A Daily Dose of Architecture

  • Architecture in Global Socialism
    by John Hill on October 22, 2020 at 12:00 PM

    Architecture in Global Socialism: Eastern Europe, West Africa, and the Middle East in the Cold WarŁukasz StanekPrinceton University Press, January 2020Hardcover | 8 x 11 inches | 368 pages | 277 illustrations | English | ISBN: 978-0691168708 | $60.00PUBLISHER'S DESCRIPTION: In the course of the Cold War, architects, planners, and construction companies from socialist Eastern Europe engaged in a vibrant collaboration with those in West Africa and the Middle East in order to bring modernization to the developing world. Architecture in Global Socialism shows how their collaboration reshaped five cities in the Global South: Accra, Lagos, Baghdad, Abu Dhabi, and Kuwait City. Łukasz Stanek describes how local authorities and professionals in these cities drew on Soviet prefabrication systems, Hungarian and Polish planning methods, Yugoslav and Bulgarian construction materials, Romanian and East German standard designs, and manual laborers from across Eastern Europe. He explores how the socialist development path was adapted to tropical conditions in Ghana in the 1960s, and how Eastern European architectural traditions were given new life in 1970s Nigeria. He looks at how the differences between socialist foreign trade and the emerging global construction market were exploited in the Middle East in the closing decades of the Cold War. Stanek demonstrates how these and other practices of global cooperation by socialist countries—what he calls socialist worldmaking—left their enduring mark on urban landscapes in the postcolonial world. Featuring an extensive collection of previously unpublished images, Architecture in Global Socialism draws on original archival research on four continents and a wealth of in-depth interviews. This incisive book presents a new understanding of global urbanization and its architecture through the lens of socialist internationalism, challenging long-held notions about modernization and development in the Global South. Łukasz Stanek is senior lecturer at the Manchester School of Architecture, University of Manchester, UK. He is the author of Henri Lefebvre on Space: Architecture, Urban Research, and the Production of Theory and the editor of Team 10 East: Revisionist Architecture in Real Existing Modernism. REFERRAL LINKS:    dDAB COMMENTARY: Images of the aftermath of the August 4th blast at the port in Beirut showed an area completely flattened, minus one structure: a badly damaged concrete grain silo. Later stories revealed that the industrial structure was built in the late 1960s by the Czech company Prumstav. This apparently minor fact hinted at cooperations in the Cold War years between then-Socialist countries in the north and countries in what is now called the Global South. Although neither this structure nor Beirut is found in Łukasz Stanek's Architecture in Global Socialism, his book explores just that terrain: the involvement of architects and planners from Eastern Bloc countries in the physical development of decolonized countries in Africa and the Middle East after World War II. Architecture in Global Socialism is an impressive document that is the culmination of many years Stanek has focused on intercontinental cooperation. I was first exposed to his approach with the 2012 book Postmodernism Is Almost All Right: Polish Architecture After Socialist Globalization, which came out of PRL™ Export Architecture and Urbanism From Socialist Poland, an exhibition at the Museum of Technology in Warsaw in 2010. As I wrote in my review of the book, "Polish architects were sought after to work in these contexts [Algeria, Iran, Kuwait, etc.], and they treated the opportunities as means of formal and urban experimentation that would eventually be imported back home." While the earlier book is a heavily illustrated and focused on the form of buildings (all PoMo, as the title implies) and how they fit into their context, the new book is a deep, thoroughly researched history of architectural mobilities and "worldmaking" during the Cold War. Stanek's subject is complex, to say the least, but he focuses on a handful of places to trace a triangular trajectory between Eastern Europe, West Africa, and the Middle East. These cities are Accra, Lagos, Baghdad, Abu Dhabi, and Kuwait City. Outside of the last two, which are grouped together, each city is given its own chapter, with Stanek using interviews, studies, and firsthand visits to tell the stories of notable architects, buildings, and master plans. For me, an American architect educated in highly biased Western histories of architecture, the book is one surprise after another. This is hardly a shock. After all, Stanek writes in the introduction that the engagements of Eastern European architects in the Global South "have been almost completely written out of Western-based historiography of architecture," a "blind spot" his book serves to fill. One standout surprise is the work of Polish architect and scholar Zbigniew Dmochowski in Nigeria, discussed at length in the chapter on Lagos. (A short excerpt from the chapter is published in Strelka Mag.) Dmochowski, who had studied vernacular buildings in Poland in the 1930s and wrote The Architecture of Poland in 1956, moved to Lagos in 1958, the same year Nigeria's independence was formalized. Like in Poland, Dmochowski honed in on traditional buildings and went on to lead the Museum of Traditional Nigerian Architecture (MOTNA) in Jos, teach at the Zaria School of Architecture, and write the three-volume, now-hard-to-find Introduction to Traditional Nigerian Architecture, published posthumously in 1990. His timing and focus on vernacular architecture emphasized documenting (especially through isometric drawings) a native Nigerian architecture in the face of its immediate colonial past. In Nigeria, Dmochowski and his drawings are remembered to this day, something Stanek discovered in his travels. To Stanek, Dmochowski's work in Nigeria "shows the instrumentality of Eastern Europeans in the indigenization of colonial knowledge by the postcolonial state" and the "mediating function assumed by Eastern Europeans in the process of decolonization of Nigerian architecture." His story is but one told in this scholarly but readable book, one example of highly cooperative exchanges between Socialist countries and the Global South that are unlike the cynical, incentivized character of most international "cooperation" today. SPREADS:

  • Modern in the Middle
    by John Hill on October 21, 2020 at 12:00 PM

    Modern in the Middle: Chicago Houses 1929-1975Susan S. Benjamin, Michelangelo SabatinoThe Monacelli Press, September 2020Hardcover | 8-1/2 x 11-1/2 inches | 296 pages | English | ISBN: 978-1580935265 | $60.00PUBLISHER'S DESCRIPTION: Famed as the birthplace of that icon of twentieth-century architecture, the skyscraper, Chicago also cultivated a more humble but no less consequential form of modernism–the private residence. Modern in the Middle: Chicago Houses 1929-75 explores the substantial yet overlooked role that Chicago and its suburbs played in the development of the modern single-family house in the twentieth century. In a city often associated with the outsize reputations of Frank Lloyd Wright and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, the examples discussed in this generously illustrated book expand and enrich the story of the region’s built environment. Authors Susan Benjamin and Michelangelo Sabatino survey dozens of influential houses by architects whose contributions are ripe for reappraisal, such as Paul Schweikher, Harry Weese, Keck & Keck, and William Pereira. From the bold, early example of the “Battledeck House” by Henry Dubin (1930) to John Vinci and Lawrence Kenny’s gem the Freeark House (1975), the generation-spanning residences discussed here reveal how these architects contended with climate and natural setting while negotiating the dominant influences of Wright and Mies. They also reveal how residential clients–typically middle-class professionals, progressive in their thinking–helped to trailblaze modern architecture in America. Though reflecting different approaches to site, space, structure, and materials, the examples in Modern in the Middle reveal an abundance of astonishing houses that have never been collected into one study–until now. Susan Benjamin is a noted historic preservationist and published architectural historian based in Chicago. Michelangelo Sabatino directs the PhD program in architecture and is the inaugural John Vinci Distinguished Research Fellow at the Illinois Institute of Technology. REFERRAL LINKS:    dDAB COMMENTARY: I grew up in Northbrook, a Chicago suburb located about twenty miles north of the Loop. My childhood home was a long walk from the village's main shopping area, the public library, and the adjacent water tower, the last of which was famously emblazoned with "Save Ferris" for John Hughes's Ferris Bueller's Day Off. Given that Hughes lived in the area, much of the movie — and others he made in the 1980s — was filmed on location in Chicago and the north suburbs. Yet the titular character's house (among many other locales) is actually located in Los Angeles, specifically 4160 Country Club Drive in Long Beach. I chalk this up to suburban sameness and the ability of one to pass off as any other.  But what about Cameron's house, the glass box dramatically perched over a ravine, the same ravine his parent's red Ferrari lands in near the end of the film? That is the Rose House designed by A. James Speyer and located in Highland Park, just northeast of Northbrook. More accurately, the structure damaged by the car is the Rose Auto Pavilion designed by architect David Haid, a student of Speyer's, who added the detached structure in 1974, 21 years after the original was completed. I can only guess that if Hughes used a modern house in Los Angeles, of which there are plenty, the North Shore-ness of the film would have been derailed. Yes, I can see a Ferrari being launched through a plate glass wall of John Lautner's Chemosphere, but not without it looking obviously Los Angeles rather than being able to pull off suburban Chicago. The lover of modern houses in me chalks up the above to a few things, most notably the particular way modern houses relate to their landscapes, especially compared to typical suburban blocks lined with typical suburban houses. Not all Chicago houses have such dramatic properties as the Rose House, but the dozens of houses collected in Modern in the Middle  — of which Cameron's family's house is one of them — exhibit some tendencies that capture the flavor of modern residential architecture in Chicagoland in the middle of last century. Much of that flavor comes about through the selection of houses by historian Susan Benjamin and architect Michelangelo Sabatino.  Spanning from 1929 to 1975, as the subtitle makes clear, there is a predominance of International Style modernism, much of it influenced by Mies van der Rohe. Naturally, Mies is included in the book (Plano falls into the Chicago orbit with this book's fairly large geographical reach), but so are Frank Lloyd Wright, Bertrand Goldberg, Stanley Tigerman, Bruce Goff, Keck & Keck, and Harry Weese; all familiar names. But architects who know a lot about architecture in Chicago will be more enamored with the many houses designed by forgotten architects. How many people know, for instance, Le Roy Binkley? I didn't, so the house he designed for himself in Long Grove is a treat — one of many in the book. Binkley's house is given only two pages and doesn't include a plan, but most houses are given at least four pages and are documented with a floor plan. Photos are in abundance, but most of them are b/w and appear to be historic rather than contemporary. Reading their descriptions reveals if the houses are still extant. Bookending the portfolios of houses are one essay by each author at the front of the book, a couple essays at the back of the book, and a section titled "The Authors and Their Homes." The essays are excellent in providing context and making an argument for the appreciation and preservation of the many houses in the book, but the inclusion of the authors' houses is most telling. These peeks make the authors' houses highly personal, and the portfolio that precedes them does the same: telling the histories of the houses in terms of the clients as much as their architects and designs. Given that most of these houses were expensive to design and build, and were built in pricey suburbs, the book's architectural/social history is of an upper-middle-class leaning — one that John Hughes and his cast of characters would have been at home in. SPREADS:

  • The Architecture Machine
    by John Hill on October 20, 2020 at 12:00 PM

    The Architecture Machine: The Role of Computers in ArchitectureTeresa Fankhänel, Andres Lepik (Editors)Birkhäuser, July 2020Hardcover | 8-1/4 x 11 inches | 248 pages | 230 illustrations | English | ISBN: 978-3035621549 | $45.99PUBLISHER'S DESCRIPTION: Today, it is hard to imagine the everyday work in an architectural practice without computers. Bits and bytes play an important role in the design and presentation of architecture. The book, which is published in the context of an exhibition of the same name of the Architekturmuseum der TUM at the Pinakothek der Moderne in Munich (October 14, 2020 to January 10, 2021), for the first time considers – in depth – the development of the digital in architecture. In four chapters, it recounts this intriguing history from its beginnings in the 1950s through to today and presents the computer as a drawing machine, as a design tool, as a medium for telling stories, and as an interactive communication platform. The basic underlying question is simple: Has the computer changed architecture? And if so, by how much? Teresa Fankhänel and Andres Lepik are curator and director, respectively, at the Architekturmuseum der TUM. REFERRAL LINKS:    dDAB COMMENTARY: Last week the exhibition The Architecture Machine, curated by Teresa Fankhänel, opened at Architekturmuseum der TUM, the Munich institution directed by Andres Lepik. The pair edited the companion catalog, which consists of nearly 40 case studies spanning more than 50 years, from Sketchpad in 1963 to the ubiquity of computer software used for modeling, drafting, rendering, and just about every other architectural task today. Humorously, Sketchpad, described in the book as "one of the first programs that allowed users to manipulate, operate, and active categories of objects through a ... graphical user interface," was reconstructed by CMU professor Daniel Cardoso Llach in 2017. Needless to say, the latter — even as it used contemporary technologies (stylus, tablet) in place of the old ones (light pen, CRT screen) — amplifies the dramatic strides taken in the last half-century when it comes to the incorporation of computers into architectural design. Four chapters trace roughly the same timespan with themes that see the "The Computer as...": ...a Drawing Machine; ... a Design Tool; ...a Medium for Storytelling; and ...an Interactive Platform. (See also second spread below.) Flipping through the case studies in each chapter is like quickly moving forward in time, from colored lines on black backgrounds and rudimentary wireframes in the 1980s, to now awkward-looking blobs from the late 1990s and today's hyperrealistic renderings that might look awkward to future generations. For me, an architect who was educated with hand drafting but then had to quickly learn CAD upon graduation in order to actually get a job, the journeys in each chapter are nostalgic yet far from personal; many of the projects were carried out by digital innovators who were on the margins, sitting at computers when others were crouched over drafting tables. The case studies reveal just how much was being done by so few people in the early days of CAD, well before it became widespread in the late 1990s. To give a sense of the range of the case studies, a few examples. The first chapter, which is the most historical chapter of the four, includes the Multihalle in Mannheim, the timber gridshell pavilion from 1975 designed by Carlfried Mutschler and engineered by Frei Otto. Although it was designed using wire-mesh models, in the vein of Antoni Gaudi's famous hanging-chain models from decades earlier, Ove Arup & Partners analyzed the structure with the help of a CDC 6600 mainframe computer, generating a digital plan layout for the gridshell. Later, in chapter four, is Asymptote Architecture's Guggenheim Virtual Museum, which was designed on the cusp of the Millennium, around the time the New York Stock Exchange approached the studio to design "a state of the art virtual reality environment." Like NYSE, the Guggenheim project (third and fourth spreads below) was completely virtual but it had smooth, flowing architectural forms that echoed buildings being done at the time (e.g., Nox's H20 Expo). Ultimately, the Guggenheim project was shelved by the events of September 11, 2001, just as less than a year later it cancelled the Gehry-designed outpost proposed for the Lower Manhattan waterfront. Beyond the case studies are eight essays (two per chapter) from contributors outside of TUM, and at the back of the book are three Architectural Software Timelines that trace a half-century of advances in drawing and modeling, rendering and animation, and scripting and analysis. The timelines are particularly helpful since each case study is tagged, in digital parlance, with the softwares used to create them. Although this book is far from technical, architects interested in the evolution of architecture at the hands of CAD and other software should like this historical overview of a period of dramatic change. SPREADS:

  • Flores & Prats: Sala Beckett
    by John Hill on October 19, 2020 at 12:00 PM

    Flores & Prats: Sala Beckett: International Drama CentreRichard Flores, Eva PratsArquine, May 2020Paperback | 8-1/4 x 11-3/4 inches | 304 pages | 295 illustrations | English | ISBN: 978-6079489564 | $35.00PUBLISHER'S DESCRIPTION: The Workers Cooperative Pau i Justícia in Poblenou, very active for much of the twentieth century, closed its doors in the late 1990s and left the building abandoned and in an advanced state of ruin. The Sala Beckett, one of the driving forces of Catalan theatre since its foundation in the late 1980s as the headquarters of the company El Teatro Fronterizo of José Sanchis Sinisterra, and directed by Toni Casares since 1997, was left without its headquarters in the neighbourhood of Gràcia, in the mid-2000s. Following a public competition in 2011, the Sala Beckett team and Flores & Prats studio undertook a process of rehabilitation of this former Workers Cooperative to convert it into the new Sala Beckett / International Drama Centre. The building, abandoned for more than twenty years, was still very present in the memory of the neighbours living around it, so, this became the recovery of social heritage as well as physical heritage. The final result captures the era of the Cooperative, the era of abandonment, and the era of the new Sala Beckett. Ricardo Flores studied architecture at the Faculty of Architecture in Buenos Aires FADU-UBA, graduating in 1992 ... from 1993 to 1998, collaborated as Design Architect at Arch. Enric Miralles’ office ... in 1998 established in Barcelona the office of architecture Flores & Prats Archs, with Eva Prats, who studied architecture at the ETSAB, Barcelona School of Architecture, graduating in 1992 ... collaborated as Design Architect at Arch. Enric Miralles’ office, from 1991 to 1994 ... in 1998 established in Barcelona the office of architecture Flores & Prats Archs, with Ricardo Flores. REFERRAL LINKS:    dDAB COMMENTARY: One of the highlights of the 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale was Liquid Light, Flores & Prat's presentation of their design for Sala Beckett in Barcelona. Occupying a portion of the impressive Corderie space at the Arsenale, the two-sided presentation provided a full-size mockup of a portion of the project along the walkway and, on the flip side, a back-of-house area with sketches, drawings, photographs, and study models. (The latter can be seen in my photograph from the Biennale's vernissage, when I happened to capture Flores talking with a journalist.) While I didn't think of it at the time, the abundance of materials for a relatively diminutive project (3,000 m2 with a budget of 2.5 mil euros) certainly pointed to the potential for a book-length document to be produced. Two years later it has arrived, and it is impressive — as much as the exhibition and the Sala Beckett itself. Sala Beckett is the transformation of the old Cooperativa Paz y Justicia in Barcelona's Poblenou neighborhood into a home for the theater group named for Samuel Beckett. Flores & Prats won the design competition in 2011 and five years later the building opened to the public. Where before the two-story building housed a gymnasium, pool, cafe, theater, classrooms, and other spaces tailored to the worker's cooperative, the Sala Becket features a bar, two theaters, classrooms, offices, and related spaces for learning, practicing, and performing. Some of these before-and-after functions overlap, but for the most part the new uses depart considerably from what was there before and therefore required a good amount of demolition in order to reconfigure the interior. Yet somehow, as captured in completed photographs, it looks like nothing was done to the building. The book's 304 pages explain just how this impression came to be. The book starts with the essay "How should the New Sala Beckett be? An important decision" by Toni Casares, director of Sala Beckettt, and features texts by architects Ricardo Flores and Eva Prats, as well as contributions from Juan José Lahuerta, Soraya Smithson, Sergi Belbel, Carlota Coloma and Adrià Lahuerta, Manuel Guerrero Brullet, and Ellis Woodman. But really it's a book about the visuals: the finished photographs, construction photos, drawings, models, sketches, and other images revealing the design and realization of the project. (The architects' online book presentation from June gives a great peek inside the book, while also allowing them to share some of the models and other artifacts in their office.) Of course, the images don't stand alone; they are accompanied by informative captions that aid greatly in telling the story of Sala Beckett's new home. But the book is just one means for Flores & Prats to tell that story, one on equal footing with the Biennale intervention and the five-part documentary series Escala 1:5 (both are discussed at length in the book). Photographs of the completed Sala Beckett reveal layers of new and old but also an uncertainty as to where one era ends and the other begins. The architects' meticulous cataloging of all of the existing building's elements — windows, doors, floor tiles, fixtures, decorations, etc. — informed their decision to treat the design as, in part, a recomposition of the original. There are certainly new elements, as well as new cuts into the building for natural light and enlarging spaces; and not all of the old materials were retained. But the overall feeling is one of respect: for the original, for the theater group, and for the architects' ability in adapting the former for the latter. With this book I feel like I know Sala Beckett intimately, even more than buildings I've visited. As with any good building monograph, this one really makes me want to go see it in person. SPREADS:

  • Peter Zumthor: Therme Vals
    by John Hill on October 17, 2020 at 12:00 PM

    Peter Zumthor: Therme ValsPeter Zumthor (Editor); Photographs by Hélène BinetScheidegger & Spiess, 2007Hardcover | 9-1/2 x 12 inches | 192 pages | 123 illustrations | English | ISBN: 978-3858817044 | $110.00PUBLISHER'S DESCRIPTION: Peter Zumthor Therme Vals, the only book-length study of the mountain spa, features the architect’s own original sketches and plans for its design, as well as Hélène Binet’s striking photographs of the structure. Annotations by Zumthor elucidate Therme Vals’s symbiotic relationship to its natural surroundings, and an essay on such topics as Artemis/Diana, Baptism, and Spring by architectural scholar Sigrid Hauser draw out the connections between the elemental nature of the spa and mythology, bathing, and purity. This lavishly illustrated volume about the spa that catapulted a remote Swiss village onto the international architecture scene will entrance all enthusiasts of contemporary design. Peter Zumthor, born 1943, works with his Atelier of around 30 people in the alpine setting of Haldenstein, Switzerland, producing architectural originals like Kunsthaus Bregenz, Therme Vals, Museum Kolumba Köln or the Steilneset Memorial in Vardø. REFERRAL LINKS:    dDAB COMMENTARY: A few days ago, in my review of the recently published The Architecture of Bathing, I mentioned a memorable trip I took to Vals, Switzerland, to spend the day inside Therme Vals, the famous baths designed by Peter Zumthor. It was hard not to think of that trip when flipping through a book about bathing spots (I'm not a swimmer or much of a water person, so the other most memorable experience of relevance would be bathing at ryokans in Japan); it was also hard not to grab my souvenir from that trip off the shelf. Although Therme Vals makes up a sizable chunk of Peter Zumthor: Works, the once sought after and ridiculously overpriced monograph put out by Lars Müller in 1999, this later building monograph put out by fellow Swiss publisher Scheidegger & Spiess delves even deeper into the building's inspiration, design, and execution. I'd say it's a must-have for any architect who has been there, but at $110 retail the price is a bit steep (mine is a gift I'm long grateful for). Of course, given that Therme Vals' ownership since 2012 has made visiting the baths unaffordable for local residents and most people, at least according to The Architecture of Bathing, the high price tag is probably not a deterrent to recent visitors. Like Works, Therme Vals is loaded with photographs by Zumthor's go-to photographer, Hélène Binet. And just as the book intertwines an essay by Sigrid Hauser with one by Peter Zumthor, with text size and column widths signaling which is which, Binet's photos are spread throughout the book in a handful of groupings, with drawings, sketches, and model photos in between. Even though the photos — generally a representation of a building's completion — are spread across the book's pages (they are labeled Photographs I to V in the table of contents and are found roughly every 40 pages), the book moves logically from inspiration near the front to realization at the back. Most architects, I gather, will appreciate the middle portions, where Zumthor discusses the floor plan and then reveals details about the construction and materials. The latter are limited to concrete and the gneiss stone quarried in Vals, which combine to create a dark, labyrinthine interior dramatically lit from above. I hope to return someday to experience it again, but if not, this book will always remind me of that relaxing day in Vals. SPREADS:

  • Architecture Beyond Experience
    by John Hill on October 16, 2020 at 12:00 PM

