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The Layman's Guide to Classical Architectureby Quinlan Terry, edited by Clive AsletBokförlaget Stolpe, March 2022Hardcover | 8-3/4 x 10-3/4 inches | 250 pages | 220 illustrations | English | ISBN: 9789189069817 | $38PUBLISHER'S DESCRIPTION:In this beautiful illustrated survey, British architect Quinlan Terry (born 1937) presents his ultimate guide to classical architecture. With intricate and lively sketches, he explains the classical orders of architecture that were created by Vitruvius around 100 AD. The tradition of building using these orders was maintained well into the 20th century, until modernism began to dominate architecture. With this book, Terry, a strong proponent of classical architecture, aims to place focus on the kind of architecture that dominated the field for almost 2,000 years in the West—the vocabulary and heritage of which is known by few today. The book contains a large number of Terry’s drawings and sketches from travels, as well as linocuts. Also included are his drawings of such quintessential examples of the use of classical orders as St. Mark’s Square and San Giorgio Maggiore in Venice and Inigo Jones’ St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, alongside drawings of Terry’s own structures, such as Brentwood Cathedral in Essex, England. In addition, Terry compares his own studies with those of Andrea Palladio and Vincenzo Scamozzi.Prince Charles, another advocate for classical architecture, who holds Quinlan Terry as his favorite among contemporary architects, provides the preface.REFERRAL LINKS: REVIEW:Although I agree with the saying "you can't judge a book by its cover," I've found that with architecture books the covers say a lot about what's inside. In the case of this book written by British architect Quinlan Terry, the cover indicates that Classical architecture will be explained to laypeople — ideally clients — through drawings, and those drawings will look at the Orders and elements of Classical architecture in a vantage point looking upward. Such a perspective departs from plan and elevation drawings favored by architects like Andrea Palladio who wrote treatises to Classical architecture, pattern books that were studied by architects and students of architecture. Terry's guide for people without such an education makes Classical architecture that much understandable, by putting people in front of Classical buildings — many designed by Terry himself — and having them virtually crane their necks upwards. The spreads shown here capture how such upward-facing sketches and linotypes span the book's twelve chapters, which move from detailed explanations of the five orders to arguments for the preference of Classical architecture over modern architecture and its relevance in the time of climate change. Moving from the study of proportions and Classical elements to a way of building that could save the world is a bit of a long walk, but it's an enjoyable one nevertheless, thanks to Terry's fairly casual writing style and his reliance on drawings, which appear to take up more of the book's pages than the text. Therein lies Terry's motives for writing a book for laypeople: more clients demanding Classical architecture are needed for traditional building and design to supplant modern architecture this century. He writes on page 193: "When I started working with Raymond Erith there were about two or three other serious Classical architects practicing, but now there are probably over fifty in England and many more in America. The credit for this goes not to the architects but to many laymen who request that their new house or offices should look similar to buildings they admire from previous centuries."A discussion that stands out to me in the four chapters on the five Orders (he puts Corinthian and Composite together in one chapter) is the author's detailed analysis of modillions. Found mainly in Ionic, Corinthian, and Composite Orders, modillions are projections on the underside of the cornice that often alternate with recessed coffers. The spacing of the modillions has to relate to the column below it as well as to any changes of direction of the cornice, which can be seen most dramatically in the drawing and photograph below depicting Terry's design for Baker Street, London, in 1998. Later in the book, in a chapter on Baroque architecture, the author sketches a church in Rome that features modillions and coffers that are "correct" in elevation but not in plan, pointing out what the architect (Carlo Rainaldi) could have done to make it more successful. Within his commentary is the unwritten assertion that the success of Classical architecture is dependent upon a detail as small as modillions and how they fit into the arrangement and articulation of other elements, each one depending on the other and therefore fitting into a whole — ideally a correct and pleasing whole. Unfortunately, this attention to detail does not extend to the labeling of the drawings in the book, where arrows and dotted lines in red get lost atop the sketches and — especially — the linotypes, making them unnecessarily hard to read.Near the end of the book are two chapters that address the relevance of Classical architecture more than 2,100 years after the Pantheon was built in Rome: "Appropriate Materials and Construction for Buildings that Will Endure for Centuries" and "Classical Architecture as the Hallmark of its Time and Place." With climate change and sustainability being tantamount concerns now — especially in regard to the embodied energy and carbon in existing buildings — I find myself agreeing with the former: cheap, "disposable" buildings that cannot be recycled should not be built. But should buildings that last centuries be Classical? Must they be Classical? I have a hard time saying yes to those questions, since modern and contemporary architecture is full of examples of buildings that depart from Classicism but take a similar approach in terms of a smaller scale and load-bearing construction and materials. (Think Kahn, Wang Shu, Zumthor, etc.) If modillions express the good of Classical architecture, for Terry the expansion joint embodies the bad of modern architecture. Eliminating expansion joints, though far from likely, would force all architects to create buildings less reliant on unsustainable materials and assemblies. But "green" equalling Classical is open to debate — one I'm guessing Terry would be up for.FOR FURTHER READING:The Four Books of Architecture by Andrea Palladio (Dover Publications, 1965)The Classical Language of Architecture by John Summerson (The MIT Press, 1966)Classical Architecture: Rule and Invention by Thomas Gordon Smith (Gibbs Smith, 1988)New Classicism: Omnibus Volume edited by Andreas Papadakis and Harriet Watson (Academy Editions, 1990)Architects Anonymous by Quinlan Terry (Academy Editions, 1994)The Elements of Classical Architecture edited by Henry Hope Reed (W. W. Norton, 2001)Classical Architecture: An Introduction to Its Vocabulary and Essentials, with a Select Glossary of Terms by James Stevens Curl (W. W. Norton, 2003)Sketchbooks: Collected Measured Drawings and Architectural Sketches by George Saumarez Smith (Triglyph Books, 2021)
Vitruvius Without Text: The Biography of a Bookby André Tavaresgta Verlag, July 2022Paperback | 4-1/2 x 6-3/4 inches | 250 pages | 61 illustrations | English | ISBN: 9783856764227 | $30PUBLISHER'S DESCRIPTION:Vitruvius’s De Architectura, written in the first century BCE, has been revered as the first treatise on architectural theory. Since its resurrection during the Renaissance, the enigmatic text has been adjusted, refined, and redefined in subsequent iterations. This book bypasses exegeses of the text to focus on the material history of the printed editions disseminated throughout Europe. It surveys over a hundred editions of Vitruvius from 1486 to the present, tracing the power of the printed page in establishing the Roman author as an authority. Focusing on the impact of the physical objects that embody the Vitruvian canon, Vitruvius Without Text highlights how book history and architectural history cross paths while illuminating how a symbiotic relationship emerges between the printed and the built.André Tavares is an architect and founding director of Dafne Editora, an independent publishing house in Portugal.REFERRAL LINKS: REVIEW:Number 26 of Richard Weston's 100 Ideas that Changed Architecture is "Commodity, Firmness, and Delight," attributed to Sir Henry Wotton in his 1624 book, The Elements of Architecture, a "free translation of the Roman architect Vitruvius's De Architectura, now universally known as the Ten Books of Architecture and the only architectural treatise to survive from classical antiquity." In referencing both Vitruvius and Wotton, Weston highlights one of the most important aspects of the Ten Books of Architecture (usually simply called "Vitruvius"): ideas from the text have been carried through to the present by way of numerous translations, editions, and interpretations. The triad of firmness, commodity, and delight — originally firmitas, utlitas, venustas — is the most famous element from Vitruvius's 2000-year-old text, but even it has been subject to the analysis of architects and theoreticians, first in the Renaissance, when the text was rediscovered, and in the half-millennium since. André Tavares's illuminating book examines how Vitruvius has been packaged — and unpacked — from the 15th century to the current day.Vitruvius Without Text, which can be read as an open source PDF or in an online format via gta Verlag, consists of two main sections, what could be seen as two books in one: "The Biography of a Book" and "The Tetrastyle Hypothesis." The first is pretty much what it says, but instead of honing in on what was found in Vitruvius's original, the "biography" traces many of the subsequent editions that were made from 1486 to the present. Tavares looks at how the text was translated, how it was laid out on the page, what illustrations were used to accompany the text (the original had none), and even how the books were assembled as objects: their size, paper, print run and distribution, number of volumes, etc. It is a fitting focus for someone whose first book was The Anatomy of the Architectural Book. The second part, though more