A Daily Dose of Architecture

  • Ando and Le Corbusier
    by John Hill on November 28, 2022 at 1:00 PM

    Ando and Le Corbusier is a two-volume project that shows how the works of two pioneers of modern architecture – Le Corbusier and Tadao Ando – connect human experience to the basic givens of existence: interactions among human beings and personal encounters with nature, including wind and natural light, within a spare material framework shaped by once-new technologies such as reinforced concrete – expressed in two different and remarkable approaches to architecture.Ando and Le Corbusier, Volume 1: Tadao Ando provides a historical overview of Ando’s work for major art institutions in the United States after 2000. It includes a detailed account of his US buildings by Michael Conforti, Director Emeritus of the Clark Institute of Art, Williamstown, Massachusetts, an Ando project; “The Cult of Fudo in the Architecture of Tadao Ando,” a new essay by Kenneth Frampton on Ando’s critical regionalist response to climatic and cultural issues; and a comprehensive description of Ando’s “Art of Construction” at the new Wrightwood 659 Gallery in Chicago, by Daniel J. Whittaker, PhD. It also presents the more than 160 drawings and photographs of Ando’s work that were exhibited there in 2018.Edited by Michael Conforti | Alphawood Foundation | 2022 | Hardcover | 9-3/4 x 11-3/4 inches | 164 pages | 160+ illustrations | English | ISBN: 9780578767048 | $55.00Ando and Le Corbusier, Volume 2: Le Corbusier was organized to show the affinities of Le Corbusier’s work to that of Ando, who found the Paris-based, French-Swiss architect an inspiring figure as a young architect and boxer in Osaka in the 1960s. It includes nearly 300 photographs of material from the Fondation Le Corbusier and the Art Institute of Chicago included in the 2018 Wrightwood 659 exhibition, and offers new commissioned essays from eminent Le Corbusier scholars. It also has a new translation of Ando’s essay “Le Corbusier and His Houses,” with photos of more than 100 models of Le Corbusier houses made by Ando’s students in Tokyo, 2001, with Ando's commentary included in English for the first time. Edited by Eric Mumford | Alphawood Foundation | 2022 | Hardcover | 9-3/4 x 11-3/4 inches | 224 pages | 300+ illustrations | English | ISBN: 9780578921129 | $55.00(BOTH BOOKS CAN BE PURCHASED ON THE WRIGHTWOOD 659 WEBSITE.)REVIEW:Japanese architect Tadao Ando's first project in the United States was completed in 1992, the year after he received a monographic exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Not a building, that US project was just a room in a museum: Gallery 109 at the Art Institute of Chicago. Now familiarly known as the Ando Gallery, it features a grid of 16 freestanding columns in the center and illuminated cases at the perimeter for Japanese screens and other artworks. Having grown up in suburban Chicago and been in architecture school in Kansas at the time, I visited the room on trips back home, seeing it fairly regularly after moving back to Chicago in 1997. That year, Ando completed his second Chicago commission, a house on Wrightwood in Lincoln Park for Fred Eychaner and his then partner Ken Lee. Friends of mine lived a few blocks away on Wrightwood, so I would often walk by the solid front elevation and try to peer at the introverted house from the alley; I never got inside but appreciated the smooth concrete Ando was known for. I had no idea at the time, but Eychaner also owned the neighboring buildings as a means of controlling any negative impacts on the house. Eventually he turned the apartment building on the east into the Wrightwood 659 gallery, hiring Ando once again for the project. Wrightwood 659 opened in 2018 — 27 years after the MoMA exhibition and 21 after the house's completion — with the exhibition Ando and Le Corbusier: Masters of Architecture; the two-volume catalog for the exhibition was released earlier this year.The inaugural exhibition occupied all three gallery floors of Wrightwood 659, presenting hundreds of drawings and models on the architecture of Ando and Le Corbusier, and also featuring more than 100 models of Corbusier's houses built by students of Ando (below spread). The two-part exhibition had two curators: Eric Mumford did the Corbu component and Daniel J. Whittaker took care of the Ando component. For the catalogs, Mumford edited Volume 2: Le Corbsuier, while Michael Conforti, the former director of the Clark Art Institute, edited Volume 1: Tadao Ando, whose contributions include one by Whittaker on the construction of Wrightwood 659. I did not see the exhibition during its three months at Wrightwood 659 (I've yet to see the gallery in person, afraid to say), but given the lag between the exhibition and the two-volume catalog, the latter has the benefit of featuring installations shots (bottom spread), something usually missing from exhibition catalogs. Not having seen the exhibition, I'm not sure how the relationship between Ando and Corbusier was articulated spatially, if at all, though if the book is any indication, the influence of Corbusier on Ando is of utmost importance. As such, the first volume on Ando is more valuable and appealing, in my mind, than the second volume on Corbusier.Volume 1 consists of a catalog of works in the Ando section of the exhibition prefaced by three contributions: a lengthy overview of Ando's public projects in the US by Conforti, Whittaker's essay on the construction of Wrightwood 659, and an essay by Kenneth Frampton, who gave a keynote lecture at a 2018 symposium held in concert with the exhibition (that symposium provided the papers for the more scholarly second volume). Frampton's essay is a good overview of Ando's early work, while Whittaker's essay takes a deep dive into a project that looks like it is simply a new concrete frame inserted into an old brick building, but is "far from elementary." Conforti provides numerous insights into Wrightwood 659, the Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts in St. Louis, the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, and (obviously, since it was created on his watch) the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, Massachusetts. The presentation of works is solid, as is the selection of projects spanning decades, but people with monographs on Ando will only find a few unique items here, including the installation photos mentioned above as well as two gatefolds that allow for the display of lengthy presentations of Ando's sketches and drawings. Most valuable is Conforti's well-researched text.Volume 2, edited by Mumford, consists of works by Le Corbusier presented in three parts (Purism, After Purism, and Houses), followed by a section with essays by a bevy of contributors: Tim Benton, Maristella Casciato, Sheila Crane, Seng Kuan, Caroline Maniaque, Mary McLeod, and Michelangelo Sabatino. The most obvious place to find Corbusier's influence on Ando would be in the second section, After Purism, which documents the buildings in concrete that Ando would have seen on his early travels as a self-trained architect and read about in the Oeuvre Complete. But the standout is the third section, which presents a little over 100 of Corbusier's built and unbuilt houses in model form; the photographs of the models built by Ando's students are introduced by a text by Ando and accompanied by project descriptions from the Fondation Le Corbusier. A photograph of the models at Wrightwood 659 shows them sitting above a waist-high wall that was rectangular in plan yet allowed visitors inside to see the model "backs" as well as their "fronts," unlike the single views only afforded in the book. The essays that comprise nearly half the book see the authors finding niches to add scholarship on the 20th-century architect studied more than any other, with Sabatino looking at Corbusier's visit to Chicago in the 1935, for instance, and McLeod focusing on the architect's later visit to Columbia University in 1961.Physically the two books are beautiful objects, starting with the thick chipboard covers that are strongly aligned with the concrete surfaces of Ando's architecture (they stop short of using the dimples of the dark-gray cover for Seven Interviews with Tadao Ando). The colored cardstock used for the endpapers and dividers between section works well, as does the paper selection, the photographic reproductions, and the choice of fonts (Studio Blue is credited for design and production). Coming from Eychaner's Alphawood Foundation, I'm not surprised by the high quality; their two books on Louis Sullivan — one of which accompanied an exhibition, Reconstructing the Garrick: Adler & Sullivan’s Lost Masterpiece, at Wrightwood 659 — are amazing, justifiably award-winning books. The pair of books on Ando and Le Corbusier make me look forward to what Alphawood exhibits and publishes in the realm of architecture in the future — and to finally seeing (one of these days!) Wrightwood 659 in person.FOR FURTHER READING:Shadow and Light: Tadao Ando at the Clark by Richard Pare (Clark Art Institute, 2014)Tadao Ando Modern Art Museum of Ft. Worth by Philip Jodidio (Rizzoli, 2008)Tadao Ando 2: Outside Japan (Toto, 2008)Casa BRUTUS No. 30: The Grand Tour with ANDO (Casa BRUTUS, September 2002)Seven Interviews with Tadao Ando by Michael Auping (Third Millenium Pub, 2002)Abstractions in Space: Tadao Ando, Ellsworth Kelly, Richard Serra by William J.R. Curtis (Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts, 2001)Tadao Ando: The Museum of Modern Art (PDF link)by Stuart Wrede and Kenneth Frampton (Abrams, 1991)Le Corbusier: Architect of the Twentieth Century by Kenneth Frampton (Abrams, 2002)The Villas of Le Corbusier and Pierre Jeanneret 1920-1930 by Tim Benton (Birkhäuser, 2007; revised edition)Le Corbusier: An Atlas of Modern Landscapes edited by Jean-Louis Cohen (Museum of Modern Art, 2013)

