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  • The Evolving Project
    by John Hill on October 22, 2021 at 12:00 PM

    The Evolving Project: The Journal of Architectural Education and the Expansion of ScholarshipEdited by Igor Marjanović, Marc J. Neveu, Sara StevensORO Editions, April 2021Paperback | 8 x 10 inches | 300 pages | English | ISBN: 9781951541699 | $40.00PUBLISHER'S DESCRIPTION:Through a selection of essays from the Journal of Architectural Education (JAE) and its 75-year history, this volume showcases not only the development of a single publication but also the evolution and expansion of the entire discipline. This book celebrates the rich history of the JAE, which is the longest continually running peer-reviewed journal in the discipline of architecture, as a major platform for the dissemination of new pedagogical and scholarly ideas. From discourses on drawing and design processes to issues of new media and the environment, The Evolving Project is a journey in space and time that documents the changing project of architectural education after World War II—namely its transformation from a professional training ground to an intellectual platform that allowed architectural educators to boldly engage the larger social, cultural, and political issues of their time.Igor Marjanović is the William Ward Watkin Dean of Rice Architecture. Marc J. Neveu is the head of the architecture program at the Design School at Arizona State University. He is the current executive editor of the biannual peer-reviewed Journal of Architectural Education. Sara Stevens is an architectural and urban historian. She is an assistant professor of architectural and urban design history and chair of urban design at the School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. REFERRAL LINKS:   dDAB COMMENTARY:The first issue of the Journal of Architectural Education, published by the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA), came in the spring of 1947. Even though it was first edited by Turpin C. Bannister, a prominent architectural historian who also played a part in the early years of the Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, issue number one was devoted to architectural research. A focus on research makes sense in 1947, just two years after the end of World War II, particularly given that many technologies and manufacturing processes developed during the war would be applied to "peaceful" uses in the ensuing years and decades. According to the editors of The Evolving Project, a collection of notable contributions to JAE between 1947 and 2019, "as the decades progress, the role of research in the field becomes more prominent [...] paralleling the rise of the research university and the societal shift toward new knowledge production that so characterized the postwar years." The importance of research is accentuated by the organization of the book, which puts more than fifty essays into four thematic chapters: research, environment, pedagogy, and politics.Before that 1947 inaugural issue there was The Evolving Architect, a prewar bulletin that JAE evolved out of. Marc J. Neveu, the most recent executive editor of JAE, apparently paraphrased the name of that earlier publication in his March 2018 editorial in JAE's pages, "The Evolving Project." But what is meant by "the evolving project," the phrase that carried through to the title of this collection of essays edited in part by Neveu? In the introduction to "Research," the first of the book's four sections, the other two editors, Igor Marjanović and Sara Stevens, describe architecture's repositioning of itself relative to science, technology, and society as "the evolving project of architectural research." (emphasis in original) Although this assertion elevates the research section of the book above the others, the editors also describe the intertwining nature of the chapters that follow: "pedagogy as a uniquely architectural territory of research studios, seminars, and publications that saw architecture as environment (spatial or ecological, described by technical or visual means) or architecture as politics (a form of spatial practice laden with questions of power, governance, and who we are, both individually and collectively)." As such, research and pedagogy are the main "meat" of this collection and therefore the ones I focused on in perusing the book.The Research chapter starts with an essay from the very first issue, "The Architect Looks at Research" by Walter A. Taylor, and ends in 2009, with Avigail Sachs's "The Postwar Legacy of Architectural Research." In between are nearly a dozen contributions that are anchored by a couple written by Denise Scott Brown (she is the only author featured more than once): "On Formal Analysis as Design Research" (issue 32:4, 1979) and "With People in Mind" (35:1, 1981). The former touches on what is definitely the most influential piece of research ever carried out in the context of a design studio: "Learning from Las Vegas, or Formal Analysis as Design Research," the 1968 Yale University studio that became the 192 book Learning from Las Vegas, by her, Robert Venturi, and Steven Izenour. Scott Brown makes the case that their "'formal analysis' is research," (my emphasis) even though it doesn't resemble research in the familiar, data-driven sense. Fast forward to 2007 and Kazys Varnelis questions the role of the "research studios" that were very popular at the time thanks to those run by Rem Koolhaas at Harvard GSD. While Varnelis, in "Is There Research in the Studio?" (61:1, 2007), argues that such studios "should make a contribution to knowledge" rather than just assemble loads of data and images, in the same issue of JAE Stephen Kieran argues for a "research ethic" that "unifies the art of design with the science of performance," echoing his 2004 book, with partner James Timberlake, Refabricating Architecture.Chapter three, Pedagogy, has twenty essay spanning 54 years, from Sigfried Giedion's "History and the Architect" (12:2, 1957) to Ana Miljački's "From Model to Mashup" (64:2, 2011). (It should be noted that a helpful four-page chronology of all 52 essays in The Evolving Project prefaces the book.) The evolution of architectural pedagogy over those 5-1/2 decades is told through essays by a number of familiar names, such as Richard Neutra, Nicholas Negroponte, Louis Kahn, Marc Treib, Tod Williams, Ricardo Scofidio, Alberto Pérez-Gómez, and Daniel Libeskind. "While a number of the essays in the journal seem dated," Neveu admits in his chapter introduction, "others seem outside of time." Negroponte's essay on "Architecture Machines" (23:2, 1969) certainly falls into the former, though he singles out Arthur Burton's earlier "Full Scale Prototype Structures" (15:1, 1960) as indicative of the latter, citing that the prototypes by students in the article "look like work performed in a studio today." And such is the value of this collection: more than a historical assemblage of contributions to JAE over its 75-year history, the book captures the cyclical nature of architecture and architectural education. Evolution is often visualized as a straight line, but the way certain trends and issues come and go and come back again points to the value of old texts — and the value of edited collections like this book. IMAGES:

