- Rereading the Ninetiesby John Hill on January 30, 2023 at 1:00 PM
Some of the references consulted during the research phase of my 2021 book Buildings in Print: 100 Influential & Inspiring Illustrated Architecture Books, but not mentioned in the book's "selected bibliography," were old catalogs from the Prairie Avenue Bookshop, the beloved and still sorely missed architecture bookstore that first opened, appropriately, on Prairie Avenue on Chicago's Near South Side in 1974 and closed in 2009 in a grand two-story space on Wabash Avenue across from Louis Sullivan's Auditorium Building. In between, the bookshop was located on South Dearborn Street in — again, appropriately enough — Printer's Row, when, according to the bookstore's own website (browsable via Wayback Machine), "the catalog for the bookshop grew into a tour de force of architectural bibliography, ultimately becoming the intellectual touchstone for professional architects and interested laypeople throughout the world" (my emphasis).Those in-between years on Dearborn were when I made my first visits to Prairie Avenue Bookshop. I don't remember when my very first visit happened, but it was some time in the early 1990s, before proprietors Marilyn and Wilbert Hasbrouck moved the shop to the considerably larger space at 418 South Wabash ca. 1995. In my decade working as an architect in Chicago, from 1997, after graduating from architecture school, to 2006, when I left for grad school in New York City, I made many, many — many — trips to Prairie Avenue Bookshop, spending too much money there but always feeling when I walked out the door that I could have easily spent much, much more. Needless to say, Prairie Avenue Bookshop helped define the architecture-book side of the 1990s for me — both as a student and as a young architect.When it came time to research and write Buildings in Print, I kicked myself for not keeping the old "tour de force" catalogs from Prairie Avenue. (Luckily, certain issues can be bought online, which I ended up doing a few times.) Although my survey of one hundred architecture books spans nearly a century, from the 1920s to the 2010s, and therefore is hardly restricted to the 1990s, when it came time to determine what books to include from my formative decade, Prairie Avenue was at the top of the list, just above Design Book Review, "the preeminent journal dedicated to reviewing architecture and design books in the United States" that was as valuable for its exhaustive coverage of books from much of the 1980s as well.Flipping through the Prairie Avenue catalogs all these years later transports me mentally to their long-gone bricks-and-mortar locations but also, less personally, reveals the value judgments made by the store's proprietors and booksellers: which thousands of books from the thousands more books in stock to feature; how to categorize and index the many pages of books; which drawings to include alongside the lists of books; and what descriptions to add about which titles ("We can't read them all," one of the catalogs proclaimed). Over time — at least between the 1993/94 catalog shown above and the catalog from 1999/2000 below — advertisements from publishers were added to the mix of words and images, most of them featuring covers and/or photos from new and forthcoming books; even with ads it still read like a catalog rather than a magazine. Their judgments, for the most part, were spot-on and prescient, if infrequent: John Hejduk's 1985 Mask of Medusa, now going for hundreds of dollars (cover price: $40), was "excellent"; Edward Ford's The Details of Modern Architecture was "superb"; and they were the only store that carried the Art Vandelay monograph, Buildings About Nothing. (Is that last one real? Take a look.)From the early nineties to the end of the decade, the catalog doubled in page count and, given the small types and shorter descriptions, more than doubled in the number of books included (catalog #23 lists 5,000 titles in its 192 pages). But accompanying that growth was a shift to the internet and the listing of even more books on their website than the catalog pages could allow. Websites are obviously more flexible than printed matter, and one additional feature on the pabooks.com website was a bestseller list that could be updated fairly regularly and as needed. Those lists can still be seen, thanks to archive.org's Wayback Machine. Near the end of 1999, the Prairie Avenue Bookshop's four bestsellers were (links point to Amazon, not the old pabook.com website, but cover prices are from the latter):Tod Williams Billie Tsien: The 1998 Charles & Ray Eames Lectures (University of Michigan College of Architecture + Urban Planning, 1999, $16.50)Outside the Pale: The Architecture of Fay Jones (University of Arkansas Press, 1999, $18)Points + Lines: Diagrams and Projects for the City by Stan Allen (Princeton Architectural Press, 1999, $35)FARMAX: Excursions on Density by MVRDV (010 Publishers, 1998, $37; reprinted in 2013)It's best to not read too much into this list, but two pairs jump out to me. The first two books are slim, inexpensive books on architects that I would label "architects' architects" (the first book scan be read online and the second, I contend, is a decent, still-affordable alternative to Robert Ivy's scarce monograph on Jones). They are followed by two relatively expensive monographs (cheap by the cover prices of today's monographs though) that combine architecture and urban projects with writings on buildings and cities. The latter are more indicative of the 1990s as a whole, a decade that saw the elevation of theory — the kind that looked to philosophy and other fields outside of architecture — within architectural discourse, to the consternation of many and the relief of nearly all when it subsided around the end of the decade. The integration of theory and criticism into monographs like Allen's and MVRDV's can be ascribed largely to Rem Koolhaas and Bruce Mau's S,M,L,XL, the large OMA monograph from 1995 whose influence still reverberates. (Its popularity not long after its release meant people ordering it from the Prairie Avenue print catalog were directed to "please phone for availability.")Theory was entrenched well before the OMA tome, well before the decade it fell in the middle of. In the article linked in the preceding paragraph, Paulette Singley states, correctly I think, "If the 1990s began in 1988 with MoMA’s Deconstructivist Architecture exhibition, they died with the closing of the critical journal of architecture Assemblage, whose forty-one issues spanned from 1986 to 2000." The catalog to the first (PDF link), in typical MoMA fashion, put a dense text, by theoretician and co-curator Mark Wigley (two years earlier he had earned his PhD with a dissertation titled "The Deconstructive Possibilities of Architectural Discourse"), alongside a presentation of projects by architects selected by co-curator Philip Johnson, who did a similar thing in 1932 with the Modern Architecture exhibition alongside Henry-Russell Hitchcock. To put it simply, theory was used in the service of new architectural forms: white walls and pilotis in the 1930s, angled walls and splayed columns in the nineties. The same theoretical/formal dichotomy is evident in other publications around the time of the MoMA exhibition, namely Aaron Betsky's Violated Perfection (Rizzoli, 1990) and numerous issues of Architectural Design put out by Andreas Papadakis.Am I suggesting that now, a quarter century into the millennium, when the pendulum has swung from formal and spatial considerations to environmental, social and other issues, that people dive into the Deconstructivist Architecture catalog, Violated Perfection, the AD issues devoted to Deconstruction, and other titles indicative of the nineties? Not necessarily (though I have a lot of those books and like to dip into them every now and then, for sentimental reasons as much as occasional practical ones); anyways, Joseph Giovannini did just that in his 2021 book, Architecture Unbound: A Century of the Disruptive Avant-Garde, so you don't have to, as the saying goes. I'm not advocating a blanket write-off of the decade either, nor a dismissal of the abstruse writings that littered architecture libraries in those years. Rather, as someone who believes it is important to know history, and who also sides with the idea of society as cyclical rather than linear, I think it's valuable to know where to look, book-wise, when it comes to understanding the nineties. Below are some recommendations: twenty books in a handful of categories, made with the assistance of the Prairie Avenue Bookshop catalogs, my own book-obsessed brain and personal library, Buildings in Print (including the sidebar lists generously contributed by architects and critics), and the reading list already on my blog. Since this "dose" has gotten a bit long, the list is provided without commentary — as an impetus for those unfamiliar with the decade to dive in.ANTHOLOGIES AND READERS:Theorizing a New Agenda for Architecture: An Anthology of Architectural Theory, 1965-1995 edited by Kate Nesbitt (Princeton Architectural Press, 1996)Rethinking Architecture: A Reader in Cultural Theory edited by Neil Leach (Routledge, 1997)Theories and Manifestoes of Contemporary Architecture edited by Charles Jencks and Karl Kropf (Academy Press, 1997)Architecture Theory since 1968 edited by K. Michael Hays (The MIT Press, 1998)DECONSTRUCTION:Deconstructing the Kimbell: An Essay on Meaning and Architecture by Michael Benedikt (Lumen, 1992)Semiotext(e) Architecture edited by Hrazten Zeitlian (Semiotext(e), 1992)Folding in Architecture edited by Greg Lynn (Academy Press, 1993)Architecture and Disjunction by Bernard Tschumi (The MIT Press, 1994)MONOGRAPHS:Condemned Building: An Architect's Pre-Text by Douglas Darden (Princeton Architectural Press, 1993)S,M,L,XL by OMA, Rem Koolhaas, and Bruce Mau The Monacelli Press, New York, 1995Flesh: Architectural Probes by Elizabeth Diller and Ricardo Scofidio (Princeton Architectural Press, 1998)Peter Zumthor Works: Buildings and Projects, 1979-1997 by Peter Zumthor, photographs by Hélène Binet (Lars Müller Publishers, 1998)PHENOMENOLOGY:For an Architecture of Reality by Michael Benedikt (Lumen Books, 1992)Questions of Perceptions: Phenomenology of Architecture by Steven Holl, Juhani Pallasmaa, Alberto Perez-Gomez (A+U July 1994 Special Issue; new edition in 2007)The Eyes of the Skin: Architecture and the Senses by Juhani Pallasmaa (Wiley, 1996; 3rd edition in 2012)Thinking Architecture by Peter Zumthor (Lars Müller Publishers, 1998; 3rd edition in 2010)WOMEN IN ARCHITECTURE:The Architect: Reconstructing Her Practice edited by Francesca Hughes (The MIT Press, 1996)The Sex of Architecture edited by Diana Agrest, Patricia Conway and Leslie Kanes Weisman (Abrams, 1996)Architecture and Feminism edited by Debra Coleman, Elizabeth Danze and Carol Henderson (Princeton Architectural Press, 1997)Sexuality & Space edited by Beatriz Colomina (Princeton Architectural Press, 1997)
- On Awardsby John Hill on January 23, 2023 at 1:00 PM