  • The Minimal Intervention
    by John Hill on November 21, 2022 at 1:00 PM

    The Material Imaginationby Lucius Burckhardt, edited by Markus Ritter and Martin SchmitzBirkhäuser, October 2022Paperback | 5 x 7-1/4 inches | 166 pages | 13 illustrations | English (translated from German by Jill Denton) | ISBN: 9783035625301 | $26.99PUBLISHER'S DESCRIPTION:Lucius Burckhardt (1925–2003) outlined his theory of the “smallest possible intervention” back in the early 1980s. The idea of minimal intervention runs through his entire oeuvre, from his critique of urbanism to the science of walking. The “smallest possible intervention” denotes a planning theory that assumes two “views” within landscape design: that which is actually visible and that in our mind’s eye. The theory of the minimal intervention means not interfering excessively with the existing landscape, but instead working with the landscape in our minds to develop an aesthetic understanding of the environment. In this book, available for the first time in English, the Swiss sociologist applies this formula to many areas of design.REFERRAL LINKS:   REVIEW:Although I can't recall when I learned about Swiss sociologist Lucius Burckhardt, I can pinpoint the first time I read some of some of his texts to the anthology Relational Theories of Urban Form, released last year and reviewed by me last summer. The excerpted texts by Burckhardt in that book focus on "the science of walking," or what he coined "strollology" — a great term that this walker and architectural tour guide has a hard time resisting. Simply put, "strollology examines the sequences in which a person perceives their surroundings," predicated on the fact that every destination is reached by a route, sometimes on foot; we don't just end up in a place via parachute or, in contemporary terms, via Google Street View. That so-called science informed the late sociologist's view of landscapes, buildings, and urban planning, with a strong preference for visual legibility and doing more with less, evident in such assertions as "design is invisible" and "the minimal intervention," the latter being the English translation of a text written by Burckhardt in Italian around 1980, L'Intervento Minimo (it was translated into German in full in 2013 before it was translated into English).The cover, a photograph from the slide archive of Annemarie and Lucius Burckhardt at the University Library Basel (ditto Joseph Beuys, below), hints at the idea of minimal intervention: landscape architect Bernard Lassus would experiment on the altering of perception by placing a strip of white paper within the bloom of a tulip. "Pink-tinted Air" was his expression for the coloring of the paper, which roughly echoes quotes like Louis Kahn's "the sun never knew how great it was until it hit the side of a building" and such buildings as those designed by Luis Barragan, where light reflects off of painted walls to greatly affect spaces. In The Minimal Intervention, Burckhardt sets his sights on planners and the construction industry rather than architects. Burckhardt clearly was not a believer in the merits of highway ring roads, clearing neighborhoods in the name of urban renewal, and the need for elected officials to focus on creating new large-scale building projects rather than the improving the existing building stock. I found myself nodding along with many assertions in Burckhardt's brisk and readable text, which starts in the realm of planning but touches on many aspects of the designed environment — from the design of kitchen appliances to landscape gardening and townscape preservation — across its 150 pages.Joseph Beuys, "7000 Oak Trees," Kassel, 1982–87Near the end of the book, Burckhardt states that "the social mechanisms in decision-making tend to culminate in buildings, [even] in cases where softer strategies would be more effective." Rather than always opting for building, the sociologist argued for a theory where "every issue should be mitigated strategically, by means of intervening in it as little as possible, for this alone serves to minimize the unexpected and harmful consequences." This austere take on planning and design brings to mind the most famous sympathetic instance in recent decades: Anne Lacaton and Jean-Philippe Vassal's project for Place Léon Aucoc in Bordeaux in 1996. The duo found that "the square is already beautiful," so they "proposed doing nothing apart from some simple and rapid maintenance works [...] of a kind to improve use of the square and to satisfy the locals." Referred to often in articles on their Pritzker Architecture Prize in 2021, the landscape was an early expression of an idea that would extend to their more famous and eye-catching transformations of unloved social housing blocks in French cities; I wouldn't be surprised if Burckhardt played a part in Lacaton and Vassal theorizing their minimal approach.Burckhardt uses a number of arguments for an approach to planning that is minimal, but none is more apropos now than the environmental benefits of reusing and transforming rather than demolishing and building anew. Just as every project site for a landscape is already a landscape of some sort, most building parcels already have buildings on them. In places like New York, where zoning is more important than planning, arguments for building bigger and taller contend that existing buildings are too small for their sites because they do not max out the allowable floor area ratio, or FAR. A zoning-focused mindset like this strives for ways to achieve and even exceed a site's FAR through various measures, very few of which consist of retaining old buildings for anything other than their foundations or as bases of taller towers. A minimal-intervention approach à la Burckhardt would set aside profit- or government-driven building projects in favor of renovations that takes advantage of embodied energy and carbon in existing buildings and the reduction of carbon- and energy-intensive construction. If "minimiz[ing] unexpected and harmful consequences" is the goal, reuse should always take priority over new construction.FOR FURTHER READING:Lucius Burckhardt Writings. Rethinking Man-made Environments: Politics, Landscape & Design edited by Jesko Fezer and Martin Schmitz (Springer, 2012)Why is Landscape Beautiful? by Lucius Burckhardt, edited by Markus Ritter and Martin Schmitz (Birkhäuser, 2015)Design Is Invisible by Lucius Burkhardt, edited by Silvan Blumenthal and Martin Schmitz (Birkhäuser, 2017)Who Plans the Planning?: Architecture, Politics, and Mankind by Lucius Burckhardt, edited by Jesko Fezer and Martin Schmitz (Birkhäuser, 2019)"The Science of Walking" by Lucius Burckhardt, in Relational Theories of Urban Form: An Anthology edited by Daniel Kiss and Simon Kretz (Birkhäuser, 2021)