  • All the Queens Houses
    by John Hill on October 20, 2021 at 12:00 PM

    All the Queens Houses: An Architectural Portrait of New York’s Largest and Most Diverse Boroughby Rafael Herrin-FerriJovis, October 2021Paperback | 4-3/4 x 7 inches | 272 pages | 244 illustrations | English | ISBN: 9783868596564 | €22.00PUBLISHER'S DESCRIPTION:The borough of Queens has long been celebrated as the melting pot of America. It was the birthplace of North American religious freedom in the seventeenth century, hosted two World’s Fairs in the twentieth, and is currently home to over a million foreign-born residents participating in the American experience. In 2013, Spanish-born artist and architect Rafael Herrin-Ferri began to paint a portrait of the “World’s Borough”—not with images of its diverse population, or its celebrated international food scene, but with photographs of its highly idiosyncratic housing stock. While All the Queens Houses is mainly a photography book celebrating the broad range of housing styles in New York City’s largest and most diverse county, it is also a not-so-subtle endorsement of a multicultural community that mixes global building traditions into the American vernacular, and by so doing breathes new life into its architecture and surrounding urban context.Rafael Herrin-Ferri is a Spanish-born architect/artist living in Sunnyside, Queens. He received a B.Arch from Cornell University in 1996 and has lived and worked in San Francisco and Barcelona before settling in New York City in 2003 with his wife and daughter.REFERRAL LINKS:   dDAB COMMENTARY:I have lived in Astoria, Queens, for fifteen years, ever since the summer of 2006, when my wife and I moved here from Chicago and I entered the Urban Design program at City College of New York. Outside of my childhood home in suburban Chicago, Astoria is the neighborhood I've lived in for the longest stretch of time; it's easily the place I've lived in the longest in my adult life. So needless to say I am familiar with this northwest corner of the borough of Queens pretty well, enough that I know the exact location of most of the houses in Astoria photographed by architect Rafael Herrin-Ferri and included in his great little book All the Queens Houses. Not only that, I've photographed many of the same houses as him, usually tagging them either #astoriaugly or #astoriaabsurd on Instagram. To use the names that Herrin-Ferri gives each of the houses in his book (he does not supply addresses, more on that later), I've also documented Astoria Citadel, Queens Ziggurat, Pantheon House, Minoan Makeover, and Tetris Stair Tower (second photo in that link).So it seems Astoria has a riches of quirky residential architecture, be it single family houses or apartment buildings. (My other frequently used tag, #astoriaportal, is aligned with the area's courtyard apartment buildings.) But Astoria is not alone, as All the Queens Houses makes abundantly clear. Herrin-Ferri, unlike myself, has trekked the entirety of the borough, akin to the late William B. Helmreich, photographing its many blocks and focusing on its smaller-scale residential pieces. The diversity of the borough's architectural character is front and center in the photographs, thanks in part to his preference for overcast days, something he determined after some months of his survey because "varying amounts of direct sunlight were distorting the true colors of the structures and casting long shadows that would obscure the most interesting features." So Herrin-Ferri is an anti-architectural photographer, setting out on gray days rather than sunny ones. With evenly gray skies throughout the book, the colors and forms of the houses — each one squarely in the middle of the page, free of people but often fronted by cars — jumps off the page.Although Herrin-Ferri references Bernd and Hilla Becher in the introduction, when describing his preference for photographing "with a good dose of cloud cover," All the Queens Houses brings to my mind something else: the guidebooks by Atelier Bow-Wow. Yoshiharu Tsukamoto and Momoyo Kaijima's Made in Tokyo and Pet Architecture Guide Book focus on parts of the built environment that most architects would overlook. Instead of highlighting buildings that were designed by well-known architects or that are architecturally inventive, as many architectural guidebook authors do (myself included), Atelier Bow-Wow have honed in on buildings that are exceptional in other ways: non-designed yet functional hybrids in Made in Tokyo and tiny structures that fill the gaps in Tokyo's urban fabric in Pet Architecture. The "pets" of the latter are a bit like the Queens houses that are increasingly being overshadowed by larger buildings as neighborhoods like Astoria become more appealing to developers. Unlike Atelier Bow-Wow, who locate the buildings in their books precisely, Herrin-Ferri gives the buildings fictional names rather than precise addresses; this lets the author accentuate the interesting qualities of the houses while also providing privacy for the residents.Before All the Queens Houses, the book, Herrin-Ferri documented his exhaustive survey of the borough's residential architecture on a Tumblr blog and then in an exhibition at the Architectural League of New York. The latter, which was titled All the Queens Houses: Surveying the Eclectic Housing Stock of New York's Largest and Most Diverse Borough and ran from October 2017 to January 2018 and was a great show, but it was located in an office and therefore visible just four hours per week during its five-month run. Although Herrin-Ferri's posts on Instagram point many more eyes to his ongoing survey, there's something to be said for putting some of the photographs into book form. I like the small format, which makes the book portable even if not necessarily usable as a guidebook; the size is more suitable to its contents than if it were large like a coffee table book. And again, although the book is not a go-here-and-look-at-this guidebook, the geographical layout of the book — from Northwest Queens roughly clockwise down to the Rockaways — gives a great sense of one aspect of the borough. Ultimately, a pervasive, defining trait of the borough is the diversity of its houses, surely a reflection of the diversity of its (past and present) residents.SPREADS:

  • Neri&Hu Design and Research Office
    by John Hill on October 18, 2021 at 12:00 PM

    Neri&Hu Design and Research Office: Thresholdsby Rossana Hu, Lyndon NeriThames & Hudson, August 2021Hardcover | 8-3/4 x 11 inches | 352 pages | 500+ illustrations | English | ISBN: 9780500343609 | $65.00PUBLISHER'S DESCRIPTION:Founded in 2004 by partners Lyndon Neri and Rossana Hu, Neri&Hu is an interdisciplinary architectural and design practice based in Shanghai that has established an international reputation and following. Through their innovative buildings in China, across Asia, and beyond, the firm has become a design-world favorite, collecting awards such as Overall Winner of the PLAN Award. This lavish volume, the most comprehensive monograph of the studio’s work to date, features more than thirty projects at all scales with specially commissioned photography.Based in research, Neri&Hu “anchors their work on the dynamic interaction of experience, detail, material, form, and light” rather than limiting designs to one specific style. This ethos allows the company to thrive in a number of design disciplines, including architecture, interior design, furniture design, branding, and product design. As engaged with the world of interior design as with large-scale urban redevelopment projects, Neri&Hu’s corpus spans a wide range of works that display Western influences adapted to the particular contexts of Asia. This collection is a beautiful design resource and a must-have for admirers of the firm.Rossana Hu is cofounder of Neri&Hu, a Shanghai-based architecture practice that works internationally providing architecture, interior, master-planning, graphic, and product design services. Lyndon Neri is cofounder of Neri&Hu, a Shanghai-based architecture practice that works internationally providing architecture, interior, master-planning, graphic, and product design services.REFERRAL LINKS:   dDAB COMMENTARY:Neri&Hu, the Shanghai studio of Lyndon Neri and Rossana Hu, is very good at promoting its work. Each completed building comes with ample coverage on the usual architecture websites, like the online equivalents of email blasts. Standing out from their many projects is Waterhouse at South Bund, a hotel that is the renovation and expansion of a 1930s Japanese army building in Shanghai. The existing was left in a crude state, while the addition sits upon the old as a Cor-ten box that follows the curve of the corner site.Waterhouse at South Bund is one of the dozens of projects in this, Neri&Hu's second monograph (their first monograph came out in 2017). But like every other project here, it is also given another title: The Vertical Lane House. It is the last project in the first of the book's six thematic sections, "Reflective Nostalgia." Why the auxiliary title(s) and why this theme, and the other themes, for the project sections? Or put another way, why not a typological or chronological presentation of the buildings with just their official names?Although the relevance of architectural monographs has been questioned this century, particularly in regards to their impact on the profession, they seem more popular now than ever. Many of them are, not surprisingly, a means of promotion. Whatever their intentions, all monographs require some sort of organization. Thematic sections, which I see more and more these days, enable project presentations to overlap and intertwine with philosophical positions. Such is clearly the case with Thresholds: Space, Time and Practice, the monograph on a firm that designs everything from occasionally large buildings down to graphics and branding, sometimes all in the same project.Typologies, in other words, are not suitable for adequately presenting the work of Neri&Hu. The half dozen categories — "Nomadic Voyeurism," "Dwelling," "Inhabitable Strata," "Recasting Vernacular," and "Future Artefact," which follow "Reflective Nostalgia" — convey the preconceptions and methods of Neri, Hu, and the rest of their "interdisciplinary design and research office." Yet, like other monographs with a similar approach, certain projects could appear in other categories, if not any and all of them. The demarcations could be seen as random or even arbitrary, if not for the project descriptions and additional project titles, as noted above, reinforcing the overriding themes and rationales.Briefly setting aside the thematic organization, the presentation of the projects is consistent across the book, if more in depth on some projects — The Vertical Lane House, for instance — than others. The drawings and photographs are beautifully presented, with layouts reminiscent of Swiss graphic design and a great choice of paper: strong to the touch though still giving the photos a punch. All told, I feel that Neri&Hu's architecture is strong enough to stand on its own, free of excessive, monographic theorizing. I would have liked the work in this monograph even more if it was presented more comprehensively and less polemically.SPREADS:

  • Autumn Break
    by John Hill on October 10, 2021 at 12:00 PM

    The Halloween decorations in my neighborhood this year are quite impressive!I'm taking this week off — my first break since July. Posts will resume on Monday, October 18.

  • Palladio
    by John Hill on October 9, 2021 at 12:00 PM

    Palladioby James S. AckermanPenguin Books, 1976 (2nd edition)Paperback | 5 x 7 inches | 196 pages | 96 illustrations | English | ISBN: 0140208453 | $6.95BACK COVER DESCRIPTION:Palladio is the most imitated architect in history. His buildings have been copied all over the Western world – from Leningrad to Philadelphia – and his ideas on proportion are still current nearly four hundred years after his death. In this, the first full account of his career to be published in English, Professor James Ackerman investigates the reasons for his enormous and enduring success. He presents him in his historical setting but is constantly alert to his relevance for us today.The Architect and Society – The aim of this series, specially written for Penguin Books, is to present the great architects of the world in their social and cultural environments.James S. Ackerman was born in San Francisco in 1919 and studied at Yale and New York University. Professor Ackerman lived several years in Italy, beginning with service during [World War II], and [was] the author of many studies on Italian architecture, including The Architecture of Michelangelo (1961), which received the Morey and Hitchcock awards.REFERRAL LINKS: dDAB COMMENTARY:A couple of days ago, in my review of Barnabas Calder's Architecture: From Prehistory to Climate Emergency, I mentioned how that new book fits nicely into the lineage of architecture books bearing the Pelican imprint. A few years ago, before I shifted this blog to exclusively focus on architecture books, I took a look at some covers of architecture books put out by Pelican Books (an imprint of Penguin Books), which existed from 1937 to 1984 and then was relaunched in 2014. While Calder's book obviously fits into the second generation of Pelican, the first-generation titles included books by Peter Blake, Nikolaus Pevsner and John Summerson, among other familiar names, and such classics as Steen Eiler Rasmussen's London: The Unique City, Community and Privacy by Serge Chermayeff and Christopher Alexander, and Palladio by James S. Ackerman. The last was first published in 1966 in "The Architect and Society" series edited by John Fleming and Hugh Honour, the art historians who also updated Nikolaus Pevsner's Dictionary of Architecture.Ackerman's Palladio is one of those famous books that many people know about but few people have read; or at least that's the way I see it as I'd never read it even though I've had a copy for a few years now. I think it was Ackerman's death in 2018 at the age of 97 that prompted me to get a copy; the abundance of its numerous editions means the small paperback is easy to find, cheaper now than its original cover price decades ago. Even so, it sat on my shelf, unread. Calder's atypical energy-focused history of architecture pushed me to read some parts of Palladio and feature it here. I can't help but agree with William Grimes's description of Ackerman's writing, in the New York Times obituary, as "limpid," clearly "arguing against the neoclassical view of Palladio as a cold logician." Although Ackerman details the proportions and dimensions of many a Palladio building in the book's concluding chapter, he concludes that "Palladio's inventiveness is more the point than his accuracy."The last chapter, "Principles of Palladio's Architecture," comes after four chapters that present his life and buildings. "Palladio and His Times," the first chapter, is excellent for putting Palladio — born Andrea di Pietro della Gondola in 1508 (Count Giangiorgio Trissino, a mentor, give him the Palladio name) — into the context of Italy during the Renaissance, befitting the "architect and society" series. The three chapters that follow present the buildings he designed between 1540 and 1580 typologically: "Villas," "Civic and Domestic Architecture," and "Ecclesiastical Architecture." (The first of these chapters was expanded into a slim book titled Palladio's Villas.) Palladio had numerous masterpieces in all of these areas, so no wonder his influence on European and American architecture was so strong and lasting. Ackerman departs from a typical chronological presentation of the buildings in favor of a flowing narrative that accentuates the interrelationship of forms and ideas in Palladio's architecture. This book is an excellent introduction to Palladio, but one that could capably serve as the only book on Palladio in an architect's library.BACK COVER:

  • Architecture
    by John Hill on October 7, 2021 at 12:00 PM

    Architecture: From Prehistory to Climate Emergencyby Barnabas CalderPelican Books, October 2021Hardcover | 5-1/2 x 8-3/4 inches | 576 pages | English | ISBN: 9780241396735 | £20.00PUBLISHER'S DESCRIPTION:The story of architecture is the story of humanity. The buildings we live in, from the humblest pre-historic huts to today's skyscrapers, reveal our priorities and ambitions, our family structures and power structures. And to an extent never explored until now, architecture has been shaped in every era by our access to energy, from fire to farming to fossil fuels.In this ground-breaking history of world architecture, Barnabas Calder takes us on a dazzling tour of some of the most astonishing buildings of the past fifteen thousand years, from Uruk, via Ancient Rome and Victorian Liverpool, to China's booming megacities. He reveals how every building - from the Parthenon to the Great Mosque of Damascus to a typical Georgian house - was influenced by the energy available to its architects, and why this matters.Today architecture consumes so much energy that 40% of the world's greenhouse gas emissions come from the construction and running of buildings. If we are to avoid catastrophic climate change then now, more than ever, we need beautiful but also intelligent architecture, and to retrofit - not demolish - the buildings we already have.Barnabas Calder is a historian of architecture and Senior Lecturer at the University of Liverpool, specializing in the relationship between architecture and energy throughout human history. He also works on British architecture since 1945, and is the author of Raw Concrete: The Beauty of Brutalism.REFERRAL LINKS:   dDAB COMMENTARY:Architects have created some pretty memorable aphorisms while also, on occasion, finding ways to manipulate those same phrases into counterarguments. Take "Less is more," the succinct phrase attributed to Ludwig Mies van der Rohe that captured the essence of modernism. It was used some decades later by Robert Venturi, who turned it upside down and wrote, "Less is a bore" in reply to the glut of stripped-down modern architecture he disliked. Then came Bjarke Ingels, who further morphed those earlier phrases into Yes Is More, the name of the 2009 monograph on his firm, BIG. Equally famous to Mies's aphorism is "Form follows function," a slight simplification of the phrase "form ever follows function" from Louis Sullivan's essay "The Tall Office Building Artistically Considered." This maxim served to determine the appearance of buildings, especially tall buildings, but in later years the phrase was modified to express different priorities, as in Sylvia Lavin's Form Follows Libido, a book on Richard Neutra and psychoanalysis, and Carol Willis's history of skyscrapers in Chicago and New York, Form Follows Finance.Along these lines, I found the title of chapter 9, "Form Follows Fuel," in Barnabas Calder's Architecture: From Prehistory to Climate Emergency irresistible and decided to jump into the book there.* The phrase clearly expresses that the form of a building has less to do with the function of the spaces behind it, aesthetics and the psychology of architects, or the money paying for it, than it does with the energy that makes the widespread manufacture of certain materials possible, that brings those materials to the construction site, and that powers the building once it's complete. This much is hinted at in the subtitle to the book; an architecture book interested in the "climate emergency" is certainly going to spend less time discussing geometry and proportion than oil extraction, embodied energy, and the like. "Form Follows Fuel" looks at industry and construction in the United States from 1850 to 1920. Like other chapters that start with discussions of energy and technology before presenting some important buildings, chapter 9 has a narrow focus in terms of energy sources and built precedents: coal and the Woolworth Building.The Woolworth