When Arata Isozaki died at the end of 2022 at the age of 91, nearly all of the news stories and obituaries mentioned that he was a Pritzker Architecture Prize laureate, and quite a few also included mention of the Pritzker Prize in the headline. Although the Pritzker has long been likened to the Nobel Prize, the importance of "architecture's Nobel" in coverage of stories involving their laureates also puts it on par with the Academy Awards. "Oscar-winning" is a common phrase in an obituary or other headline involving an actor, director, or producer who won an Academy Award at one point in their life. Mention of Pritzker, Oscar, Nobel, or other prestigious prizes signals to readers not so well versed in architecture/Hollywood/science/etc. that the subject of the story is/was important in their field, just as it elevates the prize within the field, indicating that it is the highest honor that person could garner.Awards like the Pritzker also serve to structure the architectural calendar. The Pritzker Prize is announced in the Spring, typically in March, a few months after a glut of year-end awards have made headlines, including the AIA Gold Medal and other awards from the American Institute of Architects announced in December. The Stirling Prize and other RIBA awards happen in the fall, as does the Praemium Imperiale. The pandemic threw off the timing of some awards, but for the most part the spacing apart of awards throughout the year ensures more exposure than would happen if all of them fell in December or January, and it results in a never-ending stream of awards coverage in architectural media. In my editorial duties at World-Architects, I try to pick and choose the most headline-worthy awards, seeing them as ways of learning about great architecture and signals of what the field is prioritizing at any given moment; it's hard, though, because there are just so many awards now.The architecture awards mentioned above fall into two types (my terms): patronal (the Pritzker is given by the family that owns the Hyatt hotels and runs the Hyatt Foundation; the Praemium Imperiale is given by the Japan Art Association) and professional (the AIA and RIBA awards are given by the membership bodies of registered architects in the US and UK, respectively). Many other awards fall into these two types, but a third type is more prevalent these days, what I would call media awards. They consist of multiple awards in multiple categories given by companies or organizations rooted in the media. These include the Architizer A+ Awards, Dezeen Awards, Architecture MasterPrize, and the World Architecture Festival (WAF), among many others. Although they often crown a "best of" award, there are a number of awards subsidiary to it, such that many architects can boast of winning an award on their websites and social media channels. WAF, for example, awards a "World Building of the Year" as well as dozens of other best-in-category awards that serve its best-in-show format. More awards equals more exposure; that seems to be the point of these awards. Even if architecture prizes vary in terms of what they award (architect or building), their geographical scope (local, national, regional, international), or process (submissions vs. nominations), consistent across all of them is a reliance on a jury to determine winners. Awards convey a sense of objectivity, but ultimately they are decided by a group of people, ranging from a handful to dozens, and often chaired by a person who may direct the rest of the jury with a strong position or, in concert with the organization, may even override the jury's decision. I've served on awards juries and have witnessed firsthand how decisions made by me and my fellow jurors were not reflected in the awards ultimately given out. Far from objective, awards are subjective and are motivated by particular people, companies, or other interests. As such, they serve as barometers of the present moment — warts and all — more than being the thing that defines a person, no matter what news headlines may tell us. Awards are the subject of very few architecture books (I'm aware of only three Pritzker Prize books), but two recent titles led me to write this post:The Rise of Awards in Architecture edited by Jean-Pierre Chupin, Carmela Cucuzzella and Georges Adamczyk, published by Vernon Press, 2022 (Amazon / Bookshop)Inclusive Architecture: Aga Khan Award for Architecture 2022 edited by Sarah M. Whiting, published by ArchiTangle, 2022 (Amazon / Bookshop)The Rise of Awards in Architecture is an examination of the title phenomenon from the 1980s to the present. It was edited by Jean-Pierre Chupin, Carmela Cucuzzella and Georges Adamczyk, the first two who previously edited Architecture Competitions and the Production of Culture, Quality and Knowledge: An International Inquiry, a not entirely unrelated subject. In addition to an introduction by the editors, The Rise of Awards in Architecture consists of ten essays by academics, most of them, like the editors, from Canada. Each essay focuses on a niche of awards in architecture: the Pritzker Prize, the Prix de Rome, sustainable awards, heritage awards, book awards, and awards and education. While the inclusion of the Pritzker (established 1979) is expected, as is the Prix de Rome (established by the Canadian Council for the Arts in 1987) in the context of the Canada-heavy contributions, the book limits itself to what I described as the patronal and professional awards, not venturing into the recent trends of media awards.My interests, not to mention the subject of this blog, pushed me to jump into the book with Lucie Palombi's essay, "Do Architecture Book Awards Have Literary Ambition?" It's not a rhetorical question. Palombi approaches the question systematically through the analysis of four awards in three countries: Alice Davis Hitchcock Award (USA), DAM Architectural Book Award (Germany), Prix du Livre de l'Académie d'Architecture (France), and Grand Prix du Livre de la Ville de Briey (France). Her analysis aligns them with comparable, and older, literary prizes in their respective countries. Although she admits early in the essay that "our study cannot ignore that one does not read an architecture text as one reads a novel," Palombi concludes (this isn't a spoiler really) that the organizers of the four awards "have the ambition to elevate architecture books to the status of literary writings." Even with this ambition, architecture book awards gain very little coverage in the media and, in turn, generate barely any debate within the architectural profession or in academia. This is definitely due to the way architecture books are looked at rather than read, but it's nevertheless disheartening, because architectural publishing could help from sustained debates over books, both awarded and overlooked.While Palombi's systematic analysis of book awards is necessary reading for this blogger, the most insightful and well-written essay in the collection is Dana Buntrock's "Big in Japan: What the Nobel Prize Reveals about the Pritzker Prize," the first of the book's ten essays. Buntrock, a professor at UC Berkeley and author of books on Japanese architecture, takes a critical look at the Pritzker Prize in relation to the Nobel Prize, which the Pritzker was established to be an architectural equivalent of, and using recipients of the two prizes from Japan to illustrate many of her points. Focusing here on the Pritzker, Buntrock's well-researched essay illuminates the prize's inner workings, which are highly secretive; each of the annual prizes is basically limited to official announcements and jury statements, with very little peering under the hood. The author looks at IRS statements for the Hyatt Foundation, for example, to reveal annual PR costs of around $100,000 — the same as the award itself, which has not increased since 1979! — as well as surprisingly low pay for executive director Martha Thorne. The essay touches on numerous other aspects of the award (the jury makeup, lobbying for the prize, juries visiting buildings, the VIP galas, the funding of the Hyatt Foundation, etc.), but Buntrock concludes that any ambitions for the Pritzker to be "architecture's Nobel" remain unfulfilled, because of its lack of transparency but also because it has been slow to change in relation to social demands. Its denial of a petitioned and popular retroactive Pritzker for Denise Scott Brown set the prize back, but the apparent shepherding of the jury by laureate Alejandro Aravena in recent years has brought the Pritzker closer to the conversations being had now in architecture and beyond.One award in architecture that goes against the trend, and actually has regular publications devoted to it, is the Aga Khan Award for Architecture, the triennial award of the Aga Khan Development Network that "seeks to identify and encourage building concepts that successfully address the needs and aspirations of societies across the world, in which Muslims have a significant presence." I like the award for the diversity of the projects awarded, with modern and traditional buildings, landscapes, and preservation projects, and the fact each cycle brings to light projects I might not otherwise know about. Media coverage is fairly prevalent for the awards, and the AKDN website has a lot of information available for the winning projects; nevertheless, the books are still valuable documents, with presentations of the winning projects alongside essays from the jurors and other contributions. The books accompanying each award cycle have been done with different publishers, often in groups of threes. Most recently, Zürich's Lars Müller Publishers put out books for the cycles in 2010, 2013, and 2016, and Berlin's ArchiTangle has been taking care of the award publications since then, with its first, Architecture in Dialogue, in 2019 and the most recent one, Inclusive Architecture, last year. (In between it put out Architecture of Coexistence: Building Pluralism, featuring three case studies of Aga Khan Award-winning projects.)My favorite Aga Khan Award publications are for the 9th and 10th cycles in 2004 and 2007, the first published by Thames & Hudson and the second by I.B. Tauris; both were designed by Irma Boom and are letter-size paperbacks (with flaps). Although I appreciate the way Boom used color to organize the books, and the paper size allows the photographs and drawings to be fairly large, the main reason I like them so much are the standout projects in them, particularly Snøhetta's Bibliotheca Alexandrina in the 9th cycle and the Royal Netherlands Embassy in Addis Ababa in the 10th cycle. (Note: Award publications ten or more years old can be downloaded as PDFs from the AKDN website.) I'm guessing other people will do the same and buy the new award publication because of one or more of the winning projects — or even the finalists, as Inclusive Architecture, like Architecture in Dialogue, also includes them: 20 projects in total. The finalists are given ten pages, while the six winners — a refugee community space, an airport, a riverside landscape, the renovation of an Oscar Niemeyer building, a museum, and a school — are given a few pages more. What does The Rise of Awards in Architecture have to say about the Aga Khan Awards? Not much, unfortunately. Although the index, at just three pages, is severely incomplete and does not include the Aga Khan Awards, a helpful chapter-by-chapter appendix highlights the awards "analyzed or mentioned by chapter." Buntrock mentions it briefly, pointing out that it and the Praemium Imperiale, like the Nobel Prize, use outside experts in their two-tiered awards structures (the Pritzker Prize does not). Only chapter five, "How Did Canada Come to Host More than 100 Categories of Sustainable Awards?" by Sherif Goubran, otherwise includes the Aga Khan Awards in this appendix. But scanning that chart- and graph-heavy chapter yields no mention of it, which makes sense; even though Toronto is home to the Aga Khan Museum, designed by Japanese architect Fumihiko Maki, the Aga Khan Award and Canadian sustainability awards are basically unrelated pieces in the proliferation of architecture awards over the last few decades. Hardly exclusive to architecture, readers interested in learning more about the award phenomenon more broadly should look at James F. English's The Economy of Prestige: Prizes, Awards, and the Circulation of Cultural Value, the seminal study mentioned in chapter five — and in numerous places throughout The Rise of Awards in Architecture.