  • G. E. Kidder Smith Builds
    by John Hill on November 14, 2022 at 1:00 PM

    G. E. Kidder Smith Builds: The Travel of Architectural Photographyby Angelo Maggi, foreword by Michelangelo SabatinoAR+D Publishing, August 2022Hardcover | 8 x 11 inches | 272 pages | English | ISBN: 9781954081536 | $60.00PUBLISHER'S DESCRIPTION:George Everard Kidder Smith (1913–1997) was a multidimensional figure within the wide-ranging field of North American architectural professionals in the second half of the twentieth century. Although he trained as an architect, he chose not to practice within the conventional strictures of an architecture office. Instead, Kidder Smith “designed,” researched, wrote, and photographed a remarkably diverse collection of books about architecture and the built environment. His work and life were deeply interwoven and punctuated by travel related to the research, writing, and promotion of books that sought to reveal the genius loci of the countries whose built environments he admired and wished to share with a broader audience. From the early 1940s to the late 1950s his interest in architecture led him to describe visually the architectural and historical identity of many European countries. After his far-flung travels over the decades, with his wife Dorothea, Kidder Smith focused on his own country and produced a series of ambitious books focused on the United States. Kidder Smith’s vision and narrative betray the gaze of the traveler, the scholar, and the architect.Angelo Maggi is Associate Professor of Architectural History and History of Architectural Photography at Università Iuav di Venezia. Maggi trained as an architect at the Università Iuav di Venezia, and he obtained his PhD in Architecture and Visual Studies at Edinburgh College of Art.REFERRAL LINKS:   REVIEW:Between 1950 and 1996, George Everard Kidder Smith — better known as G. E. Kidder Smith and hereafter referred to as GEKS in this review — put out a dozen books on architecture (see list at bottom), almost evenly split between Europe and the United States. Not only did GEKS write and research the books, he photographed all of the buildings that he and his wife Dorothy ("Dot") visited in their lengthy travels, the work enabled by grants from museums and other institutions. A registered architect and eventually a fellow of the American Institute of Architects, GEKS was an atypical architect who devoted his life to writing about architecture, taking photographs of buildings, and curating exhibitions; he even starred in a PBS documentary about American architecture. His published output was extraordinary considering that he and his wife basically did all of the work on the books — did I mention that he also laid out many of the books? — devoting years to research, document, and produce each one of them. As such, I'm surprised that a book devoted to his five-decade career did not happen until now, 25 years after his death in October 1997.Although he was born in Alabama and lived in New York City, and many of his photographs have been archived at MIT, G. E. Kidder Smith Builds was written by Angelo Maggi, a professor at Università Iuav di Venezia, which is now home to the Archivio G. E. Kidder Smith. Maggi is responsible for the GEKS archive ending up in Venice, a setting that seems unlikely at first blush. In a MAS Context interview about the book, Maggi explained: "The archive was kept in his home in New York very close to the Guggenheim Museum. It was perfectly organized with all his books and many drawers containing files, photographs, and negatives." Then in December 2015, "the Smith family [...] took the decision to donate the archive to my university where I was (and I still am) a faculty member." Maggi's time with the archive resulted in G. E. Kidder Smith Builds, which is structured according to his published output (see spread below) and ends with a surprising revelation: Kidder Smith's great-uncle, Francis Hopkinson Smith, wrote and illustrated the book Venice of Today, published in 1895; in hindsight, it is something of a precursor to GEKS's output and also makes Venice a fitting location for the GEKS archive.GEKS was no stranger to Venice either, having spent years in Italy (off and on) working on what would be published in 1955 as Italy Builds: Its Modern Architecture and Native Inheritance. It was the third "Builds" book he researched, wrote, photographed, and laid out, coming a decade after his first foray into architectural publishing: the 1943 book Brazil Builds: Architecture New and Old 1652-1942. Written by Philip L. Goodwin and published by MoMA as a companion to an exhibition of the same name, Brazil Builds saw GEKS accompany Goodwin to Brazil to photograph old and new buildings for the exhibition and book. Curiously, an article in Town & Country magazine covering the exhibition noted that most of the photographs were taken by "a great nephew of the late Francis Hopkinson Smith, author, artist, engineer, contractor, and lecturer." GEKS was not quite as multifaceted in 1943, but by the time of his death five decades later he would add author, curator, graphic designer, lecturer, and TV personality to his architect and photographer credentials, and eclipse Hopkinson Smith in recognition.The title of Maggi's book clearly refers to Brazil Builds, Italy Builds, and the other "Builds" books: Switzerland Builds: Its Modern Architecture and Native Prototypes and Sweden Builds: Its Modern Architecture and Land Policy Background, Development and Contribution. These nation-focused books, which busied GEKS from the early 1940s through to the late 1950s, were followed by two books on European architecture in the first half of the 1960s and cumulatively encompassed the first phase of his career. The "Builds" books gave cohesive treatment to each country's architecture by putting contemporary buildings into historical, geographical, and other contexts through thorough research and documentation. Each one would delve into a country's past before presenting its present, educating readers in the process and being more than just surveys of new architecture. To Maggi, the books are examples of how GEKS could "build" without actually practicing as an architect; they were "books as buildings," with GEKS controlling just about every aspect of their creation.Following a foreword by Michelangelo Sabatino and an introduction by Maggi, G. E. Kidder Smith Builds presents the dozen books by GEKS, alongside Brazil Builds, a 1946 article in The Architectural Forum called "The Navy Builds" (GEKS was in the US Naval Reserve from 1942 to 1946), and an unpublished "dummy book" called The Magnificence of Italy (more justification for the archive in Venice). Readers see clearly the shift GEKS undertook in the second, more lasting phase of his career, which saw he and Dot travel extensively across the United States to produce a half-dozen volumes with thousands of buildings covering 800 years of American architecture. Maggi's book also devotes a section to the exhibitions GEKS curated, many of them offshoots of his books. Surprising in that chapter are a transcript of the 1978 PBS documentary, An Architectural Odyssey with G. E. Kidder Smith, and details on an unrealized exhibition and book initially titled (ca. 1967) The Architecture of India. If GEKS was successful with that project, he may not have shifted his energies to the US; he tried one more time, in 1990, but was unsuccessful once again.A good deal of the information on the varied output of GEKS comes from the archives, as illustrated here and there in the book and expressed clearly in footnotes in the margins. Yet the structure of G. E. Kidder Smith Builds, which traces his career first through books and then with exhibitions, means the book is more bibliographical than biographical, even though it illuminates many aspects of his life not widely known. A biography on GEKS is yet to be written, but G. E. Kidder Smith Builds is a strong argument that one is needed.FOR FURTHER READING (All by G. E. Kidder Smith, unless noted otherwise):Brazil Builds: Architecture New and Old 1652-1942 by Philip L. Goodwin, photographs by GEKS (MoMA, 1943)Switzerland Builds: Its Modern Architecture and Native Prototypes (Albert Bonnier/The Architectural Press, 1950)Sweden Builds: Its Modern Architecture and Land Policy Background, Development and Contribution (Albert Bonnier/The Architectural Press, 1950; revised in 1957)Italy Builds: Its Modern Architecture and Native Inheritance (Reinhold, 1955)The New Architecture of Europe: An Illustrated Guidebook and Appraisal (World Publishing Company, 1961)The New Churches of Europe (Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1964)A Pictorial History of Architecture in America, 2 volumes w/slipcase (American Heritage Publishing, 1976; reprinted in single volume in 1982)The Architecture of the United States, 3 volumes (New England and the Mid-Atlantic States, The South and Midwest, The Plains States and Far West) (Anchor Press, 1981)The Beacon Guide to New England Houses of Worship: An Architectural Companion (Beacon Press, 1989)Looking at Architecture (Harry N. Abrams, 1990)Source Book of American Architecture: 500 Notable Buildings from the 10th Century to the Present (Princeton Architectural Press, 1996)

  • Book Briefs #47: Three Altrim Titles
    by John Hill on November 7, 2022 at 1:00 PM

    Here is the next installment of "Book Briefs," the series of occasional posts featuring short first-hand descriptions of some of the numerous books that publishers send to me for consideration on this blog. Obviously, these briefs are not full-blown reviews, but they are a way to share more books worthy of attention than those that end up as long reviews. This installment features three books put out by Altrim Publishers: one case study and two travel guides.Hāthigaon: A Settlement of Elephants and Mahouts by Sanjeev Vidyarthi, Megha Bhatnagar, Gaurav Bhatnagar and Rajan Bhatt | Altrim Publishers | 2022 | 10 x 10 inches | 124 pages | €32 | AmazonA couple of years ago I learned about RMA Architects' Hāthigaon Housing in Working in Mumbai, the 2020 monograph on Rahul Mehrotra's firm. In that book the housing project for elephants and their caretakers (mahouts) near Jaipur, India, is documented across fourteen pages. While that length is sufficient for conveying the important aspects of RMA's design and presenting it in charts, drawings, and photographs, the unique nature of the project — how many other architects, except perhaps Boonserm Premthada, can boast they designed housing ... for elephants?! — a book-length case study on Hāthigaon is understandable. Written by Sanjeev Vidyarthi, Megha Bhatnagar, and Gaurav Bhatnagar, with photographs by Rajan Bhatt, and featuring an interview with Mehrotra and an epilogue by him, the book is as thorough as any other case study.The book has four chapters that are aligned with the main themes of the project: "Comprehending the Regional Landscape," about the provision of water in the dry landscape, especially important for the welfare of the elephants and their relationships with their mahouts; "Conceptual Approach and Design Development," a lengthy chapter by Ela Singhal of RMA/Architecture Foundation that goes into detail on every aspect of the design, both built and unrealized components; "Reading Beyond the Craft," on the interdisciplinary nature of the project, done in a series of interviews with key players; and "Learning from Hāthigaon," where Bhatt's photographs, like the cover, capture the placed as it's lived in. While the rarity of such a project makes this book-length case study less applicable as a direct reference for other architects, in India or elsewhere, its thorough documentation of the design process and articulation of the way building and landscape are integrated should make it of interest to architects working on all sorts of projects.AMD-Ahmedabad: Architectural Travel Guide of Ahmedabad by Riyaz Tayyibji | Altrim Publishers | 2017 | 5 x 7-1/4 inches | 232 pages | €27 | AmazonMany of the books put out by Altrim, the Barcelona-based publisher started by architect and writer Ariadna Alvarez Garreta, are travel guides to cities in India and other parts of South Asia. Two recent guides are featured here. First is a guide to Ahmedabad written by architect Riyaz Tayyibji, resident of Ahmedabad and partner at Anthill Design, and edited by Garreta. Ideally, this review would involve me using the book in Ahmedabad, but circumstances dictate an armchair-architourist's take with the book. In either case, getting one's bearing is a good start, aided by numerous maps throughout, but starting with a general map on the inside of the front cover and another with the five itineraries on the inside of the back cover. The itineraries move from the Old City, where two tours are found, and move westward toward more modern and contemporary buildings, including the four Corbusier works in the city. Standouts in the early itineraries include small insertions squeezed into the dense city's urban fabric, including the numerous historic stepwells, or Vav (narrow ones, unlike the more famous and photogenic examples); the many Jain temples, or Durasar, and other religious structures that are tiny but beautiful; and the book market tucked underneath Fernandes Bridge. (These italicized terms indicate a glossary would be a welcome addition in future updates.) As noted, modern and contemporary buildings are in abundance in the three other itineraries, with a lot by B. V. Doshi and numerous ones by Louis Kahn, RMA Architects, Matharoo Associates, and HCP Design Planning & Management, among others. Not all buildings are open to the public, so the guide — complete with practical advice for travelers and suggestions for excursions outside of the city — functions as a survey of the great architecture in Ahmedabad as much as it does a guidebook for exploring the same.AVPNY-Auroville & Pondicherry: Architectural Travel Guide of Auroville & Pondicherry by Anupama Kundoo and Yashoda Joshi | Altrim Publishers | 2019 | 5 x 7-1/4 inches | 156 pages | €27 | AmazonThe second guide looks at two cities in southeastern India: Auroville, a planned city laid out in 1968 by French architect Roger Anger and named for sage and philosopher Sri Aurobindo; and the nearby Pondicherry, the coastal city now known as Puducherry and sometimes referred to as "The French Riviera of the East" due to it being under French rule until 1954. While it's not clear how the writing duties were split between the two authors, it makes sense that architect Anupama Kundoo is involved, given that she has designed a few buildings in and around Auroville and is also the author of the forthcoming Auroville. The City the Earth Needs: Roger Anger’s Visions for Urbanism. The section on Auroville, which takes up the majority of the book, consists of five itineraries, four within the city proper and the last just outside of it. Anger laid out Auroville, a model city for 50,000 inhabitants, as a spiral with the circular Peace Zone in its center. Although little has been carried out from the original plan (yet), the central Matrimandir, designed by Anger, exists, anchoring the city and ensuring The Mother's idea of divine harmony find expression. Most interesting to this reviewer is the fifth itinerary, where most of Anger's and Kundoo's buildings are found, the former consisting of four sculpturally striking schools (one is on the book's cover).Linking Auroville and Pondicherry, besides geographical proximity, is Mirra Alfassa, better known as The Mother, the spiritual partner of yoga practitioner Sri Aurobindo Ghosh, and Golconde, the building Antonin Raymond designed for The Mother in Pondicherry. Considered the first work of modern architecture in India, the 1945 building is the first of the roughly three-dozen buildings in the three Pondicherry itineraries. Most of the buildings are considerably different — historic buildings in the French Quarter, for instance, and ornate temples in the Tamil Quarter. Unlike the Auroville itineraries, the buildings in the Pondicherry itineraries are free of descriptions, with just photographs and the occasional drawings provided. In this sense, the guide seems to be saying that, while Auroville is the main draw for architects in this region of India, Pondicherry should be part of any visitor's itinerary.