enigmatic at first blush, takes one passage from Vitruvius's original — the first paragraph from Book VI, Chapter III — and examines how its influence jumped from book to building over time. It's an interesting addition to the biography, since it moves the interpretative stances that were found in the various editions of Vitruvius's text in the other direction, in effect turning the Ten Books of Architecture into a hinge upon which its influence moves repeatedly back and forth.The "Biography" section is organized into seven chronological chapters, each covering roughly a half century or a full century, moving from the 1480s to the present. The cover indicates that "over a hundred editions of Vitruvius" are covered, though more important than quantity is quality. Certain influential editions, in other words, come to the fore in Tavares's text, including Giovanni Giocondo's innovative early edition from 1511, Daniele Barbaro's 1556 edition illustrated by Andrea Palladio, Claude Perrault's annotated French translation in 1673, and Morris Hickey Morgan's 1914 English translation that was the first non-European edition of Vitruvius. Accompanied by photographs of what I hope are the author's hands holding these and other editions of Vitrivius, the biography is an exhaustively researched firsthand account of Vitruvius over time, with at times fascinating details on the century-spanning editions. It's also a bit unwieldy with its many dates, languages, and editors, but thankfully the back matter includes a "Vitruviana" section with side-by-side comparisons of the layouts of important editions (second-to-last spread, below), a comprehensive list of the printed editions of Vitruvius from 1486 to 2016, and maps (last spread) showing the reach of those editions over the same time.The "Hypothesis" section jumps from books to buildings, looking at how tetrastyle spaces were illustrated in editions of Vitruvius and how architects designed such spaces based on those descriptions and illustrations. In the first section of Book VI, Chapter III, a cavaedium — or atrium in an Ancient Roman house — is defined as of five different styles (Tuscan, Corinthian, tetrastyle, displuviate, and testudinate), with the tetrastyle featuring "girders [...] supported at the angles by columns." Simply put, a tetrastyle is a hall with a central grid of columns that serves to reduce the span of the beams and also defines a central space. Remember, Vitruvius did not have illustrations, so Tavares shows how tetrastyle spaces were illustrated in various ways in the later editions. For example, the 1914 English translation by Morris Hicky Morgan (linked in this paragraph to its online version) features archaeological evidence from houses in Pompeii. Earlier editions incorporated cavaedium that were designed by architects around the time based on descriptions; their designs then influenced how such spaces were described, incorporating, for instance, proportional information that was not in the original. The various proportions and other variations are their own forms of unwieldy in this half of the book, but they are helpfully accompanied by Tavares's illustrations of different tetrastyle spaces and photographs of some built examples.The last chapter before the book's epilogue and back matter is a cursory run through modern examples of cavaedium spaces, or what Tavares calls "Vitruvius by Accident." These range from Berlin subways and Le Corbusier's Villa Stein-de Monzie (spread above), both from the 1920s, to the mid-1960s Berquó House by Vilanova Artigas and Thomas Gordon Smith's aptly named Vitruvius House from 19991. My favorite example, which Tavares mentions but does illustrate as he does with the others mentioned here, is Charles Moore's own house in Orinda, California, where eight recycled wood posts define two spaces in a larger square plan (unfortunately, the house was mangled this century as part of a McMansion expansion). Tavares's point is that, even when architects are not directly referencing Vitruvius (Moore referenced Mayan and Hindu temples when he wrote about it), they are creating spaces and using architectural elements in ways that can ultimately be traced back to Vitruvius. This does not mean that Vitruvius is necessarily the Bible of Western architecture; rather it points to the importance of the architects and scholars who rediscovered and reinterpreted his text centuries ago. The ideas from the original have been transported to the present, but in routes that are far from direct or free from contemporary corrections and realignments.FOR FURTHER READING:The Anatomy of the Architectural Book by André Tavares (Lars Müller Publishers, 2016)Paper Palaces: The Rise of the Renaissance Architectural Treatise edited by Vaughan Hart with Peter Hicks (Yale University Press, 1998)Vitruvius: On Architecture, Books 1-5 by Marcus Vitruvius Pollio, translated by Frank Granger (Harvard University Press, 1931); Vitruvius: On Architecture, Books 6-10 by Marcus Vitruvius Pollio, translated by Frank Granger (Harvard University Press, 1934)Vitruvius: The Ten Books of Architecture by Marcus Vitruvius Pollio, translated by Morris Hicky Morgan (Dover Publications, 1960)Vitruvius: Writing the Body of Architecture by Indra Kagis McEwen (The MIT Press, 2002)
This week's dose features two publications on Louis I. Kahn released in 2022: the revised and expanded second edition of Robert McCarter's monograph on Kahn; and a facsimile edition of one of the architect's first monographs, edited by Richard Saul Wurman and accompanied by a new reader's guide. Be sure to scroll all the way down for a list of other Kahn titles of interest.Louis I Kahn (Revised and Expanded Edition)by Robert McCarterPhaidon, March 2022Hardcover | 9-3/4 x 12-1/4 inches | 528 pages | 800 illustrations | English | ISBN: 9781838663049 | $150.00 | "A thoroughly updated and redesigned edition of McCarter’s esteemed monograph on the globally-revered modern master – includes Roosevelt Island, Four Freedoms Park, which was completed after Kahn's death" (click here for publisher's description and author bio)REFERRAL LINKS: REVIEW:According to his page on the website of the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts at Washington University, architect Robert McCarter has authored around a dozen monographs, on architects both living and dead. Recent contemporary monographs feature WG Clark, Grafton Architects, Hermann Hertzberger, Steven Holl, and MacKay-Lyons Sweetapple Architects, while the historical monographs are devoted to Alvar Aalto, Marcel Breuer, Aldo van Eyck, Louis I. Kahn, Carlo Scarpa, and Frank Lloyd Wright. The monograph on Kahn was first published by Phaidon in 2005, but with the subsequent completion of the FDR Four Freedoms State Park on Roosevelt Island, the eponymous book has been expanded, enlarged, and updated. I have not seen McCarter's first book on Kahn, but I don't feel the need to search it out — the second edition is so good, in both its scholarship and its visual documentation, that it easily supplants the first edition. And if people plop down $150 on it, I'm sure they might be encouraged to feel the same way. This is not to say that McCarter's book is the definitive book on Kahn — no book can accomplish that, given Kahn's built output, poetic lectures, and dramatic personal life — but anyone looking for a comprehensive overview of his architecture will not be disappointed with this monograph.Comprehensive means just that: McCarter starts the book with Kahn's upbringing, education, and early work in the offices of other architects, giving as much attention to those decades than the ones that happened after his much-documented residency at the American Academy in Rome in 1951, when he traveled around the Mediterranean and "found himself as an architect," in McCarter's words. Still, the bulk of the book's half-dozen sections — with such titles as "Rediscovering an Architecture of Mass and Structure" and "Inspired Compositions in the Poetics of Action" — consist of case studies devoted to Kahn's masterpieces from the 1960s and 70s: the Salk, the Kimball, the Yale Center for British Art, etc. Alternating with subsections on themes in Kahn's work, where his residential projects tend to be discussed, the case studies of buildings and unbuilt projects (many of the latter are rendered by Kent Larson, author of Unbuilt Masterworks) are the most helpful parts of the book, especially for those most interested in the way Kahn's designs evolved over the course of a project; the visual documentation is especially important in showing how the designs changed in sometimes subtle and sometimes dramatic ways. Using the FDR Four Freedoms project as an example, McCarter's descriptions are heavy on formal descriptions but light on historical facts; the story of how the design was completed decades after Kahn's death in 1974, for instance, is relegated to a footnote, of which there are many in the back of the book.Holding the massive undertaking together are the beautiful construction of the book — from its large size and layered chip board cover to its paper selection — and the page design. In regards to the latter, a couple of things are worth pointing out: the images and captions are done well, with many of the images large on the page and all of them clearly numbered and keyed within the text. Second is the text itself, which moves in a subtle way from one-column to two-column and then three-column layouts across from subsection to subsection; the Salk Institute case study pictured above, for example, has a three-column layout, but the preceding subsection, "Wrapping Ruins Around Buildings," has one and the following subsection, which concludes the section of the book it is in, has two. This approach to text columns, which further organizes images and captions, is commendable, since Louis I. Kahn has a lot of text and the variation between subsections help keep the reader from being overwhelmed or bored with the text. Put another way, the design helps McCarter's text — readable but not exactly full of flair — go down a little easier. Of course, this monograph is hardly meant to be read cover to cover, but those who do will learn a great deal about the life, philosophy, and architecture of one of the most important architects of the 20th century.The Notebooks and Drawings