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  • Imagining the Evident
    by John Hill on August 2, 2021 at 12:00 PM

    Imagining the Evidentby Álvaro Sizamonade, 2021Hardcover | 5-1/2 x 8-1/4 inches | 156 pages | 67 illustrations | English | ISBN: 9789899948594 | 28.00€PUBLISHER'S DESCRIPTION:The referential book by Álvaro Siza on his own work, in its first English edition. Describing some of his projects, his expectations and struggles, references and decisions, this book is a fundamental contribution to the understanding of Álvaro Siza’s architectural thinking.The text is accompanied by an extensive set of drawings from his notebooks, an obstinate presence in Siza’s particular way of working, some of which never published before.A personal and fundamental testimony of one of the most celebrated living architects, covering the full range of design – from architecture to city planning, furniture and objects – in a must-read book for all interested in Art and Architecture.dDAB COMMENTARY:Imagining the Evident is the English translation of a book, Immaginare l'Evidenza, first published in Italian in 1998. As such, the words and sketches by Álvaro Siza, the most famous architect from Portugal, cover the first few decades of his career, from the famous tea house and pool at Leça de Palmeira to various projects in the 1990s; most of the projects predate or overlap with Siza's 1992 Pritzker Architecture Prize. There are no photographs in the book, so it less a monograph than a sketchbook of ideas, a revealing look inside the mind of a famous yet sensitive architect. The name of the book reveals as much.Just what the phrase "imagining the evident" means is explored by Daniela Sá in a short postscript written for the English edition; it and a few new sketches by Siza are the only additions to the newly translated book. Sá's short text on Siza's thought process follows an equally short essay, "The Other," by Italian architect Vittorio Gregotti that accompanied the original book. He is clearly enamored with Siza's architecture, more so his sketches, which even then were instantly recognizable. Gregotti also links Siza's words and drawings, writing about his (my emphasis) "diversity of writing of the spaces and forms of the project." One could take Imagining the Evident as an expression of this "writing."The book is organized into three thematic chapters ("To Repeat is Never to Repeat," "Navigating Through the Hybrid of Cities," and "Essentially") that are followed by an autobiographical note and the short texts by Gregotti and Sá. Siza's sketches are inserted throughout to clarify his words, yet without being directly referenced. Although the drawings should aid readers in understanding the physical characteristics of the projects he describes, those with a greater understanding of his buildings, particularly in the first-person, will benefit the most from the revealing of Siza's thought process. (Those looking to do just that should consider Álvaro Siza Architectural Guide: Built Projects, a guidebook I've yet to put to full use.)Imagining the Evident is a short, almost leisurely book, one I think of akin to sitting down with Siza in his smoke-filled office as he flips through his sketchbooks and recounts the invention of each project depicted. I have more familiarity with the architect's sketches than his words, so I was surprised by some of the latter, here translated by Tania Gregg and Daniela Sá. Siza has a way with words, apparently, as when he writes in regards to the reconstruction of the Chiado area in Lisbon: "The work of the architect [...] becomes the work of a detective who is trying to re-establish old, vital correspondences that have been traumatically cut and are barely noticeable." Phrases like these are highly visual, making me think Imagining the Evident could hold as much power even without the sketches.Imagining the Evident is available via monade books as a standalone book and as a limited edition with a silkscreened sketch signed and numbered by Siza.SPREADS:

  • Summer Break
    by John Hill on July 11, 2021 at 12:00 PM

    This blog is taking a two-week summer break, with posts resuming in the first week of August. Need some reading ideas in the meantime? I put together a list of ten recommendations for World-Architects; most of those books will find their way onto this blog later in the summer.