  • The Architecture of Suspense
    by John Hill on October 31, 2022 at 12:00 PM

    The Architecture of Suspense: The Built World in the Films of Alfred Hitchcockby Christine Madrid FrenchUniversity of Virginia Press, September 2022Paperback (also available in hardcover and ebook) | 6-3/4 x 7-3/4 inches | 274 pages | 66 illustrations | English | ISBN: 9780813947679 | $29.50PUBLISHER'S DESCRIPTION:The inimitable, haunting films of Alfred Hitchcock took place in settings, both exterior and interior, that deeply impacted our experiences of his most unforgettable works. From the enclosed spaces of Rope and Rear Window to the wide-open expanses of North by Northwest, the physical worlds inhabited by desperate characters are a crucial element in our perception of the Hitchcockian universe. As Christine Madrid French reveals in this original and indispensable book, Hitchcock’s relation to the built world was informed by an intense engagement with location and architectural form—in an era marked by modernism’s advance—fueled by some of the most creative midcentury designers in film.Hitchcock saw elements of the built world not just as scenic devices but as interactive areas to frame narrative exchanges. In his films, building forms also serve a sentient purpose—to capture and convey feelings, sensations, and moments that generate an emotive response from the viewer. Visualizing the contemporary built landscape allowed the director to illuminate Americans’ everyday experiences as well as their own uncertain relationship with their environment and with each other.French shares several untold stories, such as the real-life suicide outside the Hotel Empire in Vertigo (which foreshadowed uncannily that film’s tragic finale), and takes us to the actual buildings that served as the inspiration for Psycho’s infamous Bates Motel. Her analysis of North by Northwest uncovers the Frank Lloyd Wright underpinnings for Robert Boyle’s design of the modernist house from the film’s celebrated Mount Rushmore sequence and ingeniously establishes the Vandamm House as the prototype of the cinematic trope of the villain’s lair. She also shows how the widespread unemployment of the 1930s resulted in a surge of gifted architects transplanting their careers into the film industry. These practitioners created sets that drew from contemporary design schools of thought and referenced real structures, both modern and historic. The Architecture of Suspense is the first book to document how these great architectural minds found expression in Hitchcock’s films and how the director used their talents and his own unique vision to create an enduring and evocative cinematic world.Christine Madrid French, a native of Los Angeles, is a historian, author, and screenwriter specializing in architecture, Hollywood, and film.REFERRAL LINKS:   REVIEW:Like a lot of architects, my favorite Hitchcock film is Rear Window. While it lacks capital-A architecture, unlike other Hitchcock films and films by other directors that also appeal to architects, it is one of the few movies where the setting is as much a star as the actors; the spaces the characters inhabit are integral to the story, accentuated by the fact the setting doesn't change (outside of the changing sun and other environmental effects) from beginning to end. As such, the film has gained a good deal of attention from architects and architecture critics, with Jeffrey Kipnis and Juhani Pallasmaa analyzing it in essays, for example, and Steven Jacobs devoting a chapter to it in his book-length study of the architecture in Hitchcock films. In my review of that book I wrote: "It's as if architectural spaces are a member of the cast, and therefore Hitchcock's sets are worthy of their own 'monograph,' in this case focused on the domestic realm." But what about the non-residential architecture in Hitchcock's movies? Historian Christine Madrid French takes a broader look at the built word in the films of Alfred Hitchcock, discussing numerous films in three thematic chapters based on their settings: modernist houses, skyscrapers and apartments, mansions and motels. Prefacing those chapters is one that gives background on Hitchcock's experience in the United States, after making films in Great Britain in the 1920s and 30s, while a fifth chapter provides a fascinating look at the role of architects in Hollywood films in the middle of the 20th century. All told, The Architecture of Suspense is not a lengthy book, and for me it was a quick read, given my predilection for the overlapping subjects of architecture and film, but it is not a book short on facts, stories and insight.Of the three thematic chapters mentioned above, the one devoted to modernist houses, "Villain's Lair," was given the most attention in the build-up to the book's release last month. The book treads on territory already explored in Benjamin Critton's 12-year-old zine, Evil People in Modernist Homes in Popular Films, and architect Chad Oppenheim's Lair, focusing mainly on the Vandamm House in North By Northwest from 1959, but also looking at earlier precedents, such as Edgar G. Ulmer's 1934 film The Black Cat. I was not familiar with Ulmer's film, which stars Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff, but it appears to be the first movie to give its villain a modernist house (one perched on a hilltop above a cemetery, nevertheless) rather than a creaky old Victorian house or some other historical style. To French, it took 25 years for modernism to reenter the picture, starring in North By Northwest and then subsequently becoming a staple in films, from James Bond to Lethal Weapon."American Roadside," the chapter devoted to mansions and motels, provides a remarkable in-depth case study of Psycho, with the famous Bates Motel in the shadow of the Victorian mansion, but I really enjoyed the third chapter, "Urban Honeycombs," where Rear Window is found. It is not alone, though, given how Hitchcock set many of his American films — especially those after World War II — in cities. The others include Rope, set entirely in a New York City penthouse; Vertigo, with its numerous locations in and around San Francisco; North By Northwest, which starts in New York and heads to Chicago before climaxing at Mount Rushmore in South Dakota; and Psycho, with its often forgotten opening scenes in a Phoenix hotel. Although Rope, Rear Window, and Vertigo aren't studied in as much depth as North By Northwest and Psycho are in the other chapters, it is important to see how Hitchcock used cities generally and modern skyscrapers specifically as settings in films in the 1950s and 60s, especially given that the book is part of the publisher's Midcentury: Architecture, Landscape, Urbanism, and Design series (see also Environmental Design by Avigail Sachs).Most illuminating, and also unexpected, is the book's fifth chapter, "Architects and the Art of Film," which delves into the role architects played in the production design of films in the middle of last century, both in Hitchcock's films but also a few by other directors. Most of the content in this chapter is new to me, from the names of architects involved in Hollywood films (e.g., Hal Pereira, brother of William) to the structure of art departments in Hollywood studios and the contribution of Robert Boyle, architect and production designer on Hitchcock's films. Going into the book, I thought I would learn a little bit (more) about the Vandamm House in North By Northwest, the fictional Greenwich Village in Rear Window, and other spaces in other films, but French's book provides much more: it reveals how Hitchcock and his designers devised the settings that made his films so memorable.FOR FURTHER READING:Hitchcock / Truffaut (Simon & Schuster, 1985; first published in 1967)Hitchcock At Work by Bill Krohn (Phaidon, 2000)The Wrong House: The Architecture of Alfred Hitchcock by Steven Jacobs (nai010 Publishers, 2013)Evil People in Modernist Homes in Popular Films by Benjamin Critton (Self-published, 2010)Lair: Radical Homes and Hideouts of Movie Villains edited by Chad Oppenheim and Andrea Gollin (Tra Publishing, 2019)Architecture and Film edited by Mark Lamster (Princeton Architectural Press, 2000)The Architecture of Image: Existential Space in Cinema by Juhani Pallasmaa (Rakennustieto Publishing, 2008)

  • American Modern Home
    by John Hill on October 24, 2022 at 12:00 PM

    American Modern Home: Jacobsen Architecture + Interiorsby Simon JacobsenRizzoli, October 2022Hardcover | 11 x 11 inches | 224 pages | English | ISBN: 9780847872053 | $75PUBLISHER'S DESCRIPTION:Hugh Newell Jacobsen, the legendary architect and late co-founder with his son, Simon, of Jacobsen Architecture, once said “the best house is polite to her neighbors and never shouts.” This statement is a key to the philosophy of the firm, whose houses are suffused with a kind of quiet sophistication that mingle elegant, subtle modernism, with respect for local vernacular traditions. Low-key on the outside, on the inside these houses offer dancing symphonies in white. Unmarked by moldings, walls and ceilings express simple volumetric forms composed of solid planes and voids, while, upon floors of burnished wood or travertine, furniture, much of it designed by the firm, allows for serene repose and practical, unfussy use. Featured here are exemplars of the firm, from Harbor Hill — a cluster of 12 small structures, appearing at first as a group of smallish shingled Nantucket cottages, that reveals itself as a single serene residence overlooking Nantucket Harbor — to Windsor, a Florida Colonial abstraction in Vero Beach. Featuring inviting interiors, exteriors, and gardens, the book is an expression of eloquent design.Simon Jacobsen is a founding partner of Jacobsen Architecture. The recipient of many prestigious awards in architecture and design, he is an inductee of Architectural Digest’s AD100.REFERRAL LINKS:   REVIEW:In March 2021, when Hugh Newell Jacobsen died just a week shy of his 92nd birthday, I picked up a copy of the first eponymous monograph on the DC architect, edited and designed by Massimo Vignelli and published in 1988, to help me write an obituary for World-Architects. I was familiar with the architecture of Jacobsen, but given that my architectural education happened when postmodern architecture was vehemently decried, I unknowingly and incorrectly lumped Jacobsen in with architects I disliked because he used historical forms in his houses, mainly gables. (Even his final resting place is a gabled volume — a mirrored one at that!) But Vignelli, in his foreword to the monograph that offered me a corrective of sorts, captures the appeal of Jacobsen's architecture as well as the confusion over categorizing it: "Even if his projects span from International Style to American vernacular or neo-Gothic to Greek Revivalism, Jacobsen should not be considered an eclectic since his projects are unmistakably Jacobsen in essence and form." "Unmistakably Jacobsen" is a perfect description, since it captures Jacobsen's unwillingness to be defined by terms like modern or postmodern, contemporary or historical; and it conveys how one recognizes a Jacobsen house at even the briefest glance. These traits continue with the firm Hugh established with his son, Simon, in 2009, and which finds expression in a new monograph published by Rizzoli.Hugh Newell Jacobsen did not only design houses, but they are what he is known for. The Jacobsen Architecture website actually boasts that twenty houses have been featured in Architectural Record's annual Record Houses issue, a number probably higher than other architects. American Modern Home carries on the "tradition" of a strong but nonexclusive focus on residential architecture, presenting a dozen houses completed over the last decade or so. (I'm guessing on the time period covered by the book, given that it omits dates of design or completion.) "Almost all the work in this book was directed by Simon Jacobsen," writes Paul Goldberger in his introduction, "making it clear that while he has built on the direction set by his father, he has continually adapted it to new places, new programs and new clients." The book starts with Bird House in Napa, which Simon points out as "the last house Hugh was involved in," completed in 2012 per the firm's website. Pictured above and below in a couple spreads from the book, Napa House is "unmistakably Jacobsen," with its gabled volumes, prominent chimney, clean lines, and white exterior. Gracing the cover is another unmistakably Jacobsen design: Bray House, a 7,000-square-foot house in Kittery Point, Maine. Articulated as seven gabled pavilions, the house designed by Simon is very much in the lineage of Hugh, but not only for its Monopoly-hotel form and modern detailing. The house takes its name from the 1,800-sf house that was built by John Bray in the 1660s, added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1979, and which serves as the heart of the project. The original was stabilized and renovated, its later additions were removed, and new forms designed by Simon flank it, dwarfing it in size but elevating the importance of the original through the siting and size of the new volumes and by connecting the new to the old with minimal glazed corridors. The house illustrates two facets of the firm's output under both Hugh and Simon: the houses they design(ed) are large and clearly for the wealthy; and the firm is involved in historical preservation, but not necessarily in a way that entombs old buildings in the past.Other instances of historical preservation in American Modern Home are found in Georgetown, the DC neighborhood that Hugh and his family called home. The book features Smith House (spreads above and below), a renovated Federal-style townhouse from the early 1800s, and "Chic Convenience," aka the Simon Jacobsen Residence, the combination of two 1863 houses into one four-bedroom residence. Each house retains its historic character on the street, is clean, minimal, and bright inside, and has a rear elevation that expresses how the interiors were opened up in line with contemporary living. This pair is aligned with other renovations by other architects in other historic districts, but the houses are still recognizable as Jacobsen designs, even as working within the confines of existing buildings means the firm's signature gabled volumes are nowhere to be found.The new monograph was written by Simon Jacobsen in a manner that is descriptive but also highly revealing of the architect's motivations and intentions. His words are accompanied by the usual drawings and color photography that are par for the course in architectural monographs, though the latter are notable for being by Simon Jacobsen as well. Not all the photographs of the dozen houses were taken by Jacobsen, but only a few were taken by Hugh Newell Jacobsen's longtime photographer, Robert Lautman, who died in 2009. Lautman greatly defined Jacobsen's architecture in images, both in the early monographs listed below and in magazines, Record Houses and otherwise. Simon Jacobsen is skilled as a photographer but is no Lautman. Likewise, Beatriz Cifuentes, formerly at Vignelli Associates, is certainly a good graphic designer but is no Massimo Vignelli. As such, I found American Modern Home lacking visually compared to the earlier Jacobsen monographs. Perhaps I'm being unfair, though, as Simon embarks on a direction that is informed by his father — "The Great Man," he writes — but is also all his own.FOR FURTHER READING:A Guide to the Architecture of Washington, D.C. edited by Hugh Newell Jacobsen (Frederick A. Praeger, 1965)Hugh Newell Jacobsen, Architect (AIA Press, 1988)Hugh Newell Jacobsen, Architect: Recent Work (AIA Press, 1994)Hugh Newell Jacobsen, Architect Works from 1993 to 2006 (Rizzoli, 2007)