of Louis I. Kahn (Facsimile Edition and Reader's Guide)Edited by Richard Saul Wurman and Eugene FeldmanDesigners & Books/Yale Center for British Art (an imprint of Yale University Press), March 20222 volumes (Hardcover facsimile edition; Paperback reader's guide) w/sleeve | 11-1/4 x 15 inches | 216 pages | 177 illustrations | English | ISBN: 9780300263848 | $110.00 | "A deluxe sleeved set that includes a facsimile republication of a classic work on Louis Kahn and an accompanying volume of new writings by colleagues, architects, and the Kahn family" (click here for publisher's description and author bio)REFERRAL LINKS: REVIEW:The year 1962 saw the release of the first two books on architect Louis Kahn: Vincent Scully's slim, 128-page contribution to George Braziller's "Makers of Contemporary Architecture" series; and the large-format The Notebooks and Drawings of Louis I. Kahn compiled by Richard Saul Wurman and edited by him and publisher Eugene Feldman. Kahn had been working as an architect for more than 25 years by that point, but he really only had two notable completed buildings to his name by 1962: the Yale University Art Gallery (1953) and the Alfred Newton Richards Medical Research Building (1960). Although the latter was celebrated with an exhibition at MoMA in 1961, the two books were as much about the promise of Kahn's future architecture as they were about the buildings he had completed since his transformative trip to Europe in 1951. This promise is echoed by the two commissions he gained in 1962: the Indian Institute of Management in Ahmedabad and the Sher-e-Bangla Nagar, the second capital of Pakistan (later Bangladesh), both of which would occupy him for the remaining twelve years of his life. The year 1962 also saw the birth of Kahn's son, Nathanial, with Harriet Pattison. It was a busy year, to say the least, but also the beginning of one of the most fruitful stretches of building that could be attributed to one architect.The above paragraph was sketched with the assistance of the helpful timeline on the website of the the Louis I. Kahn Facsimile Project, which was created by Designer & Books with the aim of reprinting the 1962 book by Wurman and Feldman and adding a companion reader's guide. Using Kickstarter to fund the endeavor (Designers & Books previously did the same with the Fortunato Depero’s 1927 book, Depero Futurista, aka "The Bolt Book"), the project was successfully funded last year, with Designers & Books eventually partnering with YC British Art to publish a reprint of the second edition from 1973 and a companion reader's guide with writings, interviews, and other new content. I have never had my hands on either the original Notebooks and Drawings or the 1973 edition, but I have no doubt that the Facsimile Edition is true to them. The distinctive stamped gold trees on the cover — extracted by Wurman from one of Kahn's sketches of the Yale University Art Gallery — are reproduced beautifully on the cream-colored linen cover. (The same image is embossed in silver on the paperback Reader's Guide.) Inside, the endpapers feature Kahn's famous movement pattern drawing for Philadelphia (1952-53) in reverse on green, while the heavyweight pages are off-white and light-green; combined with the many pages that exhibit the yellow of Kahn's trace-paper sketches, the whole has a earthy color palette gives the whole a cohesive appearance and almost archival feeling.Last year, when Designers & Books was in the process of raising funds on Kickstarter, I spoke with Wurman about Kahn, his two books on Kahn (he also edited What Will Be Has Always Been, a compilation of Kahn's words, in 1986), and the facsimile project, editing together some of his words for a piece on World-Architects. Wurman has produced dozens of books in his lifetime, but he's never had any desire to reprint them, preferring instead to move onto the next project, to always move forward. So a reprint of Notebooks and Drawings had to have something new. As such, the Reader's Guide is an excellent addition to the Facsimile Edition, with background on the original book courtesy of an interview between Wurman and his biographer, Dan Klyn (Eugen Feldman died in 1975), and numerous contributions by family members (Sue Ann Kahn, Alexandra Tyng, Nathaniel Kahn), curators (William Whitaker, Peter Reed, Jochen Eisenbrand), critics and educators (Paul Goldberger, Hashim Sarkis, etc.), and others, including recipients of the Louis I. Kahn Award given out annually by the Philadelphia Center for Architecture. The Reader's Guide manages to situate readers in the timeframe of the original Notebooks and Drawings — through, for example, archival snippets from reviews of the book — but it also take them forward in time, to when the promise of Kahn in 1962 was realized in later buildings. Together, the Facsimile Edition and Reader's Guide are an integral addition to the library of any architect who wants better understand the architecture of Louis I. Kahn.FOR FURTHER READING:Beginnings: Louis I. Kahn's Philosophy of Architecture by Alexandra Tyng (Wiley, 1984)Between Silence and Light: Spirit in the Architecture of Louis I. Kahn by John Lobell (Shambhala Publications, 1979)Louis I. Kahn by Vincent Scully (George Braziller, 1962)Louis I. Kahn in Conversation: Interviews with John W. Cook and Heinrich Klotz, 1969–70 edited by Jules David Prown and Karen E. Denavit (YC British Art, 2015)Louis I. Kahn: In the Realm of Architecture by David Brownlee and David De Long (Rizzoli, 1991)Louis I. Kahn: Unbuilt Masterworks by Kent Larson (The Monacelli Press, 2000)Louis Kahn: Architecture as Philosophy by John Lobell (The Monacelli Press, 2020)Louis Kahn: The Importance of a Drawing edited by Michael Merrill (Lars Müller Publishers, 2021)Louis Kahn: The Power of Architecture edited by Mateo Kries, Jochen Eisenbrand and Stanislaus von Moos (Vitra Design Museum, 2012)Our Days Are Like Full Years: A Memoir with Letters from Louis Kahn by Harriet Pattison (Yale University Press, 2020)What Will Be Has Always Been: The Words of Louis I. Kahn by Richard Saul Wurman (Rizzoli, 1986)
Between Memory and Invention: My Journey in Architectureby Robert A. M. Stern, with Leopoldo VillardiThe Monacelli Press, March 2022Hardcover | 7-1/2 x 10 inches | 520 pages | English | ISBN: 9781580935890 | $60.00PUBLISHER'S DESCRIPTION:For more than fifty years, Robert A. M. Stern has designed extraordinary buildings around the world. Founding partner of Robert A. M. Stern Architects (RAMSA), Stern was once described as “the brightest young man I have ever met in my entire teaching career” by Philip Johnson and recently called “New York City’s most valuable architect” by Bloomberg. Encompassing autobiography, institutional history, and lively, behind-the-scenes anecdotes, Between Memory and Invention: My Journey in Architecture surveys the world of architecture from the 1960s to the present and Robert A. M. Stern’s critical role in it. The book chronicles Stern’s formative years, architectural education, and half-century of architectural practice, touching on all the influences that shaped him. He details his Brooklyn upbringing, family excursions to look at key twentieth-century buildings, and relationships with prominent teachers — Paul Rudolph and the legendary Vincent Scully among them. Stern also recounts the origins of RAMSA and major projects in its history, including the new town of Celebration, Florida, the restoration of Times Square and 42nd Street, 15 Central Park West, Benjamin Franklin and Pauli Murray Colleges at Yale, and the George W. Bush Presidential Center, as well as references the many clients, fellow architects, and professional partners who have peopled his extraordinary career. By turns thoughtful, critical, and irreverent, this accessible, informative account of a life in architecture is replete with personal insights and humor. Stern’s voice comes through clearly in the text — he details his youthful efforts to redraw house plans in real estate ads, his relationship to Philip Johnson, which began at Yale and was sustained through countless lunches at the Four Seasons, his love of Cole Porter and movies from the 1930s and 1940s, his struggle to launch an architecture practice in the 1970s in the midst of a recession, and his complex association with Disney and Michael Eisner. Unsurprisingly, New York City plays a big role in Between Memory and Invention. Stern has a deep commitment to the city and recording its past — he is the lead author of the monumental New York book series, the definitive history of architecture and urbanism from the late nineteenth century to the present — and shaping its future. Though now a global practice, RAMSA residential towers rise throughout Manhattan to enrich the skyline in the tradition of the luxurious apartment buildings of the 1920s and 1930s. Supported by a lively mix of images drawn from Stern’s personal archive and other resources, this much-anticipated memoir is interspersed with personal travel slides, images of architectural precedents and the colleagues that have shaped his thinking, and photographs of the many projects he discusses. With a thoughtful afterword by architectural historian Leopoldo Villardi that delves into Stern’s process of putting together this extraordinary autobiographical work, Between Memory and Invention is a personal candid assessment of a foremost practitioner, historian, instructor, and advocate of architecture today.Robert A. M. Stern is the founder and senior partner of Robert A. M. Stern Architects. [...] a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects, and in 2017 received the Topaz Medallion, [...] served as Dean of the Yale School of Architecture from 1998 to 2016 [... and] he is the lead author of the monumental New York series documenting the architectural and urban development of the city over the past 150 years and more than twenty other books. Leopoldo Villardi is an architectural historian and a research associate at Robert A. M. Stern Architects.REFERRAL LINKS: REVIEW:Robert A. M. Stern is exceptional, in my mind, for the way he has managed to take on many different roles and produce many different things — all at an equally high level of quality and intensity. He is an architect who can boast of one of the most successful practices in New York City, due in large part