    Architecture Beyond ExperienceMichael Benediktar+d (Applied Research + Design), May 2020Paperback | 7 x 10 inches | 312 pages | English | ISBN: | $35.00PUBLISHER'S DESCRIPTION: Architecture Beyond Experience is a work in the service of one goal: the bringing about of a more relational, “posthuman” and yet humanist strain in architecture. It argues against the values that currently guide much architectural production (and the larger economy’s too), which is the making, marketing, and staging of ever more arresting experiences. The result, in architecture, is experientialism: the belief that what gives a building value, aside from fulfilling its shelter functions, is how its views and spaces make us feel as we move around. The book argues that it’s time to find a deeper basis for making and judging architecture, a basis which is not personal-experience-multiplied, but which is dialogical and relational from the start. It uses the word relational to describe an architecture that guides people in search of encounter with (or avoidance of) each other and that manifests and demonstrates those same desires in its own forms, components, and materials. Buildings are beings. When architecture, they teach as well as protect; they tell us who we were and who we want to be; they exemplify, they deserve respect, invite investment, and reward affection. These are social-relational values, values that both underlie and go beyond experiential ones (sometimes called “phenomenological”). Such relational values have been suppressed, in part because architects have joined the Experience Economy, hardly noticing they have done so. Architecture Beyond Experience provides the argument and the concepts to ultimately re-center a profession. Michael Benedikt is the Director of the Center for American Architecture and Design (CAAD) at the University of Texas at Austin, where he holds the Hal Box Chair in Urbanism, is an ACSA Distinguished Professor of Architecture, teaches design studio and architectural theory, and directs the school’s Interdisciplinary Studies master’s degree program. REFERRAL LINKS:     dDAB COMMENTARY: What happened to Michael Benedikt? When I think of the UTSOA professor, and I'm probably not alone here, is 1992 book For an Architecture of Reality comes to mind. Written in the heyday of PoMo and Decon, the short, illustrated book (or long essay) is an influential phenomenological argument for architecture that is, well, real, not pastiche. But near the beginning of Benedikt's latest book, the many-years-in-the-making Architecture Beyond Experience, he speaks of writing the earlier book "in a previous incarnation" (or something like that; given that the book lacks an index, I can't find the quote). In many ways, the new book is a repudiation of many of Reality's themes, though he's also described Experience as a continuation of his earlier book. I shouldn't be surprised that Benedikt has shifted course after nearly 30 years, though. For one, around the same time as Reality he edited Cyberspace: First Steps, which I haven't read but digested when he gave a lecture on it when I was in undergraduate architecture school. I recall Benedikt talking about the possibility of an architect using VR goggles to show a client the progress of the design of their future house. But instead of the technology being a step toward a physical building, the immersive model was the end, the product of the architect's design. Three decades later, with VR technology more realistic and games more prevalent and impressive graphically, such a scenario seems more tenable, even though we all still need floors to walk on, roofs over our head, and walls with windows to look out of. (For an illuminating conversation between Benedikt and host Sean Lally on cyberspace and other things, check out the Night White Skies podcast.) So Benedikt has moved from reality and experience to a position that is beyond experience, in part because experience has been commodified — turned into experiences. In the first of the book's three parts, he addresses the experience economy and then moves into the difference between "I-It" and "I-You" relationships, which are based on the texts of Martin Buber. Basically, these two attitudes are respectively selfish and empathetic, and it's clear by the end which is the preferred mode for a new architecture. These terms are the first of many that the author introduces in a book that is more neuroscience than phenomenology; a glance at the glossary reveals some of the important ones that pepper the book: Isovists, M-branes, Object-Oriented Ontology (OOO), Relationism, and Space Syntax, among many others. Part two is titled "The Fabric of Glances," another glossary term that refers to the density of relations in space being the supposedly "true medium of social interaction via vision," rather than space itself. In this part Benedikt dives into arrays, isovists, and m-branes, all of them discussed at length and accompanied, thankfully, by diagrams. Like Jack Murphy, in his review of Benedikt's book in Texas Architect, I also appreciate the first chapter in this part, in which the author critiques environment-behavior studies. Both of my undergraduate architecture and graduate urban design educations — at Kansas State University and CUNY, respectively — happened to have strong EB components, the former anchored by David Seamon and the latter through its Environmental Psychology PhD program. Part of me really wants to believe in the effectiveness of EB, but Benedikt capably explains how, even if it were adopted widely (it hasn't since first forming in the 1960s), EB would not be able to move beyond a focus on experiences and a scientifically distanced I-It perspective. Which leads us to part three, "Architecture Beyond Experience," the meat of the book. Put simply, this part applies the new (for most) terminologies learned in the earlier parts to buildings by Aldo van Eyck (three of the spreads below), Carlo Scarpa, and Louis I. Kahn. (Kahn was one subject of Benedikt's Deconstructing the Kimbell: An Essay on Meaning and Architecture, released around the same time as For an Architecture of Reality.) But these are not simply buildings; they are buildings as beings: "post-human" analyses that prioritize ethics over experience. My understanding of buildings as beings probably stops well short of what it should to fully endorse Benedikt's newfound stance toward architecture, but it's a very intriguing notion: considering buildings like we would other people, or animals, or parts of nature. Now that climate change is clearly the greatest crisis humans will face (and we need to face it now, no matter what politicians say), decisions of whether to demolish and retrofit versus building anew — or building at all — are paramount. Considering buildings as beings might be just what is needed to make those decisions be about ethics and environment rather than economics and experiences. SPREADS:

  • Tremaine Houses
    by John Hill on October 15, 2020 at 12:00 PM

    Tremaine Houses: One Family’s Patronage of Domestic Architecture in Midcentury AmericaVolker M. Welter Getty Publications, YearHardcover | 9-1/2 x 10 inches | 224 pages | 117 illustrations | English | ISBN: 978-1606066140 | $55.00PUBLISHER'S DESCRIPTION: From the late 1930s to the early 1970s, two brothers, Burton G. Tremaine and Warren D. Tremaine, and their respective wives, Emily Hall Tremaine and Katharine Williams Tremaine, commissioned approximately thirty architecture and design projects. Richard Neutra and Oscar Niemeyer designed the best-known Tremaine houses; Philip Johnson and Frank Lloyd Wright also created designs and buildings for the family that achieved iconic status in the modern movement. Focusing on the Tremaines’ houses and other projects, such as a visitor center at the meteor crater in Arizona, this volume explores the Tremaines’ architectural patronage in terms of the family’s motivations and values, exposing patterns in what may appear as an eclectic collection of modern architecture. Architectural historian Volker M. Welter argues that the Tremaines’ patronage was not driven by any single factor; rather, it stemmed from a network of motives comprising the clients’ practical requirements, their private and public lives, and their ideas about architecture and art. Volker M. Welter is a professor in the Department of the History of Art and Architecture at the University of California, Santa Barbara. REFERRAL LINKS:    dDAB COMMENTARY: Architecture books about clients rather than architects are a rarity. The only ones that come to mind are Alice T. Friedman's Women and the Making of the Modern House, which "investigates how women patrons of architecture were essential catalysts for innovation in domestic architectural design"; Peter Eisenman's House VI: The Client's Response, in which Suzanne Frank, who commissioned the house with her husband, describes what it's like to live in such a challenging design; and Visionary Clients for New Architecture, which highlights the clients behind a number of iconic buildings done at the end of last century (Guggenheim Bilbao, Vitra campus, Hayden Tract). Treating architecture from the perspective of the client is a hole that certainly should be filled and Tremaine Houses is one commendable addition to this small architecture-book niche. I'll admit to not being familiar with the name Tremaine before receiving this book, but the names of the architects the members of the family hired between 1936 and 1973 is a who's who of American modernism. A helpful appendix lists twenty architects and designers who worked for the Tremaines on a total of 33 projects, most notably Philip Johnson, Richard Neutra, Oscar Niemeyer, and Frank Lloyd Wright. Neutra's house for Warren and Katharine Tremaine, which graces the cover and was in MoMA's Built in USA: Post-war Architecture, is probably the most well known of the family's projects, but it's the presence of Niemeyer on this list that draws the biggest question mark. Niemyer built a house for the Tremaines? Really? Well, no; he designed a house for Burton and Emily Tremaine, complete with landscaping by Roberto Burle Marx, but unfortunately it was never built. Nevertheless, it was an important project that Volker M. Welter devotes one of his book's seven chapters to; another is given over entirely to the Neutra house. The chapter "Painting toward Postwar Architecture, 1948-49," though, is what drew my attention the most. The name refers to the traveling exhibition, Painting Toward Architecture: The Miller Company Collection of Abstract Art, which ran from 1947 to 1952, was curated by Emily Tremaine and Henry-Russell Hitchcock, and was made into a book of the same name in 1948. The Miller Company, a business of the Tremaine family, was involved with lighting for offices, so the exhibition focused on collaborations between art and architecture with an eye to lighting and influencing the image of corporate America while making money from it. With the Tremaines, notably Emily and her husband, realizing the importance of their patronage at the time, they embarked on other exhibitions, including From Le Corbusier to Niemeyer, 1929-1949 at MoMA, which gave a second life to Niemeyer's unbuilt design for them. Projects by Johnson and others follow, but it's the chapters on Neutra and Niemeyer that make up the heart of the book. People interested in these architects — and the family that hired them — should appreciate Welter's thoroughly researched book. SPREADS:

  • The Architecture of Bathing
    by John Hill on October 14, 2020 at 12:00 PM

    The Architecture of Bathing: Body, Landscape, ArtChristie PearsonThe MIT Press, October 2020Hardcover | 8 x 10 inches | 424 pages | 266 illustrations | English | ISBN: 9780262044219 | $49.95PUBLISHER'S DESCRIPTION: We enter the public pool, the sauna, or the beach with a heightened awareness of our bodies and the bodies of others. The phenomenology of bathing opens all of our senses toward the physical world entwined with the social, while the history of bathing is one of shared space, in both natural and built environments. In The Architecture of Bathing, Christie Pearson offers a unique examination of communal bathing and its history from the perspective of architecture and landscape. Engagingly written, with more than 260 illustrations, many in color, The Architecture of Bathing offers a celebration of spaces in which public and private, sacred and profane, ritual and habitual, pure and impure, nature and culture commingle. Pearson takes a wide-ranging view of her subject, drawing on architecture, art, and literary works. Each chapter is structured around an architectural typology and explores an accompanying theme—for example, tub: sensuality; river: flow; waterfall: rejuvenation; and banya: immersion. Offering examples, introducing relevant theory, and recounting personal experiences, Pearson effortlessly combines a practitioner's zest with astonishing erudition. As she examines these forms, we see that they are inextricable from landscapes, bodily practices, and cultural production. Looking more closely, we experience architecture itself as an immersive material and social space, embedded in the interdependent environmental and cultural fabric of our world. Christie Pearson is an award-winning architect, writer, and urban interventionist. An Adjunct Professor at the University of Waterloo School of Architecture, she is coeditor of the architectural journal Scapegoat. REFERRAL LINKS:    dDAB COMMENTARY: In summer 2013, I was fortunate enough to travel with a friend from the city of Zurich to the village of Vals and spend a day inside the famous Therme Vals designed by Peter Zumthor and completed in 1996. That visit happened one year after the Commune of Vals sold the baths and attached hotel to property developer Remo Stoffel, who rebranded it 7132, hired famous architects to design hotel suites, brought in Morphosis to design a new entrance canopy, and audaciously proposed Europe's tallest tower, also designed by Morphosis, to sit next to the baths. Thankfully the 82-story tower was basically dead on arrival, but as noted by Christie Pearson in her book-length exploration of bathing, the sale of the property meant "[the bath] is not longer affordable for the people who live here." In effect, the sale turned Therme Vals from "a space of leisure and rejuvenation for all" to a "spa as a luxury commodity." Pearson discusses Therme Vals across just three of The Architecture of Bathing's 424 pages. This says to me that the author is not interested predominantly in the design of baths (this is far from a collection of contemporary designs, though the spreads below reveal that they are still found in the book), while her comments about the sale of Therme Vals indicate an interest in bathing as a social activity over anything else. Nevertheless, Zumthor's baths are found in a chapter called "Pool: Play of Volumes," in which Pearson explores the spatial and phenomenological aspects of bathing, moving from James Turrell and other artists to the words of Henri Lefebvre and Steen Eiler Rasmussen, before reaching Vals and then moving onto other people and places, including Zaha Hadid's London Acquatics Center completed for the 2012 Olympics. Space and design are important in The Architecture of Bathing, but so is philosophy, literature, and other fields of study. Pearson's text mixes sometimes grandiloquent statements about the act of bathing ("Bathing spaces foreground tensions in resistance to and affirmation in life..."), firsthand accounts that transport us to her destinations ("I pack all the towels and swimsuits, pack and repack, water bottle, sunscreen...wait, how many towels? Big or small?"), and general commentary about bathing and other aquatic acts spurred by those visits ("The swimming pool can draw to itself a dozen architectures of bathing within its enclosure..." after a visit to Hadid's building). Pearson's "people's history of bathing," as she calls it in the introduction, is a highly ambitious one. With so many histories, ideas, places, etc. intertwining themselves among chapters that describe venues but also states of mind (e.g., "Sea: Rhythmic Theater" or "Sweat Lodge: Healing Transgressions"), it's easy to get lost or carried away in the aquatic tangle. Thankfully, the index directs readers to places that are subjective ("Taboo") as well as real ("Therme Vals"), which readers will no doubt want to visit after reading the book.  SPREADS:

  • Eileen Gray
    by John Hill on October 12, 2020 at 12:00 PM

    Eileen Gray, Designer and ArchitectCloé Pitiot and Nina Stritzler-Levine (Editors)Bard Graduate Center, February 2020Paperback | 8-1/2 x 10-1/2 inches | 500 pages | English | ISBN: 978-0300251067 | $55.00PUBLISHER'S DESCRIPTION: Eileen Gray (1878–1976), an Irish architect-designer who worked primarily in France, was a pioneer in modern design and architecture and one of the few women to practice professionally in those fields before World War II. Born in Ireland and educated in London, Gray proceeded to Paris where she opened a textile studio, studied the Japanese craft of lacquer that would become a primary technique in her design work, and owned and directed the influential gallery and store known as “Jean Désert.” Gray struggled for acceptance as a largely self-taught woman in male-dominated professions. Although she is now best known for her furniture, lighting, and carpets, she dedicated herself to many architectural and interior projects that were both personal and socially driven, including E 1027, the iconic modern house designed with Jean Badovici, as well as economical and demountable projects, such as the Camping Tent. Essays in the exhibition catalogue are organized in three sections: “Beginnings,” which focuses on Gray’s early life and training; “Being a Designer,” which examines her career as a designer of furniture, rugs, and interiors; and “Being an Architect,” which responds to the prevailing question of whether Eileen Gray was an architect with a resounding “yes”. This section features more than 44 catalogue entries on Gray’s architectural work organized by typology. It focuses on the diversity of Gray’s design practices and elaborates on the range of her architectural projects. Edited by Cloé Pitiot and Nina Stritzler-Levine, the volume contains contributions by the editors, as well as by Renaud Barrès, Caroline Constant, Philippe Garner, Jennifer Goff, Anne Jacquin, Fréderic Migayrou, and Ruth Starr. It also features more than 200 illustrations, including reproductions of the archival materials presented in the exhibition, extensive texts on Gray’s design work, previously unpublished architectural drawings, a chronology documenting the key moments of Gray’s life and career, critical encounters, and her worldwide travels. Cloé Pitiot is curator of Art Nouveau, Art Deco, and contemporary design at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, Paris. Nina Stritzler-Levine is director of the gallery and curatorial affairs at the Bard Graduate Center, New York. REFERRAL LINKS:    dDAB COMMENTARY: During the symposium "Eileen Gray: New Research and Methodologies" that took place at Bard Graduate Center on February 28 and coincided with the opening of the Eileen Gray exhibition in BGC's Upper West Side gallery, designer Irma Boom said that working on the catalog to the exhibition nearly killed her. More accurately, it was working on Eileen Gray alongside Countryside, A Report and the catalog to MoMA's show on Neri Oxman — three New York City exhibitions that opened this spring and had their schedules maligned by the coronavirus pandemic — that nearly killed her. Certainly the timing of three major books did not help her workload and sanity, but I'd wager that the way Boom puts so much originality and novelty into the design and organizations of her book projects that just about any one of them would have the same near-death result. Ever seen Elements of Architecture? Its size alone, not to mention the reams of text and images that went into making it so big, would make other designers keel over even before starting. Hyperbole aside, what is most commendable about Boom's book designs is the way their originality and novelty strike a balance with the content; rather than overpowering the words and images, or doing the opposite and disappearing entirely, the designs manage to amplify the qualities of the book's contents. As she explained in her symposium talk, the layout of the text in Eileen Gray is justified to create columns of text that interact with the images and the captions to create abstract shapes on the page, recalling the rugs and other things Gray designed. That abstraction extends to the outside of the book, though not necessarily the cover, which is comprised of just text in four shades of gray across a gray background; rather, the fore edges of the pages feature interlocking rectangles in shades of gray. Put another way, the book is an object inspired by Gray's designs when seen from the outside; inside, the designs are presented and discussed in a manner that elevates the modernist qualities of Gray's furniture, buildings, and other interiors she executed over an 80-year period. Recently I was able to see the Eileen Gray exhibition at BGC, writing about it for World-Architects. For those who can't see it during its short, fifteen-day run after reopening on October 13, the companion catalog is an excellent substitute. Like other exhibition catalogs, it contains images of the exhibition's contents as well as scholarly essays on its subject. The former goes well beyond what BGC could display in its small interior, an old townhouse just steps from Central Park, while the latter makes up roughly half the book and delves deeply into Gray's background and her roles as a designer of furnishings and an architect of interiors and buildings. The exhibition allows visitors to see some of those designs in the flesh (the lacquered screens and E-1027 furniture were a highlight for me), but the book aids in understanding Gray's life and the great diversity of her projects. Furthermore, considering that some of the most interesting designs are kinetic (e.g., the pivoting drawers of the dining room storage from two houses she designed), the book provides an assortment of views and configurations not possible in the exhibition. Since this is a blog about architecture books, and since most architects most likely think of Gray as a furniture designer who executed one architectural work, albeit a masterpiece (E-1027), the catalog illuminates that she was as much an architect as a designer. The exhibition and book structure her life and output into "Being a Designer" and "Being an Architect," reflecting her movement over time toward architectural projects of larger scale. She designed cultural centers and other projects that responded to France's situation before and after World War II, but, alas, she only realized three buildings, all houses. Gray was self-trained, with a skill that comes across clearly in the book. (Her talent must have been what made Le Corbusier jealously deface the walls of E-1027.) BGC's Eileen Gray, which builds upon a 2013 Pompidou exhibition also curated by Cloé Pitiot, is a clear indication of Gray's increasing popularity this century — and a sign of things to come as new fans are made. SPREADS:

  • World Architecture 1900-2000: A Critical Mosaic, Vol. 8
    by John Hill on October 10, 2020 at 12:00 PM

    World Architecture 1900-2000: A Critical Mosaic, Vol. 8: South AsiaKenneth Frampton (General Editor), Rahul Mehrotra (Volume Editor)China Architecture & Building Press/Springer Verlag, 2000 Hardcover | 9 x 11-1/2 inches | 260 pages | 380 illustrations | English | ISBN: 3211832912PUBLISHER'S DESCRIPTION: At the close of the 20th century, this series of 10 volumes recording the century's most significant architectural achievements and covering all parts of the world will be published. Altogether 1000 buildings and urban complexes have been selected by noted architecture writers and critics. Within each volume, one hundred significant examples represent the political, economical, cultural and demographic evolution of the particular region over the century. The evident complexity of the enterprise cannot entirely exclude a few arbitrary choices. Not only does the selection of procedure reflect individual choices, but also the division of the globe into transnational regions of vastly differing size and character evokes a specific appearance of World Architecture. Thus this architectural collection is to be understood as a critical mosaic representing as a whole the entire evolution of World Architecture from 1900 to 2000. – Wilfred Wang Kenneth Frampton is Ware Professor at the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, Preservation, Columbia University, New York. He is the author of numerous books on architectural theory and history. Rahul Mehrotra has been an architect in Bombay [sic] since 1990. He is Executive Director of the Urban Design Research Institute (UDRI), which promotes awareness of, and research on, the city of Bombay. He has written several books and articles on architecture and urbanism.  REFERRAL LINKS:  dDAB COMMENTARY: Three years ago on this blog I discussed the 10-volume World Architecture 1900-2000 series that Kenneth Frampton edited with a slew of volume editors, associate editors, and nominators. Each volume covers a different geographical region (Volume 1 is Canada and the United States, Volume 4 is Latin America, etc.) and consists of 100 important buildings completed throughout the 20th century. All told, the series highlights a whopping 1,000 buildings, making for a truly international sampling of mainly modern architecture last century. But very few people know about the books, especially when compared to Frampton's famous Modern Architecture: A Critical History, which was released in 1980 and just saw its fifth edition published. My blog post from 2017 mentioned how helpful the books were for me in the research phase of 100 Years, 100 Buildings, and it drew attention to a lecture by Frampton in which he lamented the poor distribution of the ten books. I concur with Frampton, as I was able to get half of the books used for reasonable amounts (less than $30 each), but when I search out the remaining titles now, their prices approach $100, both prohibitively expensive and a sign of their rarity. With so much effort put into each title, especially by the volume editors and the various critics and historians who nominated the buildings for inclusion, the relative obscurity of these books is a shame. I was spurred to pull Volume 8 off my bookshelf after reviewing Working in Mumbai, the "not a monograph" on RMA Architects, the firm of Rahul Mehrotra, earlier in the week. Working in Mumbai is the latest book by Mehrotra, whose website indicates more than 20 titles, though the list does not include this volume of World Architecture 1900-2000 that he edited. Most of the books are focused on India, particularly Mumbai; his most well known book is Architecture in India: Since 1990, which came out in 2011. Clearly Mehrotra has long been invested in researching and disseminating information on the architecture of India and South Asia, so he was clearly the best person for the editorial job. Given India's population and geographical area, it's no surprise that most of the 100 buildings in this volume are located there; the other countries are Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. Mehrotra's 14-page introduction puts the region's 20th-century architecture into political contexts, though with Frampton at the helm of the whole undertaking, architecture as an expression of regional identity comes to the fore, not surprisingly. The 100 building descriptions that follow the introduction focus on history and architecture and are accompanied by photos and drawings. Every building is given two pages, though some important buildings are given more. References are provided for each building, and these are very helpful for people who want to learn more than what just a few paragraphs allow. SPREADS: