A Daily Dose of Architecture

  • My Creative Space
    by John Hill on October 22, 2019 at 12:00 PM

    My Creative Space: How to Design Your Home to Stimulate Ideas and Spark InnovationDonald M. RattnerSkyhorse Publishing, October 2019Hardcover | 8 x 10 inches | 288 pages | 200+ illustrations | English | ISBN: 978-1510736719 | $29.99Publisher's Description:A great deal of psychological and productivity research has gone into discovering how the design of the physical environment can improve creative performance, yet nearly all of it has focused on the workplace, commercial spaces, and schools. What has been largely overlooked is the one place we spend more time in than anywhere else and where more people than ever are now working: the home. My Creative Space shows how readers can boost their creative output by applying science-backed techniques to the design and decoration of their home regardless of size, type, style, or location.With over 200 stunning color photographs of creative spaces, including many designed by top architects and interior decorators, this lavishly produced book will inspire readers while offering practical and specific ways to transform your own home into a creative haven.dDAB Commentary:One week ago I reviewed The Shaping of Us: How Everyday Spaces Structure Our Lives, Behavior, and Well-Being, a book that looks at the spaces we live, work, and play in from the perspective of environmental psychology. If Donald M. Rattner's My Creative Space (and before that, Sarah Williams Goldhagen's Welcome to Your World: How the Built Environment Shapes Our Lives) is any indication, the incorporation of environmental psychology into design practice and advise is on the rise. This trend — and I hope it is one, a long-term one — is refreshing, as it means that architects and interior designers are open to the wealth of research and studies that indicate not only that we are conditioned by our surroundings, but how they impact our daily lives. For Rattner, studies on the psychology of space are best applied to the home in order to stimulate and foster our creativity. As he writes in the introduction, "Home is your creative haven," and therefore is the place to try out ideas anchored by scientific research. Elsewhere in the intro, Rattner touches upon a couple major scientific discoveries:  J. P. Guilford's 1950 address to the American Psychological Association, in which he promoted the study of creativity, and the more recent scholarship of Roger S. Ulrich, specifically his 1984 paper on the effects of nature upon healing (his findings led to much of what I wrote about on Houzz many years ago). In between some of the book's four-dozen "creativity tactics" he inserts "explainers" that, well, explain the science behind his advice.The four-dozen techniques for "stimulating ideas and sparking innovation" are structured in three sections, or "creativity tactics groups": Appearance and Appurtenance, Ambience, and Action. A couple spreads from the first group and one each from the second and third groups are highlighted in the below spreads, revealing how photos illustrate some scenarios that fit the techniques, how Rattner's text is structured the same way for each technique, and how he cross references the tactics and explainers. A good way to tackle the book is read the short "What to do" and "Why do it?" sections at the beginning of each tactic to get a sense of the whole package, making note of which tactics sound most appropriate and doable in your situation. I couldn't help but be drawn to tactic #46: Read, falling into the Action section. While this bibliophile doesn't need to be convinced on the benefits of reading, I wholeheartedly agree with taking steps to create both places to read and places for books. The photos accompanying that tactic weren't as convincing as the text (Ron Arad's Bookworm might cut a cool profile, but it's inefficient and potentially damaging to books over time), and that's my main quibble with My Creative Space: the photos don't always best portray the tactics — or they could have easily, with the addition of some short captions.Spreads:Author Bio:Architect Donald M. Rattner, AIA is the principal of an award-winning consultancy dedicated to maximizing occupant creativity in workplace, residential, wellness, hospitality, and retail environments. He works with architects, interior designers, educators, developers, business owners and creatives from all fields.Purchase Links:(Note: Books bought via these links send a few cents to this blog, keeping it afloat.)  &nbs […]