to a spate of luxury apartment buildings but also universities, public buildings, and other projects well beyond Manhattan. He is a historian and author, but not one with the occasional essay here and there; he has written around ten books (books beyond RAMSA monographs, I should note), some of them substantial tomes and partially listed at bottom. And he is an educator, but beyond the teaching that many architects undertake, he notably served as dean of Yale's School of Architecture for nearly twenty years: from 1998 to 2016, succeeding Fred Koetter and preceding Deborah Berke. For sure, he has not donned those hats alone — his eponymous firm is 200 strong and many of his books are written with other scholars — but somehow Stern has managed to corral the efforts of those around him into a substantial and diverse body of work bearing his name; one that, in the retrospective glance afforded by this autobiography, has clearly made a stronger stamp on American architecture over the last half century than most other architects.Between Memory and Invention, written with RAMSA associate Leopoldo Villardi, is another substantial book by Stern — not a tome like each book in the New York series or Paradise Planned, but a heavy book with glossy pages, lots of color photos, and plenty of footnotes. Belying the scholarly nature the person Philip Johnson advised at Yale to become an architectural historian, the book is fairly laid back, conversational in tone and even gossipy at times. It's a life story being told like a story, from Stern's upbringing in Brooklyn to — ten chapters later — the architect "passing the baton" to his fellow partners, associates, and the younger generation at RAMSA. The book is basically chronological but not strictly so. While the first four chapters trace Stern's life from 1939 to 1976, moving from Brooklyn to Yale to New York City, the balance of the book's chapters are thematic, fitting into Stern's timeline but also veering back and forth as needed. Chapter six, for examples, focuses exclusively on Stern's practice, following it from the early houses in the Hamptons to the various large-scale projects RAMSA tackles today. Then chapter eight hones in on Stern's life as an "academic and advocate" over roughly the same timeframe. As someone whose interests veer to architectural criticism, history, and the like (and, to be honest, I've never been a fan of Stern's buildings, regardless of style), I was more absorbed by the parts of Between Memory and Invention that correspond with those parts of Stern's life.So, what did Stern write, edit, and curate that made him so influential? It all started with the double issue of Perspecta, the student-run journal of the Yale School of Architecture that he edited in 1965, his last year there as a grad student (his undergrad was at Columbia). The most notable contributions to Perspecta 9/10 are Charles Moore's "You Have to Pay for the Public Life" and excerpts from Robert Venturi's then-forthcoming Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture, which was written in 1962 but wouldn't be published by MoMA until 1966. These two pieces, accompanied by projects in addition to their texts, take up about one-third of the 336 page issue, which overall is a reaction against orthodox modernism and is indicative of the fortuitous timing of Stern's education on the hinge between modern and postmodern architecture. Although Venturi's book would come out one year later and Moore's essay would be reprinted in other books, including one of the same name, the large-format double issue remains a desirable artifact for any architect purporting to have a decent library, myself included.Stern's embrace of alternatives to modern architecture would lead him to eventually edit such publications as a special edition of A+U in 1981, American Architecture: After Modernism, and to be involved in, among other things, both the 1976 Venice Biennale, when architecture made a tentative entrance into the exhibition, and the first Venice Architecture Biennale in 1980, when Paolo Portoghesi lined the Arsenale with facades designed by Stern and other postmodern architects. Before these undertakings, immediately after graduating from Yale, Stern served as the inaugural J. Clawson Mills Fellow at the Architectural League of New York, at the prodding of Philip Johnson, whom he befriended while at Yale. Influenced by George Howe, whom he studied at Yale and would eventually write a book about, Stern resurrected the format of Howe's 40 Under 40 exhibition displayed at the League in 1941, pulling together forty young architects with a "diversity of expression" for the 1966 exhibition and catalog. A few years later came Stern's first book, New Directions in American Architecture, part of a series put out by George Braziller.A more pronounced shift toward postmodernism and then eventually "modern traditionalism" occurred in May 1973, when Stern was one of the "Grays" in Architectural Forum's "Five on Five" issue. His contribution, "Stompin' at the Savoye," was one of five articles that countered Five Architects, the 1972 book featuring projects by Peter Eisenman, Michael Graves, Charles Gwathmey, John Hejduk, and Richard Meier, with an introduction by Colin Rowe; according to Stern, his essay "raised the most hackles." The hackle-raising nature of Stern's criticism — combined with his strong network of social and professional connections — made him the suitable choice for a PBS documentary series that aired in 1986. Pride of Place: Building the American Dream, with its companion publication, was Stern's "personal view" of American architecture more than an objective overview of the same; it is also one of the rare TV series devoted to architecture, a subject barely on the radar of even the most educated watcher of public television. Other publications include, most notably, the New York series documenting New York's architecture and urbanism from the end of the Civil War to 2000 — and finally to the near-present, when a planned sixth one is published as early as next year. Numerous books, exhibitions, and other output bearing Stern's name or behind-the-scenes imprint are found in Between Memory and Invention, but finding them is another story. If one reads Stern's autobiography from cover to cover as a chronological story with chapters punctuating certain aspects of his prolific professional life, they will learn about them all. On the other hand, using this book as a reference for those pieces means knowing the names of the players involved, since the only index provided is an "index of names." At ten pages long, it's clear that Robert A. M. Stern knows just about everybody worth knowing — and he names them all in the book. But instead of flipping to the back of the book to find the New York books — or some other publication, building, or place where the title is known — one has to know and then look up the names of his co-authors (John Massengale, Gregory Gilmartin, et. al.) to find them in the book. It's a small frustration, given that the thematic chapters in the book make finding things in the text a bit easier, but it's a noticeable omission considering the exhaustive research and organization Stern normally displays in this aspect of his work. Nevertheless, I was pleased to learn a lot about Stern's life story and the outsized influence he has had on much of the wider realm of architectural culture in the United States.FOR FURTHER READING:Pedagogy and Place: 100 Years of Architecture Education at Yale by Robert A. M. Stern and Jimmy Stamp (Yale University Press, 2016)Paradise Planned: The Garden Suburb and the Modern City by by Robert A. M. Stern. David Fishman, Jacob Tilove (The Monacelli Press, 2013)Tradition and Invention in Architecture: Conversations and Essays by Robert A. M. Stern, edited by Cynthia Davidson (Yale University Press, 2011)Architecture on the Edge of Postmodernism: Collected Essays, 1964-1988 by Robert A. M. Stern, edited by Cynthia Davidson (Yale University Press, 2009)New York 2000: Architecture and Urbanism Between the Bicentennial and the Millennium by Robert A.M. Stern, David Fishman, Jacob Tilove (The Monacelli Press, 2006) — the fifth of six planned books in Stern and company's exhaustive New York series (also 1880, 1900, 1930, and 1960, with 2020 forthcoming)Pride of Place: Building the American Dream by Robert A. M. Stern (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1988)American Architecture: Innovation and Tradition edited by David G. De Long, Helen Searing, Robert A. M. Stern (Rizzoli, 1986)American Architecture: After Modernism edited by Robert A. M. Stern (A+U March 1981 Special Edition)Perspecta 9/10: The Yale Architectural Journal edited by Robert A. M. Stern (Yale University, 1966)
Over at World-Architects, I put together a list of 15 Summer Reads for the Newsletter I edit there, a newsletter that goes on summer break as of today. In lieu of a review on this blog this week, I'm linking to that summer reading list, which features short, first-hand descriptions of the books. In the coming weeks and months, many of these books will receive longer reviews on this blog.If you don't feel like clicking over to read my commentary on the books, here are the 15 books, presented from S to XL (counterclockwise from top-left in the image), with links to them on Amazon:Vitruvius Without Text: The Biography of a Book by André TavaresFormulations: Architecture, Mathematics, Culture by Andrew WittOutdoor Domesticity: On the Relationships between Trees, Architecture, and Inhabitants by Ricardo DevesaDensification of Urban Landscapes: Post-War Housing Developments Between Preservation and Renewal by Anke Domschky, Stefan Kurath, Simon Mühlebach and Urs PrimasTruth and Lies in Architecture bt Richard Francis-Jones Australian Architecture: A History by Davina Jackson Climax Change! How Architecture Must Transform in the Age of Ecological Emergency by Pedro Gadanho Verify in Field: Projects and Conversations, Höweler + Yoon by Eric Höweler and J. Meejin Yoon Between Memory and Invention: My Journey in Architecture by Robert A. M. Stern with Leopoldo VillardiDXA NYC: Ten Years of Building on History by DXA Studio (Jordan Rogove and Wayne Norbeck) The Turn of the Century: A Reader about Architecture in Europe 1990–2020 edited by Louisa Hutton and Matthias Sauerbruch Bamboo Contemporary: Green Houses Around the Globe by William RichardsAIRES MATEUS Architectural Terrains: Five Investigations by Francisco Aires Mateus and Manuel Aires Mateus 565 Broome SoHo: Renzo Piano Building Workshop edited by Federico Bucci and Mario Piazza with photographs by Evan Joseph The Notebooks and Drawings of Louis I. Kahn edited by Richard Saul Wurman and Eugene Feldman