- From Web to Printby John Hill on January 16, 2023 at 1:00 PM
Recently I was watching a news program, most likely PBS Newshour or an MSNBC show, and was struck by one of the talking heads speaking via Skype or Zoom being described as "a writer working on turning her blog into a book." I don't remember her name or even the subject, as the news story was not one I was interested in, but this factoid stayed with me for a couple of reasons: I'm a blogger, and I have a hard time envisioning this blog, the one I'm most familiar with, making the leap into book form. Blogs are personal creations, so they vary widely, even as their formats — based as they are on Blogger, WordPress and other systems — are fairly consistent, with chronological posts made up of of words and images. I could see some writers tailoring their blogs to potential books, with posts written as chapters or posts combined to become chapters in a book, but for me the blog — both generally and mine specifically — is an informal means of sharing ideas and viewpoints with the world: timely posts that have their moment but give way to new content the next day or week. Turning one into a book would mean most likely resuscitating posts that are outdated and somehow making them relevant again. The process of writing a blog ideally yields many insights on a subject, in turn creating fodder for a book, one whose contents would be almost wholly new — hardly a simple blog-to-book transition, which I'm guessing the news pundit is rather doing.In the realm of architecture, the best example of a blog making the leap from blog to book — and doing it quite successfully, in my opinion and as gleaned by some of the many positive reviews online — is Geoff Manaugh's The BLDGBLOG Book, which was released by Chronicle Books in 2009, a year that was arguably peak-blog. His blog was five years old when the book came out, meaning BLDGBLOG is going on eighteen years. He doesn't post as frequently, given the books and other projects taking up his time, nor at the length his longtime readers probably came to appreciate, but Geoff is one of the few architecture bloggers still maintaining a blog. (Of the four bloggers who organized Postopolis! at the Storefront for Art and Architecture in 2007, Geoff appears to be the only one still with a blog.) The reasons he made the jump successfully from blog to book are numerous, but the main ones relevant here are: his interest in many subjects in and beyond architecture; his well-done and often lengthy interviews*; and the captivating images accompanying his "architectural conjecture, urban speculation and landscape futures." The editing of the (old and new) text by Chronicle Books, and the laying out of the book by MacFadden & Thorpe, also help greatly, turning Manaugh's diverse interests and hyperactive imagination into something that works really well as a book.Blogs are hardly the first format, digital or otherwise, in the realm of architecture to bridge media. My insatiable browsing of used bookstores has led me to discover numerous books put out by Architectural Record decades ago, many of them collecting projects from the Record Houses issues, some surveying other buildings types, and others offering depth on particular topics. Two I'm familiar with fall into the third camp. First is Garrett Eckbo's classic Landscape for Living, published by the Architectural Record division of The F. W. Dodge Corporation in 1950 and reissued in 2009 in the ASLA Centennial Reprint Series. The book-length argument for a modern landscape design is evenly split between theory and practice, the former written by Eckbo and the latter presenting projects primarily by Eckbo, Royston and Williams, his LA and SF firm. It's not at all clear how the contents of the book relate to the magazine, but the back flap indicates that a portion of the book was published in a recent issue of Record, resulting in quotes from readers, including Pietro Belluschi. The second, more recent example is Imagining Ground Zero: Official and Unofficial Proposals for the World Trade Center Site from 2004, edited by then Record correspondent Suzanne Stephens and featuring a foreword by the magazine's editor-in-chief at the time, Robert A. Ivy. Published by Rizzoli in conjunction with Record, the book is a visual record of the many proposals for the WTC masterplan and the 9/11 Memorial, and other responses by architects to the events of September 11, 2001. The book clearly benefits from the contributions of Record editors and writers for the numerous descriptions and for tracking the process of rebuilding at Ground Zero. Best I can tell, this was the last book Architectural Record was involved with, and I have a hard time finding other magazines branching into books.**Jumping media is on my mind because of a new book made by "the world's most visited architecture website," ArchDaily:The ArchDaily Guide to Good Architecture, conceived and edited by Gestalten and ArchDaily, published by Gestalten, 2022 (Amazon / Bookshop)Initially I was surprised it took so long for ArchDaily to be involved with a book, considering that it did not take long for the website established in 2008 to boast of being visited more than any other architecture website (14 months, per their "YaMoPo" in June 2009). Unlike World-Architects, where I am an editor, which started by publishing books and then migrated to the internet, ArchDaily has always been digital, and perhaps that fact made taking the leap into print publishing far from enticing. The overhead and other costs to run a website make highly visited ones highly profitable, especially compared to print. Plus, only a tiny fraction of the millions of visitors each month would probably translate directly over to book sales. Small print runs are the norm with architecture books, which often cost more than $50 (the cover price for ArchDaily's book is $75, with a "special edition" asking $105) and therefore are often given to architects as gifts. Five-figure sales would make an architecture book moderately successful, but the same statistic would be inconsequential in just about any other genre.So without an incentive to put out a book, and without me asking the folks at ArchDaily, "Why now?", I can only speculate that the purchase of ArchDaily by Architonic, the design website based in Zurich, in 2020 had something to do with it. A rebranding of the ArchDaily platform followed at the beginning of 2022, when Architonic also acquired designboom and created DAAily Platforms, which I don't know how to say ("Day-ay-illy"?) nor understand how it works; it appears to exist solely as a splash page for the three websites. No doubt the pandemic contributed to the push for a book, as the roughly two-year period of remote lectures and postponed biennales pushed people, companies, nearly everyone in any field to reconsider what they were doing. If ArchDaily founder David Basulto's introduction to The ArchDaily Guide to Good Architecture is any indication, the Chilean platform is not content being popular with architects; it wants to be popular with everyone. He starts with the beginning of ArchDaily, recalling their initial question: "What if architects had access to more information, better information?" Their response was project after project continuously added to the website, documented through numerous high-quality photos and, most importantly, almost as many drawings. Let me say it again: the projects always had drawings, the same to this day. The texts provided by the architects were often poor and didn't appear to be edited by the platform, but architects could "read" the photos and drawings instead. By the end of the introduction, just one page later, Basulto has shifted gears, writing: "Our responsibility lies with the built environment and will all its stakeholders, and that requires us to throw architecture's doors wide open." The hinge in between those quotes is one from Rafael Moneo, spoken in 2012: "There is an architect inside every one of us."So if ArchDaily's first book is a means of democratizing architecture, of throwing architecture's doors wide open, how does it do it? And how does it relate to the website that gives the book its title? The ArchDaily Guide to Good Architecture is, like many Gestalten books, a survey. As such, the bulk of its pages consists of projects, around 70 of them arranged into ten thematic sections, starting with "Good Architecture Is Considerate" and ending about 300 pages later with "Good Architecture Is Desirable." In between, readers learn that good architecture is also durable, holistic, inclusive, innovative, local, protective, resourceful, and useful. Nothing groundbreaking here, but it's hard to figure out what makes one building appropriate to the "durable" section rather than the "protective" one, much less "useful." Shouldn't all of the projects — a drop of water in the ocean that is the ArchDaily website — address all of the definitions of what makes good architecture?If the sections serve to educate a wider public on the values of architecture, the two-page introductions written by ArchDaily editors are integral. Set off as white text on blue background, the texts make statements about what makes good architecture and what architecture should be contributing to society, and they segue into the projects that follow. Unfortunately, these introductions are widely divergent in terms of quality and readability, with some in even more dire need of editing than the architects' texts on the ArchDaily website, but others presenting agreeable statements in clear, easy-to-follow language; the latter should have been the standard for all of them. The texts for the projects, written by a Gestalten editor, are consistently decent, but they fail to indicate why this or that building is durable, holistic, inclusive, etc.And what about drawings? Does ArchDaily, like Geoff Manaugh with The BLDGBLOG Book, take what it does best and find a way to put it into the book? Unfortunately, no. I counted five drawings in the whole book, a scant number compared to the many photographs provided for the projects and accompanying the profiles of architects (Jeanne Gang, Alejandro Aravena, Francis Kéré, etc.) inserted throughout the book. This omission makes the book very un-ArchDaily, but the reliance on photographs makes it very much geared toward a more general audience than architects alone. The main positive carried through from the ArchDaily website to the ArchDaily book is the curation of quality architecture; it's hard to fault the diverse selection of buildings that was put into the book. That said, ArchDaily is not alone in being able to weed out the good from the bad or the mediocre, such that this survey appears, at times, like others probably already on the bookshelves of architects, if not non-architects.The special edition comes with a linen cover and includes a print of a sketch by Francis Kéré.*One of the interviews in The BLDGBLOG Book is with Lebbeus Woods, whose own, extremely popular blog was posthumously turned into a book by Princeton Architectural Press in 2015. It is also a successful blog-to-book transition, but unlike Manaugh's book, Slow Manifesto: Lebbeus Woods Blog is a straightforward, chronological presentation of 70 posts from the more than 300 posts Woods wrote between 2007 and 2012.**A different form of branching can be found in two print titles made by Archinect, the 25-year-old website run by Paul Petrunia: Bracket, the occasional journal that started in 2010, with [on farming], and looks like it will have its fifth issue, On Sharing, soon; and ED, which started in 2018 and has had three issues to date.