  • Adjaye: Works 2007-2015
    by John Hill on October 17, 2022 at 12:00 PM

    Adjaye: Works 2007-2015: Houses, Pavilions, Installations, BuildingsEdited by Peter AllisonThames & Hudson, October 2022Hardcover | 10-1/2 x 10-1/2 inches | 300 pages | 500 illustrations | English | ISBN: 9780500343807 | $90PUBLISHER'S DESCRIPTION:Following Adjaye: Works 1995-2007, this second volume looks back on the impressive portfolio of work created by architect David Adjaye between 2007 and 2015. During the years covered in this book, the acclaimed architect embraced expansive projects, taking him outside Europe to work on major ventures, such as the Museum of Contemporary Art in Denver and the Moscow School of Management Skolkovo. Designing buildings around the world, including two projects connected with the post-Katrina reconstruction program in New Orleans, Adjaye carefully tailored his approach to each place, sensitive to the important role architecture plays in affirming a sense of community and identity.Adjaye: Works 2007-2015 brings together these recent projects and presents them with new analyses and personal insights from the architect, including detailed drawing and site plans and stunning color photography, demonstrating the originality of Adjaye’s talents.Peter Allison is a London-based exhibition curator and teacher. He is the author of many books, including the companion book to this title, David Adjaye: Works - Houses, Pavilions, Installations, Buildings, 1995-2007.REFERRAL LINKS:   REVIEW:In my review of David Adjaye: Works 1995-2007 (Thames & Hudson, 2000) I wondered if the book "was planned as the first of a series of complete works, in the vein of Renzo Piano Building Workshop's now-five-volume series done with Peter Buchanan," further asserting that "[David] Adjaye is certainly a candidate for such a treatment." Two years later, when I received Works 2007–2015 from the publisher, I learned that a series is well underway, with a third volume most likely arriving in two more years. Elsewhere in my review I described the first volume as "an origin story" covering early commissions that Adjaye describes in that book as "the formation of the thinking that underpins my current work." If the first volume presents, in another metaphor, the adolescence of Adjaye Associates, the second volume conveys the firm's maturation across 35 built works.While the offerings in the first volume, with its glut of residential projects in London, yields just one Adjaye building I've seen in person (Pitch Black, 2006), the new monograph has four. It begins with the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver, which was completed in 2007 and which I saw when the AIA Convention was in Denver in 2013; it ends with Sugar Hill, the mixed-use, affordable housing development that was completed in 2015 and is a simple subway ride for this New Yorker. The other two are Proenza Schouler, a ten-year-old clothing store on Manhattan's Upper East Side, and the also decade-old Francis A. Gregory Neighborhood Library in Washington, DC. This book is about Adjaye, not me, but one of the best ways to gauge the success of a monograph is to see what it offers someone who is familiar with the buildings firsthand. So, in this sense, is Works 2007–2015 successful? Yes — and no.The "yes" applies to buildings, such as MCA Denver, that are presented across double-digit pages. The text descriptions for all of the projects are short — one paragraph, or two-or-three sentences — but the buildings given longer treatment have a second chunk of text, as well as more photographs and drawings. MCA Denver is one of these, not only because it is a remarkable building that is full of surprises, but because Adjaye describes it in his brief foreword as "a competition win that dramatically changed my focus." Ideas on geography and the changing light in different places came to fore in this museum located in one of the sunniest places in the United States. Given its importance in the firm's output, it makes for a fitting beginning to the second volume. The text by Peter Allison and the numerous photographs are helpful in understanding the building, though I also appreciate the two-page spread with plans, sections, and elevations. More understanding follows with a presentation of the neighboring LN House; at six pages, it is considerably briefer than MCA Denver's 16 pages, but it also has a spread of drawings. Both projects are more well documented in print here than on the architect's website, another indication that a monograph is successful.The "no" to my question above pertains to projects like Proenza Schouler, which happens to be the only one of the four projects I've seen in person that is presented across single-digit pages. This is no surprise, given the important of MCA Denver, Sugar Hill, and the two DC libraries designed by Adjaye, as well as the fact it is an interior, not a ground-up building. But four pages with five sentences, six photographs, and one drawing (a longitudinal section) does not make for in-depth coverage; if anything, it fulfills the notion that the Works monographs are repositories of all of the built works — houses, pavilions, installations, buildings — carried out by Adjaye Associates. In this sense, though, that "no" is less definitive, less severe.What about the buildings and other works that this writer hasn't seen in person? Surely the success of a monograph can be determined, in part, by how well it describes a building so that it transports the reader there, or actually prompts them to search it out and see it in person. One of my favorite projects in this regard is Piety Street Bridge and Piety Wharf in New Orleans, started three years after Hurricane Katrina, in 2008, and completed in 2014. Cor-ten steel, used previously in the LN House, is the main material, befitting the industrial setting and giving the project a presence. But I am drawn to the way the design knits the new waterfront park to the neighborhood separated from it by active railroad tracks. Another highlight is Seven (as it's called in the book), the renovation and addition to a 19th-century carriage house in a landmark district on Manhattan's Upper East Side. The spatial inventiveness of MCA Denver is extended to this private residence that also functions as a gallery.In sum, the documentation of the projects across Works 2007–2015 makes me excited for the next volume, which will include what is arguably David Adjaye's most important work to date, the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC. (The building already has its own book, Begin with the Past by historian Mabel O. Wilson, but it wouldn't surprise me if another one follows that focuses on the input of Adjaye and rest of the collaborative design team.) Other important post-2015 projects include Ruby City in Texas, Mole House in London, Winter Park Library & Events Center in Florida, and the residential skyscraper nearing completion at 130 William Street in Lower Manhattan. To continue the metaphor used above, the anticipated Volume 3 could be described as "the further maturation of David Adjaye," something I'm looking forward to seeing in print.FOR FURTHER READING:African Metropolitan Architecture by David Adjaye, edited by Peter Allison (Rizzoli, 2011); also available in a compact editionDavid Adjaye: A House for an Art Collector (Rizzoli, 2011)David Adjaye: Form, Heft, Material (Art Institute of Chicago, 2015)David Adjaye: Living Spaces by David Adjaye, edited by Peter Allison (Thames & Hudson, 2017)David Adjaye - Works 1995-2007: Houses, Pavilions, Installations, Buildings by Adjaye Associates, edited by Peter Allison (Thames & Hudson, 2020)

  • Olmsted Trees
    by John Hill on October 10, 2022 at 12:00 PM

    Olmsted TreesPhotographs by Stanley Greenberg, with contributions by Tom Avermaete, Kevin Baker, Mindy Thompson FulliloveHirmer Publishers, August 2022Hardcover | 9 x 11 inches | 160 pages | 100 illustrations | German/English | ISBN: | $X.00PUBLISHER'S DESCRIPTION:Central Park in New York, the Emerald Necklace in Boston, park systems in Chicago, Milwaukee, Buffalo, Rochester and Louisville – trees have been essential elements of all of Olmsted’s park designs. New York-based photographer Stanley Greenberg pays tribute to them with his portrait series of these beautiful and dignified giants. Three essays by renowned experts on history, sociology and landscape architecture complement the narrative and present an interdisciplinary vision on Olmsted’s achievement.Stanley Greenberg’s work is in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum and the Whitney Museum of American Art. He is a Guggenheim Fellow and has published several books of photography.REFERRAL LINKS:   REVIEW:Frederick Law Olmsted was born in April 1822 and died in August 1903. The multifaceted journalist, social critic, farmer, and public administrator is best known as a landscape architect — the most influential landscape architect in the United States, if not the world. Central Park, which he and Calvert Vaux designed and won a competition for in 1858, is Olmsted's first and most famous landscape: 843 acres in the middle of Manhattan. If one wants to experience an Olmsted, Central Park is the best and most obvious place to visit, especially considering it is his oldest creation and is therefore home to the oldest trees planted in line with his plans. Stanley Greenberg's Olmsted Trees, one of the many books released this year on the bicentennial of Olmsted's birth, presents dozens of black-and-white photos of trees in the public parks designed by Olmsted, accompanied by texts by Kevin Baker, Mindy Thompson Fullilove, and Tom Avermaete.If there is one photographer ready made for the documentation of trees in Olmsted's parks, it's Stanley Greenberg. For one, he lives in Brooklyn, literally across the street from Prospect Park, another Olmsted and Vaux creation and one that is arguably more beautiful and more "perfect" than Central Park. Greenberg's past books have similarly focused on singular subjects: New York's water works, New York's underground infrastructure, and buildings under construction, among others. His previous book, Springs And Wells of Manhattan and the Bronx, revisited a nearly 100-year-old book about the "springs and wells that were disappearing as the city grew and as Croton water reached more residents." Unlike Springs and Wells and Codex New York: Typologies of the City, which I reviewed a few years ago, most of Greenberg's books use black-and-white photography to focus the viewer's attention on the form, light, and texture of his subjects.Black and white may seem like an odd choice for a book of trees. At first flip, I found myself imagining what the trees actually look like in color, but the more I got through the book the more I realized that the trees Greenberg selected to photograph have character that would be diminished if the trees and their surroundings were in color. The combination of the black-and-white palette and the framing of the trees, many in close up, accentuate the bark, the knots, the growths, the branching and other characteristics of the oldest trees in Olmsted's parks in and beyond New York. Some of the trees are gnarly, almost like alien creatures rather than trees, and a few incorporate rods and walls that I assume are there to help the trees stand stably. No explanation is given with each photograph, outside of the tree species (in Latin, German, and English), the location of the park, and the year Greenberg snapped the photo.The texts by Kevin Baker, Mindy Thompson Fullilove, and Tom Avermaete in the beginning, middle, and end of Greenberg's photos provide, respectively, an introduction to the photographs, a personal essay on an Olmsted park, and a brief overview of Olmsted's most notable park (Central Park) and park system (Boston's Emerald Necklace). These contributions could have been stronger, given that Fullilove's essay focuses on a park designed by Olmsted Jr., not the father whose trees are the subject of the book (the parks by Olmsted Sr. are located in a map at the back of the book, seen below). Also, while Avermaete's essay commendably focuses on two important Olmsted landscapes, I was bothered by the incorrect assertion that "the site of Central Park had been reserved since 1811 in the so-called Commissioners' Plan"; the park is nowhere to be found in the original plan, and the park has actually been described as "the single largest change in the 1811 plan." With that statement, I couldn't help wonder if other facts in Avermaete's essay should be questioned.My quibbles over the essays are minor in a book of photography — the focus in Olmsted Trees is on Greenberg's photographs, after all. The photographs are beautiful, even though the extent of the trees one sees are fractional: close-ups of trunks are in abundance over full views with their canopies. This makes sense given the ages of the trees and their large sizes, but, as mentioned above, there is so much character on display at the bases of the old trees that I imagine it was hard for Greenberg to resist focusing on them. In this book, it is hard for us to resist the same.FOR FURTHER READING:A Clearing in the Distance: Frederick Law Olmsted and America in the 19th Century by Witold Rybczynski  (Scribner, 1999)The Central Park: Original Designs for New York's Greatest Treasure by Cynthia S. Brenwall (Harry N. Abrams, 2019)Frederick Law Olmsted: Designing the American Landscape by Charles E. Beveridge and Paul Rocheleau, edited by David Larkin (Rizzoli, 2021)Before Central Park by Sara Cedar Miller (Columbia University Press, 2022)Experiencing Olmsted: The Enduring Legacy of Frederick Law Olmsted's North American Landscapes by The Cultural Landscape Foundation (Timber Press, 2022)