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.Accumulation: The Art, Architecture, and Media of Climate Change edited by Nick Axel, Nikolaus Hirsch, Daniel A. Barber, Anton Vidokle | e-flux Architecture | February 2022 | 7 x 10 inches | 272 pages | $30 | Amazon / BookshopThe old saying goes that if you want to know the weather just stick your head out the window. But what about climate? If you want to understand climate and how it has changed over time, "media is necessary," the editors of this volume of 22 essays contend. Usually such media takes the form of charts, graphs, maps, and other visualizations of data, showing how climatic zones have shifted northward in the Northern Hemisphere, for instance, or how much global carbon emissions come from the construction and operation of buildings. This being a publication of e-flux Architecture, architecture — "a material and symbolic intervention in the lifeworld" — is the subject of choice, one that "works towards new understandings of effective [...] means of engaging ecosystems and behaviors." Although the editors write that the essays in Accumulation "outline some of the opportunities and ambitions of visual scholarship" in addressing today's challenges, the book has fewer than a dozen illustrations. The contributions by academics and practitioners in diverse fields therefore require mental visualization on the part of the reader, who is ideally someone ready and willing to effect change toward what the editors call "other possible futures."Architecture and Anarchism: Building without Authority by Paul Dobraszczyk | Antepavilion / Paul Holberton Publishing | November 2021 | 9 x 10-1/2 inches | 248 pages | £25 | Amazon / BookshopSurveys are a popular format for architecture books, with most of them focusing on typologies of buildings (skyscrapers, housing, museums), buildings in a particular region (Japanese houses, Santa Fe Modern), or some particular aspect of architectural culture (books, magazines, women architects). Surveys are most valuable when they draw attention to buildings, projects, places, and people that are unexpected, not covered widely in other architecture books or media but nevertheless of importance. I lump Paul Dobraszczyk's Architecture and Anarchism in here, alongside Design Like You Give a Damn, Radical Architecture of the Future, Social Design, and other titles focused on the impact of architecture on society. This one features sixty "projects from the Global North that illustrate anarchist values in action" (I'm guessing the Global South is omitted because it would have pushed the book from art, self-building, and collective action toward slums and other communities of necessity) with the goal of presenting anarchism as "a powerful way of reconceptualizing architecture as an emancipatory, inclusive, ecological and egalitarian practice." Well-known places — past, present, and imaginary — abound (Christiana, Burning Man, Drop City, Kowloon Walled City, Occupy Wall Street, Theaster Gates's Dorchester Projects, Constant's New Babylon, etc.), but many are little-known by comparison. Instigated by Antepavilion, an arts and architecture charity in the UK, Architecture and Anarchism is a much-needed survey of alternative practices and approaches that arrives at a time when contemporary crises make alternatives necessary.The Architecture of Yemen and Its Reconstruction by Salma Samar Damluji | Laurence King Publishing | May 2021 (Second edition) | 10-1/4 x 13-1/2 inches | 368 pages | $95 | Amazon / BookshopSalma Samar Damluji, who worked with Hassan Fathy in the 1970s and 80s, co-wrote a historical monograph on the famous Egyptian architect, Hassan Fathy: Earth & Utopia, an impressive — and large — book put out by Laurence King in 2018. A decade earlier, in 2007, Damluji wrote The Architecture of Yemen, billed as "the first book to offer an in-depth investigation into the characteristic architecture of [the] country," resulting from "nearly two decades of research." The second edition released last year has a large format similar to the Fathy book, allowing them to fit well side-by-side on one's bookshelf; both are worth having, especially for architects interested in traditional mud construction and the preservation of such buildings. The three chapters from the first edition — on Lahij ("Stone and Skyscrapers"), Shabwah ("Mud Brick and Desert Palaces"), and Hadramūt ("Stone, Shale and Mud Brick Skyscrapers") — are accompanied by a new chapter devoted to the reconstruction of Hadramūt between 2006 and 2014 (hence the and Its Reconstruction in the book's title) and an emergency project in Shibām, now a UNESCO World Heritage site. Initiated by the Daw'an Mud Brick Architecture Foundation, the documentation of the Yemeni buildings in the book is quite thorough, with photographs, drawings, and detailed dimensions and descriptions in the text. A much-needed glossary is provided for the many italicized terms in the text (jubā, majlis, dīwān, etc.), though their frequency is so great that a separate booklet with these terms related to the different parts of the traditional buildings would have been much better than having to flip back and forth while reading the book.Contested Modernities: Postcolonial Architecture and the Construction of Identities in Southeast Asia edited by Sally Below, Moritz Henning, Eduard Kögel | ARCH+ / Birkhäuser | November 2021 | 9-1/4 x 11-1/2 inches | 240 pages | $29.99 | Amazon / BookshopThe German architecture magazine ARCH+ makes just one of its four issues each year available in an English translation. This most recent issue, last year's, is Contested Modernities, the printed companion to a multifaceted program of the same name that consisted of symposia and an exhibition focused on postcolonial architecture in Southeast Asia as part of Encounters with Southeast Asian Modernism. The four "initiators and artistic directors" of the program also edited the publication that features more than thirty essays, conversations, and photo essays organized into four country chapters: Cambodia, Indonesia, Myanmar, and Singapore. It is an impressive publication, with deep scholarship on architects, buildings, and places that are most likely unknown to the majority of architects in Europe and North America. Although the program was put together with a German perspective (the "encounters" are those between Germany and Southeast Asia), Contested Modernities offers plenty for people who want to know more about architectural production in Southeast Asia last century, wherever they're from. The highlights are numerous, though the conversations stand out above the rest. One of them is an insert on glossy pages, an "ARCH+ feature," in which two of the editors talk with Farid Rakun from Indonesia, one of the members of the ruangrupa collective that curated the 15th Documenta, which just opened in Kassel, Germany.Lloyd’s 1:1: The Currency of the Architectural Mock-Up by Michael Eidenbenz | gta publishers | October 2021 | 6-1/2 x 9-3/4 inches | 230 pages | $55 | Amazon / BookshopI'm a big fan of book-length case studies — or building monographs — and therefore I have many in my library. This is one of the most unique such books I've come across in a while. Based on the ETH Zurich doctoral thesis of Michael Eidenbenz, Lloyd's 1:1 details the design of the famous Lloyd's of London building designed by Richard Rogers, while focusing on the role of full-scale mockups in terms of researching construction, materials, and assemblies. The book has eight chapters, but the meat of its contents are primarily in two long chapters, one on design and one on mock-ups. Across nearly 70 pages, "Making Promises" runs through the iterative design process, with Eidenbenz's text in this fourth chapter accompanied by, among other illustrations, some great sketches by John Young, a partner at Rogers' office at the time and lead on the construction of Lloyd's. Chapter six, "Looking for Answers," explains how mock-ups were made for the concrete structure, the glazing system, the structured glass, luminaires, air flow tests, and other aspects of the unprecedented design. For Eidenbenz, "the experimental nature of the Lloyd's Building mock-ups allowed the client, the architects and the engineers to take risks in the building design." If David Ross's Archetypes, reviewed last year, is any indication, 1:1 mock-ups continue to maintain their value for architects and clients looking to take similar risks.Radical Normal: Propositions for the Architecture of the City by Vittorio Magnago Lampugnani | DOM Publishers | November 2021 | 8-1/4 x 9 inches | 240 pages | €28 | Amazon / BookshopThe latest book by Vittorio Magnago Lampugnani, author of Architecture of the 20th Century in Drawings, Encyclopedia of 20th-Century Architecture, and numerous other books, compiles 27 texts by the architect and theorist that were originally published in other languages between the 1980s and 2020, the majority from the previous decade. Falling into three chapters (Serene Modernity, Memory and Sustainability, and Contemporary Urban Design), the texts aim to provide "an appropriate framework of arguments" for an urban design "oppose[d] to the wanton and reckless destruction of European cities." The essays are short, with an average length of around seven pages, so they can be read fairly briskly and in any order. Each essay has just one image, though the selection of photographs — of modern European mainly — is diverse, with more people than the typical architecture book, and with photos of modern European architecture depicted, less as completed buildings, and more in various states of design, construction, demolition, and decay. Radical Normal is the 138th title in DOM's "Basics" series, which is billed as "a platform for established authors and committed young researchers who publish texts in their native language" and therefore consists of books in English, French, German, and other languages.
