A Daily Dose of Architecture

  • Hip-Hop Architecture
    by John Hill on May 14, 2021 at 12:00 PM

    Hip-Hop ArchitectureSekou CookeBloomsbury Visual Arts, April 2021Paperback | 7-1/2 x 9-3/4 inches | 288 pages | 120 illustrations | English | ISBN: 9781350116146 | $34.95PUBLISHER'S DESCRIPTION:“This book is not for you. It is not for architectural academic elites. It is not for those who have gentrified our neighborhoods, overly intellectualized the profession, and ignored all contemporary Black theory within the discipline. You have made architecture a symbol of exclusion, oppression, and domination rather than expression, aspiration, and inspiration. This book is not for conformists-Black, White, or other.”As architecture grapples with its own racist legacy, Hip-Hop Architecture outlines a powerful new manifesto-the voice of the underrepresented, marginalized, and voiceless within the discipline. Exploring the production of spaces, buildings, and urban environments that embody the creative energies in hip-hop, it is a newly expanding design philosophy which sees architecture as a distinct part of hip-hop's cultural expression, and which uses hip-hop as a lens through which to provoke new architectural ideas.Examining the present and the future of Hip-Hop Architecture, the book also explores its historical antecedents and its theory, placing it in a wider context both within architecture and within Black and African American movements. Throughout, the work is illustrated with inspirational case studies of architectural projects and creative practices, and interspersed with interludes and interviews with key architects, designers, and academics in the field. This is a vital and provocative work that will appeal to architects, designers, students, theorists, and anyone interested in a fresh view of architecture, design, race and culture.Sekou Cooke is an architect, researcher, educator, and curator based in Syracuse, NY. He is Assistant Professor at Syracuse University's School of Architecture where he teaches exploratory design studios and seminars. ... Through his research, practice, and other academic endeavors, Sekou hopes to leave an equally lasting impact on ivory towers and underserved communities.REFERRAL LINKS:   dDAB COMMENTARY:When Sekou Cooke's Hip-Hop Architecture arrived in the mail recently, it immediately looked familiar. The cover's spray-painted words took me back to late 2018 and the exhibition Close to the Edge: The Birth of Hip Hop Architecture at the Center for Architecture. That exhibition, curated by Cooke with the contributions of nearly two-dozens students, academics, and practitioners from around the world, was an immersive experience that I described at the time as "a saturated black-and-white realm of graffiti and infrastructure (cut-up shipping containers) that serve as the backdrop for architectural designs, many of them colorful." Its exploration of architectural designs incorporating the four main elements of hip-hop — deejaying, emceeing, b-boying, and graffiti — was memorable, so I'm glad to see it made its way into book form, as nothing less than an ambitious yet accessible manifesto of Hip-Hop Architecture.Befitting its subject, Cooke's book is structured into four "volumes," not sections or parts, each with a number of "tracks," rather than chapters. Following a brief volume that introduces the movement, the second volume lays down most of the theoretical basis for Hip-Hop Architecture. Here, in the volume's ten tracks, is where most people may venture to figure out what exactly Hip-Hop Architecture is. Although Cooke's is considerably clearer — and more enjoyable — than any text that falls under "architectural theory," a definition is not simply handed to the reader; it is obtained through digesting the words, both Cooke's and the "samples" of others. Contradictions abound, but they are part and parcel of a design philosophy born from many different voices. A case in point is Cooke quoting a Mos Def (now Yasiin Bey) song from 1999, saying that hip-hop is "whatever's happening with us," only to thrown in a Jay-Z quote one page later that says the near-opposite: "Very few people are telling their real true story."When Close to Edge eventually appears, in the first track of Volume III, Cooke provokes again, quoting an audience member at an exhibition-related event at the Center: "So, I still don't get it." New York City, compared to other parts of the United States, is fairly progressive, but the architectural profession here, like the rest of the country, is still conservative, reflecting homogenous demographics. Countrywide, only 1.6% of the profession recognizes as Black or African American (as of 2018, per an AIA demographics report), so it's no surprise that many architects "don't get" a movement embodying the energy and production of African American culture. Although Cooke lays down the four elements of hip-hop (listed above) as a structure for Hip-Hop Architecture, the exhibition and book serve to answer a related, though perhaps more important question: "What does Hip-Hop Architecture look like?"Answers to that question abound across Volume III. There are many images of projects with familiar names (Amanda Williams, Stéphane Malka), names that should be more familiar (Nina Cooke John, Craig L. Wilkins), and names of students from Cooke's design studios at Syracuse University. Cooke describes the book as his "final 'final statement'" on a movement that he was discouraged to pursue but doggedly did anyway over the last half-decade. His efforts have lended academic credence to Hip-Hop Architectural design methodologies, influenced his own practice, and received a fair amount of positive feedback, some of it collected here. Most infectious, to me at least, are the freshness and optimism of the projects — designs that would not have been generated without Hip-Hop Architectural principles. Many are just that, projects, but hopefully building commissions follow; maybe then people will exclaim, "So, I still don't get it...but I like it!"SPREADS:

  • The Art Museum in Modern Times
    by John Hill on May 13, 2021 at 12:00 PM

    The Art Museum in Modern TimesCharles Saumarez SmithThames & Hudson, April 2021Hardcover | 6-1/2 x 9-1/2 inches | 272 pages | 50 illustrations | English | ISBN: 9780500022436 | $34.95PUBLISHER'S DESCRIPTION:How have art museums changed in the past century? Where are they headed in the future? Charles Saumarez Smith is uniquely qualified to answer these questions, having been at the helm of three major institutions over the course of his distinguished career. For The Art Museum in Modern Times, Saumarez Smith has undertaken an odyssey, visiting art museums across the globe and examining how the experience of art is shaped by the buildings that house it.His story starts with the Museum of Modern Art in New York, one of the first museums to focus squarely on the art of the present rather than the past. When it opened in 1939, MoMA’s boldly modernist building represented a stark riposte to the neoclassicism of most earlier art museums. From there, Saumarez Smith investigates dozens of other museums, including the Tate Modern in London, the Getty Center in Los Angeles, the West Bund Museum in Shanghai, and the Centre Pompidou in Paris. He explores our shifting reasons for visiting museums, changes to the way exhibits are organized and displayed, and the spectacular new architectural landmarks that have become destinations in their own right.Charles Saumarez Smith has been director of the United Kingdom’s National Portrait Gallery, director of the National Gallery, and secretary and chief executive of the Royal Academy. He is the author of East London, The Company of Artists: The Origins of the Royal Academy of Arts in London, and The National Gallery: A Short History, among other titles.REFERRAL LINKS:   dDAB COMMENTARY:A lot has happened in the world of art in the last fourteen months. Art museums have been closed most of this time due to the coronavirus pandemic, with many of them forced to layoff workers and some of them selling artworks to maintain salaries in the face of severe restrictions that include reduced capacities when (finally) reopening and the inability to hold the events that usually contribute large amounts of revenue. Earlier this year, in the midst of stay-at-home measures, NFTs (non-fungible tokens) took off, with nearly $70 million spent on Beeple's Everydays – The First 5000 Days in an auction in March and a slew of lower-ticket NFTs making headlines since. It's too early to say how either the pandemic or the mad rush for artworks situated in virtual environments will impact the course of art museums, but it's basically a guarantee that museums will continue to evolve in the coming years and decades, especially if Charles Saumarez Smith's The Art Museum in Modern Times is any indication.Saumarez Smith's book is a brisk tour through around forty art museums around the world, from the Museum of Modern Art in New York City in 1939 (and transformed in 2004) to the West Bund Museum in Shanghai in 2019. The selected museums are briefly profiled across a few pages with at least a couple of images each. The short descriptions are from exhaustive, obviously, but they allow Saumarez Smith to hone in on the most important aspect(s) of each museum, be it their clients, their buildings, or the artworks they contain. The case studies are organized into four chronological chapters, tracing "The Modern Museum," "The Postmodern Museum," "Museums for the New Millennium," and "The Museum Reinvented." There are numerous ways to digest this book, and this reviewer gravitated to the roughly fifteen museums I've been able to see in person. Reading about, for example, the Guggenheim, the Neue Staatsgalerie, Dia:Beacon, and Muzuem Susch — to highlight one each in the book's four main chapters — conveyed Saumarez Smith's means of alternately focusing on clients and architects. Clearly he believes clients are just as important as architects in defining the shape of art museums; this is no surprise, given that he has been on the client side through more than one museum directorship. My approach in tackling the book did not take me to the museums he was involved with initially, but returning to those yielded insights that could only come from him being part of the process.Saumarez Smith's involvement in architecture projects at the Royal Academy of Art and other institutions greatly informs the book's fifth and last chapter: "Key Issues." Here, in an effort to take stock of the last half-century — though primarily the years from 1982, when he started working at museums, to near the present — and address some of the challenges museums are now facing, the author touches on the roles of clients and architects, as is to be expected, as well as to the rise of private museums, the "morality of wealth," globalization, and the "digital world," among other issues. The key issues find him referring to museums earlier in the book and reiterating timelines that should be familiar to readers by the time they get to this chapter; the latter is helpful in getting a clear understanding of Saumarez Smith's take on the evolution of art museums in modern times, while the former pushed me to go back and read such case studies as the one on MONA (The Museum of Old and New Art), a museum I had no familiarity with before opening this book. The diversity of museums in the book is rich and rewarding, so when it comes to prognosticating on the future of them, it's hard to say which approach, if any, is most relevant moving forward. Saumarez Smith mentions LACMA, the expansive building designed by Peter Zumthor for Michael Govan, in terms of breaking down canons and setting aside history in favor of other themes. But he also mentions a likely reduction in "a decades-long 'physical infrastructure' binge" that points to LACMA being a swan song in a trend of big-budget museums that can be traced back to the Guggenheim Bilbao. Perhaps we'll see Muzeum Susch and other smaller museums rise in their place, somehow using their size and other traits to their advantage in the face of new and unexpected challenges. Whatever the case, new art museums will be built and architects will be there to design them — whatever form they take.SPREADS:

  • Place-making at the Madeleine
    by John Hill on May 12, 2021 at 12:00 PM

    Place-making at the Madeleineh2o architectesBuilding Books, December 2020Paperback | 6-3/4 x 9-1/2 inches | 80 pages | 73 illustrations | French/English | ISBN: 9782956781561 | 19 €PUBLISHER'S DESCRIPTION:Place de la Madeleine conjures up images of delicious confectionery and other fine foodstuffs as well as illustrious funerals. With a tight budget and many constraints, h2o architectes have pulled off a major use revolution at the Madeleine by giving back 4,500 square metres to pedestrians—a huge gain of 40% that was achieved almost by stealth, no opportunity having been lost to claw back space from the automobile. What, therefore, in the context of that hyper-dense urbanity could be a finer gift to Parisians than the one thing they almost never encounter: flexible open space in its purest form?h2o architectes, founded by Charlotte Hubert, Jean-Jacques Hubert and Antoine Santiard, is a Paris-based firm working on projects of various types and scales, from housing to public space and cultural facilities. The office is dedicated to architectural, heritage and urban creation and reprogramming.REFERRAL LINKS:dDAB COMMENTARY:One of the most memorable images in Openings, the monograph on Paris's h2o architectes, is a photograph showing models of straight and curved benches stacked on platforms and inserted into a box as if they are drawers. The benches are green, like most standard benches in many cities around the world, but they are curved, reminiscent of Martha Schwartz's curlicue benches that once occupied Jacob Javits Plaza. The benches were designed by h2o for Place de la Madeleine, an island of public space ringing L'Eglise de la Madeleine (first spread, below) in Paris, a couple of blocks north of Place de la Concorde. The benches are an integral part of h2o's remodeling of Place de la Madeleine and therefore make up a large part of the new book devoted to the project.Place-making at the Madeleine starts with a short essay by Andrew Ayers, author of The Architecture of Paris, who spells out the numerous challenges faced by h2o, including a small budget combined with a complex brief, an abundance of underground infrastructure to contend with, and working on a square whose qualities can at best be called "residual." The solutions, mentioned in the same essay, are centered on "a huge gain of 40% [more public space] that was achieved almost by stealth." The before and after plans of the square that follow show very few structural changes, with many curbs staying in place, but a lot of surface treatment that manages to tie previously detached spaces together, and some narrowing of traffic lanes to take space from cars and give it to pedestrians.Then there are the benches. The dramatic increase of seating is evident in the two-page spread with graphs calling attention to the various improvements (third spread); the graph at bottom-right shows  seating increasing from 12 to 588. It doesn't matter if those numbers refer to occupancy or linear meters or something else — a 49-fold increase is huge! Photographs by Myr Muratet depicting the remodeled square in use follow the drawings and graphs. Many people are sitting on the south-facing steps of the church, but just as many sit on the new benches, which are mainly curved to embrace the existing trees on the east and west sides of the church. The benches are broken down into four types, with variations, based on their length and configuration but also the integration of tables that help people eat lunch (fourth spread).Plans, fabrication details, and other drawings of the benches follow the photographs at the back of the book. These drawings are another indication of the seating's importance in the project, as are  some photographs of the construction of the benches and their constituent parts: the cast iron bases and the timber slats for the seating and backs. These pieces appear in the book's most surprising feature, a loose page tucked into one of the cover's internal flaps with a laser-cut assembly model for three benches (last spread): one straight and two curved. I couldn't resist popping out the pieces and fitting them together, putting one of my daughter's toys in the place of a tree. Not only is the model a neat bonus, something not usually found in a book, it's a hands-on way of increasing an understanding of the design and construction of the benches in readers. For that alone, it was no doubt worth the extra expense and effort in the production of Place-making at the Madeleine.SPREADS:

  • Jones Studio Houses
    by John Hill on May 10, 2021 at 12:00 PM

    Jones Studio Houses: Sensual ModernismJones Studio, with introduction by Aaron Betsky, interview by Vladimir Belogolovsky, epilogue by Eddie JonesOscar Riera Ojeda Publishers, May 2021Hardcover | 9 x 9 inches | 368 pages | English | ISBN: 9781946226440 | $65.00PUBLISHER'S DESCRIPTION:JONES STUDIO HOUSES Sensual Modernism is a self-imposed limited look at the 40-year-plus career of Eddie Jones. Almost unheard of outside the southwest United States, Jones has quietly accumulated a body of work ranging beyond residential design to include major federal projects impacting the edges of America... to be featured in a soon to be published monograph!Supported by Aaron Betsky’s insightful forward, plus an enlightening interview with Vladimir Belogolovsky, and comments from many of his famous colleagues, Jones summarizes his lifelong dance with architecture through the personal stories embedded in each house. Refusing to repeat himself, the work tests the reality of gravity on a diverse spectrum of interpretive vernacular responses to climate, landscape and function. Although designed by the same hand, the forms vary as much as the choice of materials. Rammed earth, concrete, wood and metal are explored together and separately yet remain subordinate to Jones’ fascination with glass.Utilizing photographs, hand-drawings and first-person accounts, the motivations and joy of being an architect are expressed by an exceptional whole informed by many ordinary parts.REFERRAL LINKS:    (Last icon is link to publisher's website that features a 30% discount on purchase of this book.)dDAB COMMENTARY:Although architect Eddie Jones was raised and went to architecture school in Oklahoma, he is known as a desert architect. His eponymous office was established in Tempe, Arizona, in 1979, and since then it has become known for buildings like The Outpost, which engages its desert context through the rammed earth walls seen on the cover of this new Jones Studio monograph devoted to their houses. The most remarkable project in its pages, though, is back in Oklahoma, a house explicitly inspired by Herb Greene's "Prairie Chicken" built in 1954 in Norman. Jones Studio's Prairie Raptor is a stunning house whose sculptural peak clearly recalls Greene's house. Its pinwheel plan, wood and brick palette, and elevated lookout remind me of Frank Lloyd Wright's Wingspread in Wisconsin. The latter is hardly a surprise, given that Wright was also a desert transplant of sorts and his name appears in places in this book. To me the multiple references echo the diversity of the studio's nuanced approaches to the various contexts they work within. Easily the most unique spot Jones was given to imagine a house was a sloping site near Roden Crater, the old volcano in the middle of Arizona being selectively hollowed out by artist James Turrell. Jones recounts to Vladimir Belogolovsky in an interview that follows the book's presentation of ten houses (one of them the "house" of Jones Studio) how he met Turrell with the intention of commissioning a Skypace but ended up being hired to design one of six houses/artist studios ringing the crater. Although it was never built, the Crater House poetically responds to its amazing site while also incorporating Italian influences that arose from Jones designing the project during a one-month stay on the Amalfi Coast.Sprinkled throughout the abundantly illustrated presentation of built and unbuilt houses are earth-colored pages with quotes from a bevy of similarly design-minded architects known for their own regional inflections: Marlon Blackwell, Wendell Brunette, Rick Joy, Julie Snow, and Billie Tsien, to name a few.  Their words convey the qualities of the studio's work, qualities that should be readily apparent when scanning the photos and drawings in the book. Jones's own words, be they in the interview and elsewhere in the book, capture the enthusiasm and optimism that infuses Prairie Raptor and the other gems included here.SPREADS:

  • Drawing Matter Extracts 1
    by John Hill on May 7, 2021 at 12:00 PM

    Drawing Matter Extracts 1: Where to Begin?Niall Hobhouse, Matt Page (Editors)Drawing Matter, 2020Paperback | 16-1/2 x 11-3/4 (5-1/2 x 11-3/4 inches folded) | 64 pages (all 3 volumes) | English | £6.50 (each), £15.00 (full set)PUBLISHER'S DESCRIPTION:Drawing Matter Extracts is a series of informal anthologies that address particular themes or problems in the process of design. Each combines drawings from the Drawing Matter Collection and elsewhere with newly commissioned texts, and others previously published on www.drawingmatter.org or found in the architectural library at Shatwell Farm.The first anthology in the series, ‘Where to Begin?’, presents a survey of architects’ starting points, and is published in three parts, spanning over five-hundred years of architectural practice.dDAB COMMENTARY:"Where to begin?," that is the question. It's not an easy question, I'll admit, be it in terms of tackling an architectural design, as I did back in the day, or with the written word, which occupies most of my time now. I'd probably align myself, in all modesty, with the answer provided by Juhani Pallasmaa in the second of the three Drawing Matter Extracts 1 made and released during the pandemic. The Finnish architect/critic sees the "definite location and context" as something that makes design tasks more concrete than beginning to write, which is "more open and indefinite" and therefore "never self-evident." Most telling are these words of his: "The beginning way well be a singular feeling, image or word, which can well be abandoned in the process." Put another way, beginnings are important because, well, you have to start somewhere, with something. But not all beginnings dictate the end results. Beginnings start a process, a process that can lead to alternate beginnings — starting again from square one, if you will — that take into account failed attempts but set entirely new paths. Nevertheless, getting architects to seriously think about where they start a project is a surefire means of eliciting a wide range of responses.The three folded publications that make up the first of Drawing Matter's hopefully regularly produced "extracts" is full of provocations focused exclusively on beginnings: the first marks on paper for a new commission; brief words of insight on personal approaches; archival glimpses at the sketches of architects, many of them long gone. Although the three parts have individual names — "Ready," "Steady," and "Go" (get it?) in reverse order — and color palettes, they share a consistent format that mixes new essays, old drawings and texts, and lots of brief, direct answers to the question posted to them. The last are boldly highlighted inside the color bars at the edges of most spreads. Most answers come from names I'm not familiar, but all of them are personal and revealing, if a bit (understandably) self-conscious. Some of my favorite responses to "Where to Begin?": "I don't know how to begin, as I'm not an architect, but with a cartoon I begin with the nose" (Madelon Vriesendorp); "Drawing the site, or as Florian Beigel would often say, sniffing the site like a dog" (Philip Christou); "The best place to begin ... is with the places and experiences that stayed in your heart" (Martine Seedorff); "With a glass of rum, piece of paper and favorite pencil (Faber Castell E-Motion wood)" (Alexander Brodsky); "With making a mess" (Klara Bindl); "Every project begins in conversation" (Andrew Clancy); "From a place of intense anxiety and despair" (Jan Frohburg). That last one strikes a bit close to my own experiences, though I should point out that Frohburg's next sentence is "And ideally with a sense of wonder." I'll aim for that, too — next time I begin.SPREADS:

  • 21BB—Model Region Berlin-Brandenburg
    by John Hill on May 5, 2021 at 12:00 PM