- On Guidebooksby John Hill on January 9, 2023 at 1:00 PM
A portion of the paperback wrapper of A Guide to the Architecture of Washington, D.C., published by the Washington Metropolitan Chapter of the American Institute of Architects in 1965. Are guidebooks still a valid and useful subgenre of architecture books? Do architects consult them when they visit a city? Do they walk around neighborhoods with them? Do publishers therefore still feel the need to put them out? The two titles at the top of this post attest that they are still being published, but there certainly aren't as many coming out now as in the past. The days of the Pevsner guides and G.E. Kidder Smith volumes — when a single author or small team could spend years researching and documenting the architecture of a city or even a country — are long gone. Furthermore, I have a hard time seeing guidebooks produced this century being reissued decades from now, akin to Ian Nairn's books on London and Paris (though I haven't seen any of them, Owen Hatherley's alternative guides to Britain sound like they might be contenders for such).Change has been evident in just the last decade and a half. In the middle of 2009 I reviewed two New York City guidebooks published by W. W. Norton, which immediately led to a book deal with them to write my first book, Guide to Contemporary New York City Architecture, which came out at the end of 2011. In the years since then I've continued to amass new architectural guidebooks in my library, but aside from Berlin's DOM Publishers, which puts out guidebooks at a pace that cannot be matched, most publishers of architecture books seem to have stopped publishing them entirely or just pared them down to the occasional title. Of the seven books to my name, three of them are guidebooks (the rest are surveys, a topic for another blog post), all of them done by a different publisher: W. W. Norton, Prestel, and the University of Illinois Press. Except for the last's fourth edition of the AIA Guide to Chicago, which came out the same month as my Guide to Chicago's Twenty-First-Century Architecture, I'm not aware of other guides from these publishers — hardly an exhaustive survey but indicative of the state of affairs today.If print guidebooks have slowed to a trickle (setting aside the DOM guides, many of which I've reviewed), what about digital guides? Not long after the release of my NYC guide, I explored the possibility of making it into a "guidebook app," working with a friend from college to devise the layout, interactivity, and other factors. The project eventually sputtered out, as did another app guide I was hired to write parts of a few years later. Then there was MIMOA, the helpful user-generated website that gathered modern architectural sights around the world and enabled users to craft itineraries they could share with others; the site tried to jump into app form in 2018 but failed to generate enough money in a Kickstarter campaign, leading the people involved to pull the plug on the website in 2019. The app heyday of the 2010s led to some promising presentations, such as 29GPS Architecture, and seemed to point toward "digital guidebooks" eventually supplanting printed guidebooks. That shift, alas, never happened. So, how do architects and fans of architecture today find out what buildings to visit in a particular locale? Speaking from my own experience, I use books and digital content (architecture websites, mainly), the first working better for older buildings and the second more ideal for newer buildings. I learned firsthand that guidebooks, like other illustrated books, require up to one year from manuscript submission to book release, making ones focused on contemporary architecture quickly out of date. Websites obviously don't have such a time lag between creation and dissemination; they are instantaneous by comparison, if not literally so. This situation would seem to hinder guidebooks, but I find the archival aspects of them appealing, in that they are a snapshot of a city's, country's or region's architecture at one particular moment; by making judgements in what to include, they also convey what is considered important in the realm of architecture at the time of publication. The problems with websites, on the other hand, are numerous, though two come to the fore: They are not very good at replicating the usability of printed guidebooks, which can pack a lot of information — practical and otherwise — in small packages. And most websites (I won't name names) are at the mercy of Google search algorithms that push SEO-trained posts to the top: posts that are often superficial regurgitations of well-known buildings in well-trodden places. Ideally, guides offer expertise and a unique point of view or slant on places, in packages that are clear and easy to use.As a true believer in the relevance of architectural guidebooks, I was pleased to learn about and receive two guides released in 2022:AIA Guide to the Architecture of Washington, DC by G. Martin Moeller, Jr., Johns Hopkins University Press, 2022 (Sixth Edition) (Buy from Amazon or Bookshop)Fifth Avenue: From Washington Square to Marcus Garvey Park by William J. Hennessey, The Monacelli Press, 2022 (Buy from Amazon or Bookshop)In terms of architectural guides to cities in the United States, the books put out by chapters of the American Institute for Architects (AIA) are the most comprehensive and the most regularly updated; some of the new editions coincide with cities hosting the AIA Conference on Architecture, formerly known as the AIA Convention. The most famous AIA guide is the one for New York City written by Norval White and Elliot Willensky for the AIA Convention there in 1967; it is now in its fifth edition. While it is pithy, humorous and biting at times, other AIA guides are different, exhibiting the styles of their authors and reflecting the concerns of the respective AIA chapters. What unites the AIA guides is the inclusion of buildings both historical and contemporary, as well as thorough backgrounds on the places and the neighborhoods that tend to organize the guides' chapters. The AIA Guide to the Architecture of Washington, DC fits this mold.The DC guide was first published in 1965 (photo at top) to accompany the AIA Convention held in the District of Columbia that June, putting it a couple of years before NYC and making it one of the oldest guides bearing the AIA name. The editorial board was chaired by Hugh Newell Jacobsen, the great residential architect who lived in Georgetown for much of his life and died in March 2021, when G. Martin Moeller, Jr. was likely wrapping up work on the guide's sixth edition. One cannot expect a strict allegiance to the original after more than fifty years, but the basic structure of lettered tours has been retained, starting with "Tour A" at, appropriately, the Capitol. The tours in the first edition are explicit, with routes traced on the maps, but the sixth edition eschews the routes in favor of numbers simply locating the buildings on maps at the start of each chapter. As such, the "order of entries within each tour suggests one possible path," as Moeller states in the "Notes to the Reader" at the beginning of the book, "but is not intended to be prescriptive." Either scenario works in my (figurative) book, though both exhibit one of the most important practical considerations for portable guidebooks: a structure based on what a person can traverse in one afternoon or some other manageable timeframe.The biggest difference between the first and sixth editions of the DC guide (I haven't seen the other editions) is the length of the entries: Descriptions in the first are just a few lines, if at all (some buildings are documented solely with photos), while Moeller's descriptions in the latest are often lengthy, with plenty of background information on the formal aspects of the buildings, their architects, and the historical contexts; the longer entries on many of DC's important and prominent buildings make the book a fitting armchair guidebook as well. The introduction by Moeller, editor of ArchitectureDC since 2008, is particularly helpful, tracing the place's evolution from 1791 to the present in just twenty pages. What does the guide do right? One thing (among many) is including at least one photograph for each entry; this is a model every architectural guidebook should follow. What does it get wrong? I got frustrated with the lack of listed buildings accompanying the numbers on the maps at the start of each chapter; the omission forced back-and-forth page turning, something guides should try to minimize. The book is successful overall, mainly in spurring me to return to DC and use it both to plan ahead of time and take along as a companion.The second guidebook highlighted here, Fifth Avenue: From Washington Square to Marcus Garvey Park, is also the second walking guide by art historian William J. Hennessey that is devoted to a north-south thoroughfare in New York City: It arrived two years after Walking Broadway: Thirteen Miles of Architecture and History. Guides devoted to New York City, architectural and otherwise, are numerous, finding all sorts of niches throughout Manhattan and the other boroughs to explore, so no wonder that both Broadway and Fifth Avenue have been written about already at length, both literally and figuratively: David Dunlap's On Broadway and Fran Leadon's Broadway: A History of New York City in Thirteen Miles, for instance, plus On Fifth Avenue: Highlights of Architecture and Cultural History by Charles Ziga and Robin Langley Sommer and Fifth Avenue, 1911, from Start to Finish in Historic Block-by-Block Photographs. Both of Hennessey's guides, like the DC guide, are arranged in chapters of manageable length, with Fifth Avenue providing six tours from its southern tip at Washington Square to its northern terminus at the Harlem River. Previously I've given my own architectural walking tour of one mile of Fifth — the iconic, fashionable section from Bryant Park to Central Park — so I gravitated to the corresponding third chapter in the book. Following a brief contextual introduction, the chapter presents 40 numbered buildings and landscapes, plus three "detours" set off by lettered entries and a separate color scheme. My own tour sticks exclusively to building fronting Fifth Avenue, but it's hard for walking tours to not venture down some of the east-west streets that offer other architectural treasures (other NYC guidebooks in my library do the same). Hennessey does so at West 44th Street, home to a bevy of old hotels and university clubs, then later looking at the houses and apartments of the Rockefellers along West 54th Street, and finally at a few more old houses on West 56th Street. MoMA on West 53rd Street is only mentioned in passing, and although Paley Park, just east of Fifth on 53rd Street, is one of the numbered entries, Raimund Abraham's Austrian Cultural Forum New York is nowhere to be found. Clearly Hennessey is enamored with historic architecture rather than contemporary buildings, even though his miles-spanning book spans centuries: The third chapter includes the five-year-old Nike House of Innovation and a rendering of OMA's transformation of Tiffany's at 57th and Fifth.At this point, I should probably return to the main question at the start of this post: Do these two guidebooks sufficiently inform as to the validity and usefulness of architectural guidebooks today? This pair might not be the most diverse selection for addressing the state of architectural guidebooks (the authors' texts are dry compared to Nairn, for instance, whose out-of-date guides are a joy to read for their language and perspective), but they do provide two templates for creating architectural guidebooks: a comprehensive urban guide and an urban fragment. In both cases, the structures of the books allow people to use the books to tour smaller areas over the course of a few hours. That's hardly new, or news, but it reveals how the chapters of a book work in the favor of usability, even better if the book is portable (sorry, AIA Guide to New York City). I'm biased, obviously, but a well-made guidebook makes experiencing cities much more educational and entertaining.