Post-pandemic UrbanismEdited by Doris Kleilein, Friederike MeyerJovis, December 2021Paperback | 5-3/4 x 8-1/4 inches | 192 pages | 50 illustrations | English | ISBN: 9783868597103 | $28.00PUBLISHER'S DESCRIPTION:Working from home, online shopping, undertourism: the disruptive upheavals caused by the COVID-19 pandemic challenge architecture and urban planning. New spaces for action are opening up, but are they being utilized? From dividing traffic space fairly to urban food policies, from new places for work and recreation to the question on how communities can be oriented towards the common good: Post-pandemic Urbanism envisions a near future and discusses how cities and their transformative power can help to handle this current crisis and those to come.REFERRAL LINKS: REVIEW:It was November of last year when Jovis sent me a copy of Post-pandemic Urbanism, arriving when Covid cases worldwide were averaging around a half-million every day but were steadily increasing. By the end of the year cases had ramped up steeply, as the omicron variant spread around the world and speedily reached its peak about one month later. All I could think each time I glanced at the book on my desk was that a book devoted to post-pandemic urbanism was premature — what was needed was a book on intra-pandemic urbanism: on how to live with the pandemic rather than quickly rush beyond it. The title made it seem that the editors and contributors, like society at large, wanted to move past lockdowns and other aspects of Covid, though it also implied the desire for something different, not a return to the status quo. Whatever the case, at that time I was in no mood to dive in. Then, in late April of this year, Dr. Fauci proclaimed that the United States was "out of the pandemic phase." Although he quickly backtracked on his words after they spread and were simplified in social media (rather, the US was not free from the virus; it had just moved beyond it spreading in a way that overrunning hospitals was a concern), it seemed like the time was ripe to give a book about post-pandemic urbanism a chance.Post-pandemic Urbanism has fourteen essays across its 192 pages. Most appear to have been written especially for the book, though some of them indicate that they were published previously in other venues. One of the latter is the first essay in the book — and one of its best: Phineas Harper and Maria Smith's "More than Enough! A Dialog on Degrowth and the COVID-19 Disaster." Harper and Smith were two members of the curatorial team for the Oslo Architecture Triennale 2019, titled "Enough: The Architecture of Degrowth." Across its ten pages, the pair basically argues for a future that is not dictated by neoliberal economics and the harmful environmental effects of striving for continued economic growth; sharing, equality, and health are some of the concerns that are paramount for them, not profit. It's an appealing start to the book, even though its relationship to Covid is tenuous, or at least secondary; this is not surprising, since it was based on a pre-pandemic exhibition and first appeared in Space Caviar's 2021 book Non-Extractive Architecture Volume 1: On Designing Without Depletion. The next contribution, "Non Voyage: On the Futures of Tourism Infrastructures," is more directly relevant to considerations of post-pandemic urbanism, given that tourism was the industry most greatly affected by lockdown measures: workers stayed home, airplanes were grounded, hotels were converted into shelters, and convention centers were turned into emergency hospitals. The clearer, cleaner air in China, India, and Los Angeles, and the reduction in carbon levels that were measured in the first year of lockdown were some of the undeniable indicators of the negative impacts of mass tourism on local, regional, and global environments. Created by Future Probes, "a research collective of four female futurists," and others under the name Non Voyage, the speculations on "futures of tourism infrastructures" are explored in images (collages, illustrations, drawings, a comic) that point to the paradoxical nature of tourism: people know the adverse affects of airplanes, cruise ships, hotels, and other aspects of tourism, but the lure of experiencing remote cultures is simply too hard to resist.Think of any aspect of city life that is/was impacted by Covid — and there were many — and it is included here. Felix Hartenstein looks at the "No-Retail City," in which "going into town today" does not preclude going shopping. His contribution sees the shift toward online shopping as continuing its current trend, thereby eliminating the need for any type of shop, be it mom-and-pop or big-box. Even if this trend shifts in the future and shops rebound, there is something to be said for cities providing spaces for non-consumer activities. Another essay, Doris Kleilein's "Tired of the City," looks at the shift from cities to the countryside that happened with (mainly well-off) people during the pandemic and was beforehand evident in Rem Koolhaas's Countryside exhibition, which was ironically truncated by the pandemic. The future of workplaces is the subject of "From Coworking Space to Neighborhood Office" by Agnes Müller, who hesitantly promotes so-called "neighborhood offices" but realizes the various difficulties to be found in veering from traditional offices. The list of subjects goes on, with the editors covering about every piece of urban life that may or will be reshaped by pandemic and other forces in the coming decades.Even with topics as broad as tourism and workplaces, Post-pandemic Urbanism is very local; it is very German. Many of the essays look at conditions that are global but use examples that are specific to Germany. This is hardly surprising, given who the editors, contributors, and publisher are; and given that it is human nature to relate abstract ideas and theories to personal experiences and contexts that are immediate. I didn't mind the references to places in Germany I often had no familiarity with; after a while I expected it. One drawback is that many of the bibliographic references (they are listed at the bottom of the pages, as in the "Tired of the City" spread below) point to texts that are in German, making it difficult for readers of English who want to gain a greater understanding of some statement by looking at its original source. Also, I found at least one instance where a citation points to a German text but an English text also exists; in such a case the editors ideally would have pointed to the English source even if the author didn't do so in her original German text.One last aspect of Post-pandemic Urbanism to touch upon is the choice of images that accompany the essays. It was done in a few ways: no illustrations; illustrations done by the authors; illustrations specifically related to the text; and illustrations related to the broader topic of the book but not related to the text. The first is found in the lead essay about degrowth; the second clearly relates to the tourism piece; the third can be found in "Tired of the City" (spreads above and below), which discusses Prädikow Farm in Brandenburg; and the fourth is most dramatic in the last essay, Tatjana Schneider's "Notes on the Just City," which also happens to have that bibliographic reference to a report in German that was also translated into English (or vice-versa, I'm not sure). Schneider's broad look at the "just city" works well in combination with the first essay on degrowth, bookending the more specific essays in between. Schneider's previously published "notes" are accompanied by photographs of nurses and other frontline workers whose faces bear the imprints of masks after long shifts; this is not a something touched on by Schneider, but it is clearly a condition related to the pandemic. The presence of the photographs interspersed with Schneider's text make me wonder if the portraits — and other images in the book unrelated to the corresponding essays — should have been broken out on their own and further accompanied by even more visual commentary on the pandemic and its potential impact on city life. There is so much to be explored in the topic at hand that images should have been part of it to a greater degree, given that images can provoke as much as words and point to other scenarios that are not as easily articulated in words. The Non Voyage contribution is more or less successful in this regard; the portraits of the nurses and frontline workers are powerful, but they are a bit distracting in Schneider's essay (it's like being stared at while trying to read). There will certainly be other books dealing with the impact of Covid on the built environment. As such, this book is a very good start.FOR FURTHER READING:Less Is More: How Degrowth Will Save the World by Jason Hickel (Windmill Books, 2021)MONU #33: Pandemic Urbanism (2020)Next Generation Tourism: Touching the Ground Lightly edited by Nina Rappaport and Rukshan Vathupola (Yale School of Architecture, 2021)The Pandemic Effect Ninety Experts on Immunizing the Built Environment by Blaine Brownell (Princeton Architectural Press, forthcoming)The Topography of Wellness: How Health and Disease Shaped the American Landscape by Sara Jensen Carr (University of Virginia Press, 2021)Until Proven Safe: The History and Future of Quarantine by Geoff Manaugh and Nicola Twilley (MCD × FSG, 2021)Vacant Spaces NY Michael Meredith, Hilary Sample, MOS (Actar, 2021)