    21BB—Model Region Berlin-Brandenburg: Analyses and Visions for the 21st CenturyBarbara Hoidn and Wilfried Wang (Editors)Park Books, in cooperation with The University of Texas at Austin, School of Architecture; February 2021Hardcover | 16-1/2 x 11-3/4 inches | 176 pages | 358 illustrations | English | ISBN: 9783038602002 | $75.00PUBLISHER'S DESCRIPTION:How should a diverse metropolitan region such as the German capital Berlin and the surrounding state of Brandenburg reinvent itself, while preserving its character, nurturing its attributes, and simultaneously preparing for climate change? 21BB—Model Region Berlin-Brandenburg offers an analysis of these important strategic questions, along with constructive solutions. As a comprehensive survey of the entire Berlin-Brandenburg region, this book presents essays, striking visualizations, maps and graphics, and projects in a large-format atlas. Its findings are based on extensive research at University of Texas at Austin’s School of Architecture (UTSOA) into complex subjects such as the circular economy, social equity, mobility, energy and water management, environment, population growth and density, inclusion, and urban culture. Wide-ranging essays are supplemented  with proposals developed by UTSOA’s students. The book also features a radical urban and regional designs submitted to an international competition for Berlin-Brandenburg’s long-term development by Berlin-based firm Hoidn Wang Partner. Given the urgent need for a public debate about the future of Germany’s capital region, this volume offers a solid factual basis and offers new approaches, projects, and ideas.Barbara Hoidn is visiting associate professor and a fellow of the O’Neil Ford Centennial Chair in Architecture at the University of Texas at Austin. She is cofounder of the Berlin-based architectural firm Hoidn Wang Partners. Wilfried Wang is an architect and O’Neil Ford Centennial Professor in Architecture at University of Texas at Austin. She runs a design and urban planning firm Hoidn Wang Partner in Berlin with Barbara Hoidn.REFERRAL LINKS:   dDAB COMMENTARY:Some days it seems that architectural publishing is sustained by just two types of books: architectural monographs and academic publications. The first is nothing new, as monographs have long been a means for architects — at least the ones with generous marketing budgets — to promote themselves and hopefully generate more commissions. Occasional diatribes on the death or endangerment of the monograph have not led to an abatement of them; they seem more prevalent than ever, if anything. The second type — by which I mean books born from design studios, research projects, exhibitions, symposia and other proceedings at schools of architecture, not student-run journals or books written by professors — are not new either. I trace academic publications like these back to Learning from Las Vegas, first published in 1972 and documenting a Yale architecture studio from 1968. Even if such books have been produced fairly regularly in the subsequent half-century, they have gained momentum in recent years, to the point that most of the books I receive these days are either a monograph or book co-published by a school of architecture — or so it seems.These thoughts are entering my mind now as I flip through 21BB—Model Region Berlin-Brandenburg, a big, ambitious book published by Park Books in cooperation with The University of Texas at Austin, School of Architecture. One of the book's four parts consists of student projects from six advanced design studios taught by Barbara Hoidn and Wilfried Wang over the course of three years, between 2016 and 2018. With their mix of regional maps, neighborhood plans, and renderings of opens spaces, the projects reminded me of Beyond Petropolis, the book that documented my year of grad school at City College fourteen years ago.Like that book I was involved with, 21BB balances the student projects with essays and other content. (If books like these were just student work, I can't help but wonder, who would buy them besides the students, their friends and family, and perhaps architecture school libraries?) In the case of the book on the Berlin-Brandenburg region, eight essays come before the student projects. Then, in part three, are analytical maps produced by the firm of Hoidn and Wang. These maps, complete with numerous vellum overlays, appear to be the content driving the large A3 (equivalent to tabloid) paper size, landscape format, and lay-flat binding. Whatever the case, the student projects also read well across such large pages.The last of the book's four parts is Hoidn Wang Partner's submission for the International Urban Planning Competition for Berlin-Brandenburg 2070 that took place in the second half of 2019, and for which the UT Austin design studios must have been a great help. That competition is documented in the second of the two-volume Unfinished Metropolis recently published by DOM Publishers, though I'm not sure if Hoidn Wang's and other "not awarded" entries made the cut. If not, the present book by Park Books and UT Austin gives their project wide exposure — potentially more than the winners of the competition. This book is recommended for other architecture/urban design/urban planning students with similarly large-scale studio projects, but with its expensive cover price I'm guessing they'll look for it in their architecture school's library.SPREADS:

  • Unless
    by John Hill on May 4, 2021 at 12:00 PM

    Unless: The Seagram Building Construction EcologyKiel MoeActar Publishers, March 2021Hardcover | 7 x 9-1/4 inches | 300 pages | English | ISBN: 9781948765398 | $34.95PUBLISHER'S DESCRIPTION:This book presents a terrestrial description of the Seagram Building. It aims to describe how humans and nature interact with the thin crust of the planet. Architecture reorganizes nature and society in particular ways that today demand overt attention and new methods of description.The immense material, energy and labor involved in building require a fresh interpretation that better situates the ecological and social potential of design. Architecture and society would benefit from alternative descriptions of building and architecture as terrestrial activities that help imagine how to maximize the impact of architecture on its environment. I argue that the enhancement of a particular building should be inextricable from the enhancement of its world-system and construction ecology. A “beautiful” building engendered through the vulgarity of uneven exchanges and processes of underdevelopment is no longer a tenable conceit in such a framework. Design can and should evince the inherent solidarity and reciprocity of people, places and politics involved in building architecture. The environmental and social conditions of this century suggest a much more recursive description of architecture and the terrestrial processes that converge through building. To this end, the book mixes construction ecology, material geography, and world-systems analysis through architecture to help articulate all the terrestrial activities that engender building generally and, more specifically, through the example of a most modern of modern architectures: the Seagram Building. The book evokes a broad range of evidence to help explicate the terrestrial activity of this architecture to make design far less abstract and much more literal. Unless architects begin to describe buildings as terrestrial events and artifacts, architects will—to our collective and professional peril—continue to operate outside the key environmental dynamics and key political processes of this century.Kiel Moe is a practicing architect and the Gerald Sheff Chair in Architecture at McGill University. ... He has published ten books on architecture including Empire, State & Building; Wood Urbanism: From the Molecular to the Territorial; Insulating Modernism: Isolated and Non-Isolated Thermodynamics in Architecture; Convergence: An Architectural Agenda for Energy; and Thermally Active Surfaces in Architecture.REFERRAL LINKS:   dDAB COMMENTARY:Kiel Moe's Unless: The Seagram Building Construction Ecology treads familiar territory to his earlier Empire, State & Building, which examines the long history of the building site where the Empire State Building is located. Unless ventures just over a mile north, to Park Avenue and 53rd Street, to take a deep dive into the "terrestrial architecture" of the Seagram Building, the modern masterpiece from 1958 designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe with Philip Johnson. The story of the Seagram Building's creation has already been documented in extreme detail, but Moe uses the iconic building to explore the broader "uneven and asymmetrical exchanges" that occur in the production of modern architecture. The particularities of the building and its main architect, who was known for a "less is more" approach, allow numerous contradictions and unexpected details to bubble to the surface.The highly visual book starts with a series of spreads (six of them are below) that touch upon some of these uneven exchanges and also lay out for the reader the structure of the chapters that follow. This "trophy" building is seen on one page but then immediately followed by a photograph of "a house crushed by tailings in the company town adjacent to the Chiquicamata Copper mine, where copper for the Seagram Building's brass facade was extracted." When considered together, these images of two products — one intended through architecture, the other an outcome of exploitive practices — make it hard to look at the glass and steel tower long celebrated for its innovation and minimalism in the same apolitical way.  The photos in these early spreads reappear later in the book, with the copper mine found in a lengthy chapter on the building's famous facade, titled "Dies, Dyes & Dies." The chapter explores the dies that cast the brass profiles, the dyes that give it the appearance of bronze, and the distant deaths that were the inadvertent outcome of building the building. If "God is in the details," as Mies is quoted as saying, the devil is there as well, in the deaths at the hands of capital-A architecture.Unless arrives at a time of great reckoning in social, economical, political, and ecological realms. Moe is focused primarily on the last, though clearly they are all related, intertwined in the "uneven and asymmetrical exchanges" that have long prevailed in modern architecture. Therefore, architects cannot continue with apolitical positions in which the effects of architecture are externalized. He wrote a book describing the "terrestrial architecture" of a well-known piece of architecture "so that our understanding of the past can change, and so the future of architecture can start to change as well." Elsewhere, Moe asserts that "architecture has entered an age of fundamentally altered states and more contingent realities," such that "claims of autonomy and autarky of architecture" cannot continue. Climate change is the strongest argument for architecture to recognize its impact and to strive, in Moe's words, to maximize "its impact on the environmental and society in positive and mutually-reinforcing ways." Ideally the lessons Unless offers would affect the future of all buildings, not just the minority of them lumped into "architecture."The position of Unless outlined above and in the book's early visual spreads is not particularly new (if anything, it's strongly in line with much architectural criticism today), but the means of exploring architecture's role in global flows of materials and energy is rich and rewarding. This isn't to say it's an easy read; although it is abundantly illustrated — many of the pages feature diagrams pulled from an exhaustive digital model of all the materials in the Seagram Building — the text is often unnecessarily abstruse, which I also lamented with Empire, State & Building. Moe is clear and vivid in historical accounts that carefully describe, for example, the Seagram Building's relationship with copper mining, but thankfully such descriptions outnumber the portions geared to people who can differentiate between energy, anergy, exergy, and emergy. That said, the book's strong position on architecture's role in the 21st-century production of buildings outweighs any difficulties in comprehending the technical aspects of Seagram's terrestrial architecture. Although it's an important book arriving at the right moment, I hope in his next book Moe applies the same approach to a building that truly embodies the "positive and mutually-reinforcing" future he sees for architecture.SPREADS:

  • Hummelo
    by John Hill on May 3, 2021 at 12:00 PM

    Hummelo: A Journey Through a Plantsman's LifePiet Oudolf, Noel KingsburyThe Monacelli Press, March 2021 (Expanded edition)Paperback | 6-3/4 x 9 inches | 432 pages | English | ISBN: 9781580935708 | $40.00PUBLISHER'S DESCRIPTION:An intimate look at the personal garden of the Dutch landscape designer renowned for his plantings at the High Line in New York City, and Lurie Garden at Chicago’s Millennium Park.Hummelo—near the village of the same name in Gelderland in the eastern Netherlands—is visited by thousands of gardeners seeking inspiration each year. It is Piet Oudolf’s home, his personal garden laboratory, a former nursery run by his wife Anja, and the place where he first tested new designs and created the new varieties of perennials that are now widely available.A follow-up to Oudolf’s successful Landscapes in Landscapes—Hummelo tells the story of how the garden has evolved over the past three decades since Oudolf, Anja, and their two young sons moved onto the property, with its loamy sand and derelict, wood stove-heated farmhouse, in 1982. Text by noted garden author and longtime personal friend Noel Kingsbury places Hummelo in context within gardening history, from The Netherlands’ counterculture and nascent green movement of the 1960s, to prairie restoration in the American Midwest, and shows how its development has mirrored that of Oudolf’s own outstanding career and unique naturalistic aesthetic. ...Piet Oudolf is an influential Dutch garden and landscape designer at the forefront of the New Perennial movement and the author of numerous books on gardening and landscape design. He has constructed dozens of residential, commercial and institutional gardens and his projects can be found throughout The Netherlands, England, Ireland, Germany, Sweden and the U.S. ... Noel Kingsbury is an internationally acclaimed garden writer and the author of more than 20 books (including several with Oudolf), as well as a teacher, lecturer, and garden designer.REFERRAL LINKS:   dDAB COMMENTARY:Three years ago, the feature-length documentary Five Seasons: The Gardens of Piet Oudolf was released. Coming three years after the first edition of Hummelo, written by Noel Kingsbury on the occasion of Oudolf's 70th birthday, the book and film can be seen as the culmination of Oudolf's career, tracing a trajectory from a super-local garden designer in the Netherlands to an international superstar in demand around the world. Consistent in the decades spanning from his purchase of an acre of land in Hummelo, a small village east of Arnhem, in 1981 to the publication of the book and the release of the film, have been Oudolf's embrace of perennials and grasses, his wife Anja (first spread, below), and his network of friends and collaborators who share his enthusiasm for naturalistic plantings and gardens. As such, the creations documented in the book that takes its name from the Oudolfs' home and longtime nursery are remarkably consistent, regardless of place and purpose. Hummelo, just released in an expanded paperback edition, tells the story of Oudolf's rise over the last four decades, but it does it in a way that is more educational than laudatory. Early in the book Kingsbury points out how Oudolf is not concerned with status: "Piet is actually distinctly unimpressed by other people's fame, so is perhaps unlikely to see himself on a pedestal either." This modesty, as well as his sense of humor, came across when I saw Oudolf at a screening of Thomas Piper's film about him. It comes across throughout the book as well, both in Kingsbury's words and in the many photographs taken by Oudolf, be they of his gardens, the places he's visited, or the snapshots of his friends. The book tells Oudolf's story across three parts, clearly following the direction of his career: "Hummelo, the Beginning," "Becoming Known," and "International Commissions." Inserted throughout the book are numerous sidebars, set aside from the rest by colored backgrounds (third spread); these highlight garden designers who influenced him (e.g. Mien Ruys), the role of photography in his experience of gardens (he takes a lot of early-morning photos of Hummelo and was often with a camera around his neck in Five Seasons), techniques of laying out plants (e.g., scatter plants, block planting, matric planting), and so forth. With the sidebars, many full-bleed photographs, and Kingsbury's informative text, the book is like a leisurely stroll through the life and work of Piet, Anja, and the garden that has been their anchor for forty years.At one point in the book Kingsbury writes that "a fundamental reason for Piet's success lies perhaps in his ability to balance coherence and complexity." (Maybe Oudolf should write a manifesto titled Complexity and Coherence in Garden Design in the vein of Venturi's famous book?) Later, in one of the sidebars, the author does a good job in attempting to state why Oudolf has gained such international acclaim, highlighting three factors: plant selection, plant structure, and spatial arrangement. For the uninitiated, the gardens of Oudolf may look arbitrary, as if "scatter plants" meant seeds were literally scattered across the soil. But there is a clear method to Oudolf's designs, one that comes across in the drawings peppering the book and that was clearly nurtured at Hummelo, where Piet and Anja cultivated plants and grasses and shared them with fellow gardeners. The nursery may have closed the same year the film debuted — marking, as Kingsbury writes, the "end of an era" — but the influence of Oudolf can be found in the enthusiastic embrace of "natural gardens" by so many clients, designers, and gardeners all over the world.SPREADS:

  • A Note to Subscribers
    by John Hill on May 2, 2021 at 12:00 PM

    Dear A Daily Dose of Architecture Books Subscribers,For many years, I've been using FeedBurner for this blog's site feed and to distribute posts via email. It's all automated and has therefore been a great service to use, one that makes my life a good deal easier. Until now.Google, which bought FeedBurner in 2007, recently announced it is transitioning the service to "a more stable, modern infrastructure." Good news, except for the fact the transition means they "will be turning down most non-core feed management features, including email subscriptions." Crap!So before the transition happens in July I'm forced to find a replacement for email subscriptions or ditch the service all together, relying on social media, the RSS feeds that will continue to syndicate the blog content, and people visiting the site on their own or via Google searches. I'm hoping that you, like me, would like to continue the emails.The solution I've decided on, and that I'm going to implement between now and the beginning of June, is a weekly newsletter via Substack. Although the FeedBurner emails were delivered (almost) daily — sent out automatically every time I made a new post — most newsletter systems are handmade affairs and also have limits on frequency and distribution, at least for free services (this blog does not make enough money to pay for services like MailChimp).Since I'd rather do one newsletter a week rather than one every day or so, the dDAB Newsletter (or whatever it's going to be called) will go out via Substack every Sunday, with links to each of the books reviewed over the previous week as well as a peek at the books planned for review in the coming week(s). And even though it's on Substack, which many writers are using to monetize their content, the newsletter will be free.Do you need to do anything? Not if you're already a subscriber via FeedBurner. If you are, you'll be included in the new weekly newsletter when I migrate the subscription database to Substack at the end of May. I'm not taking new subscribers via FeedBurner between now and then (I removed the subscriber widget from this blog in mid-April, when Google made its unfortunate announcement), but once I have everything set up on Substack later this month I'll start taking new subscribers then, with a link or form on my blog. The target date for all this, as I mentioned above, is early June (I don't want to wait until Google's July deadline). So the last daily updates will go out via FeedBurner on May 28th or 29th, and the first weekly newsletter will go out on Sunday, June 6th. If all goes to plan. Which I hope it does.Any questions, advice, comments? Please reply to this email if you're reading this in your inbox, or comment below if you're reading this online.Sincerely,John HillBlogger, A Daily Dose of Architecture Books

  • Form and Purpose
    by John Hill on May 1, 2021 at 12:00 PM

    Form and Purpose: Is the Emperor Naked?Moshe Safdie, edited by John KettleInternational Design Education Foundation, 1980Paperback | 9 x 9 inches | 144 pages | English | ISBN: 9780395316641REFERRAL LINKS: dDAB COMMENTARY:Forty years before his latest book, With Intention to Build, architect Moshe Safdie wrote Form and Purpose, a little known publication compared to his books Beyond Habitat, For Everyone a Garden, and The City After the Automobile. Form and Purpose was written by Safdie with John Kettle (also his editor on Beyond Habitat) on the occasion of the 1980 International Design Conference in Aspen, for which Safdie served as chairman. The title/theme chosen for the conference and the book given out there "was to be primarily a platform for debating the issues facing architecture," per Safdie's introduction in the book. "The conference soon became one of diversified concerns," he continues, "an attempt to explore the full range of issues relating to form and purpose." It was "concerned more with raising questions than with offering answers" and was "meant to provoke, to raise issues that are relevant to our understanding of the subject, and to serve as a catalyst for the presentations and discussions the conference will offer." It was to be followed by another publication, Form and Purpose, Aspen 1980, summarizing the proceedings, but best I can tell that book was never published.Although they are both square in format, Form and Purpose and With Intention to Build are very different books, mainly because the latter is full of projects designed by Safdie's office, while the former is devoid of them entirely. Nevertheless, each book conveys some of the main ideas that have driven Safdie over his long career: finding inspiration in nature and history; embracing a humanism that is cognizant of individual experience; and designing with grand ambitions that have led to big — some may say over-sized — projects. An interesting parallel between the two books is found in Safdie's correspondences. The documentation of the Columbus Center project in With Intention to Build includes a couple of letters/editorials Safdie wrote to the New York Times in response to criticism over his design; one is mainly comprised of a passage by Bruno Zevi, while the longer one is all Safdie. His comfort in penning long opinions is echoed in the first pages of Form and Purpose, which features a letter Safdie wrote to Philip Johnson in 1978, just after the latter's design for the AT&T Building was released to the public. Safdie's "rather long-winded" letter, signed "with much friendship and warm wishes," politely derides Johnson's design. Johnson replied with his own letter, also in the book, a much shorter one that acknowledged Safdie's points but actually considered his AT&T Building to be aligned with them.The inclusion of the letter in the introduction to Form and Purpose can be seen as one of the many pieces in the book meant to provoke and serve "as a catalyst for the presentations and discussions" in the conference. This was 1980, after all, and debates over what form(s) buildings should take were being waged all over architectural media. If a photomontage Safdie put in his book (below) is any indication, Postmodernism was facing off against Modernism, with a model for Johnson's AT&T Building rising over Charles Moore's Piazza d'Italia on one page, and a glassy Portman building and a Metabolist masterpiece on the opposite page; the towers of Oscar Neimeyer's National Congress in Brasilia are the hinge between them. If anything, the collage expresses how a city full of architectural icons would equate with chaos, noise. Background buildings, as they're often dismissively called, are needed — to temper strong architectural statements and give city dwellers some psychic relief. Safdie's words at the end of the book, in which he recounts correspondences he had with Iranian architect Nader Ardalan, summarize a similar take on architecture and cities: "He who seeks self-expression shall fall into the pit of arrogance / Arrogance is incompatible with nature / Through nature, the nature of the universe and the nature of man, we shall seek truth / If we seek truth, we shall find beauty." SPREAD (photo montage by David Linz):