- This Blog in 2023by John Hill on January 2, 2023 at 1:00 PM
One year ago, in the first post of 2022, I shifted this blog from (almost) daily posts about architecture books to just once a week, changing the name of the blog to reflect that. In the fifth of five bullet points reasoning why that was happening, I wrote: "I'm planning on winding down this blog over the next two years, wrapping it up in January 2024... exactly 25 years after I started A Weekly Dose of Architecture," the first iteration of this occasionally shifting blog.I'm still on track to do that, but with just one year of posts left — or 50 of them, if I don't skip too many weeks — I figured it's a good time to steer from the formulaic reviews and "Book Briefs" and instead write posts that are about architecture books but are not strictly reviews or encapsulations of them. So look for posts that are "On" certain typologies of architecture books or about issues around them: "On Guidebooks," next week for instance, as well "On Interviews," and others that come to mind as I dig through the books that find their way into my library. While important new and recently published books will be featured with their own standalone reviews alongside the thematic writings, one of the biggest changes will be the incorporation of old books that I find while scouring used bookstores, putting them alongside the newer titles sent to me by publishers. One of the consequences of shifting this book blog from daily to weekly frequency was, sadly, the elimination of the "Wayback Weekend" posts. Those were some of my favorite posts to write, so I'll find a way to bring older books back into the mix, giving them nearly equal weight with the newer books.What will I do after this blog ends in January 2024? To be honest, I don't know. The idea to shift this blog from strict reviews and briefs to more fluid and open-ended posts for 2023 came to me while thinking about things over the holidays. Structure is good but sometimes it is confining; I want this last year of posts to be less rigid but (hopefully) more interesting. We'll see how that goes. The idea of what I do after wrapping up these 25 years of "Archidose" will come to me ... about a year from now, most likely.
- Favorite Books of 2022by John Hill on December 19, 2022 at 1:00 PM
For this last post of 2022 I looked back at the dozens of books I reviewed or featured as "Book Briefs" on this blog, and the ones I reviewed on World-Architects. From those books I gathered just over a dozen favorites, grouping them into some common themes that happened to come to the fore: places, architects, and books/writers; they are listed below with brief commentary and links to my original reviews. Although these are my favorite books from 2022, not all of them were published this year (I'm often slow at getting around to books so I don't always follow the annual spring/fall cycle of publishers). As such, I've listed at bottom some recent and forthcoming books I'm looking forward to reading and (hopefully) reviewing in the new year. Until then, warm holiday wishes! 4 Books on 4 Places:Emergent Tokyo: Designing the Spontaneous City by Jorge Almazán + Studiolab, published by ORO Editions (2022) — A beautifully illustrated analysis of various "spontaneous" urban conditions in Tokyo (yokochō alleys, zakkyo buildings, undertrack infills, etc.) that designers in and beyond the Japanese city can learn from.Vacant Spaces NY by Michael Meredith, Hilary Sample and MOS, published by Actar Publishers (2021) — Research and proposals in this book make a solid argument that small spaces in New York City — in this cases empty storefronts exacerbated by the pandemic — are the key to addressing the numerous crises the city is constantly facing.In Miami In The 1980s: The Vanishing Architecture of a "Paradise Lost" edited by Charlotte von Moos, published by Walther König (2022) — The Eighties is back in this colorful look at the pastel-hued architecture of Arquitectonica, Duany Plater-Zyberk and others in Miami, complete with stills from Miami Vice.Swissness Applied: Learning from New Glarus by Nicole McIntosh und Jonathan Louie, published by Park Books (2022) — This in-depth architectural analysis of a small town in Wisconsin where commercial storefronts resemble Swiss chalets yields numerous pleasures and insights, thanks to the authors taking the place as seriously as places with capital-A architecture.6 Books on 4 (or 5) Architects:Between Memory and Invention: My Journey in Architecture by Robert A. M. Stern with Leopoldo Villardi, published by The Monacelli Press (2022) — An autobiographical tome on an architect, educator, and writer responsible for many tomes himself, most notably the indispensable series of New York books — a half-dozen spanning from 1880 to the forthcoming 2020.Alison & Peter Smithson: Hexenhaus: A House for a Man and a Cat edited by A&P Smithson Hexenhaus-Archiv, published by Walther König (2021) — This book-length case study on Hexenhaus, a lesser known project designed by Alison and Peter Smithson for a man and his cat living in a German forest, is as playful, multifaceted and thoughtful as the project itself.Louis Sullivan's Idea edited and written by Tim Samuelson and Reconstructing the Garrick: Adler & Sullivan's Lost Masterpiece edited by Jon Vinci, both published by Alphawood Foundation (2021) — These two books published by Alphawood on the occasion of the exhibition Romanticism to Ruin: Two Lost Works of Sullivan & Wright at Wrightwood 659 are remarkable in their depth of archival information on Sullivan's career and his long-lost Garrick Theater and stunningly presented.Louis I. Kahn by Robert McCarter, published by (Revised and Expanded Edition, 2022) and The Notebooks and Drawings of Louis I. Kahn edited by Richard Saul Wurman and Eugene Feldman, published by Designers & Books/Yale Center for British Art (Facsimile Edition and Reader's Guide, 2022) — In 2022, architects were treated to new editions of two large and excellent books on Louis Kahn: a revised and expanded edition of Robert McCarter's thorough biographical monograph on the architect, first published in 2005; and a reprint of the first-ever monograph on Kahn, Richard Saul Wurman's The Notebooks and Drawings of Louis I. Kahn from 1963. The latter reprints the book's second edition from 1973 and adds a valuable Reader's Guide with background on the original book from Wurman plus numerous contributions by architects, critics, curators, educators, and others.4 Books on 4 Books/Writers:Vitruvius Without Text: The Biography of a Book by André Tavares gta Verlag (2022) — An illuminating book that examines how Vitruvius's De Architectura (aka the Ten Books of Architecture) has been translated and packaged — and unpacked — from the 15th century to the current day.Reyner Banham Revisited by Richard J. Williams, published by Reaktion Books (2021) — A biography of the great critic astutely structured according to his books, many of them seminal, from Theory and Design in the First Machine Age to The Architecture of the Well-Tempered Environment, Los Angeles: The Architecture of Four Ecologies, and beyond.When Eero Met His Match: Aline Louchheim Saarinen and the Making of an Architect by Eva Hagberg, published on Princeton University Press (2022) — An enjoyable read that reveals the contributions Aline Louchheim Saarinen made in the career of her more famous husband, intertwined with personal anecdotes by Hagberg on the workings of public relations in architectural practice.G. E. Kidder Smith Builds: The Travel of Architectural Photography by Angelo Maggi, published by AR+D Publishing (2022) — A long overdue book devoted to the architect George Everard Kidder Smith, who instead of designing buildings devoted himself to the documentation and presentation of architecture in Europe and the United States through photography and writing in books and exhibitions.12 Books I'm Looking Forward to Reading and Reviewing in 2023 (in alphabetical order by title, with referral links to Amazon):architect, verb: The New Language of Building by Reinier de Graaf (Verso, 2023)The Architecture of Disability: Buildings, Cities, and Landscapes beyond Access by David Gissen (University of Minnesota Press, 2023)Architectures of Spatial Justice by Dana Cuff (The MIT Press, 2023)Bold Ventures: Thirteen Tales of Architectural Tragedy by Charlotte Van den Broeck (Other Press, 2022)The Brutalists: Brutalism's Best Architects by Owen Hopkins (Phaidon, 2023)Common Ground: Multi-Family Housing in Los Angeles by Frances Anderton (Angel City Press, 2022)Lina Bo Bardi: Material Ideologies edited by Monica Ponce de Leon (Princeton University Press, 2022)On the Street: In-Between Architecture by Edwin Heathcote (HENI Publishing, 2023)The Pliable Plane: The Wall as Surface in Sculpture and Architecture, 1945–75 by Penelope Curtis (MACK, 2022)Shigeru Ban: Timber in Architecture edited by Laura Britton and Vittorio Lovato (Rizzoli, 2022)Sky-high: A Critique of NYC's Supertall Towers from Top to Bottom by Eric P. Nash, with photographs by Bruce Katz (Princeton Architectural Press, 2023)Urban Design in the 20th Century - A History by Tom Avermaete and Janina Gosseye (gta Verlag, 2021)
- Book Briefs #48by John Hill on December 12, 2022 at 1:00 PM
This latest 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 — features six books in three pairs. 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.Two "Green" Books:Green Reconstruction: A Curricular Toolkit for the Built Environment edited by Reinhold Martin, Jacob R. Moore, Jordan Steingard | Temple Hoyne Buell Center for the Study of American Architecture | September 2022 | 7-1/4 x 10-1/2 inches | 266 pages | $0 (available as a PDF)The Buell Center describes Green Reconstruction as "an outline, an open work, for the repair of a world ravaged by three intersecting crises — of mutual care, of racial oppression, and of climate, all intersecting in turn with economic inequality." As the subtitle of the book makes clear, its aim is reworking education in the planning and design of the built environment so architects and urban planners could help in realizing ambitious proposals like the Green New Deal. The book is no less ambitious (Reinhold Martin, in a presentation of the book at the Buell Center in September, described the need to "redefine all professionals as public servants rather than as private entrepreneurs"), though it balances an overarching belief in the need for educational reform with three geographical case studies, or "a comparative object lesson" of three cities in "purple" states: Erie (PA), Greensboro (NC), and Buckeye (AZ). These color-coded chapters make up the bulk of the book and consist of stories that "can [hopefully] advance the conversation among students and professionals of the built environment regarding the tools, ideas, and methods needed to view climate-related challenges through the lens of justice."Material Reform: Building for a Post-Carbon Future by Material Cultures (Summer Islam, Paloma Gormley, George Massoud) with Amica Dell | MACK | October 2022 | 4-1/4 x 7 inches | 144 pages | $22 | AmazonMaterial Reform is one of a handful of new books that comprise the first collection of architecture titles published by MACK, the 12-year-old UK publisher known for books on art. They sent me a few, and given this book's portable size and breezy nature it was the first one I finished. Although it is a quick read, the subject is far from breezy, given that Material Cultures, a research and design practice based in London, aims to reorient architectural practice away from its destructive tendencies and toward biocentric materials, assemblies, processes, and — most importantly — thinking. The cover reveals the book's themes and chapters, where each predominantly one-word term is examined through short texts and photographs, the latter beautifully shot by Jess Gough. Things considered "green" — mass timber, etc. — are discussed frankly, cutting through the greenwashing and revealing that a dramatic, sweeping paradigm shift is necessary to even move in a direction that is truly sustainable. Highlighted terms in the text allow for cross referencing and refer to a helpful glossary. Also helpful is an annotated list of books that influenced Material Cultures in the making of their book. Material Reform is a reminder that powerful things can come in small packages.Two Tokyo Books:Emergent Tokyo: Designing the Spontaneous City by Jorge Almazán + Studiolab | ORO Editions | April 2022 | 5-3/4 x 8-1/4 inches | 250 pages | $24.95 | Amazon / BookshopTokyo, like New York, London and other world cities, can sustain nearly infinite approaches to documenting and analyzing its urban condition, thanks to its layers of physical history but also the enormous appeal of exploring those layers. This book by Jorge Almazán and Studiolab (the research and design unit led by him at Keio University), with editorial assistance by Joe McReynolds and Naoki Saito, tries to understand Tokyo by focusing on five types of urban conditions: yokochō alleys, zakkyo buildings, undertrack infills, ankyo streets, and dense low-rise neighborhoods. As the title indicates, these are places that emerged spontaneously rather than being planned. Each condition/chapter includes three case studies that are documented through diagrams, maps, photographs, isometrics (like the cover), and text — all thorough and complex yet clear and easy to follow. I have been to one such place: Golden Gai, a yokochō alley and perhaps the most popular case study in the book. The documentation of Golden Gai and the two other case studies in the chapter is brief but beautifully presented, especially the perspectival sections that are reminiscent of Atelier Bow-Wow. Beyond the documentation, the texts also feature "learning from" sections that find Almazán and Studiolab finding the beneficial traits that architects should emulate in their own designs — in Tokyo or elsewhere.Tokyoids: The Robotic Face of Architecture by François Blanciak | The MIT Press | September 2022 | 5 x 8 inches | 216 pages | $24.95 | Amazon / BookshopTokyoids is like two books in one: a dense text of architectural theory and humorous photographs of building "faces" in Tokyo. The first starts with a long chapter analyzing the relationship between architecture and faces: spanning from the Middle Ages and Renaissance to the Bauhaus, Le Corbusier and Deleuze. It is not an easy text, but there are fascinating points to be gleaned. Ultimately, Blanciak states, "each era corresponds a specific way of producing architecture, which itself corresponds to a specific way of representing a face." The six moody chapters (Awe, Mirth, Pain, etc.) that follow include more text as well as "photographic evidence" that considers "nearly imperceptible bits and pieces that might reveal a truer image of Tokyo's built environment, if not of its robotic unconscious." The book's release in September happened to coincide with the opening of Hello, Robot: Design between Human and Machine at Vitra Design Museum, indicating that the time is ripe for studying the relationship between people and robots, between designers and machines.Two Books About Books:Akzeptiere: Das Buch und seine Geschichte. Deutsche Übersetzung mit Einleitung und Kommentar von Atli Magnus Seelow by Atli Magnus Seelow | FAU University Press | January 2019 | 7-1/4 x 10-1/2 inches | 333 pages | Amazon(This book is in German, which I can't read, but a PDF translated by DeepL enabled me to read Atli Magnus Seelow's lengthy, in-depth introduction to the German translation of Acceptera, which my comments focus on.)Even though it wasn't translated into English until 2008, Acceptera, the 1931 manifesto by Gunnar Asplund, Gregor Paulsson and four others, is one of 100 books in my Buildings in Print (all of the books in it were originally in English or translated at some point). Given the avant-garde collage of images and words in Acceptera, I boasted — somewhat naively — that "the recirculated images from inside the book ensured the spread of ideas beyond Sweden," regardless of the delay in translation. Germans who wanted to read the text, though, had to wait another decade for a translation of the original Swedish text. Whereas English readers were given just a ten-page introduction, by Lucy Creagh, to "the manifesto of Swedish functionalism" in Modern Swedish Design: Three Founding Texts, German readers are treated to a nearly 90-page critical exposition by Seelow, author of Reconstructing the Stockholm Exhibition 1930, a study of the exhibition Acceptera grew out of. Seelow gives context to the exhibition in the decades leading up to it, both in Sweden and in Continental Europe; he describes the 1930 exhibition in detail, dives into the text of Acceptera chapter by chapter, and explores the impact and reception of the manifesto. More than anything, Seelow's well-researched introductory analysis argues that Acceptera was a product of Sweden's particular circumstances as influenced by outside forces, not merely the application of modern ideas on architecture and design from Germany, France and other parts of Europe to the Nordic countries.As a last point, similar to Modern Swedish Design, the German translation of Acceptera that follows the lengthy introduction retains the design of the original (Seelow also handled the typesetting) but also the numbering of the original (the intro uses Roman numerals), which I appreciate regardless of not being able to read it (I have a print copy of the book so can attest to this). This might seem like a trivial point, but I believe that it is imperative for translations to maintain the original numbering; therefore references to page numbers in the original are easy to find in the translation. A frustrating example departing from what should be a standard is the "correct" Getty translation of Le Corbusier's Vers un architecture (Toward an Architecture, 2007), where Jean-Louis Cohen's nearly 80-page introduction puts the first page of the main text on page 83; the translation maintains the layout of the original but forgoes the original's pagination. Akzeptiere shows I'm not alone in this belief.Reading Kenneth Frampton: A Commentary on Modern Architecture, 1980 by Gevork Hartoonian | Anthem Press | May 2022 | 6 x 9 inches | 222 pages | $125 | Amazon / BookshopI can't remember where I read it, but years ago I came across a book or article in which the writer asserted that Kenneth Frampton is one of the few — if not only — architectural historians popular with architects. It pertained to the sense that the ideas he promulgated — especially Critical Regionalism — have been applicable to architects, not just to other historians advancing the history of modern architecture. Wherever I read this, I recall that the text contended that Frampton's background as an architect, in Britain, before his shift to a historian, in the United States, contributed to his "style" of architectural history, where its relevance to architects stemmed from a firsthand understanding of how architects work, rather than being strictly situated in the realms of art history and architectural history. This isn't to say that Frampton was not cognizant of approaches to and theories of architectural history, but the "critical" nature of his 1980 book Modern Architecture stemmed from an understanding of modernism from an architect's perspective. I was reminded of this architect-historian view of Frampton's writing when scrolling through a PDF of Gevork Hartoonian's in-depth, scholarly study of Frampton's classic, which is subtitled A Critical History and has been updated four times since 1980, most recently in 2020. Hartoonian's historical study of the first edition of Modern Architecture aims, per the introduction, "to establish Frampton’s historiography and his ongoing endeavor to promote a critical understanding of the historicity of architectural crisis." Although he focuses on the first edition, whose chapters have been retained in subsequent editions but greatly added to (the fifth edition is 736 pages vs. the original's 324 pages), the last chapter of Reading Kenneth Frampton addresses Critical Regionalism, which was added in the second edition (1985), two years after Frampton wrote "Towards a Critical Regionalism" for The Anti-Aesthetic: Essays on Postmodern Culture. That seventh chapter follows chapters devoted to the epigraphs deployed at the beginning of each chapter of Modern Architecture, the three-part structure of the book, and important ideas (e.g., monumentality) that are explored in the original, especially in its more overtly critical third part; Hartoonian does not do a chapter-by-chapter account of Modern Architecture, in other words. Reading Kenneth Frampton is dense historiography for other historians, not a book for architects, even those enamored with Frampton. Nevertheless, I can't think of a text more fitting to such an in-depth treatment than Frampton's influential first book.
- Conceiving the Planby John Hill on December 5, 2022 at 1:00 PM
Conceiving the Plan: Nuance and Intimacy in Civic SpaceEdited by Yael Hameiri SainsauxSkira, August 2022Hardcover | 12-1/4 x 12-1/4 inches | 240 pages | 170 illustrations | English | ISBN: 9788857246543 | $45.00PUBLISHER'S DESCRIPTION:In Honor of Diane Lewis (1951–2017)How are civic spaces imbued with nuance, and in what ways does such a quality persist in the city? Can one discuss intimacy in architectural terms? Across a series of speculative projects for civic space—first exhibited as part of the 17th Venice Architecture Biennale, in the Italian Pavilion—Conceiving the Plan engages these questions in dialogue with the legacy of the late architect and longtime Cooper Union Professor Diane Lewis. For Lewis the city was not only the result of a great number of historical, and ultimately inextricable, strata of form and memory; it was also greater than the sum of its individual architectures and a mental universe all its own.Lewis’s unique presence—her unmistakable voice—is among the most characteristic distillations of the architectural “message” of The Cooper Union from the 1970s to the mid-2010s. In this book, architectural historians Barry Bergdoll and Daniel Sherer contextualize the themes and approach of her pedagogy.Projects by a range of international designers touch on literary, ecological, social, and metahistorical questions, provoking new spatial civic identities as well as critical approaches to the discipline and education of architecture.Yael Hameiri Sainsaux is an architect and an educator. Her architectural practice and literary investigations have informed her teaching in New York and Europe, since 2011. Her work has been exhibited in several galleries in NYC and at The Herzliya Museum of Contemporary Art (Israel), among others.REFERRAL LINKS: REVIEW:This book is the companion to an exhibition also called Conceiving the Plan: Nuance and Intimacy in Civic Space, first displayed as part of the Italian Pavilion at the 2021 Venice Architecture Biennale and then earlier this year at Cooper Union, where Diane Lewis was tenure professor from 1993 to her death in 2017. I did not travel to Venice for the pandemic-delayed Biennale in 2021, but I didn't have a good excuse for missing the exhibition at Cooper Union, which opened on April 7th and closed just three weeks later. Reading the interview between former MoMA curator Barry Bergdoll and Daniel Sherer, a colleague of Lewis's at Cooper Union, that starts the book made me feel like I missed out, since they refer to video interviews between Lewis and architect Merrill Elam that accompanied a dozen projects displayed on the walls. Those projects — designed by former students and colleagues of Lewis — are present in the book that was released a few months after the exhibition's tenure at Cooper Union, but the videos are present only in comments here and there by Bergdoll, Sherer, Elam, and curator/editor Yael Hameiri Sainsaux. Transcripts of the videos would have been appreciated, but without them (and without them being posted, yet, to YouTube) the focus is clearly on the projects, both on their own merits and as expressions and distillations of the influential educator ideas on the city."Star Stories" by Sotirios KotoulasBeforehand, the best encapsulation of Diane Lewis's pedagogy at Cooper Union was Open City: Existential Urbanity, the large-format book published in 2015 that collected more than a dozen years of projects from the fourth-year "Architecture of the City" studios she taught at the famed architecture school. (Unfortunately, that book is incredibly hard to come by, at least in the usual online places.) Reflecting the "team teaching" of Lewis, Sherer, and other Cooper Union professors and guest professors, the studio work presented in the book's pages is loaded with "intention, realized by marks on the page or the cuts and connections of a model," as I wrote in my review back in 2015. The projects exhibit a reading of the city — New York mainly, but not always — that is layered both in time and space. Such a reading is explored by Bergdoll and Sherer in their conversation, which often refers to content from Open City and makes me think of a statement by Colson Whitehead (that I found in Marshall Berman's On the Town): "You are a New Yorker when what was here before is more real and solid than what is here now." For Lewis, designing something for a site in the city meant taking the site's history into account — in poetical, mythical, and other aspects well beyond the practical."Parasituation [Edinburgh] Waverley Gardens" by Dorian Wiszniewski, et. al.The projects assembled by Yael Hameiri Sainsaux for the exhibition and book are, best I can tell, recent projects — not student work, in other words. The sites for the projects are far away from the East Village context of Cooper Union, ranging from Canada to Switzerland, from Sweden to Greece. The types of projects vary as widely as their geographies, though they all appear to take the "civic" into account, providing programs that benefit the communal lives of city dwellers rather than the private lives of individuals or families. Take Georg Windeck's "Time Clouds: Playground and Archeology Garden," for instance. Situated in the Plaka district of Athens, the project provides play areas for children in elevated, cloud-like volumes lifted above an excavation site on Thoukididou Street (this site, I gather). The project would turn a vacant yet historically rich plot in the city into a useful part of the community, doing it in a way that would respect the ancient ruins and give the neighborhood a unique building inspired by the site's specific situation and the community's needs. Following a page and a half description (the norm for most projects in the book), Windeck's project is presented in large-format drawings and model photographs, as in the spreads below. Other projects depart from the hand drawings and hand-built models that prevailed in Lewis's Open City studios, but readers won't find computer modeling or rendering in these pages."Time Clouds: Playground and Archeology Garden" by Georg WindeckBeyond the Bergdoll/Sherer interview and the dozen projects are a dozen texts, starting with Sainsaux's "The Plan and Its Myth" and Merrill Elam's "Dedication: Diane Lewis on Screen." If the projects serve to link themselves to Lewis non-explicitly — through their programs and creative responses to urban sites — the texts they alternate with are more explicit in articulating the impact of Lewis's teaching, projects, and personality. (These texts stand out from the projects through their beige backgrounds, where the projects are white, but I wish there was also a clear distinction made in the table of contents.) A few standouts include Gerard Sullivan's presentation of two Lewis projects for sites adjacent to the Cooper Union's Foundation Building (both projects are in Inside–Out, Lewis's 2006 monograph), a transcription of Lewis's 2014 lecture at Montclair Art Museum on Olmsted and Vaux's Central Park, and the presentation of some pages from Lewis's sketchbooks in Rome, where she was a fellow at the American Academy, having received the Rome Prize in 1977. These pages add to the biographical portraits of Lewis conveyed through Inside–Out and Open City."Time Clouds: Playground and Archeology Garden" by Georg WindeckConceiving the Plan offers a lot for former Cooper Union students, architects familiar with Lewis, like myself, and people who saw the exhibition in Venice and/or at Cooper Union, but I have a hard time finding an audience for the book well beyond those niches. The media of the projects is not as cohesive as Open City and even Education of an Architect, which Lewis co-edited and exhibits the influence of her mentor, John Hejduk; this means architects with an appreciation of hand drawings and models, like the illustrations above, will be only partially satiated. The mix of projects and texts paints a vivid portrait of Lewis and her influence, but it is far from comprehensive; one will have to wait for the video interviews to find a home online or perhaps be published as transcriptions, something I — and others, I'm guessing — would be interested in reading.FOR FURTHER READING:Open City: Existential Urbanity: The Architecture of the City Studio 2001–2014 by Diane Lewis (Charta 2015)Inside-Out. Architecture New York City by Diane Lewis (Charta, 2006) Education of an Architect edited by John Hejduk, Elizabeth Diller, Diane Lewis and Kim Shkapich (Rizzoli, 1991)Construction Matters by Georg Windeck (powerHouse Books, 2016)
- Ando and Le Corbusierby John Hill on November 28, 2022 at 1:00 PM
Ando and Le Corbusier is a two-volume project that shows how the works of two pioneers of modern architecture – Le Corbusier and Tadao Ando – connect human experience to the basic givens of existence: interactions among human beings and personal encounters with nature, including wind and natural light, within a spare material framework shaped by once-new technologies such as reinforced concrete – expressed in two different and remarkable approaches to architecture.Ando and Le Corbusier, Volume 1: Tadao Ando provides a historical overview of Ando’s work for major art institutions in the United States after 2000. It includes a detailed account of his US buildings by Michael Conforti, Director Emeritus of the Clark Institute of Art, Williamstown, Massachusetts, an Ando project; “The Cult of Fudo in the Architecture of Tadao Ando,” a new essay by Kenneth Frampton on Ando’s critical regionalist response to climatic and cultural issues; and a comprehensive description of Ando’s “Art of Construction” at the new Wrightwood 659 Gallery in Chicago, by Daniel J. Whittaker, PhD. It also presents the more than 160 drawings and photographs of Ando’s work that were exhibited there in 2018.Edited by Michael Conforti | Alphawood Foundation | 2022 | Hardcover | 9-3/4 x 11-3/4 inches | 164 pages | 160+ illustrations | English | ISBN: 9780578767048 | $55.00Ando and Le Corbusier, Volume 2: Le Corbusier was organized to show the affinities of Le Corbusier’s work to that of Ando, who found the Paris-based, French-Swiss architect an inspiring figure as a young architect and boxer in Osaka in the 1960s. It includes nearly 300 photographs of material from the Fondation Le Corbusier and the Art Institute of Chicago included in the 2018 Wrightwood 659 exhibition, and offers new commissioned essays from eminent Le Corbusier scholars. It also has a new translation of Ando’s essay “Le Corbusier and His Houses,” with photos of more than 100 models of Le Corbusier houses made by Ando’s students in Tokyo, 2001, with Ando's commentary included in English for the first time. Edited by Eric Mumford | Alphawood Foundation | 2022 | Hardcover | 9-3/4 x 11-3/4 inches | 224 pages | 300+ illustrations | English | ISBN: 9780578921129 | $55.00(BOTH BOOKS CAN BE PURCHASED ON THE WRIGHTWOOD 659 WEBSITE.)REVIEW:Japanese architect Tadao Ando's first project in the United States was completed in 1992, the year after he received a monographic exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Not a building, that US project was just a room in a museum: Gallery 109 at the Art Institute of Chicago. Now familiarly known as the Ando Gallery, it features a grid of 16 freestanding columns in the center and illuminated cases at the perimeter for Japanese screens and other artworks. Having grown up in suburban Chicago and been in architecture school in Kansas at the time, I visited the room on trips back home, seeing it fairly regularly after moving back to Chicago in 1997. That year, Ando completed his second Chicago commission, a house on Wrightwood in Lincoln Park for Fred Eychaner and his then partner Ken Lee. Friends of mine lived a few blocks away on Wrightwood, so I would often walk by the solid front elevation and try to peer at the introverted house from the alley; I never got inside but appreciated the smooth concrete Ando was known for. I had no idea at the time, but Eychaner also owned the neighboring buildings as a means of controlling any negative impacts on the house. Eventually he turned the apartment building on the east into the Wrightwood 659 gallery, hiring Ando once again for the project. Wrightwood 659 opened in 2018 — 27 years after the MoMA exhibition and 21 after the house's completion — with the exhibition Ando and Le Corbusier: Masters of Architecture; the two-volume catalog for the exhibition was released earlier this year.The inaugural exhibition occupied all three gallery floors of Wrightwood 659, presenting hundreds of drawings and models on the