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

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

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

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

  • Two Chicago Guides
    by John Hill on September 19, 2022 at 12:00 PM

    AIA Guide to Chicagoby American Institute of Architects Chicago, edited by Laurie McGovern PetersenUniversity of Illinois Press, June 2022Paperback | 5 x 10 inches | 648 pages | 580 illustrations | English | ISBN: 9780252086731 | $42.95 | "The new fourth edition of the acclaimed guidebook" (click here for publisher's description and author bio)REFERRAL LINKS:   Architectural Guide Chicago: A Critic's Guide to 100 Post-Modern Buildings in Chicago from 1978 to 2025by Vladimir BelogolovskyDOM Publishers, August 2022Paperback | 5-1/4 x 9-1/2 inches | 280 pages | 745 illustrations | English | ISBN: 9783869224183 | €38 | "This book looks at Chicago through the prism of Post-Modernism — under the premise that this style did not cease to exist sometime in the 1990s, but is, in fact, still with us today." (click here for publisher's description and author bio)REFERRAL LINKS:   REVIEW:Full disclosure: I wrote a guidebook to Chicago architecture, too. A few years ago I teamed up with the Chicago Architecture Center and wrote Guide to Chicago's Twenty-First-Century Architecture, which was published by University of Illinois Press in 2021. Obviously I cannot review my own book, and ethically it would be unfair to review the books by Vladimir Belogolovsky and Laurie McGovern Petersen relative to my own. So I'm endeavoring here to be as objective as possible, though I ask for readers to keep in mind that I'm far from the least biased person to review their books.Eight years ago the third edition of the AIA Guide to Chicago was released, edited by Alice Sinkevitch and Laurie McGovern Petersen and published by University of Illinois Press. Like many AIA guides, its release was timed to the AIA Convention (now AIA Conference on Architecture) being held in the city; the second edition, solely authored by Sinkevitch, was ten years before that, in 2004. I was living in Chicago in 2004 and therefore had the second edition in my library, but by the time the third edition was released in 2014 I had decamped for New York City so was using the new one remotely, if you will, navigating the maps and entries from my Queens apartment rather than across the Windy City. In the process I discovered things that stayed the same and that changed; things that improved but that also got worse.At the start of my review of the guide's third edition, I gravitated to one of the things that got worse: the maps. The second edition had margins in the fold, which meant the two-page maps were discontinuous across a spread but that they were easier to read; no information was lost in the fold. For some reason that margin disappeared in the third edition, with the maps drawn continuously across the two-page spreads, resulting in certain numbers and labels spanning the fold and getting buried in it. I wrote that one would have to "break the binding or cut the book apart" to read those parts of the maps. The AIA Guide to Chicago is not alone in doing this, and I chalk it up to books being laid out digitally, printed physically, and the translation between the two forgotten about. Whatever the actual reason, usability in guidebooks is paramount for me, so encountering instances like these maps that are the opposite — unhelpful — is frustrating, if not infuriating.So, when I received a copy of the fourth edition from the publisher, I immediately looked at the maps, disappointed to see that the same problem persists eight years later. (I posted a photo of one of the maps on my Twitter feed, worth a click for anyone who can't visualize what I've been describing here or who might not realize just how frustrating the issue is.) This problem is unfortunate, since it is really the only glaring negative in an otherwise excellent guidebook — one every architect living in and visiting Chicago should have. Many new buildings are included in this edition, but  they are integrated into the geographical chapters, so the most visible addition is "A New Way of Looking at the AIA Guide to Chicago," 32 pages of color plates with at the back of the book, with photos taken by Eric Allix Rogers that explain the historical styles one encounters traversing the city. While there are some odd design features here and there (e.g., the start and ends of certain geographical groupings, such as campuses, are very subtle), and some parts of the book could really use updating (e.g., the helpful introductory essay, "The Shaping of Chicago," written by Perry R. Duis for Sinkevitch's first edition in 1993 but not expanded upon since), overall the guidebook continues with the excellence of its predecessor. Fuller disclosure: I wrote a blurb for Vladimir Belogolovsky's Architectural Guide Chicago, after he sent me an early version of the manuscript laid out by DOM Publishers: "DOM Publishers produces the most beautiful and informative architectural guidebooks around, period, but the lack of one devoted to Chicago was a glaring omission. Thankfully, Vladimir Belogolovsky’s new guidebook makes up for lost time with a superb selection of one hundred important buildings since 1978, the year Stanley Tigerman famously sunk Mies’s Crown Hall in The Titanic. The diversity and quality of the city’s architectural production since then is on full display in Architectural Guide Chicago — a book as intellectually stimulating as it is beautiful to behold."While the AIA Guide to Chicago, like most of the guidebooks carrying the American Institute of Architects name, is comprehensive, with hundreds of old buildings alongside hundreds of modern and contemporary ones, Vladimir Belogolovsky's book takes a more limited glance at architecture in Chicago, looking at 100 buildings between 1978 and 2025. AIA guides have a consistent format in this regard, with the voices of the writers making each unique (the New York guide, for instance, is boldly critical but also humorous compared to others); the publishers at DOM, on the other hand, have admitted that the guides they put out are directed by their authors. So the Berlin guide by Dominik Schendel, for instance, is structured as four walking tours, while the two-volume guide to Pyongyang features a propagandist North Korean text (translated into English, of course) in the first volume and illustrated essays by various writers in the second volume. Heck, there's even a guide to the Moon.Belogolovsky writes that in his second guidebook for DOM — following one on two decades of iconic buildings in NYC — "it became clear that it was necessary to address Chicago's structures through the prism of Post-Modernism" rather than as icons like his predecessor. Tracing important aspects of postmodernism in architecture broadly (the writings of Robert Venturi and Charles Jencks, the 1980 Venice Architecture Biennale, etc.) in the introduction, the author then finds a desire by architects in Chicago in the late 1970s to move beyond the repetitive formulas laid down by Mies van der Rohe after he immigrated to the city in 1938. If the Chicago Seven (Stanley Tigerman, Tom Beeby, and others eventually adding up to more than seven) did not band together in response to Miesian architecture, perhaps others would have — or perhaps the Mies formula would have continued and Chicago's architecture would have grown stale. Although the last is unlikely, that Belogolovsky opts to present the diversity of the city's architectural output over the last four-and-a-half decades makes for a particularly interesting guide to the city.Like most guides, the AIA guides included, Belogolovsky's book is organized geographically, not chronologically, with twelve color-coded chapters reaching from the Loop (every Chicago starts in the Loop, my own included) to parts far south and north. The chronological spread of the 100 buildings sees 20 percent of the buildings from 1978 to the millennium and the remaining 80 percent this century; Post-Modernism the title says, but Belogolovsky's critical tastes skew contemporary. The book is packed with illustrations, most of them photographs of the 100 buildings and some of those giving helpful peeks into spaces off limits to the public. Aerial and panoramic views of the city covering two-page spreads — a frequent part of DOM guides — are visually stunning and helpful, with buildings labeled by their number in the book. QR codes are included for each entry, with links going to Google Maps (I noticed they are bit.ly links, apparently for the publisher to track clicks, which makes me not want to use them). Lastly, following the twelve chapters are interviews Belogolovsky held with Tigerman, Helmut Jahn, Jeanne Gang, and other important Chicago architects; atypical for a guidebook, they are fitting for Belogolovsky, who seems to have conversations with architects on a daily basis, producing books in the process and populating websites with them.I found myself agreeing with most of Belogolovsky's critical takes on the buildings but departing from him in the details. To take one example, he describes the Harold Washington Library (Hammond Beeby Babka, 1991) as a "missed opportunity" because it does not have a "generous" civic space; the large space beneath the skylight roof at the top of the building is "far from generously proportioned, let alone spectacular" to him. Yes, though I find the space atop the building grand enough; unfortunately it is reached by a warren of small spaces and a terrible entry sequence downstairs, and is often used for events rather than anything that would be described as civic. Also I fined it a missed opportunity because it was selected over schemes by other architects, including Helmut Jahn, who wanted to span two blocks and might have provided such a civic space; Belogolovsky omits this history of the project, perhaps unaware of it, or maybe just short on space. Whatever the case, this is evidence that there is so much to discuss about buildings in Chicago that there will never be a shortage of books devoted to them.FOR FURTHER READING:Chicago Architecture: 1885 to Today by the Chicago Architecture Foundation (now CAC) and  Edward Keegan (Universe, 2008)Chicago Architecture and Design (3rd edition) by Jay Pridmore and George A. Larson (Abrams, 2018)Chicago's Urban Nature: A Guide to the City's Architecture Landscape by Sally A. Kitt Chappell (University Of Chicago Press, 2007)Guide to Chicago's Twenty-First-Century Architecture by Chicago Architecture Center and John Hill (University of Illinois Press, 2021)Pocket Guide to Chicago Architecture (3rd Edition) by Judith Paine McBrien (W. W. Norton, 2014)