In lieu of a new review this week (I have deadlines keeping me from doing one), below are links to three book reviews I wrote this year for World-Architects. Click the titles to read the separate reviews.Celebrating Public Architecture: Buildings from the Open Call in Flanders 2000–21 edited by Florian Heilmeyer (Jovis, 2021)Interventions and Adaptive Reuse: A Decade of Responsible Practice edited by Liliane Wong and Markus Berger (Birkhäuser, 2021)Strange Objects, New Solids and Massive Things by Winka Dubbeldam / Archi-Tectonics, edited by Julia van den Hout / Original Copy (Actar, 2021)
Hutong Metabolism: ZAO/standardarchitectureWith contributions by Farrokh Derakhshani, Mohsen Mostafavi, Kenneth Frampton, Martino Stierli, Nondita Correa Mehrotra, Zhang Ke, Kristin Feireiss, Hans-Jürgen Commerell, Amanda JuAga Khan Award for Architecture / ArchiTangle, September 2021Hardcover | 6-3/4 x 9-1/2 inches | 288 pages | 150 illustrations | English | ISBN: 9783966800150 | €38PUBLISHER'S DESCRIPTION:Small stone hutongs, built within a courtyard-and-alley system, are emblematic of Beijing’s traditional inner-city architecture which still contends with modern, cooperate redevelopments to shape the character of the city. In one of the oldest cities in China, the important tasks of preservation and revitalization require particular sensitivity. Captured at the centre of the battlefield between development, conservation and renovation, the hutongs, on the verge of erasure, call into question the paradoxical nature of these paradigms.The Micro Hutong Renewal series by ZAO/standardarchitecture focusses on small structures which residents have added to hutong courtyards in the last 60 years. The anchor project of this publication is the Hutong Children’s Library & Art Centre, which won the Aga Khan Award for Architecture in 2016.A foreword from the Aga Khan Award director, Farrokh Derakhshani, and a series of photographs and drawings by the architect will present this project alongside another project from the series; The Micro Hutong and Co-living Courtyard, as well as ZAO/standardarchitecture’s social housing projects in the center of Beijing. In addition, scholarly essays from across disciplines will explore alternative perspectives of China’s historical cities and the challenges they face.REFERRAL LINKS: REVIEW:I have never been to China, so my exposure to the country's contemporary architecture happens through websites, videos, magazines, books, and the occasional exhibition. The latter introduced me to the architecture of Zhang Ke and his studio ZAO/standardarchitecture (ZAO), first at the 2016 Venice Architecture Biennale and most recently at the Museum of Modern Art in Reuse, Renew, Recycle, on display for another month in the museum's free ground-floor gallery. Both exhibitions included models of projects from ZAO's "Hutong Metabolism" series of projects that make small-scale interventions in the traditional hutongs (residential alleys/courtyards) of Beijing. A large-scale immersive model of Micro Yuan’er Children’s Library and Art Centre was on display in Venice, while MoMA displayed the concrete model of Micro Hutong that it acquired for its archive. Both are beautiful, small-scale projects whose qualities come to the fore in the models and in this book documenting them and two more hutong projects.Hutong Metabolism includes thorough documentation of the two projects mentioned above, plus two more, also in Beijing: Co-Living Courtyard and Hutong Social Housing. Apparently, the impetus for the book was Zhang Ke receiving the Aga Khan Award in 2016 for Micro Yuan'er, the first of the Hutong Metabolism projects, which continued with the other projects in the book. The last project in the book (the four projects are presented in chronological order by completion date), Hutong Social Housing, was completed in November 2019, but as Kenneth Frampton reveals in his introductory essay, "ingeniously planned and partially realized on two separate sites [it] remains, as yet, not only unoccupied but also partially unfinished." No doubt China being thrown into lockdown at the end of 2019 contributed to the in-limbo status of Zhang Ke's most recent Hutong project. The four Hutong projects documented here are united by more than their settings — dazauyan, or "big messy courtyards," as they are labeled in the book. The designs by ZAO use a consistent material palette, with concrete mixed with Chinese ink being the most striking of them. As evidenced by the many photographs in the book, the concrete exposed on both the exteriors and interiors has a subtle, mottled striping of black against gray, following the board-forming; it looks like plain old concrete was painted with ink and is a beautiful effect. Other materials are gray brick, wood, and roof tiles, with some of them reused, aligning ZAO with Amateur Architecture Studio and other practitioners in China taking explicit architectural approaches of continuity with history and maintaining a considerably smaller scale compared to much new construction in Beijing. Mohsen Mostafavi, in his essay here, "Changing Character: China and the Idea of Contemporary Architecture," further situates the architecture of ZAO within the context of wider trends of Chinese urbanism and other contemporary architects who have also been involved in Aga Khan Awards.In addition to Frampton's and Mostafavi's essays mentioned above, Hutong Metabolism includes an essay by MoMA's Martino Stierli, curator of the Reuse, Renew, Recycle exhibition, that examines the qualities of a couple of the Hutong projects and describes why MoMA wanted to add a model of one to its collection; and "Fused Traditions," an essay by Hans-Jürgen Commerell and Kristin Feireiss on "the making of an international contemporary signature." These essays are situated to separate the first few projects in the book, while between the last two projects are three interviews: one with residents involved in the Micro Yuan'er project, another with a few younger architects in ZAO, and lastly one between Zhang Ke and Nondita Correa Mehrotra. The last one is particularly interesting, since it delves into the influence of Charles Correa on Zhang Ke. This influence is another link to the Aga Khan Award, but it also reminded me about Correa's statement that "form follows climate," an upending of Louis Sullivan's famous assertion and one that is particularly relevant this century, as people in China and all over the world encounter the effects of global warming and climate change — effects that require architecture to be more attuned to the natural and human-made environment.FOR FURTHER READING:"Big Messy Courtyard: Micro Yuan'er," in Assemble Papers, issue #9Chinese Brutalism Today: Concrete and Avant-Garde Architecture by Alberto Bologna (ORO Editions, 2019)"The Chinese Attitude Towards the Past" by Simon Leys in The Hall of Uselessness: Collected Essays (NYRB, 2013)Contemporary Architecture in China: Towards A Critical Pragmatism edited by Li Xiangning (Images Publishing, 2018)Ying-Zào: Hutong Metabolism+ (Aedes, 2021)