  • S,M,L,XL
    by John Hill on October 20, 2019 at 12:00 PM

    S,M,L,XLOMA, Rem Koolhaas, Bruce MauThe Monacelli Press, December 1995Hardcover | 7 x 9 inches | 1,344 pages | English | ISBN: 978-1885254863 | $85.00Book Description:A mammoth compendium of 20 years of OMA's projects, arranged in order of size, S,M,L,XL gives an insight into the restless, ingenuitive thinking of the office through an era when architecture became a mere bystander to the explosion of the market economy and globalization.This massive book is a novel about architecture. Conceived by Rem Koolhaas - author of Delirious New York - and Bruce Mau - designer of Zone - as a free-fall in the space of the typographic imagination, the book's title, Small, Medium, Large, Extra-Large, is also its framework: projects and essays are arranged according to scale. The book combines essays, manifestos, diaries, fairy tales, travelogues, a cycle of meditations on the ground of contemporary city, with work produced by Koolhaas's Office for Metropolitan Architecture over the past twenty years. This accumulation of words and images illuminates the condition of architecture today - its splendors and miseries - exploring the revealing the corrosive impact of politics, context, the economy, globalization - the world.dDAB Commentary:OMA partner Reinier de Graaf, whose Four Walls and a Roof I reviewed a few days ago, joined the Office for Metropolitan Architecture in 1996, the year after Rem Koolhaas put out S,M,L,XL, a massive book with 20 years of OMA projects accompanied by numerous critical essays by Koolhaas and company. At the time of its release, when I was a fifth-year architecture student, I recall it being the biggest thing around -- not just in terms of size, but also in terms of sheer impact, controversy, and popularity. It seemed to be what everybody in architecture was talking about at the time. Its influence was felt immediately, though just as many people seemed to hate it as love it. It wouldn't surprise me if de Graaf and others in the latter camp flocked to OMA after the publication of S,M,L,XL; a firm and leader with the bravado to release such a tome must be the place to be. De Graaf, though, is in the minority, as most architects who worked at OMA went on to found their own firms, some with their own acronyms.Nearly 25 years after its initial publication, there are few architects who don't know S,M,L,XL, don't have their own copy (I was lucky to be working at a bookstore at the time so got a first edition at cost), or don't know how the book is organized. Nevertheless, as the name indicates, the projects in the book start small and increase in size as the page numbers increase: to medium, large, and extra large. Along the way, Koolhaas and company insert essays (alternatively called "theories," "manifestos," "texts," and "guides") and include a dictionary of terms whose definitions come from a myriad of sources listed in the back matter. Flipping through the book is a bombardment of words, images, and other visual information, with the variety of presentations making each turn of the page another surprise. Graphic designer Bruce Mau's role in this effect was so important he was credited as an author alongside Koolhaas and OMA. Many people have called S,M,L,XL a brick, due to its size and weight, but I like Mau's description of the book on its 20th anniversary as "a brick that fit into a kind of wall of ideas." There are many ideas in the book: the effort of discovering and making sense of them is still a thrill all these years later.Spreads:Author Bio:Rem Koolhaas is founder of the Office for Metropolitan Architecture (O.M.A.) ... Koolhaas is author of the seminal Delirious New York and professor in practice of architecture and urban design at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. Bruce Mau founded the critically acclaimed firm Bruce Mau Design in 1985. He is the author of Life Style and Massive Change.Purchase Links:(Note: Books bought via these links send a few cents to this blog, keeping it afloat.)  &nbs […]

