purpose-built structures that we now take for granted: dormitories." But, she continues, "This was never inevitable, nor was it even necessary." Like Yanni's earlier book on American insane asylums, The Architecture of Madness, she approaches dormitories from the perspective of social history. Asylums were designed to improve the lives of the patients who resided in them, while dorms were created to benefit students socially, not just intellectually. Inherent in both otherwise divergent building types is a high level of control that extends to the design and siting of the buildings. People buying Living on Campus with the intention of seeing the best and most beautiful dorms built in the United States will be disappointed, but those curious about the intentions behind dormitories and their evolution over a couple hundred years will find the diverse case studies fascinating.With my dormitory experience I gravitated to chapter four, "Dorms on the Rise." The chapter on "skyscraper residence halls" follows chapters on early all-male dorms, on later women's dorms at co-ed colleges, and on the rise of early 20th-century quadrangles modeled on Oxford and Cambridge; the fifth of the five chapters returns to (post-skyscraper) quads with the most architecturally striking dorm complex in the book: Eero Saarinen's Morse and Stiles Colleges at Yale University. Each chapter has a few case studies, and one of the three in "Dorms on the Rise" resembles my freshman dorm: River Dorms at Rutgers University, designed by Kelly and Gruzen and completed in 1956. The double-loaded corridors of the three-building complex looks like the basic parti for the dorm I lived in, not only for their floor plans (only mine was an "L" rather than a long bar), but for the intention of creating "one social group per floor." Reading those words brought back memories of the "floor meetings" that happened every so often and were designed, I'm guessing, to make us feel part of a smaller community in a large university and dormitory complex. These days that dorm of my youth is the same but different: same footprint, but now co-ed instead of all-male, with more diversity of room types, and new amenities to make the dorm an appealing choice when other choices vie for attention. Or as Yanni writes in the epilogue ("Architectural Inequality and the Future of Residence Halls") of her excellent book, "Once again, the justification for the dormitory is a social one: planned activities allow students to make new friends, and new friends will become part of future networks for business and the professions." In other words, the dorm is much more than just a home away from home.Spreads:Author Bio:Carla Yanni is professor of art history at Rutgers University. She is author of The Architecture of Madness: Insane Asylums in the United States (Minnesota, 2007) and Nature’s Museums: Victorian Science and the Architecture of Display. Purchase Links:(Note: Books bought via these links send a few cents to this blog, keeping it afloat.)  &nbs […]

No announcement available or all announcement expired.