an ambitious treatise that combines stories from daily life in Syria with observations of cities such as Detroit, Helsinki, Bristol, Beirut, Dubai, and Amsterdam. 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.American Urbanist: How William H. Whyte's Unconventional Wisdom Reshaped Public Life by Richard K. Rein | Island Press | January 2022 | 6 x 9 inches | 352 pages | $35 | Amazon / BookshopThe multi-faceted writer, urbanist, and sociologist William "Holly" White was known to a general audience and architects/planners, respectively, for two books: The Organization Man, a 1956 bestseller about the culture of the corporate workplace; and The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces, the 1980 book that became required reading for architecture students learning how to design spaces for the way people actually use them. Richard K. Rein's enjoyable, thorough biography of Whyte tries to make sense of his subject's varied interests, which also included historic preservation and environmental conservation, and, not surprisingly, finds overlap in these two seminal books. "An effective business can learn from good public places," Rein writes. The biographer spoke with many people in the making of his book and "Holly is my hero" was a consistent refrain from them. Whyte's influence continues to this day in his numerous books, many of which remain in print, and can be seen in places such as "Holly Whyte Way" (PDF link), the unofficial name for 6-1/2 Avenue, an accidental string of POPS (Privately Owned Public Spaces) spanning six blocks in Midtown Manhattan, many of them now linked by pedestrian crosswalks. Although Whyte did not create these spaces, his research, writings, and other efforts were instrumental in improving the overall quality of POPS, helping to create places where people want to be. This biography will hopefully expand Whyte's influence on cities, workplaces, and, most importantly, the people in both of them.Building for Hope: Towards an Architecture of Belonging by Marwa al-Sabouni | Thames & Hudson | April 2021 | 6-1/2 x 9-1/2 inches | 192 pages | $29.95 | Amazon / BookshopWhile the international outcry over Russia's invasion of Ukraine is commendable in the displays of camaraderie against forceful oppression and for democratic freedoms, the response of countries, particularly in Europe and North America, reminds us that a similar outcry did not happen when Russia "intervened in Syria in 2015 to prop up the authoritarian and brutal regime of Bashar al-Assad." (These words are from an opinion piece arguing that Putin's invasion of Ukraine was enabled by the "free pass" the international community gave him in Syria.) A powerful account of living in Syria during the civil war and of finding ways to rebuild with historical continuity came from architect Marwa al-Sabouni in The Battle for Home: The Vision of a Young Architect in Syria (Thames & Hudson, 2016). Her followup to that popular memoir is Building for Hope, billed as an exploration of "how buildings and cities might be rebuilt in the aftermath of conflict, crisis or financial depression." In a review I edited at World-Architects and I recommend readers check out, Madeline Carey describes it as "an ambitious treatise that combines stories from daily life in Syria with observations of cities such as Detroit, Helsinki, Bristol, Beirut, Dubai, and Amsterdam" and finds it "expansive, abstract, and at times extraordinarily idealistic" as well as "dense and daring." Like The Battle for Home, Building for Hope's text is accompanied by the architect's own sketches, this time depicting places well beyond her native Syria.Golconde: The Introduction of Modernism in India by Pankaj Vir Gupta, Christine Mueller, Cyrus Samii | Actar Publishers / Vir.Mueller Architects | December 2021 (Second edition) | 8 x 9 inches | 112 pages | $29.95 | Amazon / BookshopAlthough, as the name clearly says, my 2016 book 100 Years, 100 Buildings features 100 buildings, the number that I considered and listed in the back of the book is hundreds more. One of them is Golconde, the dormitory in Pondicherry, India, designed by Antonin Raymond for the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, founded by yoga practitioner Sri Aurobindo and handed down to Mirra Alfassa, aka "The Mother," in 1926. Dates on the building's completion vary by source, with research on my book determining 1945, volume eight of World Architecture 1900-2000: A Critical Mosaic bumping it to 1948, and the authors of Golconde: The Introduction of Modernism in India, first published in 2010, indicating a substantial completion date of 1942. (The same authors, Pankaj Vir Gupta and Christine Mueller of Vir.Mueller Architects, wrote at Architectural Digest last year that it was completed in 1945.) While the exact completion date of the building is ambiguous, it's clear that Raymond started the project in 1936, when he was still living and working in Tokyo, and continued it after his departure from Japan in 1937. He spent some months in Pondicherry before returning to the United States, but not as long as George Nakashima, who spent three years living at the Ashram to carry out the dormitory project. Nakashima's involvement is one of many things I learned in the short but necessary book on an important work of modern architecture. Coincidentally, the Nakashima Foundation for Peace in New Hope, Pennsylvania, is opening the exhibition Golconde, The Introduction of Modernism in India with a reception on June 12, after which it is open to the public "on select Saturdays" until October.Greta Magnusson Grossman: Modern Design from Sweden to California by Harriet Harriss, Naomi House | Lund Humphries | February 2022 | 7-1/2 x 10 inches | 144 pages | $59.99 | Amazon / BookshopUnlike many of her peers in architecture, interior design, and furniture design in the middle of the last century, Greta Magnusson Grossman is not a household name. I'll admit I did not know of her before getting this book in the mail from Lund Humphries. This neglect can be attributed greatly to a context that privileged men over women and architects over multi-disciplinary designers. As such, Magnusson Grossman is one of many women whose work is little known today but should be better known, for no other reason than the sheer quality of it. I'm particularly taken by the Cobra table lamp and Grasshopper floor lamp, both produced by Ralph O. Smith and both her best known designs. But the houses she designed in California, some of them anticipating qualities of later, better known houses by Pierre Koenig and others, are also exceptional. Given the complicated nature of telling a history of a designer whose image was crafted by people working against her, in some ways, this book devoted to Magnusson Grossman isn't a straightforward monograph. As the authors put it in their introduction, the book strikes a balance between a "'tentative' methodology for feminist historical restitution and a selective catalogue of the work itself." (An adapted excerpt of the book can be read at Places Journal.)Julia Morgan: An Intimate Biography of the Trailblazing Architect by Victoria Kastner | Chronicle Books | March 2022 | 8-1/2 x 10-1/4 inches | 240 pages | $32.50 | Amazon / BookshopOn my first and so far only visit to the Bay Area, which took place about 25 years ago, a planned excursion to Napa Valley was derailed by — no joke — an earthquake with its epicenter there. Instead of catching a peek of Herzog & de Meuron's Dominus Winery, my friends and I drove to Oakland, to see the most memorable work of architecture of my stay: the Chapel of the Chimes, a columbarium designed by Julia Morgan in the 1920s. So when Morgan was named the 2014 recipient of the AIA Gold Medal, more than 50 years after her death, I thought of Chapel of the Chimes rather than Hearst Castle, the considerably more famous estate she designed for William Randolph Hearst over the course of 30 years. The Chapel of the Chimes makes a brief appearance in Victoria Kastner's well-researched and well-received biography of Julia Morgan, as do a number of some of the roughly 700 projects undertaken by Morgan, but Hearst Castle is the thread the runs through the whole book, echoing the way it absorbed so much of the California architect's adult life. People who know Morgan solely for San Simeon will be pleased with Kastner's biography of Morgan, though they'll also learn about the smaller projects that deserve as much attention as the biggest and most famous of them all.Russel and Mary Wright: Dragon Rock at Manitoga by Jennifer Golub | Princeton Architectural Press | December 2021 | 11 x 10 inches | 208 pages | $60 | Amazon / BookshopI'm writing these words over Memorial Day weekend, the traditional, unofficial start of summer in the United States, when millions of Americans hit the road or fly to summery destinations. While I'm at home this weekend, the thought of taking day trips or weekend trips close to home is provoked by the weather warming up, this holiday weekend rolling around once again, and two years of very little travel. Flipping through Dragon Rock at Manitoga is adding to the itch, bumping up a place long on my to-go list to near the top. Manitoga is "the former home and 75-acre woodland garden of American industrial designer Russel Wright (1904–1976)," located in Garrison, New York, a 90-minute train ride north of New York City. The name "Dragon Rock" refers to the house and studio he developed with architect David Leavitt (1918–2013), as well as the site's quarry landscape. Wright's wife and partner in their design practice, Mary (née Einstein, 1904–1952), did not live long enough to see Manitoga take shape, though she helped conceive Dragon Rock and therefore shares equal billing in this lavishly illustrated monograph by Jennifer Golub that is as much about their life and practice as it is about the home and studio. The book's many photographs and drawings of the wares they designed together, and of Dragon Rock in its beautiful Hudson River setting, are what make a firsthand experience of Manitoga so tempting — and necessary.