  • The Blindspot Initiative
    by John Hill on October 18, 2019 at 12:00 PM

    The Blindspot Initiative: Design Resistance and Alternative Modes of PracticeJose SánchezeVolo Press, February 2019Hardcover | 7 x 9-1/2 inches | 232 pages | English | ISBN: 978-1938740237 | $39.95Publisher Description:The Blindspot Initiative: Design Resistance and Alternative Modes of Practice documents the professional work of twenty-one design practices that are expanding their respective fields and hybridizing traditional design outputs through the intersection of other disciplines. The expansion of architectural and design practices toward the domain of robotics, material science, film, simulation, or software, redefine the skillsets required to engage with a creative output that challenges the conventions of established domains.All practices curated in this volume, propose an autonomous approach towards design research, resisting the pervasive design competition model that requires free labor and speculative remuneration. The critique of such a model is present throughout this volume, rejecting the wasteful discarding of immaterial labor that is commonplace in the ‘winner takes all’ paradigm that currently dominates the design marketplace.The hybridization of practice has, in many cases, aided a creative business proposition, one that seeks to engage not only through its final output but also through reconsidering the means of production. By blurring the boundaries between fields, design innovation can become more aware of the systemic interdependencies that often live in our current disciplinary blind spots.dDAB Commentary:Recently I received an email from Fiverr about the launch of the architecture, landscape design, and interior design "store" on their platform. I had seen Fiverr ads on the subway so I knew it existed, though I had no idea what it was or how it worked. Turns out the name refers to the starting cost for a service provided by a freelancer ⁠— be it a writer, a copy editor, a computer programmer, or even an architect ⁠— that users can hire for a particular job. Fiverr takes $1 from the five, so a freelancer's minimum pay for a job is $4. I hope that freelancers offering their services on that platform earn money commensurate with the time they put in and the value of those services. But I doubt that's the case, particularly with architects and other designers, whose value is so low in the eyes of others. With architects participating in competitions for no pay, designers asked to submit designs before being hired, and companies crowdsourcing ideas for designs rather than hiring a designer, it's no wonder they are taken advantage of through platforms like Fiverr.Although Jose Sánchez does not mention Fiverr in the introduction to The Blindspot Initiative, his critique of the free-labor practices enabled and promoted by architectural competitions makes me think he would be less than enamored with the online platform. For Sánchez, who has assembled the work of 21 young designers (including his own Plethora Project), the key to the "design resistance" of the book's subtitle is "celebrat[ing] modes of practice that move away from the neoliberal exploitation of networks and resist the emerging models of crowdsourcing and speculative work for our design field." Flipping through the pages of architects and designers departing from traditional practice and delving into prototypes, product design, film, software, and robotics, one would be excused in thinking the book was about new technologies and the new forms enabled by them. But Sánchez's framing points to these 21 "alternative modes of practice" as creative businesses: different ways for designers to find their way and make a living in the world today ⁠— or eye candy with substance.Spreads:Author Bio:Jose Sanchez is an Architect / Programmer / Game Designer based in Los Angeles, California. He is the director of the Plethora Project, a research and learning project investing in the future of on-line open-source knowledge. He is also the creator of Block’hood, an award winning city building video game exploring notions of crowdsourced urbanism.Purchase Links:(Note: Books bought via these links send a few cents to this blog, keeping it afloat.)  &nbs […]

  • Four Walls and a Roof
    by John Hill on October 17, 2019 at 2:00 PM

    Four Walls and a Roof: The Complex Nature of a Simple ProfessionReinier de GraafHarvard University Press, October 2019Paperback | 6 x 9 inches | 528 pages | 70 illustrations | English | ISBN: 978-0674976108 | $22.00Publisher Description:Architecture, we like to believe, is an elevated art form that shapes the world as it pleases. Four Walls and a Roof challenges this notion, presenting a candid account of what it is really like to work as an architect. Drawing on his own tragicomic experiences in the field, Reinier de Graaf reveals the world of contemporary architecture in vivid snapshots: from suburban New York to the rubble of northern Iraq, from the corridors of wealth in London, Moscow, and Dubai to garbage-strewn wastelands that represent the demolished hopes of postwar social housing. We meet oligarchs determined to translate ambitions into concrete and steel, developers for whom architecture is mere investment, and the layers of politicians, bureaucrats, consultants, and mysterious hangers-on who lie between any architectural idea and the chance of its execution.Four Walls and a Roof tells the story of a profession buffeted by external forces that determine—at least as much as individual inspiration—what architects design. Perhaps the most important myth debunked is success itself. To achieve anything, architects must serve the powers they strive to critique, finding themselves in a perpetual conflict of interest. Together, architects, developers, politicians, and consultants form an improvised world of contest and compromise that none alone can control.dDAB Commentary:This collection of essays written by OMA partner Reinier de Graaf, about half of them originally for Dezeen and other publications, came out in hardcover in September 2017 and sees its release this week in paperback. I learned about the book that same month two years ago, at an event about books organized by the Storefront for Art and Architecture. Instead of speculating on a "book yet to be written," as the participants were asked to do, and most did, de Graaf plugged his own Four Walls and a Roof. His comments indicated, to me at least, that the book was focused on the transformation of Cold War-era Socialist housing estates into buildings like the cover photo: precast concrete elements from housing blocks reassembled into more traditional homes. Needless to say, his presentation did not make me want to run out and buy the book. But the following year, when de Graaf kicked off WAF in Amsterdam and delved into the varied topics explored in the book, I was hooked. Purchasing the book shortly thereafter and slowly making my way through some of the essays, I found the book good enough to put it on my initial list of 100 must-know architecture books.While de Graaf writes in the Preface that the essays' "profound incoherence is a reflection of the world they describe," they are actually fairly consistent, knocking down the myths that swirl around the realm of architecture by giving insight into how the profession functions. Given that half of the 44 essays were written previously without the intention of eventual publication and the balance were written for the book, it's easy to bounce around in the book based on one's interest; that's what I did, drawn to the parts on authority, individual inspiration, and "the large scale." The fourth of the book's seven parts (Part IV. Trial and Error) could be a short book in its own right. Across roughly 140 pages, de Graaf documents a decade in his life at OMA (2005-2014), nearly month by month, like a diary of work, travel, and frustration. There's still much of the book I still need to digest, but the economic, political, and other contexts in which architecture operates came to the fore across the essays I have read. It's a serious book, but one balanced by de Graaf's sometimes humorous, sometimes cynical, often fresh takes and writing style. Somewhere I heard or read him pan his own writing, but I wholeheartedly disagree.Spreads:Author Bio:Reinier de Graaf is Partner at the Office for Metropolitan Architecture, Rotterdam.Purchase Links:(Note: Books bought via these links send a few cents to this blog, keeping it afloat.)  &nbs […]