  • Relational Theories of Urban Form
    by John Hill on July 9, 2021 at 12:00 PM

    Relational Theories of Urban Form: An AnthologyDaniel Kiss, Simon Kretz (Editors)Birkhäuser, March 2021Paperback | 6 x 9 inches | 464 pages | English | ISBN: 9783035620764 | 29.95€PUBLISHER'S DESCRIPTION:This commentated anthology contains essential passages from eight important architecture and urban design theory texts from the 1960s to the 2010s. With these excerpts, the editors discursively outline the concept of form as a relational field of tension between man and material. The relational element is treated not only as a topos, but above all the interpretational perspective of architectural theory.The texts are arranged under the guiding themes of Type, Process, Place, and Things. The texts themselves were written by authors including Christopher Alexander, Oswald Mathias Ungers, Fumihiko Maki, Alison and Peter Smithson, Lucius Burckhardt, Bruno Latour, and Manuel de Solà-Morales. They offer a paradigmatic foundation that encourages further research and the continued view through the "relational lens."Daniel Kiss, lecturer, Institute for Urban Design, ETH Zurich. Simon Kretz, senior assistant, lecturer for urban design, ETH Zurich.REFERRAL LINKS:   dDAB COMMENTARY:When I was in graduate school for urban design, at least one of the classes used an urban studies reader as a textbook. The book packed a lot of content into its (overpriced) pages, but the formatting and layout left a lot of room for improvement. Most notably, many of the images from the articles and extracted book chapters were placed at the back of the book as plates, therefore divorcing any connection between words and images found in the originals. Page after page of dense blocks of dense text is not the best way to appease graduate students — at least this one. Daniel Kiss and Simon Kretz's Relational Theories of Urban Form can be looked at relative to books like these, both for the way it gathers seminal texts that students in urban design should read and for its commendable size and layout that increases the readability of the texts. The title indicates the slant of the eight texts in the anthology: exploring relationships between the social and the material. It's a broad and therefore complex dichotomy that has been addressed by architects and academics in books and in practice. The eight texts are organized into four pairs that correspond with four "guiding themes": Type, Process, Place, and Things. "Type" has excerpts from A Pattern Language by Christopher Alexander, et. al., followed by a trio of texts by O.M. Ungers. "Process" includes what is almost the entirety of Fumihiko Maki's short yet important Investigations in Collective Form and excerpts from Alison and Peter Smithson's Italian Thoughts. "Place" has numerous pages from Gordon Cullen's seminal, abundantly illustrated The Concise Townscape and various texts by Lucius Burckhardt on "Strollology," or the science of walking. Lastly, "Things" gathers some writings by Bruno Latour on the "agency of things" and snippets from Manuel de Solà-Morales's A Matter of Things.Rather than providing individual prefaces for each text, as other urban studies readers do, Kiss and Kretz provide just a couple sentences at the beginning of each of the four chapters, putting most of their commentary into a lengthy introduction. Here, they systematically describe each section and essay according to the theme of the book, though they also roll other architects and thinkers into the mix, such as Aldo Rossi in terms of Type and Christian Norberg-Schulz on Place. They also comment on the relevance of each essay for contemporary discourse, which makes sense given that the book came out of a seminar they gave at ETH Zurich just five years ago. For this reviewer, the inclusion of Maki's hard-to-find (in print, at least) text from 1964 makes the book worth having, while the inclusion of Burckhardt opened my eyes to a "science" that this walker will no doubt take a longer look at.In terms of design, I think it was a great decision to go with a paper size that is smaller than most books on architecture and urban design; it's not quite as small as the Bible-like pages of A Pattern Language, which starts the book, but it's pretty close. The combination of 6-by-9-inch paper and lay-flat binding allow the book to be read easily with one hand while standing, if so desired, or hands-free on a table. The illustrations are laid out alongside the text, not at the ends of them, which makes the sometimes visual arguments (esp. with Alexander and Cullen) easier to grasp. Furthermore, the illustrations are commendably large on the page. Lastly, the way the editors have excerpted and arranged the texts is intelligent, doing it in a way that the shortened texts flow but also retain the conceptual clarity of the originals. I can't think of a better goal in such an anthology.SPREADS:

  • The History of Architecture
    by John Hill on July 8, 2021 at 12:00 PM

    The History of Architecture: From the Avant-Garde Towards the Presentby Luigi Prestinenza PuglisiDOM Publishers, July 2021Paperback | 8-3/4 x 9 inches | 528 pages | 700 illustrations | English | ISBN: 9783869227139 | 28€PUBLISHER'S DESCRIPTION:What exactly gave rise to the phantasmagoric ­buildings of ­starchitects such as Zaha Hadid?How did inter­actions between artists and architects affect architectural production during the twentieth century? Which exhibitions and publications have had a lasting influence over the last century?This concise volume chronicles the move­ments and trends in architecture over the past 120 ­years. Written as a narrative but split into succinct sections, it makes for clear and compelling reading.In his pithy and personal style, the Rome-based critic and archi­tectural historian Luigi Prestinenza Puglisi explores the events and motivations that have driven the work of leading archi­tects from Frank Lloyd Wright and Louis Kahn, to Rem Koolhaas and Kazuyo Sejima.With over 700 illustrations and a comprehensive list of practitioners, this insightful chronicle is both visually ­appealing and easy to navigate. It covers buildings from across the globe and details projects by contem­porary archi­tects, bringing readers fully up to date.Luigi Prestinenza Puglisi, born 1956 in Sicily, studied Architecture and subsequently specialized in Urban Planning. He taught History of Contemporary Architecture at the Sapienza University of Rome, and now teaches History of Contemporary Design at the Rome University of Fine Arts (RUFA). He is the president of the Italian Association of Architecture and Criticism.REFERRAL LINKS:   dDAB COMMENTARY:This ambitious book documents modern and contemporary architecture from 1905 to today, or as the subtitle indicates, "from the avant-garde towards the present." The word "towards" is telling, though, since the last chapter describes architecture during the years 2008 to 2018 in a scant nine pages, much fewer than each of the fifteen chronological chapters that precede it. The year 2008 coincides with an earlier book by Luigi Prestinenza Puglisi, New Directions in Contemporary Architecture: Evolutions and Revolutions in Building Design Since 1988, which examined two decades of architecture in 240 pages. In The History of Architecture, those same two decades are given four chapters — four chapters that don't just nearly align with the text from the earlier book, they match exactly; the text is reused here with no noticeable changes. The references and lengthy footnotes of the earlier book are gone, and the selection of images and page layout do differ dramatically, but for people like me who read Puglisi's earlier book, The History of Architecture is a three-quarters book: one that covers architecture from the turn of the century to the end of the 1980s.As evidenced by the view of the cover, the book sports an extended subtitle (a sub-subtitle?) that reads: "A Comprehensive Chronicle of 20th and 21st Century Buildings." This wording is slightly misleading, though, because Puglisi puts as much emphasis on the architects as on their buildings. His borderline hero worship is accentuated by the Photoshopped portraits that appear sporadically throughout the book, always in the top-left corner of two-page spreads (see Herzog & de Meuron in the third spread, below). In 2021, when just about every outlet is embracing the telling of untold stories, often about women and people of color, an architecture book focused on — and literally depicting — the same-old architects of the last 100-plus years seems a bit out of touch. But how else does one tell the story of avant-garde 20th-century architecture? And for Puglisi, who comes across clearly as an arbiter of innovation in architecture and a champion of the name-brand architects who have defined architectural innovation, focusing on architects (almost) as much as their buildings is par for the course.In at least one case Puglisi's focus on names is to the detriment of telling other stories, ones that could have added context to the stories he does present. Specifically I'm referring to a four-page portion of chapter ten ("1975-1980") titled "The Layers of the Architectural Association" (each chapter is packed with numerous sub-chapters like this, making the book easy to digest regardless of its length and scope). Puglisi focuses on Zaha Hadid, Bernard Tschumi, and Rem Koolhaas, in particular the first's competition-winning Peak project in Hong Kong and the last two's competition entries for the Parc de la Villette in Paris, which was won by Tschumi over a second-place Koolhaas. The discussion of Parc de la Villette segues into a description of (but no photo, unfortunately) an entry by Luigi Pellegrin. But this section on the Architectural Association does not even mention Alvin Boyarsky, who is almost single-handedly responsible for making the AA an appealing place for Hadid, Tschumi, Koolhaas, and other famous names all those decades ago. It seems irresponsible to not include Boyarsky in a text referring to the AA during his years as chairman, but it is excusable given the way Puglisi's writing focuses on the theory of form-making over historical context.The History of Architecture is also available in Spanish, though unfortunately in my copy this means that twelve pages near the end of the book are in Spanish rather than English. Fortunately they are in the penultimate chapter, which overlaps with Puglisi's 2008 book mentioned above and means I'm not missing any English text. (Hopefully this issue was not widespread and other printings by DOM Publishers are all in one language.) The next and final chapter, the short one covering the years 2008 to 2018, sees the author using the Venice Architecture Biennales and Pritzker Architecture Prizes to trace architectural trends, and focusing on the iconic work of famous names though also mentioning some younger architects of note. He ends with Zaha Hadid, wondering if her untimely death in 2016 "will symbolically mark the end of one era and the dawn of another." That's for someone else to answer, but for those interested, The History of Architecture does a very good job of recapping the eras that led up to the (near) present one.SPREADS:

  • German Architecture Annual 2021
    by John Hill on July 7, 2021 at 12:00 PM

    German Architecture Annual 2021Yorck Förster, Christina Gräwe, Peter Cachola Schmal (Editors)DOM Publishers, YearHardcover | 9 x 11-2/4 inches | 256 pages | 350 illustrations | German/English | ISBN: 9783869227740 | 38.00€PUBLISHER'S DESCRIPTION:The German Architectural Annual, edited by the German Architecture Museum (DAM), has been documenting contemporary architectural projects in Germany for the past 40 years. This year´s edition of the annual presents the shortlist of 25 buildings selected by the jury for the 2021 DAM Preis for Architecture in Germany. The building reviews, written by architectural critics, along with large-format photographs, provide a deep insight into those works.REFERRAL LINKS:   dDAB COMMENTARY:At the beginning of this year the Deutsches Architekturmuseum (DAM) awarded the 2021 DAM Preis for Architecture in Germany to MVRDV and N-V-O Nuyken von Oefele Architekten for WERK12, a five-story mixed-use building near Munich's Ost station that is part of the larger Werksviertel district. Fans of MVRDV, like me, no doubt felt the five-story mixed-use building wrapped in terraces and stairs looked familiar, recalling another building in Germany by the Dutch firm: the Netherlands Pavilion at the 2000 World Expo in Hannover. In the pages of this book devoted to the award, the editors admit as much too, writing that "MVRDV have not only drawn on their illustrious early period" around Expo 2000, "they have also confirmed themselves once again as visionary prophets." No surprise that the jury selected the building, which was completed in October 2019, unanimously.Documentation of WERK12 through drawings, photographs, and words comprises just eight pages in the 256-page book. This leaves plenty more pages for six-to-eight-page documentations of the three finalists (Wohnregal in Berlin by FAR frohn & rojas; Building-integrated roof greenhouse and administration building in Oberhausen by KUEHN MALVEZZI; Ernst Busch Academy of Dramatic Arts in Berlin by O&O Baukunst), the seventeen shortlisted projects (out of 200 nominations and 100 projects on the longlist), and the four shortlisted "export" projects outside Germany. The book also has room for an essay on the National Garden Show (BUGA), an interview with Wolfgang Kessling of Transsolar, a preface by the editors and JUNG, which co-sponsors the award with DAM, and a 25-page appendix on the DAM Preis and other DAM efforts.One of the most illuminating parts of the book is the editorial preface, which is tucked between the presentation of the top-four projects at the start of the book and the BUGA essay. In it, the editors explain the exceptional nature of the latest annual competition, which began right when COVID-19 sent the world into lockdown. DAM, like others, managed by handling things virtually, with the jury holding a lengthy online meeting to agree on 26 candidates (one was apparently dropped between then and publication). The determination of the finalists happened in person, and with just four buildings, all in Germany, the jury was able visit all of the finalists to determine the DAM Preis winner. A photograph captures some of the jury and the winning architects on the fourth-floor terrace of WERK12.Like those nominated to the DAM Preise, the projects in German Architecture Annual 2021 are not limited in terms of typology, but clearly they are limited to projects in Germany by any architect and projects outside of Germany that were designed by German architecture firms. This gives the book an obvious dose of national pride, as well as a little bit of a boost for DAM, which organizes the award but also uses the book to recap its other efforts over the last year. Combined with previous years, the annual books on architecture in Germany and beyond give a good sense of what is being produced and what trends are taking place (the trends are all over the place in 2021). That DAM continues with the book is noteworthy, as I'm pretty sure other organizations (e.g., AIA and RIBA) that used to produced "architecture annuals" no longer do so. That this one comes in a handsome package, with high-quality printing inside a linen hardcover, makes it that much harder for fans of German architecture to resist. SPREADS:

  • Renzo Piano Building Workshop
    by John Hill on July 6, 2021 at 12:00 PM

    Renzo Piano Building Workshop: Space - Detail - Lightby Edgar StachBirkhäuser, July 2021Hardcover | 9 x 11-2/4 inches | 160 pages | English | ISBN: 9783035614602 | 39.95€PUBLISHER'S DESCRIPTION:The Pritzker laureate Renzo Piano is recognized worldwide as one of the most renowned architects of our time. Central elements of his aesthetics include the playful use of natural light, the transparency of his buildings and their fine detailing.This publication documents nine museum buildings by Renzo Piano Building Workshop.Prof. Edgar Stach, College of Architecture and the Built Environment, Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia.REFERRAL LINKS:   dDAB COMMENTARY:One of the highlights of a trip to Dallas a decade and a half ago was an afternoon spent at the Nasher Sculpture Center, the downtown museum designed by Renzo Piano with a generous sculpture garden by Peter Walker and a "skyspace" by James Turrell. The museum being open past sunset afforded dramatic sky-changing views from within Tending, (Blue), making Turrell's contribution to the museum particularly memorable. But in 2013, ten years after the Nasher opened to the public, the skyspace closed, when the artist declared it "destroyed" after a new 40-story residential tower east of the Nasher encroached upon the sculpture's square patch of sky.That tower, with its elliptical floor plan guaranteeing reflecting light scattered in all directions over the course of a day, also impacted the garden and the building's interior, sending reflected sunlight directly into the north-facing light scoops that were designed to exclusively introduce indirect light into the galleries. Even with legal protections in place for the museum at the time of its completion, development trumped — and destroyed — art, forcing the Nasher to retrofit its skylights to protect its artworks and the vision of the original. It doesn't appear that any retrofit has been put in place at the Nasher, though, as solutions were proffered by the tower developer in 2013 but then dropped in 2015; by October 2018, in one of the latest articles I could find on the issue, nothing had been done.Edgar Stach, in his analysis of nine museums designed by the Renzo Piano Building Workshop, including the Nasher, mentions the issue in a few sentences, but all of the drawings, details, photographs, and daylight analysis (spreads, below) treat the museum as if Museum Tower never happened. This makes sense, given that the book is about the design of the museums, specifically of the skylights that enable natural light to enter gallery spaces without the damaging effects of direct sunlight. If anything, the Nasher dilemma illustrates the precision by which RPBW designs the custom fins and scoops for its museum projects, their roofs responding carefully to climate and context. As such, the slightest change to the context can be destructive.Continuing with the Nasher, but setting aside the Museum Tower debacle, the museum is documented in Stach's book across fifteen pages in a format that is consistent across all nine museums. A dozen pages (first four spreads) are in part one, "Nine Museums by Renzo Piano Building Workshop," alongside the case studies on the eight other museums (Menil, Beyeler, Morgan, Broad, etc.). The other three pages come later in the book, in the second part on "Natural Light in Museums by Renzo Piano Building Workshop." The book's two parts can be seen simply as architecture followed by engineering; I wish the latter, with its charts and illuminance renderings (last spread), was combined with the former, creating all-in-one case studies that don't involve any flipping back and forth (the even/odd number of pages is probably why this didn't happen). The analysis by Stach and the documentation of the RPBW museums by Stach and his students are highly commendable, aided by the consistent formatting, the depth of documentation, and the inclusion of technical information. Very few architects in the world will receive commissions like the Nasher and the other museums included here, so the relevance of Piano's solutions to other projects is more about method and inspiration than direct application. Even though Piano uses two types of museum roofs (fins and scoops) as defined in Stach's analysis, he doesn't repeat the same solutions on multiple projects. This expresses the site-specificity of each design, again, but it also conveys the desire of each institution to create a special setting for their art — the illuminated overhead planes being integral parts of those settings.SPREADS:

  • Visual Discoveries
    by John Hill on July 2, 2021 at 12:00 PM

    Visual Discoveries: A Collection of Sectionsby Allen Keith YeeORO Editions, November 2020Paperback | 10-1/2 x 8-1/2 inches | 224 pages | English | ISBN: 9781943532964 | $35.00PUBLISHER'S DESCRIPTION:There are three standard methods to visually represent a building: the plan, elevation, and section. The section drawing is a vertical slice of a building, depicting the relationships between interior and exterior as well as any level changes. While the section can serve as merely a functional drawing for construction, it can also be an exciting, revelatory drawing that can artfully depict a building, landscape, or object.Visual Discoveries: A Collection of Sections is an image-forward book that is devoted to showcasing notable section drawings throughout history and demonstrating that the section drawing, while having roots in architecture, has spread to many other professions and disciplines. These professions include medicine, transportation, product design, geology, and landscape architecture. Architects and designers featured in the book include Paul Rudolph, OMA, Zaha Hadid Architects, Diller Scofidio + Renfro, Renzo Piano Building Workshop, Foster + Partners, Weiss/Manfredi, and Mecanoo. The book also features cross sections created by Leonardo da Vinci, Charles Darwin, and Robert Fulton.Allen Keith Yee is co-founder of cloudred, an award-winning digital design studio located in Brooklyn, New York. Allen graduated with a B.A. in Architecture from the University of California, Berkeley and graduated with a M.F.A in Design and Technology from Parsons School of Design. He currently lives in Greenpoint, Brooklyn.REFERRAL LINKS:   dDAB COMMENTARY:I am a sucker for a beautiful building section. I can easily spend hours poring over the "graphic anatomy" of Atelier Bow-Wow's buildings, or zooming into the intricate section of Kowloon Walled City made by students before it was demolished, or flipping through Manual of Section, or imbibing the shaded sections by the late Douglas Darden — there is something about sections that appeals to me. Maybe it's the way they fuse the technical and the immersive like no other two-dimensional drawing can do. Given that, Visual Discoveries feels almost like it was compiled and written for me, if not for the fact author Allen Keith Yee lets his own personal interests drive the selection of sections, which also include landscapes, geology, inventions, and the human body.Even with Yee's diverse "discoveries," the longest chapter in the book is devoted to buildings, both "real and imagined." The building sections in this chapter start in the Renaissance, with many pulled from Andrea Palladio's The Four Books on Architecture, and extend to the present, with a section by Mecanoo showing the stacking of the recently renovated Mid-Manhattan Library. In between are drawings by Étienne-Louis Boullée, Paul Rudolph, Atelier Bow-Wow, Renzo Piano, and others one would expect in a book of sections. Although there aren't a lot of surprises in terms of authors, the selection reveals the diversity of goals with sections, from expressing the technical aspects of a design and illustrating its interior spaces, to diagramming functions and even depicting lighting qualities in hyper-realistic sections.The "Landscape and Urban Design" chapter that follows the buildings is an interesting one. Various drawings from the mid-1800s to the 1970s illustrate layers of New York City, both real and imagined, those are followed by a few spreads with the now-famous Kowloon Walled City section, and then  on to some contemporary landscape projects, including BIG's proposal for reworking the Brooklyn Heights Promenade. The next chapter delves into "Geology and Mining," with most of its 46 pages, as in the cover chart by Levi Walter Yaggy, spent in the 19th century, when stratigraphy appears to have taken off. From that chapter's massive scale, things move in the opposite direction, first into the realm of transportation and inventions, and then finally to cuts through the human body. The movement across the pages — from buildings up to landscapes and geology, then back down to boats and bodies — gives the book a nice arc that should hold the interest of just about anyone, be they an architect, geologist, inventor, or medical student. INSIDE:

  • Living the City
    by John Hill on June 30, 2021 at 12:00 PM

    Living the City: Of Cities, People and Storiesby Lukas Feireiss, Tatjana Schneider, TheGreenEylSpector Books, September 2020Paperback | 8 x 11 inches | 340 pages | English | ISBN: 9783959054171 | 24.00€PUBLISHER'S DESCRIPTION:Cities are full of stories—running in parallel, contradictory, overlapping and inseparably linked. Such stories are told in Living the City by referencing various projects from architecture, art, and urban planning. The book aims to show processes and possibilities for action in cities based on more than fifty projects from all over Europe. The publication first looks at urbanites before expanding into emotionally and poetically charged stories that consider very basic activities such as loving, living, moving, working, learning, playing, dreaming, and participating in the city. The book is being published in conjunction with the exhibition of the same name at the former airport in Tempelhof, Berlin, which runs from September to November 2020.With works by Assemble, ateliermob, Ila Bêka & Louise Lemoine, Civic Architects, Crimson Historians and Urbanists, Eutropian, Larissa Fassler, Jeppe Hein, Thomas Hirschhorn,Lacaton & Vassal, No Shade, Olalekan Jeyifous, Ahmet Öğüt, Planbude, raumlaborberlin, Rotor DC, The Black Archives, White Arkitekter, Zones Urbaines Sensibles, and many more.Lukas Feireiss works as a curator, writer, and art director in the international mediation of contemporary cultural reflexivity beyond disciplinary boundaries. Tatjana Schneider is professor for history and theory of architecture and the city at the Department of Architecture, Technische Universität Braunschweig. Studio TheGreenEyl is a design and research practice based in Berlin and New York. They create exhibitions, installations, objects, images, interactions, and algorithms.REFERRAL LINKS:   dDAB COMMENTARY:For the last few months of 2020, the Living the City exhibition took over the main hall of the former Berlin-Tempelhof Airport, presenting more than fifty "stories from architecture, art, and city planning." The former airport was supposedly "transformed into a venue for city life" by taking the form of "a walk-through urban collage." The companion book to the exhibition attempts a similar approach, presenting the 50-plus projects across eight chapters, each one prefaced by puzzle-like collages akin to the cover; these images illustrate the overlapping and contesting nature of doing projects in European cities. And although the projects follow one after the other, the density of words and images reads like a rapid-fire presentation of ideas focused on, as the title alludes, living in cities.The eight chapters (first spread, below) into which the various projects are inserted are, like many architecture books, suggestions; they are just one way of organizing projects that are not so easily compartmentalized. Most of them basically follow functional considerations (e.g., "Living" equals residential, "Moving" equals transit, etc.), but two chapters stand out from the rest: "Participating" and "Dreaming." The first is given 40 pages, considerably more than most chapters. It includes what I find the most intriguing project in the book, Lichtsingel, a multi-pronged pedestrian bridge in Rotterdam that is given the title "A Co-financed Bridge Generates New Impulses" in the book. The co-financing is clearly one aspect of its participatory nature, as is the fact it was devised by ZUS, which moved into the area twenty years ago and recognized its disconnect from other parts of the city; eventually the city got on board and helped pay for it and make it happen. Other projects in the chapter similarly explore how the public can be part of the processes that affect change in their neighborhoods.Before getting to Dreaming, another project in the book that stood out to me is the Kalkbreite Cooperative in Zurich, called "The Cooperative Housing Project Above a Tram Depot" in the book's "Living" chapter. It's the only project in the book I've seen in person, having actually stayed in the hostel portion of the large full-block building about five years ago when I was in the city for a World-Architects work retreat. It's a remarkable project, but not just for the fact it is built above a functioning tram depot. It is a truly mixed-use building, with retail, a cinema, and dining at grade, and residential floors above that have shared commons spaces. The apartments can be reached by a large public stair that leads to a raised courtyard, an open space that is public, but by being at a remove from the street is a safe space for the residents' children. Little did I know before seeing it in this book, but a stipulation to live at Kalkbreite is not owning a car, something that could only happen in a European city like Zurich.Unlike the eight projects in the Participating chapter, Dreaming, at the end of the book, features just one project: "An Afrofuturist Vision" by artist Olalekan Jeyifous. It features a couple of collages that recall the ones he created for Reconstructions: Architecture and Blackness in America on display at MoMA earlier this year. While his contribution to that show depicted an alternative future for parts of Brooklyn, where he lives, the collages in Living the City suitably depict Paris overlaid with other European cities but also elements pulled from settlements in North and East Africa; the latter "critically reflects upon the European city from a post-colonial perspective." Critical, yes, especially when Jeyifous contends architecture "must burn" if it is only used to perpetuate the power structures of colonial ideologies, but optimistic in its cultural layering and "green" imagery. It's a future that some of the ideas earlier in the book would be happy to contribute to.SPREADS:

  • GAM.17
    by John Hill on June 29, 2021 at 12:00 PM

    GAM.17: Wood. Rethinking MaterialEdited by Tom KadenJovis, May 2021Paperback | 9 x 11 inches | 296 pages | German/English | ISBN: 9783868596632 | 19.95€PUBLISHER'S DESCRIPTION:As an organic building material, wood is held in particularly high esteem in this age of climate crisis. A component of environmentally friendly resource cycles, wood demonstrates its innovative potential when used in new technological developments and hybrid applications that are suited to complex, modern architectural tasks. We have only just started reimagining wood as a cutting-edge, versatile building material of the future.GAM. 17 takes a new look at wood—at its multi-faceted nature and architectural possibilities— and proposes building and design concepts that fully utilize the material’s potential for a more climate-friendly construction industry. This is further complemented by a look back at the history of building with wood and the ideological entanglements that have long stood in the way of the further development of wood as a building material.With contributions by Reyner Banham, Urs Hirschberg, Anne Isopp, Jens Ludloff, Laila Seewang, Stephan Trüby, Anselm Wagner, and others.REFERRAL LINKS:   dDAB COMMENTARY:Since 2004, the Faculty of Architecture of Graz University of Technology has published GAM - Graz Architecture Magazine on an annual basis. Each academic, interdisciplinary issue covers a theme, from "Tourism and Landscape" in the inaugural issue to "Nonstandard Structures" in number six, "Territorial Justice" in number fifteen, and now "Wood. Rethinking Material" in its latest issue, number 17. I only have the first issue and this most recent issue, but based on them the format is fairly consistent, even with different publishers over time (from Springer to Birkhäuser to Jovis): from the design of the covers and color-based graphic design, to the lengthy essays addressing the theme and the inclusion of news on happenings at the Faculty over the previous year. The detached cover and lay-flat binding (first spread, below) appears to be new, and is a welcome touch for such a large, lengthy academic journal.The issue on wood is an especially timely theme, given the trend, which will no doubt continue to grow, to structure buildings in mass timber rather than steel or concrete (or at least majority wood in hybrid structures) as a means of addressing climate change. An increase in the use of wood also seems aligned with the 2018 Davos Declaration that called for a policy of "high-quality Baukultur" across Europe, since timber is overtly more traditionally craft-based in its construction than concrete or steel and is more firmly rooted in many contexts outside of cities. Good timing or not, what makes GAM.17 beneficial is the way the editors have grouped the nearly fifteen contributions — essays of both the textual and visual variety — into three categories that address the material's cultural aspects, technical considerations, and wider contexts.The first section, "Material Culture," features four contributions on the cultural-historical relevance of timber, including Anselm Wagner's tracing (second spread) of how the material has been perceived in Central Europe over the last hundred or so years and an archival text: Reyner Banham's 1972 conference paper on synthetic woods (third spread). The second section, "Material Practices," might be the most beneficial to architects, since it includes contributions that show architects and educators not only embracing timber as a sustainable material, but also pushing it beyond its typical applications. An essays on timber pavilions fabricated with the help of robots at TU Graz and other European schools of architecture (second-to-last spread) is a highlight, as is an interview with Kai Strehlke of Blumer Lehmann, who has worked in a number of high-profile projects in wood, including Shigeru Ban's new home for Swatch (last spread).Closing the second section is "'Cambio': Val di Fiemme," a visual essay about a project by Andrea Trimarchi and Simone Farresin that documented what happened in the aftermath of storms that felled millions of trees in Northern Italy in 2018. The contribution makes a clear segue to the third and last section (before the faculty news and some reviews of architecture books at the back of the issue, that is), "Material Territory," which explores wood "in a broader nexus of relations among environmental protection, the timber industry, and chains of commerce," according to the editors. The third section is probably the most important part of GAM.17, because it puts timber in wider contexts that the material cannot be divorced from. Architects may specify wood as if it is a readily available resource, but the essays in "Material Territory" will help architects take the material's environmental, economic, and political dimensions into account — necessary if timber will be used more and more in the years to come.SPREADS:

  • Houses
    by John Hill on June 28, 2021 at 12:00 PM

    Houses: Vo Trong Nghia & The Work of VTN ArchitectsPreface by VTN Architects; Introduction by Vo Trong Nghia; Edited by Oscar Riera Ojeda Oscar Riera Ojeda Publishers, July 2021Hardcover | 8-1/2 x 11 inches | 320 pages | English | ISBN: 9781946226952 | $59.00PUBLISHER'S DESCRIPTION:In an age of overpopulation and rapid urban development, most Vietnamese houses are located within crowded cities. Therefore, the residents suffer from polluted air with little green space for themselves. The presence of televisions, Internet, and social media also poses problems for urban dwellers. People are mentally stressed from constant social pressure and the modern lifestyle. They have limited space for activities, for living life, and for enjoying nature. Understanding the situation, VTN Architects’ “Houses for Trees” connect people to nature, creating pockets of greenery within our concrete cities. Our houses become ecosystems that merge natural energy and natural materials to produce net-zero buildings for society. Water is recycled. Spaces are bathed in natural light and fresh air. Solar panels are installed. Our houses also become hotspots for activities such as planting trees and urban farming. They boost interaction between family members, strengthen the atmosphere within each household, and improve people’s minds and bodies. The more we build, the more we bring nature back to urban living, the happier people are, and the greener our society becomes. Each house that we construct becomes a pocket of parks for the cities, reconciling nature to modern urban dwellers.Based in Ho Chi Minh City, VTN Architects infuses its work with lushly planted walls, hanging vines, structure-piercing trees, weathered stones, and sunken landscapes.REFERRAL LINKS:    (Last icon is link to publisher's website; enter "jh30" at checkout for a 30% discount on purchase of this book.)dDAB COMMENTARY:Houses follows Bamboo Architecture and Green Architecture in an apparent trilogy of monographs published by Oscar Riera Ojeda on Vietnamese architect Vo Trong Nghia and his eponymously abbreviated firm VTN Architects. Although the first two books did not overlap in any of the presented projects, four of the fifteen houses featured here are also in Green Architecture. While the presentation of those four houses closely, but not precisely, matches, the eleven other houses adequately justify the extra expense in getting this monograph and completing the trilogy. What comes across to me in this book is the amazing diversity of VTN's residential designs, which are all conceptualized as "Houses for Trees" but don't repeat themselves in any discernible way.VTN's most famous project is House for Trees, which features five small volumes capped by trees and suitably graces the cover of Green Architecture. The name of that project obviously lends itself to the wider concept of the firm's houses that is expressed in this book's introduction. What intrigues me most about the phrase "Houses for Trees" is the use of the word "for" rather than "of" or "with" or another preposition. "For" says to me that the trees are as important as the house's residents — or going further, the trees are also residents. House for Trees puts them on the roof, as do other houses, but some of the designs bring trees into interior courtyards, put bamboo or other vegetation on the facades, or hybridize approaches through the creation of terraces and in-between spaces that are settings for trees and result in cooling microclimates ideal to address Vietnam's heat and humidity.As much as I love every photogenic house in Houses and can easily see myself living comfortably in any of them, outside of the S House series of houses for low-income houses at the end of the book, all of the houses express a condition that is mildly upsetting. Aligned with the dramatic economic growth in Vietnam that Nghia mentions, these are large houses for affluent clients. That in and of itself is fine, especially given that most of the houses are for three-generation families; but when viewed in concert with the lack of green space in Ho Chi Minh City, where most of the houses are located, and the abundance of vegetation in the houses, VTN's houses bring elements that would benefit many into the confines of the house for the comfort of the relatively few. As such, the houses are islands of green in metaphorical expanses of gray. I think of them akin to the over-sized houses in the United States built with home theaters and golf simulators and the like; if houses provide everything for their residents, what happens to the social amenities — the parks, cinemas, recreational centers, etc. — that have traditionally defined cities?This critique is a bit disingenuous, though, as it's clearly not Nghia's responsibility to develop anything beyond a property's footprint. Nevertheless, the biggest impact on the environment and the well-being of people would be a city full of Houses for Trees. Nghia would like this, too, and not so he can get more work; he writes: "We hope other architects reference our architecture as approaches to improve people's living conditions in modern cities and to better society." I hope so too.SPREADS:

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