  • Aalto in Detail
    by John Hill on October 3, 2022 at 12:00 PM

    Aalto in Detail: A Catalogue of Componentsby Céline Dietzkier and Lukas GruntzBirkhäuser, July 2022Hardcover | 6 x 8 inches | 464 pages | 400 illustrations | English (translated from the German original) | ISBN: 9783035623321 | €32PUBLISHER'S DESCRIPTION:This carefully curated catalog celebrates the rich detail in the work of Aino, Elissa, and Alvar Aalto. Every support, railing, and handle is the result of intensive formal and functional research. The authors document 50 Aalto buildings – some well-known and others less so – and arrange their photographs by component into 20 chapters. The result is a rich photographic record that will serve as a source of inspiration for every architect.REFERRAL LINKS:   REVIEW:Having yet to visit Finland, and having spent my one day in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on the campus of Harvard rather than MIT, I've yet to see an Alvar Aalto building in person. The Baker House dormitory at MIT is the easiest way for someone like myself living on the East Coast to see an Aalto in person, but I have it on good judgment that it would pale in comparison to visiting Villa Mairea, Säynätsalo Town Hall, Paimio Sanatorium, and any of the many other Aalto buildings in Finland. This is hardly a debatable statement, given Aalto's lasting popularity with architects, the fact many of his masterpieces are open to the public, and that in Finland whole tours are geared to his buildings. Nevertheless, this statement came to mind as I flipped through the 400 photos in Céline Dietzkier and Lukas Gruntz's compilation of details in Aalto buildings. Baker House is not in the book, but nearly 50 Aalto buildings, "from Helsinki, to Jyväskylä, to Turku," are — all carefully documented in color photos and catalogued in 19 chapters.According to Dietzkier and Gruntz, partners at Atelier Atlas Architektur in Basel, their "photographic collection [...] demonstrates our love of details" and "serves as inspiration for our own architectural work." Although their "catalogue of components" is presented simply as one photograph per page accompanied by the most basic of information (project name, location, dates), the couple is clear to point out that Aalto did not work alone. In other words, Aalto's buildings were actually the Aaltos' buildings, designed with his first wife, Aino, who died in 1949, and then Elissa, whom he married a few years later. A brief, one-sentence attribution to this effect in the authors' two-page introduction is fleshed out in Annette Helle's untitled essay that follows: "[Aalto] ran his office as a partnership with Aino Aalto from 1924 to 1949, and then with Elissa Aalto from 1952 onward," but "it is astonishing that, to this day, the achievements of his partners have not been better researched and appropriately recognized." Kudos, though apparently readers have to keep these dates in their head, as the information accompanying the photographs does not also include the names of the collaborators.As the spreads here make clear, Aalto in Detail is a straightforward picture book: 400 photographs on 400 pages in 19 chapters, each chapter a "component." The book starts, appropriately, with Porches and ends, less obviously so, with Exterior Lamps. In between are Pillars, Stairs, Skylights, Door Handles, Fireplaces, and even Garage Doors and Socle, among others. Rather than being presented in chronological, geographical, or some other logical order, they are presented as pairs; the two photos on a spread have similarities to each other, be it in architectural detail, photographic composition, or some other trait. This approach is not uncalled-for (Nicolas Grospierre's "Subjective Atlas" books come to mind), but here it is not only apt, it works really well, accentuating the consistent methods the Aaltos used from project to project and occasionally showcasing the repetition of bespoke details. The spreads here show, for instance, how the Aaltos like to wrap things: the slender columns at Villa Mairea are tied together with ropes (above), while metal door handles (below) are wrapped in metal so they are more agreeable in temperature and texture to human hands. Not having been to any of the nearly fifty buildings in the book, I can only guess that my eyes would be trained on many of the details captured by the authors — even without their book as a guide to do so. Such is the attention to detail in the Aaltos buildings, where components were handcrafted, not mass-produced, and so please in their articulation. They were not alone in that approach, but they were masters of it at a time when many architects veered to the mass-produced. The presentation of Dietzkier and Gruntz's photos through similarities means the Aaltos' approach comes across a bit like threads running through the various buildings; each project had a particular solution but all were bound together through how they detailed the components. I was surprised to see the application of flat panels on round pillars at the Administration Building for the City Electric Co. (Helsinki, 1965–1976) echoed two pages later in the columns of the Library in Seinäjoki (1960–65). Repetitions like these are in abundance, resulting in a greater appreciation of the Aaltos' buildings — one can't invent the wheel every day, after all — and a stronger desire to see them in person. Aalto in Detail acts a bit like a guidebook, and while I didn't expect there to be maps or other information akin to architectural guides (there aren't any), I was pleased to find an index of the nearly fifty buildings, organized by location and project. So people visiting Kauttua, for example, can see a list of the three buildings located there (Lohiluoma Residential Building, Sauna and Laundry, Terrace Housing) and the pages on which their components are presented. This index takes up just two pages, but it reminds me that far too many other books I've encountered have opted, for one reason or another, to not include similarly helpful indices, making their books less user-friendly. The index here echoes the care and attention that Dietzkier and Gruntz put into their documentation of the Aaltos' buildings, as well as their love of those buildings — a love their book imparts onto others.FOR FURTHER READING:A+U 606 21:03: Alvar Aalto Houses – Materials and Details (Shinkenchiku-sha, 2021)Alvar Aalto by Richard Weston (Phaidon, 1997)Alvar Aalto: Architect by John Stewart (Merrell, 2017)Alvar Aalto: Das Gesamtwerk / L'oeuvre compléte / The Complete Work (3 Volumes) by Karl Fleig and Elissa Aalto (Birkhäuser, 1990)Artek and the Aaltos: Creating a Modern World by Nina Stritzler-Levine (Bard Graduate Center, 2022)Town Hall, Saynatsalo: Alvar Aalto (Architecture in Detail) by Richard Weston (Phaidon, 2001)Villa Mairea: Alvar Aalto (Architecture in Detail) by Richard Weston (Phaidon, 2001)