  • When Eero Met His Match
    by John Hill on September 12, 2022 at 12:00 PM

    When Eero Met His Match: Aline Louchheim Saarinen and the Making of an Architectby Eva HagbergPrinceton University Press, September 2022Hardcover | 6-1/4 x 9-1/2 inches | 232 pages | 35 illustrations | English | ISBN: 9780691206677 | $33PUBLISHER'S DESCRIPTION:Aline B. Louchheim (1914–1972) was an art critic on assignment for the New York Times in 1953 when she first met the Finnish-American architect Eero Saarinen. She would become his wife and the driving force behind his rise to critical prominence. When Eero Met His Match draws on the couple’s personal correspondence to reconstruct the early days of their thrilling courtship and traces Louchheim’s gradual takeover of Saarinen’s public narrative in the 1950s, the decade when his career soared to unprecedented heights.Drawing on her own experiences as an architecture journalist on the receiving end of press pitches and then as a secret publicist for high-end architects, Eva Hagberg paints an unforgettable portrait of Louchheim while revealing the inner workings of a media world that has always relied on secrecy, friendship, and the exchange of favors. She describes how Louchheim codified the practices of architectural publicity that have become widely adopted today, and shows how, without Louchheim as his wife and publicist, Saarinen’s work would not have been nearly as well known.Providing a new understanding of postwar architectural history in the United States, When Eero Met His Match is both a poignant love story and a superb biographical study that challenges us to reconsider the relationship between fame and media representation, and the ways the narratives of others can become our own.Eva Hagberg teaches in the Language and Thinking Program at Bard College and at the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation at Columbia University. Her books include How to Be Loved: A Memoir of Lifesaving Friendship and Nature Framed: At Home in the Landscape. She lives in Brooklyn.REFERRAL LINKS:   REVIEW:When I started working on what would become Buildings in Print: 100 Influential and Inspiring Illustrated Architecture Books, I knew one of the chapters would be devoted to monographs, but I did not know that Eero Saarinen at Work would be one of them. I was unaware of the monograph at the time, but when I did learn about it during the short making of my book, I was so intrigued by it's timing (the year after Saarinen's death in 1961 at the age of just 51) and the fact it was edited by his second wife, Aline B. Saarinen, that it felt necessary to include. Born Bernstein and with the Louchheim surname by marriage, Aline was an editor at the New York Times when they met in 1953; one year later she married Eero and moved from New York to suburban Detroit to direct the public relations at the famed architect's office. As Head of Information Services at Eero Saarinen and Associates, Aline controlled how the firm's work was presented and shaped Eero's public image, both of which continued the after his death, when a number of projects were on the drawing boards or under construction. The monograph she edited — basically the first on Eero — was an integral part of this continuation, which I touched up on in my description of the book in Buildings in Print. Eva Hagberg's excellent book on Aline's role in Eero's personal life and work life adds considerably to what I knew about their relationship, which was gleaned from articles such as Alexandra Lange's piece "Love and Architecture" at Design Observer and Kornel Ringli's Designing TWA book. Hagberg, a critic and one-time "secret high-end publicist," uses When Eero Met His Match to correct the diminished role attributed to Aline in Eero's career, as portrayed in articles at the time but also in monographs published decades later. "Correct" might not be the right word though, since even though Aline was often described simply as "his wife" in contemporary publications, and she was barely mentioned in historical monographs that presented Eero as a master architect in the vein of Mies and Corbu, her hidden, behind-the-scenes presence was intentional as much as it was the product of its male-dominated time. Quoting extensively from the archives of the Aline and Eero Saarinen Papers at the Smithsonian, Hagberg repeats the now-familiar refrain that Aline saw Eero as an architect first and person second, but digs further to reveal how Aline basically created the position in his studio for herself as they were courting, later crafted storylines for the projects (think of TWA as a "bird in flight"), and worked with editors at magazines to get the best exposure for Eero, among many other things.Anyone who has read Hagberg's articles at Architect or Curbed or elsewhere knows how she inserts herself into critiques, often recounting stories that seem marginal to the building or landscape at hand but actually tap into the subjectivity of architectural criticism — and, more importantly, the subjectivity of experiencing architecture in general. When Eero Met His Match is no different. Every other chapter is devoted to aspects of Hagberg's life, such as her time as a publicist and even the death of a friend. It makes a good deal of sense in this book, not only because the lives of Louchheim (as Hagberg refers to Aline throughout the book) and Hagberg are strongly related to each other through the field of publicity, but because Hagberg's life and career were shaped in some ways by the research on Louchheim and the process of writing the book about her. Removing the author from the book's narrative would have resulted in a shorter, drier biography of Louchheim but also one that would have had to find other ways to argue for its relevance all these years later. Aline was a bit of a trailblazer in publicity for architects, even though she only worked for one architect, rather than a suite of architects, as most publicists do today. Hagberg's experience as one such publicist makes her the ideal biographer, so inserting her own stories into the text is appropriate. They're also really interesting stories, ones I found myself looking forward to as I made my way through the book and was disappointed in as they fell away (in page count, at least) in favor of Aline's stories toward the middle and end of the book.Eight chapters comprise When Eero Met His Match, with the four of them focused on Louchheim alternating with the four shorter, first-person Hagberg chapters. Two of the former comprise the largest chunks of the book. The first, chapters two, recounts "When Aline Met Eero," using their Smithsonian papers to explain just how a New York Times writer came to marry and work with/for her subject. The chapter has numerous excerpts from their letters but also a fair amount of Hagberg interpreting and "reading between the lines" to determine what sort of dynamic they had and what exactly was being said. In other words, Aline's behind-the-scenes nature at Eero's office was on display before they married and she became Head of Information Services at his office. Their written correspondences disappeared once they were living together and having conversations in the office, so the second important chapter focuses on Louchheim shaping the narrative for the TWA Flight Center. Chapter six, "'Bones for a "Bird"': Publishing TWA," follows an earlier chapter that explores how two pre-TWA Saarinen projects (Kresge and Ingalls) had respectively dry and uneven texts associated with them in the press. With TWA, Louchheim had full control. She shaped how publications talked about the project (it was a "bird," not a "grapefruit," even though the latter had more to do with the form of Eero's design) as well as which publications did so, and when. Exclusivity, both in the context of TWA and in Hagberg's own practice, is just one of many fascinating subjects explored in this highly recommended book.FOR FURTHER READING:"Now Saarinen the Son; A modern architect, following his distinguished father's profession, comes of age in his designs for our industrial era" by Aline B. Louchheim (New York Times, 1953)Eero Saarinen on His Work: A Selection of Buildings Dating from 1947 to 1964 with Statements by the Architect edited by Aline B. Saarinen (Yale University Press, 1962)Eero Saarinen by Jayne Merkel (Phaidon, 2005)Eero Saarinen: Shaping the Future edited by Donald Albrecht and Eeva-Liisa Pelkonen (Yale University Press, 2006)"Love & Architecture" by Alexandra Lange (Design Observer, 2009)"Forgiving My Dad" (PDF link) by Eric Saarinen (Scandinavian Review, 2016)Designing TWA: Eero Saarinen’s Airport Terminal in New York by Kornel Ringli (Park Books, 2018)