  • Gowntown
    by John Hill on October 16, 2019 at 1:00 PM

    Gowntown: A 197-X Plan for Upper ManhattanTerreformUR (Urban Research), 2016Paperback | 8 x 11 inches | 180 pages | English | ISBN: 978-0996004107 | $40.00Publisher Description:Gowntown investigates the impact of Columbia University’s massive expansion into Upper Manhattan and proposes strategies of transformative leverage to generate broad community benefit and counter a spreading urbanism of trickle-down and gentrification. Terreform’s multi-scalar design is grounded in a planning paradigm focused on carefully crafted – as well as spontaneous – institutional, social, and environmental connections, inspired by the public possibilities of one of the world’s great concentrations of educational, medical, cultural, and community assets. Gowntown is addressed to all the people living, working, and studying uptown, presenting a collection of ideas that radically bridge the familiar – and too often hostile – divide between gown and town.Gowntown grows from a spirit of critical optimism and open possibility. How, we wondered, could Columbia’s enormous infusion of capital and energy be productively extended beyond the boundaries of its site? How might this actually enhance the prospects of those already living in the surrounding neighborhood of Manhattanville, in Upper Manhattan, and in the city as a whole? And how might the project activate a genuinely shared economic, environmental, social, educational, cultural, and morphological transformation that leaves no one out? Gowntown has some suggestions!dDAB Commentary:Having given a walking tour of Columbia University's four Uptown Manhattan campuses strung along the 1 Train — Morningside Heights, Inwood, Washington Heights, and Manhattanville — for many years now, I've been forced to dig into the long and contentious process of the last, the new campus taking shape northwest of 125th Street and Broadway. Laid out by SOM and Renzo Piano Building Workshop and with a trio of buildings by Piano already open, the campus is architecturally pleasing, with Piano's well-detailed modern stylings, transparent and accessible ground floors, and tree-lined streets cutting through the campus. The last two traits are enabled by a huge, seven-story-deep "bathtub" of services that the buildings effectively plug in to (this is explained well in Columbia in Manhattanville). This underground realm, though questionable given its proximity to the Hudson River, is one justification for Columbia's large, 17-acre footprint being unencumbered by other landowners. The most perplexing part of the process that started around 2002 and eventually resulted in the use of eminent domain was the City of New York approving both Columbia's development plan and a community-initiated plan that, among other things, did not displace existing tenants — and then stepping aside to let the university and community duke it out. It's no surprise who won.Instead of offering up a counterproposal to Columbia's 197-c plan and the local community board's (with The Pratt Center) 197-a plan, Gowntown explores the surroundings, making proposals for more a more equitable future over one of gentrification. Created by Terreform, the publisher of UR and the non-profit arm of Michael Sorkin Studio, the book mixes history, the machinations of zoning and planning in New York City, principles of urban design and planning, and colorful renderings that illustrate potential futures for 125th Street, Lavender Hill (aka City College of New York, where Sorkin teaches urban design), the public housing adjacent to Columbia's new campus, and other nearby areas. With its background on the Manhattanville campus and demographic study of Manhattan north of 125th Street, the first half of the book is a strong critique of planning in NYC and an argument for an approach that does not prioritize private development; it also exhibits many of the principles Sorkin espouses at CCNY, where I was a student about a dozen years ago. The second half digs into the plan, which is varied but focuses on a couple main ideas: ThinkLink, a means of linking the various "Eds and Meds" in Upper Manhattan and spreading their benefits to people in these neighborhoods; and Parkapelago, a means of connecting and expanding the area's network of green spaces. More practical and physically conservative than one might expect coming from Sorkin and Terreform, Gowntown's 197-x plan wants to be taken seriously — as much as the 197-a and 197-c plans the city is bound to consider. While it probably won't influence the city, developers, and other actors in Upper Manhattan, it just might have a strong impact on a new generation of urban designers and planners more interested in sustainable, community development than private development.Spreads:Author Bio:Terreform is a nonprofit urban research and design center that operates as a “friend of the court,” authoring alternatives that seek to raise expectations, enhance debate, and challenge conventional wisdom.Purchase Links:(Note: Books bought via these links send a few cents to this blog, keeping it afloat.) […]

  • The Shaping of Us
    by John Hill on October 15, 2019 at 12:00 PM

    The Shaping of Us: How Everyday Spaces Structure Our Lives, Behavior, and Well-BeingLily BernheimerTrinity University Press, August 2019Hardcover | 6 x 9 inches | 336 pages | 37 illustrations | English | ISBN: 978-1595348722 | $26.95Publisher Description:The spaces we inhabit– from homes and workspaces to city streets—mediate community, creativity, and our very identity. Using insights from environmental psychology, design, and architecture, The Shaping of Us shows how the built and natural worlds subtly influence our behavior, health, and personality. Exploring ideas such as “ruin porn” and “ninja-proof seating,” mysteries of how we interact with the physical spaces around us are revealed. From caves and cathedrals to our current housing crisis and the dreaded open-plan office, Lily Bernheimer demonstrates that, for our well-being, we must reconnect with the power to shape our spaces.Have you ever wondered why we adorn our doorframes with moldings? What does Wikipedia’s open-source technology have to teach us about the history and future of urban housing? What does your desk say about your personality? From savannahs and skyscrapers to co-working spaces, The Shaping of Us shows that the built environment supports our well-being best when it echoes our natural habitats in some way. In attempting to restore this natural quality to human environments, we often look to other species for inspiration. The real secret to building for well-being, Bernheimer argues, is to reconnect humans with the power to shape our surroundings. When people are involved in forming and nurturing their environments, they feel a greater sense of agency, community, and pride, or “collective efficacy.” And when communities have high rates of collective efficacy, they tend to have less litter, vandalism, and violent crime.dDAB Commentary:A couple years ago, when I reviewed Sarah Williams Goldhagen's excellent Welcome to Your World: How the Built Environment Shapes Our Lives, I mentioned the strong environment-behavior studies at Kansas State University, where I got my Bachelor of Architecture degree in the 1990s. I'm bringing that time up once again because Lily Bernheimer's The Shaping of Us treads some of the same ground as Goldhagen's 2017 book (Bernheimer's book actually came out the same year, but in the UK only) as well as the areas of my undergraduate education. Bernheimer is an environmental psychology consultant, and she must be one of the few — if not the only one! For a brief period in grad school one decade after architecture school, I actually entertained going for an Environmental Psychology doctorate, which is offered at CUNY Graduate Center, with the goal of applying the lessons from that field to architectural practice rather than teaching, the norm for people with PhDs. That obviously didn't happen, but every now and then I delve into the subject, as in the article "Tracing the Deep Roots of Design" at Houzz, or come across books such as Goldhagen's and Bernheimer's, which capture my attention but also illustrate that the ideas of environmental psychology are seeing a resurgence decades after they first made their way into academia — in that all-too-brief period between the decline of Modernism and the rise of Postmodernism, when architects still believed their designs could affect social change, not just express a style.Simply put, environmental psychology applies the scientific principles of psychology to the settings of our lives: the buildings, landscapes, cities, and spaces we occupy. The variability of those environments is the main reason environmental psychology is much more difficult than the studies of individuals in controlled situations. But the findings have the possibility of being much more dramatic than traditional psychology, especially in terms of changing the way the built environment is designed. Across eight chapters of highly accessible prose, Bernheimer shows how we are shaped by the spaces where we live, be it streets, offices, our homes, or even large chunks of cities or landscapes. There are many commendable examples used to illustrate just how this happens, as well as many references to studies and literature that embrace environmental psychology. Yet I wish Bernheimer went one step further and included a bibliography. Personally I'm curious about contemporary writings on environmental psychology, considering that the books from my college days (e.g., Edward Relph's Place and Placelessness, Jon Lang's Creating Architectural Theory: The Role of the Behavioral Sciences in Environmental Design, and Charles J Holahan's Environmental Psychology) are well out of date. There must be lessons learned in the ensuing decades; for now, The Shaping of Us is a great place to start.Spreads:Author Bio:Lily Bernheimer is an environmental psychology consultant, writer, and researcher. She is the founding director of Space Works Consulting, where she strategizes to make workspaces, dwellings, and urban environments work for the people and purposes they serve.Purchase Links:(Note: Books bought via these links send a few cents to this blog, keeping it afloat.)  &nbs […]