  • Book Briefs #46
    by John Hill on September 26, 2022 at 12:00 PM

    Here is the next installment of "Book Briefs," the series of occasional posts featuring short first-hand descriptions of some of the numerous books that publishers send to me for consideration on this blog. Obviously, these briefs are not full-blown reviews, but they are a way to share more books worthy of attention than those that end up as long reviews.Ambiguous Territory: Architecture, Landscape and the Postnatural edited by Cathryn Dwyre, Chris Perry, David Salomon, Kathy Velikov | Actar Publishers | August 2022 | 6-1/2 x 10 inches | 320 pages | $39.95 | Amazon / BookshopAmbiguous Territory began as a symposium and exhibition at the University of Michigan Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning in fall 2017, with the exhibition traveling to three other schools of architecture in Virginia and New York over the next two years. The Ambiguous Territory book features the 40-plus projects from the exhibition as well as close to a dozen essays, all organized into three sections "or relationalities to the ground": the Atmospheric, the Biologic, and the Geologic. The three-part project (symposium/exhibition/book) "aims to explore [the] potential of converting the effects of anthropogenic climate change into an imaginative resource for creative practice through the process of aesthetic thinking." The cover, Terra Sigillata by pneumastudio (the studio of Cathryn Dwyre and Chris Perry, two of the project's curators/editors), is one such creative response. It is accompanied by projects by studios with names that should be familiar to people paying attention to young architects and designers these days (see also: Possible Mediums): Bittertang Farm, Terreform ONE, Ellie Abrons, formlessfinder, Smout Allen, DESIGN EARTH, etc.China Dialogues by Vladimir Belogolovsky | ORO Editions | March 2021 | 7 x 9 inches | 250 pages | $24.95 | Amazon / BookshopUber-interviewer Vladimir Belogolovsky has compiled 21 conversations he conducted with 25 Chinese architects over a three-and-half-year period. The interviews began in spring 2017, when he was traveling to China as a curator and speaker, overlapped with a semester teaching at Tsinghua University in Beijing (his first-ever teaching gig), and continued into the early months of the pandemic, when WeChat video calls replaced in-person visits. The architects in the talks are stellar: Wang Shu and Lu Wenyu of Amateur Architecture Studio, Ma Yansong of MAD Architects, Dong Gong of Vector Architects, and Li Xinggang, Li Xiaodong, Lyndon Neri and Rossana Hu, and Zhu Pei of their respective eponymous studios, among others. Although the interviews were first published at ArchDaily, Stir, and other venues, both digital and print, here they are presented in their full versions, accompanied by many photographs, some of them by Iwan Baan, whose introduction recounts his years working in China that started with documentation of the construction of OMA's CCTV Headquarters. Belogolovsky's own, considerably longer, introduction, situates the 21 Chinese studios within a longer architectural context and conveying how the architects he selected "bring a healthy distraction and diversity into China's current architectural development to keep it dynamic and nonformulaic."The Fabricated Landscape: Domestic, Civic, and Territorial edited by Raymund Ryan | Carnegie Museum of Art/Inventory Press| June 2021 | 6x9/12x9/12x18 inches | 64/32/16 pages | $20Mose exhibition catalogs adhere to a conventional format: color plates of the works on display in the exhibition accompanied by scholarly texts related to the exhibition's theme or subject, the first usually following the second. Although the catalog accompanying The Fabricated Landscape (Carnegie Museum, June 2021 to January 2022) consists of these two general pieces, it puts them into three stapled booklets that range in size from small to large, book-size to poster-size. This format echoes the theme of the exhibition, which presented the work of architects whose "smallest and most intimate of projects," according to curator Raymund Ryan, are "connected to a vision of far more extensive landscapes and infrastructures." Accordingly, small projects (e.g., Anna Heringer's Cathedral Altar) are found in the first, "Domestic" volume; larger public projects (Assemble's Goldsmiths Centre for Contemporary Art) are in the second, "Civic" volume; and projects that address even larger landscapes (SO–IL's Las Americas Social Housing) are in the third, "Territorial" volume. The projects are interspersed with texts by the participating architects and other contributors, including three "fables" by Emilio Ambasz. Most of the catalogs in my library are for exhibitions I've seen in person, functioning best as reminders of my visits. But for those which I haven't been to, the best catalogs make me wish I had seen them in person — this one included. (The catalog can be purchased via Inventory Press.)MCHAP The Americas 2: Territory & Expeditions edited by Florencia Rodríguez | Actar Publishers/Lots of Architecture Publishers/IITAC Press | May 2022 | 6-3/4 x 9-1/2 inches | 296 pages | $49.95 | Amazon / BookshopIt's been six long years since the winner of the second iteration of the biennial Mies Crown Hall Americas Prize (MCHAP) was announced, and five years since the release of the book covering the inaugural MCHAP from 2014. The current year sees the process of the fourth MCHAP far underway, with the MCHAP.emerge winner named just last week and the overall winner to follow in April 2023. A delay of this length — whatever its reasons, Covid and/or otherwise — would normally make such a publication irrelevant, especially with today's fast-paced online coverage of architecture. But like its predecessor, MCHAP The Americas 2 benefits from the original contributions that accompany the presentation of the winner and the finalists. Standouts include an essay by Patricio del Real addressing MoMA's role in shaping notions of Latin American architecture, Enrique Ramirez's intellectual wanderings across real and imagined landscapes, and Sol Camacho's argument for "the value of voids, passageways, and other non-functional spaces in cities and buildings." There are also visual essays aligned with the book's theme of "territory and expeditions" and a number of conversations and email transcripts at the back of the book that "add voices to the critical thinking of architecture, planetary culture, and nature, among other issues." Still, the bulk of the book is taken up by documentation of the MCHAP 2 winner (Grace Farms by SANAA) and the five other finalists; those interested in the MCHAP.emerge winner (PRODUCTORA's Pavilion on the Zocalo) should check out Being the Mountain, published on a more timely basis, in 2020.Sauter von Moos: Some Fragments edited by Sauter von Moos (Florian Sauter and Charlotte von Moos) | Verlag der Buchhandlung Franz und Walther König | March 2022 | 5 x 7-3/4 inches | 108 pages | 18€ | Amazon / BookshopFlorian Sauter and Charlotte von Moos describe themselves as "two middle-aged architects who have built a series of houses, exhibited internationally, taught on both sides of the Atlantic, and published a few books on architecture." One of the last is the wonderful In Miami In The 80s: The Vanishing Architecture of a "Paradise Lost", published earlier this year. Considerably slimmer is the book accompanying the exhibition also called Some Fragments, which was displayed at the Museum in Bellpark Kriens in the spring of 2022. Compared to the laser-focused In Miami In The 80s, Some Fragments is, like the name says, made up of some fragments: statements about architecture and its contexts; images of Sauter von Moos's houses and projects; and snippets from literature. Six thematic chapters (Presence, Surrealism, Archaism, Freedom, Loss, Space-Time) serve as armatures for numbered statement — 300 of them, 50 per chapter. They range from the pithy ("The next building is always the best one") and enigmatic ("Novelty is the oldest thing on earth") to the obvious ("There are no good projects without good clients") as well as the unexpected ("Have you ever noticed that natural light is for free?"). Most of the statements are considerably longer than these short examples, and as such are generally more complex in nature. Overall the statements express how Sauter and von Moos theorize architecture, though they also manage to capture the mindset of most architects at this point in time.Writing Architectural History: Evidence and Narrative in the Twenty-First Century edited by Aggregate Architectural History Collective | University of Pittsburgh Press | December 2021 | 6 x 9 inches | 360 pages | $65 | Amazon / BookshopWriting Architectural History is the second book by Aggregate Architectural History Collective, arriving about a decade after Governing by Design: Architecture, Economy, and Politics in the Twentieth Century. (Earlier this year the group's third book, Architecture in Development: Systems and the Emergence of the Global South, was also published.) While the first "disputes the primacy placed on individuals in the design and planning process and instead looks to the larger influences of politics, culture, economics, and globalization," the second book looks at evidence and narrative as means of writing "today's counternarratives in architectural history." It is a timely book, coinciding with such revisionist histories as Race and Modern Architecture, also published by University of Pittsburgh Press. This, too, is a diverse book, with the twenty contributions covering a wide territory, from Baghdad to Haiti and from Medieval times to the Anthropocene. Essays standing out to this reader are: "Known Unknowns: The Documentary History of the Franklin Ghost House" (yes, that VSBA project) by Edward Eigen; "The Banister Fletchers' Tabulations" by Zeynep Çelik Alexander and Michael Osman; "Forensic Architecture as Symptom" by Andrew Herscher; and "Learning from Johannesburg: Unpacking Denise Scott Brown's South African View of Las Vegas" by Ayala Levin.