architecture of Ando and Le Corbusier, and also featuring more than 100 models of Corbusier's houses built by students of Ando (below spread). The two-part exhibition had two curators: Eric Mumford did the Corbu component and Daniel J. Whittaker took care of the Ando component. For the catalogs, Mumford edited Volume 2: Le Corbsuier, while Michael Conforti, the former director of the Clark Art Institute, edited Volume 1: Tadao Ando, whose contributions include one by Whittaker on the construction of Wrightwood 659. I did not see the exhibition during its three months at Wrightwood 659 (I've yet to see the gallery in person, afraid to say), but given the lag between the exhibition and the two-volume catalog, the latter has the benefit of featuring installations shots (bottom spread), something usually missing from exhibition catalogs. Not having seen the exhibition, I'm not sure how the relationship between Ando and Corbusier was articulated spatially, if at all, though if the book is any indication, the influence of Corbusier on Ando is of utmost importance. As such, the first volume on Ando is more valuable and appealing, in my mind, than the second volume on Corbusier.Volume 1 consists of a catalog of works in the Ando section of the exhibition prefaced by three contributions: a lengthy overview of Ando's public projects in the US by Conforti, Whittaker's essay on the construction of Wrightwood 659, and an essay by Kenneth Frampton, who gave a keynote lecture at a 2018 symposium held in concert with the exhibition (that symposium provided the papers for the more scholarly second volume). Frampton's essay is a good overview of Ando's early work, while Whittaker's essay takes a deep dive into a project that looks like it is simply a new concrete frame inserted into an old brick building, but is "far from elementary." Conforti provides numerous insights into Wrightwood 659, the Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts in St. Louis, the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, and (obviously, since it was created on his watch) the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, Massachusetts. The presentation of works is solid, as is the selection of projects spanning decades, but people with monographs on Ando will only find a few unique items here, including the installation photos mentioned above as well as two gatefolds that allow for the display of lengthy presentations of Ando's sketches and drawings. Most valuable is Conforti's well-researched text.Volume 2, edited by Mumford, consists of works by Le Corbusier presented in three parts (Purism, After Purism, and Houses), followed by a section with essays by a bevy of contributors: Tim Benton, Maristella Casciato, Sheila Crane, Seng Kuan, Caroline Maniaque, Mary McLeod, and Michelangelo Sabatino. The most obvious place to find Corbusier's influence on Ando would be in the second section, After Purism, which documents the buildings in concrete that Ando would have seen on his early travels as a self-trained architect and read about in the Oeuvre Complete. But the standout is the third section, which presents a little over 100 of Corbusier's built and unbuilt houses in model form; the photographs of the models built by Ando's students are introduced by a text by Ando and accompanied by project descriptions from the Fondation Le Corbusier. A photograph of the models at Wrightwood 659 shows them sitting above a waist-high wall that was rectangular in plan yet allowed visitors inside to see the model "backs" as well as their "fronts," unlike the single views only afforded in the book. The essays that comprise nearly half the book see the authors finding niches to add scholarship on the 20th-century architect studied more than any other, with Sabatino looking at Corbusier's visit to Chicago in the 1935, for instance, and McLeod focusing on the architect's later visit to Columbia University in 1961.Physically the two books are beautiful objects, starting with the thick chipboard covers that are strongly aligned with the concrete surfaces of Ando's architecture (they stop short of using the dimples of the dark-gray cover for Seven Interviews with Tadao Ando). The colored cardstock used for the endpapers and dividers between section works well, as does the paper selection, the photographic reproductions, and the choice of fonts (Studio Blue is credited for design and production). Coming from Eychaner's Alphawood Foundation, I'm not surprised by the high quality; their two books on Louis Sullivan — one of which accompanied an exhibition, Reconstructing the Garrick: Adler & Sullivan’s Lost Masterpiece, at Wrightwood 659 — are amazing, justifiably award-winning books. The pair of books on Ando and Le Corbusier make me look forward to what Alphawood exhibits and publishes in the realm of architecture in the future — and to finally seeing (one of these days!) Wrightwood 659 in person.FOR FURTHER READING:Shadow and Light: Tadao Ando at the Clark by Richard Pare (Clark Art Institute, 2014)Tadao Ando Modern Art Museum of Ft. Worth by Philip Jodidio (Rizzoli, 2008)Tadao Ando 2: Outside Japan (Toto, 2008)Casa BRUTUS No. 30: The Grand Tour with ANDO (Casa BRUTUS, September 2002)Seven Interviews with Tadao Ando by Michael Auping (Third Millenium Pub, 2002)Abstractions in Space: Tadao Ando, Ellsworth Kelly, Richard Serra by William J.R. Curtis (Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts, 2001)Tadao Ando: The Museum of Modern Art (PDF link)by Stuart Wrede and Kenneth Frampton (Abrams, 1991)Le Corbusier: Architect of the Twentieth Century by Kenneth Frampton (Abrams, 2002)The Villas of Le Corbusier and Pierre Jeanneret 1920-1930 by Tim Benton (Birkhäuser, 2007; revised edition)Le Corbusier: An Atlas of Modern Landscapes edited by Jean-Louis Cohen (Museum of Modern Art, 2013)
- The Minimal Interventionby John Hill on November 21, 2022 at 1:00 PM
The Material Imaginationby Lucius Burckhardt, edited by Markus Ritter and Martin SchmitzBirkhäuser, October 2022Paperback | 5 x 7-1/4 inches | 166 pages | 13 illustrations | English (translated from German by Jill Denton) | ISBN: 9783035625301 | $26.99PUBLISHER'S DESCRIPTION:Lucius Burckhardt (1925–2003) outlined his theory of the “smallest possible intervention” back in the early 1980s. The idea of minimal intervention runs through his entire oeuvre, from his critique of urbanism to the science of walking. The “smallest possible intervention” denotes a planning theory that assumes two “views” within landscape design: that which is actually visible and that in our mind’s eye. The theory of the minimal intervention means not interfering excessively with the existing landscape, but instead working with the landscape in our minds to develop an aesthetic understanding of the environment. In this book, available for the first time in English, the Swiss sociologist applies this formula to many areas of design.REFERRAL LINKS: REVIEW:Although I can't recall when I learned about Swiss sociologist Lucius Burckhardt, I can pinpoint the first time I read some of some of his texts to the anthology Relational Theories of Urban Form, released last year and reviewed by me last summer. The excerpted texts by Burckhardt in that book focus on "the science of walking," or what he coined "strollology" — a great term that this walker and architectural tour guide has a hard time resisting. Simply put, "strollology examines the sequences in which a person perceives their surroundings," predicated on the fact that every destination is reached by a route, sometimes on foot; we don't just end up in a place via parachute or, in contemporary terms, via Google Street View. That so-called science informed the late sociologist's view of landscapes, buildings, and urban planning, with a strong preference for visual legibility and doing more with less, evident in such assertions as "design is invisible" and "the minimal intervention," the latter being the English translation of a text written by Burckhardt in Italian around 1980, L'Intervento Minimo (it was translated into German in full in 2013 before it was translated into English).The cover, a photograph from the slide archive of Annemarie and Lucius Burckhardt at the University Library Basel (ditto Joseph Beuys, below), hints at the idea of minimal intervention: landscape architect Bernard Lassus would experiment on the altering of perception by placing a strip of white paper within the bloom of a tulip. "Pink-tinted Air" was his expression for the coloring of the paper, which roughly echoes quotes like Louis Kahn's "the sun never knew how great it was until it hit the side of a building" and such buildings as those designed by Luis Barragan, where light reflects off of painted walls to greatly affect spaces. In The Minimal Intervention, Burckhardt sets his sights on planners and the construction industry rather than architects. Burckhardt clearly was not a believer in the merits of highway ring roads, clearing neighborhoods in the name of urban renewal, and the need for elected officials to focus on creating new large-scale building projects rather than the improving the existing building stock. I found myself nodding along with many assertions in Burckhardt's brisk and readable text, which starts in the realm of planning but touches on many aspects of the designed environment — from the design of kitchen appliances to landscape gardening and townscape preservation — across its 150 pages.Joseph Beuys, "7000 Oak Trees," Kassel, 1982–87Near the end of the book, Burckhardt states that "the social mechanisms in decision-making tend to culminate in buildings, [even] in cases where softer strategies would be more effective." Rather than always opting for building, the sociologist argued for a theory where "every issue should be mitigated strategically, by means of intervening in it as little as possible, for this alone serves to minimize the unexpected and harmful consequences." This austere take on planning and design brings to mind the most famous sympathetic instance in recent decades: Anne Lacaton and Jean-Philippe Vassal's project for Place Léon Aucoc in Bordeaux in 1996. The duo found that "the square is already beautiful," so they "proposed doing nothing apart from some simple and rapid maintenance works [...] of a kind to improve use of the square and to satisfy the locals." Referred to often in articles on their Pritzker Architecture Prize in 2021, the landscape was an early expression of an idea that would extend to their more famous and eye-catching transformations of unloved social housing blocks in French cities; I wouldn't be surprised if Burckhardt played a part in Lacaton and Vassal theorizing their minimal approach.Burckhardt uses a number of arguments for an approach to planning that is minimal, but none is more apropos now than the environmental benefits of reusing and transforming rather than demolishing and building anew. Just as every project site for a landscape is already a landscape of some sort, most building parcels already have buildings on them. In places like New York, where zoning is more important than planning, arguments for building bigger and taller contend that existing buildings are too small for their sites because they do not max out the allowable floor area ratio, or FAR. A zoning-focused mindset like this strives for ways to achieve and even exceed a site's FAR through various measures, very few of which consist of retaining old buildings for anything other than their foundations or as bases of taller towers. A minimal-intervention approach à la Burckhardt would set aside profit- or government-driven building projects in favor of renovations that takes advantage of embodied energy and carbon in existing buildings and the reduction of carbon- and energy-intensive construction. If "minimiz[ing] unexpected and harmful consequences" is the goal, reuse should always take priority over new construction.FOR FURTHER READING:Lucius Burckhardt Writings. Rethinking Man-made Environments: Politics, Landscape & Design edited by Jesko Fezer and Martin Schmitz (Springer, 2012)Why is Landscape Beautiful? by Lucius Burckhardt, edited by Markus Ritter and Martin Schmitz (Birkhäuser, 2015)Design Is Invisible by Lucius Burkhardt, edited by Silvan Blumenthal and Martin Schmitz (Birkhäuser, 2017)Who Plans the Planning?: Architecture, Politics, and Mankind by Lucius Burckhardt, edited by Jesko Fezer and Martin Schmitz (Birkhäuser, 2019)"The Science of Walking" by Lucius Burckhardt, in Relational Theories of Urban Form: An Anthology edited by Daniel Kiss and Simon Kretz (Birkhäuser, 2021)
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