  • Mellon Square
    by John Hill on October 13, 2019 at 1:00 PM

    Mellon Square: Discovering a Modern MasterpieceSusan M. RademacherPrinceton Architectural Press, November 2014Paperback | 6 x 9 inches | 144 pages | 100 illustrations | English | ISBN: 978-1616891336 | $29.95Publisher Description:The second volume in our Modern Landscapes series examines the evolution of Pittsburgh's first modern garden plaza. Completed in 1955 from a design by the acclaimed landscape design firm Simonds & Simonds and architects Mitchell & Ritchey, Mellon Square functioned as an urban oasis that provided downtown office workers a much-needed respite from the city's infamous smoke pollution. Now, more than six decades later, Mellon Square is undergoing a major restoration by Patricia O Donnell of Heritage Landscapes that aims to restore this urban garden and help revitalize downtown Pittsburgh. Featuring new photography and archival material, Mellon Square is the only book to showcase the development of this iconic urban landscape.dDAB Commentary:In my commentary on Imagining the Modern: Architecture and Urbanism of the Pittsburgh Renaissance a few days ago, I mentioned Mellon Square, the 1955 plaza in Downtown Pittsburgh that's in my 100 Years, 100 Landscape Designs. Integral to my understanding of the project, which consists of a landscape designed by brothers Philip and John O. Simonds atop a parking garage laid out by architecture firm Mitchell & Ritchey, was Mellon Square: Discovering a Modern Masterpiece, part of The Cultural Landscape Foundation's award-winning "Modern Landscapes: Transition and Transformation" series. With TCLF's direction, the book logically mixes history and preservation, although the last is really only given one of its six chapters — 1-1/2 if we count part of the chapter on the plaza's evolution and the renovation that was completed in 1990. The last chapter, The Future of Mellon Square, lays out the challenges of conserving such an innovative landscape/infrastructure project, documents some of the restoration work, and discusses the involvement of the Pittsburgh Park Conservancy, which restores and manages the city's park. Susan M. Rademacher's role as curator at the Conservancy made her an obvious choice for this thorough and enjoyable book. Unfortunately, it looks like only two books were published in the "Modern Landscapes" series (one on Lawrence Halprin's Skyline Park came out in 2012), indicating how difficult it is to publish one of my favorite types of books: book-length case studies.Good News Update: Per an email from TCLF, the "Modern Landscapes" series will be resuming, with the publication next month of Central Park's Adventure-Style Playgrounds by LSU Press.Spreads:Author Bio:Susan M. Rademacher is parks curator at the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy.Purchase Links:(Note: Books bought via these links send a few cents to this blog, keeping it afloat.)  &nbs […]

  • Le Corbuffet
    by John Hill on October 11, 2019 at 1:00 PM

    Le Corbuffet: Edible Art and Design ClassicsEsther ChoiPrestel, October 2019Hardcover | 8 x 11 inches | 256 pages | 60 illustrations | English | ISBN: 978-3791384726 | $40.00Publisher Description:It started as a series of dinner parties that Esther Choi—artist, architectural historian, and self-taught cook—hosted for friends after she stumbled across an elaborate menu crafted for Walter Gropius in 1937. Combining a curiosity about art and design with a deeply felt love of cooking, Choi has assembled a playful collection of recipes that are sure to spark conversation over the dinner table. Featuring Choi’s own spectacular photography, these sixty recipes riff off famous artists or architects and the works they are known for. Try Quiche Haring with the Frida Kale-o Salad, or the Robert Rauschenburger followed by Flan Flavin. This cookbook is strikingly beautiful and provocative as it blurs the boundaries between art and everyday life and celebrates food in an engaging and imaginative way.dDAB Commentary:As I'm tapping these words into my phone, I'm hungry — very hungry. Depending on one's point of view, a state of hunger may be the best or worst time to read a cookbook (I fall into the latter camp, reflected in the way I try not to go to the grocery store with an empty stomach). But this is no ordinary cookbook. The recipes and creations expressed respectively in words and well-staged photos were inspired by artists and designers, something the book's title, Le Corbuffet, alludes to. The title also illustrates Esther Choi's sense of humor, which is front and center in the names of the dishes (Denise Scott Brownies, Rem Brûlée, and Kimchee Gordon are a few of my favorites) but extends to the photos and the way she words the recipes as well. Now, with my stomach growling, many of the unconventional culinary creations look unappetizing (a pile of kimchee inspired by the Sonic Youth bassist? No thanks), but just as many of them make my mouth water. I know that's not the point of this fairly esoteric cookbook, which provokes and entertains lovers of art and/or design, but food is food — and while not everything in this book looks good, it all looks fun.Spreads:Author Bio:Esther Choi is an artist and writer, whose photographs have appeared in T: The New York Times Style Magazine, Another Magazine, and Dazed and Confused. She is the co-editor of the collected volumes Architecture is All Over and Architecture at the Edge of Everything Else.Purchase Links:(Note: Books bought via these links send a few cents to this blog, keeping it afloat.)  &nbs […]