  • End-of-Summer Break
    by John Hill on August 29, 2022 at 12:00 PM

    This blog is off for a couple of weeks, resuming one week after Labor Day.The view from SUMMIT One Vanderbilt during sunrise on World Photography Day.

  • Parks of the 21st Century
    by John Hill on August 22, 2022 at 12:00 PM

    Parks of the 21st Century: Reinvented Landscapes, Reclaimed Territoriesby Victoria Newhouse with Alex PishaRizzoli, September 2021Hardcover | 8-1/2 x 11 inches | 356 pages | English | ISBN: 9780847870622 | $75PUBLISHER'S DESCRIPTION:Parks are essential to our well-being; this has never been clearer than it is today, and a recent surge of park development offers us much to celebrate. Parks of the 21st Century presents 52 parks in the U.S., Mexico, Canada, Europe, and China that have turned despoiled and polluted land (including former factories, railroads, and industrial waterfronts) into beneficial landscapes. Landscape architects have been referred to as “the first environmentalists,” and Parks of the 21st Century shows how parks are being designed as proactive, dynamic green spaces. The High Line in New York is an early example of how an obsolete railroad could be transformed. Opened in 2009, it now attracts nearly 8 million visitors a year. In addition to providing public open space, these renewed landscapes offer economic revitalization and large-scale environmental improvement. Among the parks featured in this book are designs by well-known professionals such as James Corner Field Operations, Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, Kongjian Yu/Turenscape, and Catherine Mosbach.Architectural historian Victoria Newhouse is the author of Towards a New Museum, Chaos and Culture, and others. Alex Pisha is a landscape and architectural designer for cultural, academic, and civic projects.REFERRAL LINKS:    REVIEW:In 1981, Doubleday published The Architecture of the United States, a massive three-volume "guide to American architecture of all regions and all periods" written and photographed by G. E. Kidder Smith. With more than 1,400 buildings visited and documented by the multifaceted architect/critic/photographer, the effort took more than a decade, starting in 1967. His undertaking was enabled by support from the Graham Foundation, primarily, as well as the National Endowment for the Arts, the Ford Foundation, and the Museum of Modern Art; non-monetary support came from his wife, "Dot," who was the driver-navigator on the cross-country trips and did much more in the making of the books. The books are a product of their time, both in terms of an appreciation of the built landscape of the United States (the Bicentennial in 1976 played a part in this, as evidenced by another multi-volume title by Kidder Smith, A Pictorial History of Architecture in America, published that year) and grants being awarded for the creation of what are in effect travel guides.Fuzhou Forest Trail in Fuzhou, China, by LOOK Architects and Fuzhou Planning, Design, and Research Institute, 2017 (Photo: LOOK Architects)I'm thinking of the 1981 books by Kidder Smith in the context of this review because forty years later many surveys of architecture are done at a remove from the subjects they present (I'm speaking from some experience on that) — but not Parks of the 21st Century, whose roughly forty international landscapes were visited by architectural historian Victoria Newhouse and landscape designer Alex Pisha. I can only guess that this contemporary undertaking was enabled by Newhouse's wealth (she is the widow of publishing magnate S.I. Newhouse) rather than the generosity of granting foundations, which these days are geared to academia rather than books like this one with potentially larger, more general audiences. Whatever the case, the fact that Newhouse and Pisha visited each of the parks in the book, usually accompanied by the architects or clients involved on the projects, comes across clearly in the descriptions of the landscapes — and makes the book that much better.Parc Dräi Eechelen in Luxembourg City by Michel Desvigne Paysagiste, 2009 (Photo: MDP Michel Desvigne Paysagiste)The subtitle of Parks of the 21st Century hints at the post-industrial nature of the parks surveyed in the book: the "reinvented landscapes" and "reclaimed territories" occupy former airports, railways, industrial plants, quarries, and other brownfield sites. The book is organized as such, with eight chapters that refer to their former lives: "railways," "highways" (these parks cap existing highways, actually), "airports," two chapters on "waterside industry," one on "inland industry," "quarries," and "strongholds." A last chapter, "future," looks ahead to four in-progress projects, including Freshkills Park in Staten Island. Many of the projects are in North America, with almost as many in China and the rest in Europe. Although this leaves out Australia, South America, Africa, and other parts of Asia, the list of projects is solid, with lesser-known gems found alongside familiar landscapes.Renaissance Park in Chattanooga, Tennessee, by Hargreaves Jones, 2006 (Photo: Charles Mayer)The most famous parks mentioned in the book, but not included as surveyed projects, are Millennium Park in Chicago (opened 2004) and the High Line in New York (phase 1 opened in 2009). Although these projects were not the first of their kind, their phenomenal successes, particularly in the number of people visiting them and the boosting of tourists to their respective cities, made them trailblazers for the transformation of industrial sites into outdoor public amenities. Parks of the 21st Century can be seen as a collection of post-High Line landscapes, even though some of the projects' dates overlap with the famed elevated park. Many more landscapes than the ones surveyed are mentioned by Newhouse and Pisha and often illustrated with photographs, in an effort to provide context for each park and to aid readers in visualizing the references that the authors mention throughout the book; the focus is on the individual projects, in other words, but the scope of the book is much larger.Tempelhofer Feld in Berlin, 2010 (Photo © Manuel Frauendorf fotografic, courtesy of Grün Berlin GmbH)The projects in the book that commanded my attention tended to be ones I'm not familiar with, ones that didn't happen jump off the page as much as others; their qualities were revealed by the authors in their descriptions. One such park is Alter Flugplatz in Bonames, Germany, by GTL Landschaftsarchitektur, the "renaturation" of the Maurice Rose Army Airfield that was built in 1952 and closed forty years later. Inspired by the writings of sociologist and "strollologist" Lucius Burckhardt, GTL devised an approach of "minimum intervention" that "would propagate on its own," per the authors, "while at the same time retaining evidence of the airfield." The photo below illustrates just how that played out between the park's opening in 2004 and the visit by Newhouse and Pisha in 2018: "Moving through the park we discovered a narrow strip of tarmac that acts as a path through what is now a series of woodland rooms [... where] the foot path had become so narrow that we instinctively looked down to keep our footing."Alter Flugplatz in Bonames, Germany, by GTL Landschaftsarchitektur, 2004 (Photo: Stefan Cop, Photography)Such passages describing the authors' firsthand accounts make this book unique in comparison to other surveys, be they of buildings or landscapes. Too much of contemporary architectural writing — books, magazines, online, it doesn't matter — relies on press releases, architects' descriptions, and other available materials in lieu of in-person visits, which are prohibitively expensive. Inserting the experience of the authors into the descriptions allows for more universal "truths" beyond the usual marketing materials that get repeated or built upon in other texts (I'm guilty of this, at times). The value of the visits by Newhouse and Pisha can also be found in elevating the importance of experience in the design of landscapes. In the introduction to my book on landscapes, 100 Years, 100 Landscape Designs, I argued that, while landscape architects are in demand to design places addressing climate change, those places need to be places for people: to exercise, to relax, to socialize, to be in nature. Newhouse and Pisha apparently feel the same way, highlighting post-industrial parks that are important works of landscape architecture — and are places they enjoyed visiting.FOR FURTHER READING:Brooklyn Bridge Park: A Dying Waterfront Transformed by Joanne Witty (Fordham University Press, 2016)A History of Brooklyn Bridge Park: How a Community Reclaimed and Transformed New York City's Waterfront by Nancy Webster and, David Shirley (Columbia University Press, 2016)Thinking the Contemporary Landscape edited by Christopher Girot and Dora Imhof (Princeton Architectural Press, 2016)Landscape as Urbanism: A General Theory by Charles Waldheim (Princeton University Press, 2016)The Making of Place: Modern and Contemporary Gardens by John Dixon Hunt (Reaktion Books, 2015)Designed Ecologies: The Landscape Architecture of Kongjian Yu edited by William S. Saunders (Birkhäuser, 2012)Drosscape: Wasting Land in Urban America by Alan Berger (Princeton Architectural Press, 2006)Recovering Landscape: Essays in Contemporary Landscape Architecture by James Corner (Princeton Architectural Press, 1999)

  • Book Briefs #45: 4 Monographs
    by John Hill on August 15, 2022 at 12:00 PM

    Here is the next installment of "Book Briefs," the series of occasional posts featuring short first-hand descriptions of some of the numerous books that publishers send to me for consideration on this blog. Obviously, these briefs are not full-blown reviews, but they are a way to share more books worthy of attention than those that end up as long reviews. This installment features four recently published monographs in two pairs: two small ones (for architecture books) followed by two big ones.Verify in Field: Projects and Coversations Höweler Yoon by Eric Höweler and J. Meejin Yoon | Park Books | May 2022 | 7-3/4 x 9-1/4 inches | 360 pages | $50 | Amazon / BookshopVerify in Field, the second monograph on Boston's Höweler + Yoon, comes about a dozen years after their first book, Expanded Practice, and as the studio moves forward in its third decade of existence. In 2009, at the release of the first monograph, their most famous project was most likely White Noise / White Light, an interactive sound and light installation located in the shadow of the Acropolis during Athens's hosting of the Olympic Games in 2004. Fast forward to the present and the most well-known project by the studio of Eric Höweler and J. Meejin Yoon is a pavilion: the Memorial to Enslaved Laborers at the University of Virginia. While these two projects would appear to indicate that Höweler + Yoon have not advanced far in terms of typology and scale (they are both functionless, in the architectural sense, outdoor spaces of fairly diminutive size), but Verify in Field — or VIF, a common shorthand used on architectural drawings — indicates this is clearly not the case; if anything, it reveals that the work- and life-partners embrace a variety of project types and can tackle large-scale projects, all the while giving the wide-ranging projects equal amounts of attention to detail.The memorial at UVA comprises the first of five thematic chapters in VIF, each of which builds upon the book's title: "What's the Matter?," "Means and Methods," "Going Public," "Under the Weather," and "...in the Details." Eighteen projects span the five chapters, ranging from memorials and cultural interiors to single-family houses and apartment buildings. A project that should gain the studio some attention when it is complete is the plaza-like Moongate Bridge under construction in Shanghai. As the book's subtitle indicates, the projects are accompanied by conversations — five of them, with fellow Bostonian Nader Tehrani, landscape architect Kate Orff, and MIT professor Ana Miljački, among them. A postscript (spread above) finds Höweler questioning the relevance of monographs in the age of Instagram. Höweler uses the app regularly to share the studio's in-progress and completed projects, though he also reviews books, documents travels to notable works of architecture, and shares projects created by his students. The answer to his question is in the "slow feed" of words and images that lead up to the postscript — a visual and intellectual feast that one can slowly digest, unlike the endless, distracting Instagram feed. (My only quibble with the book are the pages with silver text on white and gray pages, where the words are unreadable in the wrong light conditions.)Out of the Ordinary: The Work of John Ronan Architects by John Ronan | Actar Publishers | August 2022 | 6-3/4 x 9-1/4 inches | 360 pages | $54.95 | Amazon / BookshopIf we take the number of pages given a project's documentation as an equivalence to its importance and quality — and, really, is that so wrong? — the top three projects by the eponymous Chicago firm of John Ronan are: the Ed Kaplan Family Institute for Innovation and Tech Entrepreneurship (32 pages), the Poetry Foundation (30 pages); and Independence Library and Apartments (28 pages). None of the sixteen other projects — completed buildings among them, but also speculative projects, competition entries, unbuilt projects, and buildings under construction — come close in terms of pages, but cumulatively they paint a comprehensive and cohesive picture of a firm with many more projects to its name. The projects don't tell the whole story, though, since they are accompanied by short texts by Ronan, including one he contributed to Chicago by the Book: 101 Publications That Shaped the City and Its Image, essays by Sean Keller and Carlos Jimenez, and an interview between Ronan and fellow Chicagoan Clare Lyster.The compact book (the small size is refreshing compared to coffee-table monographs, I'll admit) moves roughly in chronological order, starting with Ronan's contribution to the Visionary Chicago Program organized by the Chicago Central Area Committee with the involvement of Stanley Tigerman in 2003: Ronan proposed turning the massive Old Post Office into a mausoleum in which funeral processions would move via barge along the Chicago River. Following it is another project that stayed on the drawing boards: Ronan's competition-winning design for Perth Amboy High School from 2004. I was living in Chicago at the time and had the impression, when the high school was shelved, that Ronan would have a hard time making the jump from drawing board to building, especially given ambitions considerably larger than the typical small projects young architects tackle. The trio of buildings mentioned above clearly indicate his firm's success, as do the numerous other Ronan buildings I put in last year's Guide to Chicago's Twenty-First-Century Architecture; Ronan's studio actually has more buildings in my book than all but one or two other architects in the city — another quantitative indicator of importance and quality.Radical Practice: The Work of Marlon Blackwell Architects edited by by Peter MacKeith and Jonathan Boelkins | Princeton Architectural Press | June 2022 | 11-1/2 x 11-1/2 inches | 512 pages | $80 | Amazon / BookshopWhat comprises a "radical" practice? Is it designing buildings that appear radical, akin to the angular red shape on the cover of this hefty monograph? Or is it veering from the norms of practice through, for instance, employee ownership, or by recommending to clients that they reconsider building a project because it might do ecological harm? One hint to the term's application to the practice of Fayetteville, Arkansas's Marlon Blackwell Architects can be found in an essay by Robert McCarter in which he references a text by Frank Lloyd Wright from 1930: "Radical, meaning 'of the roots.'" Although McCarter is writing about St. Nicholas Eastern Orthodox Church in Springdale, Arkansas, this quote points to a couple of things: Blackwell staying put in Arkansas, rather than decamping for one of the coasts or a big Midwestern city like Chicago; and his ability to create buildings that tap into the vernacular of a place but are dramatic, contemporary updates cognizant of changing societal needs.McCarter's text is one of fifteen essays that are inserted between the thirteen projects completed over roughly the last two decades. The alternating text and projects give the monograph a definite rhythm, one that is reinforced by a consistent structure for the documentation of the projects: a spread with text on a red background signaling the radical nature of the project (e.g., "Radical Site" for the Ruth Lilly Visitors Pavilion, the project pictured above); two pages of inspiration, mostly of nature, vernacular buildings, and notable buildings photographed by Blackwell; followed by the usual descriptive text, drawings, and photographs — lots of photographs. Most monographs are marketing, and Radical Practice is no different. But the solid list of contributors offering up some praise (among them are James Corner, Brian McKay-Lyons, Guy Nordenson, and John Ronan), as well as the insertion of photographs of the rural South by Tim Hursley between the projects and essays, among other pieces, make this book very hard to resist for fans of Blackwell's buildings.The Art of Collaboration & Innovation: Albert Kahn Associates | Visual Profile Books | June 2022 | 10-1/4 x 10-1/4 inches | 300 pages | $60 | Amazon / BookshopThe blurb for this monograph on Albert Kahn Associates boasts that the famous Detroit firm has been responsible for around 45,000 projects in more than 125 years. Like many architects, I learned about Kahn in the context of automobile factories and other industrial structures in the first decades of the 20th century, so I was surprised to learn that A) Kahn's eponymous firm still exists eighty years after his death in 1942, and B) the firm is responsible for a wide range of building types beyond automotive and industrial, and the buildings are designed in a variety of styles, not just the functional modernism Kahn pioneered. The legacy of the firm was established by Kahn's projects for Ford, General Motors, Packard, and other carmakers over a century ago, but the cover photograph (the Polk Penguin Conservation Center, 2016) hints at the distinctly different character of the contemporary buildings designed by the firm.A smattering of the firm's thousands of projects are presented in the large-format book. Instead of a strict chronological presentation, the roughly hundred buildings are organized in three chapters: "The Legacy," "The Art of Architecture," and "The Art of Engineering"; a fourth chapter, "The Future," illustrates some of the firm's concerns with relevant renderings. Inserted sporadically among the projects, especially in the first chapter, are short texts that highlight some of the qualities Kahn's firm was and is known for; they combine with the short project presentations (most are two or four pages) to provide a historical portrait of the firm. Even with the firm's longevity, the book is most valuable for bringing together the many seminal Kahn projects from the early 1900s alongside some lesser-known buildings the firm completed before Kahn's death. Most of the buildings — old and recent — are found in and around Detroit (the firm's interactive map makes finding them a great distraction); as such, The Art of Collaboration & Innovation makes a good companion to Michigan Modern: An Architectural Legacy, also published by Visual Profile Books, back in 2018.

  • The Layman's Guide to Classical Architecture
    by John Hill on August 8, 2022 at 12:00 PM

    The Layman's Guide to Classical Architectureby Quinlan Terry, edited by Clive AsletBokförlaget Stolpe, March 2022Hardcover | 8-3/4 x 10-3/4 inches | 250 pages | 220 illustrations | English | ISBN: 9789189069817 | $38PUBLISHER'S DESCRIPTION:In this beautiful illustrated survey, British architect Quinlan Terry (born 1937) presents his ultimate guide to classical architecture. With intricate and lively sketches, he explains the classical orders of architecture that were created by Vitruvius around 100 AD. The tradition of building using these orders was maintained well into the 20th century, until modernism began to dominate architecture. With this book, Terry, a strong proponent of classical architecture, aims to place focus on the kind of architecture that dominated the field for almost 2,000 years in the West—the vocabulary and heritage of which is known by few today. The book contains a large number of Terry’s drawings and sketches from travels, as well as linocuts. Also included are his drawings of such quintessential examples of the use of classical orders as St. Mark’s Square and San Giorgio Maggiore in Venice and Inigo Jones’ St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, alongside drawings of Terry’s own structures, such as Brentwood Cathedral in Essex, England. In addition, Terry compares his own studies with those of Andrea Palladio and Vincenzo Scamozzi.Prince Charles, another advocate for classical architecture, who holds Quinlan Terry as his favorite among contemporary architects, provides the preface.REFERRAL LINKS:   REVIEW:Although I agree with the saying "you can't judge a book by its cover," I've found that with architecture books the covers say a lot about what's inside. In the case of this book written by British architect Quinlan Terry, the cover indicates that Classical architecture will be explained to laypeople — ideally clients — through drawings, and those drawings will look at the Orders and elements of Classical architecture in a vantage point looking upward. Such a perspective departs from plan and elevation drawings favored by architects like Andrea Palladio who wrote treatises to Classical architecture, pattern books that were studied by architects and students of architecture. Terry's guide for people without such an education makes Classical architecture that much understandable, by putting people in front of Classical buildings — many designed by Terry himself — and having them virtually crane their necks upwards. The spreads shown here capture how such upward-facing sketches and linotypes span the book's twelve chapters, which move from detailed explanations of the five orders to arguments for the preference of Classical architecture over modern architecture and its relevance in the time of climate change. Moving from the study of proportions and Classical elements to a way of building that could save the world is a bit of a long walk, but it's an enjoyable one nevertheless, thanks to Terry's fairly casual writing style and his reliance on drawings, which appear to take up more of the book's pages than the text. Therein lies Terry's motives for writing a book for laypeople: more clients demanding Classical architecture are needed for traditional building and design to supplant modern architecture this century. He writes on page 193: "When I started working with Raymond Erith there were about two or three other serious Classical architects practicing, but now there are probably over fifty in England and many more in America. The credit for this goes not to the architects but to many laymen who request that their new house or offices should look similar to buildings they admire from previous centuries."A discussion that stands out to me in the four chapters on the five Orders (he puts Corinthian and Composite together in one chapter) is the author's detailed analysis of modillions. Found mainly in Ionic, Corinthian, and Composite Orders, modillions are projections on the underside of the cornice that often alternate with recessed coffers. The spacing of the modillions has to relate to the column below it as well as to any changes of direction of the cornice, which can be seen most dramatically in the drawing and photograph below depicting Terry's design for Baker Street, London, in 1998. Later in the book, in a chapter on Baroque architecture, the author sketches a church in Rome that features modillions and coffers that are "correct" in elevation but not in plan, pointing out what the architect (Carlo Rainaldi) could have done to make it more successful. Within his commentary is the unwritten assertion that the success of Classical architecture is dependent upon a detail as small as modillions and how they fit into the arrangement and articulation of other elements, each one depending on the other and therefore fitting into a whole — ideally a correct and pleasing whole. Unfortunately, this attention to detail does not extend to the labeling of the drawings in the book, where arrows and dotted lines in red get lost atop the sketches and — especially — the linotypes, making them unnecessarily hard to read.Near the end of the book are two chapters that address the relevance of Classical architecture more than 2,100 years after the Pantheon was built in Rome: "Appropriate Materials and Construction for Buildings that Will Endure for Centuries" and "Classical Architecture as the Hallmark of its Time and Place." With climate change and sustainability being tantamount concerns now — especially in regard to the embodied energy and carbon in existing buildings — I find myself agreeing with the former: cheap, "disposable" buildings that cannot be recycled should not be built. But should buildings that last centuries be Classical? Must they be Classical? I have a hard time saying yes to those questions, since modern and contemporary architecture is full of examples of buildings that depart from Classicism but take a similar approach in terms of a smaller scale and load-bearing construction and materials. (Think Kahn, Wang Shu, Zumthor, etc.) If modillions express the good of Classical architecture, for Terry the expansion joint embodies the bad of modern architecture. Eliminating expansion joints, though far from likely, would force all architects to create buildings less reliant on unsustainable materials and assemblies. But "green" equalling Classical is open to debate — one I'm guessing Terry would be up for.FOR FURTHER READING:The Four Books of Architecture by Andrea Palladio (Dover Publications, 1965)The Classical Language of Architecture by John Summerson (The MIT Press, 1966)Classical Architecture: Rule and Invention by Thomas Gordon Smith (Gibbs Smith, 1988)New Classicism: Omnibus Volume edited by Andreas Papadakis and Harriet Watson (Academy Editions, 1990)Architects Anonymous by Quinlan Terry (Academy Editions, 1994)The Elements of Classical Architecture edited by Henry Hope Reed (W. W. Norton, 2001)Classical Architecture: An Introduction to Its Vocabulary and Essentials, with a Select Glossary of Terms by James Stevens Curl (W. W. Norton, 2003)Sketchbooks: Collected Measured Drawings and Architectural Sketches by George Saumarez Smith (Triglyph Books, 2021)

  • Vitruvius Without Text
    by John Hill on August 1, 2022 at 12:00 PM

    Vitruvius Without Text: The Biography of a Bookby André Tavaresgta Verlag, July 2022Paperback | 4-1/2 x 6-3/4 inches | 250 pages | 61 illustrations | English | ISBN: 9783856764227 | $30PUBLISHER'S DESCRIPTION:Vitruvius’s De Architectura, written in the first century BCE, has been revered as the first treatise on architectural theory. Since its resurrection during the Renaissance, the enigmatic text has been adjusted, refined, and redefined in subsequent iterations. This book bypasses exegeses of the text to focus on the material history of the printed editions disseminated throughout Europe. It surveys over a hundred editions of Vitruvius from 1486 to the present, tracing the power of the printed page in establishing the Roman author as an authority. Focusing on the impact of the physical objects that embody the Vitruvian canon, Vitruvius Without Text highlights how book history and architectural history cross paths while illuminating how a symbiotic relationship emerges between the printed and the built.André Tavares is an architect and founding director of Dafne Editora, an independent publishing house in Portugal.REFERRAL LINKS:   REVIEW:Number 26 of Richard Weston's 100 Ideas that Changed Architecture is "Commodity, Firmness, and Delight," attributed to Sir Henry Wotton in his 1624 book, The Elements of Architecture, a "free translation of the Roman architect Vitruvius's De Architectura, now universally known as the Ten Books of Architecture and the only architectural treatise to survive from classical antiquity." In referencing both Vitruvius and Wotton, Weston highlights one of the most important aspects of the Ten Books of Architecture (usually simply called "Vitruvius"): ideas from the text have been carried through to the present by way of numerous translations, editions, and interpretations. The triad of firmness, commodity, and delight — originally firmitas, utlitas, venustas — is the most famous element from Vitruvius's 2000-year-old text, but even it has been subject to the analysis of architects and theoreticians, first in the Renaissance, when the text was rediscovered, and in the half-millennium since. André Tavares's illuminating book examines how Vitruvius has been packaged — and unpacked — from the 15th century to the current day.Vitruvius Without Text, which can be read as an open source PDF or in an online format via gta Verlag, consists of two main sections, what could be seen as two books in one: "The Biography of a Book" and "The Tetrastyle Hypothesis." The first is pretty much what it says, but instead of honing in on what was found in Vitruvius's original, the "biography" traces many of the subsequent editions that were made from 1486 to the present. Tavares looks at how the text was translated, how it was laid out on the page, what illustrations were used to accompany the text (the original had none), and even how the books were assembled as objects: their size, paper, print run and distribution, number of volumes, etc. It is a fitting focus for someone whose first book was The Anatomy of the Architectural Book. The second part, though more enigmatic at first blush, takes one passage from Vitruvius's original — the first paragraph from Book VI, Chapter III — and examines how its influence jumped from book to building over time. It's an interesting addition to the biography, since it moves the interpretative stances that were found in the various editions of Vitruvius's text in the other direction, in effect turning the Ten Books of Architecture into a hinge upon which its influence moves repeatedly back and forth.The "Biography" section is organized into seven chronological chapters, each covering roughly a half century or a full century, moving from the 1480s to the present. The cover indicates that "over a hundred editions of Vitruvius" are covered, though more important than quantity is quality. Certain influential editions, in other words, come to the fore in Tavares's text, including Giovanni Giocondo's innovative early edition from 1511, Daniele Barbaro's 1556 edition illustrated by Andrea Palladio, Claude Perrault's annotated French translation in 1673, and Morris Hickey Morgan's 1914 English translation that was the first non-European edition of Vitruvius. Accompanied by photographs of what I hope are the author's hands holding these and other editions of Vitrivius, the biography is an exhaustively researched firsthand account of Vitruvius over time, with at times fascinating details on the century-spanning editions. It's also a bit unwieldy with its many dates, languages, and editors, but thankfully the back matter includes a "Vitruviana" section with side-by-side comparisons of the layouts of important editions (second-to-last spread, below), a comprehensive list of the printed editions of Vitruvius from 1486 to 2016, and maps (last spread) showing the reach of those editions over the same time.The "Hypothesis" section jumps from books to buildings, looking at how tetrastyle spaces were illustrated in editions of Vitruvius and how architects designed such spaces based on those descriptions and illustrations. In the first section of Book VI, Chapter III, a cavaedium — or atrium in an Ancient Roman house — is defined as of five different styles (Tuscan, Corinthian, tetrastyle, displuviate, and testudinate), with the tetrastyle featuring "girders [...] supported at the angles by columns." Simply put, a tetrastyle is a hall with a central grid of columns that serves to reduce the span of the beams and also defines a central space. Remember, Vitruvius did not have illustrations, so Tavares shows how tetrastyle spaces were illustrated in various ways in the later editions. For example, the 1914 English translation by Morris Hicky Morgan (linked in this paragraph to its online version) features archaeological evidence from houses in Pompeii. Earlier editions incorporated cavaedium that were designed by architects around the time based on descriptions; their designs then influenced how such spaces were described, incorporating, for instance, proportional information that was not in the original. The various proportions and other variations are their own forms of unwieldy in this half of the book, but they are helpfully accompanied by Tavares's illustrations of different tetrastyle spaces and photographs of some built examples.The last chapter before the book's epilogue and back matter is a cursory run through modern examples of cavaedium spaces, or what Tavares calls "Vitruvius by Accident." These range from Berlin subways and Le Corbusier's Villa Stein-de Monzie (spread above), both from the 1920s, to the mid-1960s Berquó House by Vilanova Artigas and Thomas Gordon Smith's aptly named Vitruvius House from 19991. My favorite example, which Tavares mentions but does illustrate as he does with the others mentioned here, is Charles Moore's own house in Orinda, California, where eight recycled wood posts define two spaces in a larger square plan (unfortunately, the house was mangled this century as part of a McMansion expansion). Tavares's point is that, even when architects are not directly referencing Vitruvius (Moore referenced Mayan and Hindu temples when he wrote about it), they are creating spaces and using architectural elements in ways that can ultimately be traced back to Vitruvius. This does not mean that Vitruvius is necessarily the Bible of Western architecture; rather it points to the importance of the architects and scholars who rediscovered and reinterpreted his text centuries ago. The ideas from the original have been transported to the present, but in routes that are far from direct or free from contemporary corrections and realignments.FOR FURTHER READING:The Anatomy of the Architectural Book by André Tavares (Lars Müller Publishers, 2016)Paper Palaces: The Rise of the Renaissance Architectural Treatise edited by Vaughan Hart with Peter Hicks (Yale University Press, 1998)Vitruvius: On Architecture, Books 1-5 by Marcus Vitruvius Pollio, translated by Frank Granger (Harvard University Press, 1931); Vitruvius: On Architecture, Books 6-10 by Marcus Vitruvius Pollio, translated by Frank Granger (Harvard University Press, 1934)Vitruvius: The Ten Books of Architecture by Marcus Vitruvius Pollio, translated by Morris Hicky Morgan (Dover Publications, 1960)Vitruvius: Writing the Body of Architecture by Indra Kagis McEwen (The MIT Press, 2002)

  • Two Louis Kahn Books
    by John Hill on July 25, 2022 at 12:00 PM

    This week's dose features two publications on Louis I. Kahn released in 2022: the revised and expanded second edition of Robert McCarter's monograph on Kahn; and a facsimile edition of one of the architect's first monographs, edited by Richard Saul Wurman and accompanied by a new reader's guide. Be sure to scroll all the way down for a list of other Kahn titles of interest.Louis I Kahn (Revised and Expanded Edition)by Robert McCarterPhaidon, March 2022Hardcover | 9-3/4 x 12-1/4 inches | 528 pages | 800 illustrations | English | ISBN: 9781838663049 | $150.00 | "A thoroughly updated and redesigned edition of McCarter’s esteemed monograph on the globally-revered modern master – includes Roosevelt Island, Four Freedoms Park, which was completed after Kahn's death" (click here for publisher's description and author bio)REFERRAL LINKS:   REVIEW:According to his page on the website of the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts at Washington University, architect Robert McCarter has authored around a dozen monographs, on architects both living and dead. Recent contemporary monographs feature WG Clark, Grafton Architects, Hermann Hertzberger, Steven Holl, and MacKay-Lyons Sweetapple Architects, while the historical monographs are devoted to Alvar Aalto, Marcel Breuer, Aldo van Eyck, Louis I. Kahn, Carlo Scarpa, and Frank Lloyd Wright. The monograph on Kahn was first published by Phaidon in 2005, but with the subsequent completion of the FDR Four Freedoms State Park on Roosevelt Island, the eponymous book has been expanded, enlarged, and updated. I have not seen McCarter's first book on Kahn, but I don't feel the need to search it out — the second edition is so good, in both its scholarship and its visual documentation, that it easily supplants the first edition. And if people plop down $150 on it, I'm sure they might be encouraged to feel the same way. This is not to say that McCarter's book is the definitive book on Kahn — no book can accomplish that, given Kahn's built output, poetic lectures, and dramatic personal life — but anyone looking for a comprehensive overview of his architecture will not be disappointed with this monograph.Comprehensive means just that: McCarter starts the book with Kahn's upbringing, education, and early work in the offices of other architects, giving as much attention to those decades than the ones that happened after his much-documented residency at the American Academy in Rome in 1951, when he traveled around the Mediterranean and "found himself as an architect," in McCarter's words. Still, the bulk of the book's half-dozen sections — with such titles as "Rediscovering an Architecture of Mass and Structure" and "Inspired Compositions in the Poetics of Action" — consist of case studies devoted to Kahn's masterpieces from the 1960s and 70s: the Salk, the Kimball, the Yale Center for British Art, etc. Alternating with subsections on themes in Kahn's work, where his residential projects tend to be discussed, the case studies of buildings and unbuilt projects (many of the latter are rendered by Kent Larson, author of Unbuilt Masterworks) are the most helpful parts of the book, especially for those most interested in the way Kahn's designs evolved over the course of a project; the visual documentation is especially important in showing how the designs changed in sometimes subtle and sometimes dramatic ways. Using the FDR Four Freedoms project as an example, McCarter's descriptions are heavy on formal descriptions but light on historical facts; the story of how the design was completed decades after Kahn's death in 1974, for instance, is relegated to a footnote, of which there are many in the back of the book.Holding the massive undertaking together are the beautiful construction of the book — from its large size and layered chip board cover to its paper selection — and the page design. In regards to the latter, a couple of things are worth pointing out: the images and captions are done well, with many of the images large on the page and all of them clearly numbered and keyed within the text. Second is the text itself, which moves in a subtle way from one-column to two-column and then three-column layouts across from subsection to subsection; the Salk Institute case study pictured above, for example, has a three-column layout, but the preceding subsection, "Wrapping Ruins Around Buildings," has one and the following subsection, which concludes the section of the book it is in, has two. This approach to text columns, which further organizes images and captions, is commendable, since Louis I. Kahn has a lot of text and the variation between subsections help keep the reader from being overwhelmed or bored with the text. Put another way, the design helps McCarter's text — readable but not exactly full of flair — go down a little easier. Of course, this monograph is hardly meant to be read cover to cover, but those who do will learn a great deal about the life, philosophy, and architecture of one of the most important architects of the 20th century.The Notebooks and Drawings of Louis I. Kahn (Facsimile Edition and Reader's Guide)Edited by Richard Saul Wurman and Eugene FeldmanDesigners & Books/Yale Center for British Art (an imprint of Yale University Press), March 20222 volumes (Hardcover facsimile edition; Paperback reader's guide) w/sleeve | 11-1/4 x 15 inches | 216 pages | 177 illustrations | English | ISBN: 9780300263848 | $110.00 | "A deluxe sleeved set that includes a facsimile republication of a classic work on Louis Kahn and an accompanying volume of new writings by colleagues, architects, and the Kahn family" (click here for publisher's description and author bio)REFERRAL LINKS:   REVIEW:The year 1962 saw the release of the first two books on architect Louis Kahn: Vincent Scully's slim, 128-page contribution to George Braziller's "Makers of Contemporary Architecture" series; and the large-format The Notebooks and Drawings of Louis I. Kahn compiled by Richard Saul Wurman and edited by him and publisher Eugene Feldman. Kahn had been working as an architect for more than 25 years by that point, but he really only had two notable completed buildings to his name by 1962: the Yale University Art Gallery (1953) and the Alfred Newton Richards Medical Research Building (1960). Although the latter was celebrated with an exhibition at MoMA in 1961, the two books were as much about the promise of Kahn's future architecture as they were about the buildings he had completed since his transformative trip to Europe in 1951. This promise is echoed by the two commissions he gained in 1962: the Indian Institute of Management in Ahmedabad and the Sher-e-Bangla Nagar, the second capital of Pakistan (later Bangladesh), both of which would occupy him for the remaining twelve years of his life. The year 1962 also saw the birth of Kahn's son, Nathanial, with Harriet Pattison. It was a busy year, to say the least, but also the beginning of one of the most fruitful stretches of building that could be attributed to one architect.The above paragraph was sketched with the assistance of the helpful timeline on the website of the the Louis I. Kahn Facsimile Project, which was created by Designer & Books with the aim of reprinting the 1962 book by Wurman and Feldman and adding a companion reader's guide. Using Kickstarter to fund the endeavor (Designers & Books previously did the same with the Fortunato Depero’s 1927 book, Depero Futurista, aka "The Bolt Book"), the project was successfully funded last year, with Designers & Books eventually partnering with YC British Art to publish a reprint of the second edition from 1973 and a companion reader's guide with writings, interviews, and other new content. I have never had my hands on either the original Notebooks and Drawings or the 1973 edition, but I have no doubt that the Facsimile Edition is true to them. The distinctive stamped gold trees on the cover — extracted by Wurman from one of Kahn's sketches of the Yale University Art Gallery — are reproduced beautifully on the cream-colored linen cover. (The same image is embossed in silver on the paperback Reader's Guide.) Inside, the endpapers feature Kahn's famous movement pattern drawing for Philadelphia (1952-53) in reverse on green, while the heavyweight pages are off-white and light-green; combined with the many pages that exhibit the yellow of Kahn's trace-paper sketches, the whole has a earthy color palette gives the whole a cohesive appearance and almost archival feeling.Last year, when Designers & Books was in the process of raising funds on Kickstarter, I spoke with Wurman about Kahn, his two books on Kahn (he also edited What Will Be Has Always Been, a compilation of Kahn's words, in 1986), and the facsimile project, editing together some of his words for a piece on World-Architects. Wurman has produced dozens of books in his lifetime, but he's never had any desire to reprint them, preferring instead to move onto the next project, to always move forward. So a reprint of Notebooks and Drawings had to have something new. As such, the Reader's Guide is an excellent addition to the Facsimile Edition, with background on the original book courtesy of an interview between Wurman and his biographer, Dan Klyn (Eugen Feldman died in 1975), and numerous contributions by family members (Sue Ann Kahn, Alexandra Tyng, Nathaniel Kahn), curators (William Whitaker, Peter Reed, Jochen Eisenbrand), critics and educators (Paul Goldberger, Hashim Sarkis, etc.), and others, including recipients of the Louis I. Kahn Award given out annually by the Philadelphia Center for Architecture. The Reader's Guide manages to situate readers in the timeframe of the original Notebooks and Drawings — through, for example, archival snippets from reviews of the book — but it also take them forward in time, to when the promise of Kahn in 1962 was realized in later buildings. Together, the Facsimile Edition and Reader's Guide are an integral addition to the library of any architect who wants better understand the architecture of Louis I. Kahn.FOR FURTHER READING:Beginnings: Louis I. Kahn's Philosophy of Architecture by Alexandra Tyng (Wiley, 1984)Between Silence and Light: Spirit in the Architecture of Louis I. Kahn by John Lobell (Shambhala Publications, 1979)Louis I. Kahn by Vincent Scully (George Braziller, 1962)Louis I. Kahn in Conversation: Interviews with John W. Cook and Heinrich Klotz, 1969–70 edited by Jules David Prown and Karen E. Denavit (YC British Art, 2015)Louis I. Kahn: In the Realm of Architecture by David Brownlee and David De Long (Rizzoli, 1991)Louis I. Kahn: Unbuilt Masterworks by Kent Larson (The Monacelli Press, 2000)Louis Kahn: Architecture as Philosophy by John Lobell (The Monacelli Press, 2020)Louis Kahn: The Importance of a Drawing edited by Michael Merrill (Lars Müller Publishers, 2021)Louis Kahn: The Power of Architecture edited by Mateo Kries, Jochen Eisenbrand and Stanislaus von Moos (Vitra Design Museum, 2012)Our Days Are Like Full Years: A Memoir with Letters from Louis Kahn by Harriet Pattison (Yale University Press, 2020)What Will Be Has Always Been: The Words of Louis I. Kahn by Richard Saul Wurman (Rizzoli, 1986)