  • Imagining the Modern
    by John Hill on October 10, 2019 at 12:00 PM

    Imagining the Modern: Architecture and Urbanism of the Pittsburgh RenaissanceChris Grimley, Michael Kubo, Rami el SamahyThe Monacelli Press, May 2019Hardcover | 7 x 9 inches | 368 pages | English | ISBN: 978-1580935234 | $50.00Publisher Description:In the 1950s and ’60s an ambitious program of urban revitalization transformed Pittsburgh and became a model for other American cities. Billed as the Pittsburgh Renaissance, this era of superlatives–the city claimed the tallest aluminum clad building, the world’s largest retractable dome, the tallest steel structure–developed through visionary mayors and business leaders, powerful urban planning authorities, and architects and urban designers of international renown, including Frank Lloyd Wright, I.M. Pei, Mies van der Rohe, SOM, and Harrison & Abramovitz. These leaders, civic groups, and architects worked together to reconceive the city through local and federal initiatives that aimed to address the problems that confronted Pittsburgh’s postwar development.Initiated as an award-winning exhibition at the Carnegie Museum of Art in 2014, Imagining the Modern untangles this complicated relationship with modern architecture and planning through a history of Pittsburgh’s major sites, protagonists, and voices of intervention. Through original documentation, photographs and drawings, as well as essays, analytical drawings, and interviews with participants, this book provides a nuanced view of this crucial moment in Pittsburgh’s evolution. Addressing both positive and negative impacts of the era, Imagining the Modern examines what took place during the city’s urban renewal era, what was gained and lost, and what these histories might suggest for the city’s future.dDAB Commentary:Ten years ago, on my first and so far only visit to Boston, I managed to stop by pinkcomma, the gallery of OverUnder, and see The Heroic Project, an exhibition on mid-century buildings in Boston that was turned into a prized book, Heroic: Concrete Architecture of the New Boston, six years later. The passion of the authors toward what they call heroic architecture, but most people call Brutalism, is balanced by deep research and thorough documentation, resulting in a book that captures something universal but also unique to a particular place. Two-thirds of the Heroic team, Chris Grimley and Michael Kubo, joined by OverUnder's Rami el Samahy, do a similar thing to Pittsburgh, first as an exhibition at the Carnegie Museum of Art's Heinz Architecture Center in late 2015 and early 2016 and as a book a few years later. Both called Imagining the Modern, the book and exhibition focus on the so-called Pittsburgh Renaissance, the Steel City's redevelopment of its downtown ⁠— aka the "Golden Triangle" ⁠— and a few other areas after World War II. Like many people outside of the Rust Belt, I didn't know much about Pittsburgh's three-decade-long Renaissance, but my inclusion of Mellon Square (Simonds and Simonds, 1955) in 100 Years, 100 Landscapes led me a few years ago to learn a bit about it, particularly in terms of creating open spaces in the long-congested area.If Imagining the Modern, the book, were around when I was writing my book, it would have made an excellent reference for Mellon Square, though it also might have been a distraction, given how much archival information and new insight is presented on the Pittsburgh Renaissance. Whereas Heroic spends most of its pages focusing on the buildings of "heroic" Boston, Imagining the Modern's biggest chapter is Media, which presents just that: newspaper clippings, promotional booklets, architectural drawings, and other documents used to imagine a modern Steel City and convince the public of the need to do so. Other chapters include Positions, scholarly essays on the Renaissance (Caroline Constant's contribution on Simonds and Simonds is right up my alley); Sites, maps and descriptions of built and unbuilt projects from the 1950s to the 1970s; and Perspectives, interviews with some players at the time and with contemporary voices. The last chapter, and hence the book, ends with transcripts of four "salons" held at the Heinz Architecture Center alongside Imagining the Modern in 2016. These conversations illustrate how the exhibition was more than just an exhibition, and how new insights were gleaned from developments a half-century old — thanks to the voluminous research of the curators/authors.Spreads:Author Bio:Chris Grimley is an architect and designer at OverUnder, an architecture and design firm in Boston, Massachusetts. Michael Kubo is Assistant Professor in the History and Theory of Architecture at the Gerald D. Hines College of Architecture and Design, University of Houston. Rami el Samahy is a founding principal at OverUnder and a Visiting Professor at MIT.Purchase Links:(Note: Books bought via these links send a few cents to this blog, keeping it afloat.)  &nbs […]

  • New Nordic Houses
    by John Hill on October 9, 2019 at 12:00 PM

    New Nordic HousesDominic BradburyThames & Hudson, September 2019Hardcover | 9-1/2 x 11-3/4 inches | 320 pages | 350 illustrations | English | ISBN: 978-0500021552 | $60.00Publisher Description:In a climate with dramatic shifts in temperature and light, the homes of Nordic countries respond to ever-changing and breathtaking environments with an intrinsic sense of warmth. Nordic architects today are as much informed by vernacular traditions and natural materials as their forebears, but the most recent generation of practitioners reflects a new appetite for spatial exploration and changing lifestyles.Divided into four chapters—rural cabins, coastal retreats, town houses, and country homes—New Nordic Houses surveys Scandinavia’s finest and most innovative houses, featuring work by a broad spectrum of leading architects. Structured by terrain to show the full diversity of the landscape and its architectural challenges, this book reveals living spaces that are at once universal and distinctly Nordic. From country houses complete with traditional Nordic fireplaces, saunas, window seats, and verandas, to remote cabin hideaways and artist’s studios, there are details and grand ideas that can be applied to residential design anywhere.This unique glimpse inside Scandinavia’s new generation of twenty-first-century homes will be an endlessly rich resource for anyone with a passion for home and modern design.dDAB Commentary:I'm not sure when it started, but I've noticed in recent years that monographs on European architects ⁠— those coming from European publishers, at least ⁠— put the floor plans and other drawings at the back of the book, often on gray paper or some other color different from the preceding pages. I don't know the reasoning behind this: Is it a design choice that puts the emphasis on the photos in the bulk of the book? Is it dictated by printing, the need to separate color and b/w images? Or maybe it's a mix of design choices and practicalities? Whatever the case, I'm not a fan. Separating the floor plans and the photos/texts forces people to flip back and forth to see them together and makes it difficult to use them to gain orientation, one of the most important aspects of including floor plans in publications, which serve as substitutes for seeing buildings in person. I'm bringing this up here because New Nordic Houses does the same thing, presenting the drawings of the book's more than 40 projects on nearly 30 pages of black ink on gray paper. The projects are keyed properly, which is helpful (but often done improperly in other books, such that I must point it out), but the plans are at various scales, making it difficult to compare them to each other, and the techniques vary: some are drawn with poché walls and others with CD-level hatching, and some plans are keyed and others are not. The plans make New Nordic Houses an architecture book rather than a bound, book version of a shelter mag, but the results are short of what they should have been.My floor plan diatribe aside, the book is a lovely collection of modern residential architecture in Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and Finland (most houses are in Norway and Sweden). The projects move roughly from small to large, from a chapter on cabins to coastal retreats, townhouses, and then country homes. In turn, I noticed that I was already familiar with most of the architects in the last half of the book (e.g. Henning Larsen, C.F. Møller, Wingårdhs), but most of the names in the first half were new to me. Considering that cabins, especially, are ideal commissions for young architects early in practice, this discovery of architects early in the book made sense. And it helped make each flip of the page new discoveries of new Nordic houses.Spreads:Author Bio:Dominic Bradbury is a journalist and writer specializing in architecture and design. ... His many books include Mid-Century Modern Complete, The Iconic Interior, Mountain Modern, Waterside Modern, and most recently, Off the Grid: Houses for Escape.Purchase Links:(Note: Books bought via these links send a few cents to this blog, keeping it afloat.)  &nbs […]

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