Building could be analyzed in any number of facets: the neo-Gothic style of the tower designed by Cass Gilbert; the skyscraper's 791-foot apex, which made it the tallest building in the world from its completion in 1913 until it was displaced by 40 Wall Street in 1930; or the client, Frank W. Woolworth, who paid for the building in cash after making a fortune on his five-and-dime stores. Calder sees the building as the outcome of "decades of technical, industrial and organizational innovations" that came together in the early 1910s, making the building a record breaker in more than just height. For example, it was the first job site to use electrical-powered rising scaffolding and hoists that were powerful enough to raise twelve-tonne members at over 300 meters per minute. And the speed of the riveted steelwork set records, with 1,046 tonnes erected in six consecutive eight-hour days. What enabled such firsts? "The boilers powering the fast hoists," Calder explains, "got through twenty tonnes of coal every twenty-four hours." Thankfully, Calder's history book is not merely lists of facts like these, but when they are presented they serve to explain how a building's importance should be linked to the energy that produced it, not just the formal and aesthetic merits on display in other histories.The book is comprehensive in that it tells the history of architecture and buildings from more than 10,000 years ago until the present day. Its twelve chapters are split into two parts of six chapters each, with the Industrial Revolution being the dividing line. The combination of the book being published by Penguin/Pelican (it fits nicely into the lineage of architecture books bearing the Pelican imprint), its suitability for architectural history classes in the UK, and Calder's expertise in postwar British architecture means the second half of the book is heavy on architecture in the UK, though the "Form Follows Fuel" chapter signals that there are still plenty of buildings found in other parts of the world. But the Industrial Revolution started in Britain after all, and the United States did the most last century to turn cheap energy into bigger and taller buildings, so an emphasis on Western architecture — something acknowledged by Calder in the book — is understandable. Knitting together the ambitious book's millennia of buildings and energy are illustrations, by Ginger Head Design, that depict structures across time, all at the same scale. As is visible in the spreads below, these start with the Pyramids in Egypt and include important buildings as discussed by Calder, such as the Woolworth Building and the Fiat Lingotto factory in Turin (Giacomo Matté-Trucco, 1923); the latter, the author attests, "illustrated for Le Corbusier how revolutionary concrete and steel could be for cities." The last illustration in the book is the last building discussed by Calder and the smallest illustration of the bunch, at less than an inch wide and just a 1/4-inch tall: the award-winning Cork House, completed in Eton, UK, in 2019. Made from super-insulated, super-green expanded cork and heated by renewable fuel, the project "goes to impressive lengths to minimize energy consumption," Calder contends, and is further commended for the ability of its components to be reused rather than recycled at the end of the house's life. It offers lessons for sustainable architecture now and in the future, but not at a scale on par with the environmental crises humanity is facing. If the book offers anything valuable moving forward, doing it through its continuous emphasis on energy sources and technology, it's that the energy used to manufacture and operate buildings needs to shift to renewables — at a massive scale and as fast as is humanly possible.*Once upon a time I used to read books cover to cover, but these days I find the chapter most appealing to me, start there, and then jump around, reading as much of the book as I can in the short time I have available to craft these commentaries.SPREADS:

  • Antarctic Resolution
    by John Hill on October 6, 2021 at 12:00 PM

    Antarctic ResolutionEdited by Giulia Foscari / UNLESSLars Müller Publishers, August 2021Hardcover | 7-3/4 x 10-1/4 inches | 992 pages | 1,255 illustrations | English | ISBN: 9783037786406 | $80.00PUBLISHER'S DESCRIPTION:Accounting for approximately 10 % of the land mass of Planet Earth, the Antarctic is a Global Commons we collectively neglect. Far from being a pristine natural landscape, the continent is a contested territory which conceals resources that might prove irresistible in a world with an ever-increasing population. The 26 quadrillion tons of ice accumulated on its bedrock, equivalent to around 70 % of the fresh water on our planet, represent the most significant repository of scientific data available. It provides crucial information for future environmental policies, and, at the same time, is the greatest possible menace to global coastal settlements when sea levels rise because of global warming.On the 200th anniversary of the discovery of Antarctica, Antarctic Resolution offers a high-resolution image of this hyper-surveilled yet neglected continent. In contrast to the fragmented view offered by Big Data companies, the book is a holistic study of the continent’s unique geography, unparalleled scientific potential, contemporary geopolitical significance, experimental governance system, and extreme inhabitation model. A transnational network of multidisciplinary polar experts – represented in the form of authored texts, photographic essays, and data-based visual portfolios – reveals the intricate web of growing economic and strategic interests, tensions, and international rivalries, which are normally enveloped in darkness, as is the continent for six months of the year.Giulia Foscari is an architect, researcher and writer who has been practising in Europe, Asia and the Americas. She is the founder of UNA, an architecture studio focussed on cultural projects, and of its alter ego UNLESS, a non-profit agency for change that brings together interdisciplinary experts to conduct research on extreme environments threatened by the planetary crisis.REFERRAL LINKS:   dDAB COMMENTARY:A few days ago I watched an episode of Smithsonian Channel's How Did They Built That?, an episode that happened to include Hugh Broughton Architects' Halley VI British Antarctic Research Station. I had already seen other episodes in the series and was not impressed with the style of the show — an adrenaline-laden mix of dramatic music and narration interspersed with soundbites by a handful of engineers and other experts — but the "Arctic Modules & Auditoria" episode was irresistible. Halley VI has gotten a fair amount of attention since it was completed in 2013, understandably so, with its blue and red modules lifted on hydraulic legs, looking like the realization, finally, of Archigram's Walking City, but on a icy continent most humans will never visit instead of in an ocean or in the East River next to the United Nations. Even with all the attention, I was still curious to see footage revealing how it was built — how construction materials were delivered to Antarctica then put together, finished out, and lived in — as well as how the eight modules were pulled many miles inland just three years later, after cracks on the ice sheet it sat upon developed.If How Did They Built That? answered my questions about this one notable work of architecture occupying a tiny part of the sparsely populated southernmost continent, Antarctic Resolution answered every question I didn't know I had about Antarctica. At nearly 1,000 pages, and with too many contributors to count — "a transnational team of specialists from the fields of aeronautics, anthropology, architecture, biology, chemistry, climate change, economics, engineering, geoscience, glaciology, history, law, literature, logistics, medicine, physics, political science, science, sociology, technology, and visual arts," per Giulia Foscari — the book is an exhaustive portrait of the seventh continent and accounts of people exploring it and building upon its surface. Structured as contributions from the specialists (in black) presented in parallel with charts, maps, and other unmediated collections of data (in orange) articulated by Foscari and UNLESS, the book — truly a tome — is an impressive document following years of research and academic workshops and seminars. Although Antarctic Resolution is also an exhibit at this year's Venice Architecture Biennale, the fact that the display there is basically the book itself — detached from its spine, spread across a long table, and accompanied by a few artifacts — makes it clear the goal of the research and contributions was a book, this book.Before Antarctic Resolution, Giulia Foscari and Lars Müller put out Elements of Venice, which paralleled another Venice Architecture Biennale: Fundamentals, the 2014 exhibition curated by Rem Koolhaas. I don't have that earlier book (it's now out-of-print and fetching for some ridiculous sums), but I have the companion Elements of Venice map from the Biennale that highlights buildings and spaces in bright orange across the urban fabric of Venice. That same reliance on fluorescent orange continues with Antarctic Resolution, usually for the best, as in the definition of the parallel strands of information mentioned above, but sometimes at the detriment of legibility or as an unnecessary distraction. Orange text on white background is alright under the right lighting conditions, but even a bright lamp couldn't make the occasional orange-on-silver sections of text readable. And the spreads that focus on chronological presentations of photographs (see the second-to-last spread, below) have horizontal and diagonal orange lines that lead the eye properly across the pages but also detract from the process of digesting the words and images. The rest of the book — 99.99% of it — is beautifully and capably laid out and designed, with drawings, for example, consistently drawn in terms of lines, text sizes, and colors.The essays are structured into three large sections ("Dominance or Research," "Four Elements," and "Surviving in the Cryosphere") that are further broken down into chapters, sixteen of them overall. Photo essays conclude each of the book's five sections, which also consist of an "Archive of Antarctic Architecture" and the "Appendix" (oddly, for such a tome, no index is included). Architects will be most interested in the Cryosphere and Archive sections; the former examines how people have managed to physically survive and socially thrive on a continent that is uninhabitable much of the year, while the latter presents dozens of structures that have been built on Antarctica from 1899 to the present, as well as some future proposals. Halley VI is found in the chronological Archive (Hugh Broughton also contributed two essays in the previous section), but so are Halley I (1957), Halley II (1967), Halley III (1973), Halley IV (1983), and Halley V (1992). By the time readers reach Halley VI — even if it's a slow flip through the book, accompanied by stopping points to digest certain parts, as this reviewer did — they should have gained an appreciation for Antarctica and the many facets that have shaped it into a truly "Global Commons," as Foscari describes it, and perhaps the most important land mass for understanding the past, present, and future of our rapidly warming planet.SPREADS:

  • Gesture and Response
    by John Hill on October 4, 2021 at 12:00 PM

    Gesture and Response: 25 Buildings by William Pedersen of KPF Architectsby William PedersenORO Editions, March 2021Hardcover | 7-3/4 x 10-1/2 inches | 585 pages | English | ISBN: 9781943532308 | $60.00PUBLISHER'S DESCRIPTION:“Tall buildings have anthropomorphic characteristics that encourage me to think of them as human participants in the city,” writes William Pedersen, FAIA, in the introduction to Gesture and Response.  Within this new book of 25 of Pedersen’s designs, the reader will immediately see how buildings and cities continually reach out and react to each other.Pedersen—co-founder with A. Eugene Kohn, FAIA, and Sheldon Fox, FAIA, of KPF Architects—selected these designs as emblematic of his architectural aspirations, contextual concerns, and material manifestations.  He shows how monumental buildings made from hard glass, stone, and steel can exist at a gentle human scale.From 333 Wacker Drive (1982) in Chicago to Hudson Yards (2019) in New York, the buildings span 45 years of the architect’s career, as KPF’s influence and global footprint grew.  After taking the reader on a chronological tour of 24 towering corporate headquarters, contextual educational facilities, and community-oriented government projects, Pedersen takes us home—literally—to examine his own house on Shelter Island that was 20 years in the making.Introducing full-bleed project photographs are buff-colored pages with plans and drawings, along with the story Pedersen weaves about each project.  The architect’s text is incisive and illuminating, as elegant as his buildings, devoid of architectural jargon and theoretical rationalization.  Through the easy prose, he proves that KPF’s work “was not the product of a polemical manifesto.” [...]Similarly to how Louis Sullivan, FAIA, expressed the visceral beginnings of his architecture in 1924’s The Autobiography of an Idea, Pedersen relays the thought and emotion in his reactions to client, site, program, environment, and myriad other needs and restraints involved in any built structure.  Layered upon this are visual metaphors and dynamic interactions that fuel his creative expression.  More than a monograph, as Pedersen himself states, Gesture and Response is indeed his “design autobiography.”William Pedersen, FAIA, FAAR, is the founding design partner of Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates (KPF), which he started with A. Eugene Kohn, FAIA, RIBA, and Sheldon Fox, FAIA, in 1976. [...] Personal honors include Rome Prize in Architecture, Arnold W. Brunner Memorial Prize from the American Academy and National Institute of Arts and Letters, University of Minnesota’s Alumni Achievement Award, Lynn S. Beedle Lifetime Achievement Award from Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH), and Medal of Honor from AIA New York. [...] He has a Bachelor of Architecture from University of Minnesota College of Design, St. Paul, and a Masters of Architecture from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge.REFERRAL LINKS:   dDAB COMMENTARY:The first of the 25 buildings presented in Gesture and Response is 333 Wacker Drive, one of the best buildings realized by William Pedersen and Kohn Pedersen Fox in the firm's half-century history. Completed in 1983, the office tower has a reflective glass facade that gracefully curves to follow the bend of the Chicago River. Even with the boom of tall buildings erected on the opposite banks of the river this century, 333 Wacker holds its own, thanks to its prominent inside-corner location and the remarkable site-specific design by Pedersen. The next building in the book's chronological presentation was realized in 1993, a gap that should pique the reader's curiosity, if not for the fact Pedersen admits in the introduction that he went through a period looking "to the transitional era between classicism and modernism for clues." The results? "Not fruitful," he admits and therefore not in the book's careful selection of buildings completed between 1983 and 2019, from 333 Wacker to Hudson Yards.A couple of other buildings are mentioned in the introduction, both predating the partnership with Gene Kohn and Shelley Fox that formed "on the eve of our national bicentennial." First is the East Building of the National Gallery in Washington, DC, designed by I.M. Pei when Pedersen was working in his office, for what turned out to be four years in the late 1960s. Second is a project Pedersen did in the office of John Carl Warnecke in New York, where Kohn was president and brought Pedersen, enticing him away from Pei's office with the prospect of being a lead designer. Unfortunately that project, the North Academic Center ("The NAC") at City College of New York, is one of the most unloved buildings on the CCNY campus; I'm speaking from experience, having had a class in one of its windowless rooms back in 2006, and from the AIA Guide's description of it as a "stranded aircraft carrier" out of scale with its surroundings. Fortunately, Pedersen returned to CCNY four decades later with a more successful project: the Advanced Science Research Center, its first phase completed in 2015. KPF was hired for the two-phase, three-building project because of their earlier design for Baruch College's "Vertical Campus," also in the book (both colleges are part of the City University of New York). Conceptualizing the space between the two parallel buildings of the ASRC as a "river channel," with the facades overlooking it then "the steep, stepped banks" of the metaphorical river, the generous glazing, interior lounges, and exterior courtyard signal the changes in higher-ed architecture over the last few decades. It is dramatically more welcoming — notwithstanding the security detail at the site's perimeter — than the hunkering, unfriendly NAC.Each of the 25 buildings are presented in Gesture and Response in a consistent format, starting with four sheets of beige matte paper with text and drawings. The words are Pedersen's, illuminating the what and why of each design, while the drawings help in explaining the buildings — except when they are grayscale versions of what are clearly color drawings, as in color-coded diagrams or site plans. Full-bleed color photographs follow, on a half-dozen to a dozen glossy sheets. Most valuable are the descriptions by Pedersen, which convey how the contextual "gesture and response" design process that started with 333 Wacker has lasted throughout his long career.SPREADS:

  • You Have to Pay for the Public Life
    by John Hill on October 3, 2021 at 12:00 PM

    You Have to Pay for the Public Life: Selected Essays of Charles W. MooreEdited by Kevin KeimThe MIT Press, 2001Paperback | 7 x 9 inches | 426 pages | 157 illustrations | English | ISBN: 9780262633017 | $55.00PUBLISHER'S DESCRIPTION:Architect Charles Moore (1925-1993) was not only celebrated for his designs; he was also an admired writer and teacher. Though he wrote clearly and passionately about places, he was perhaps unique in avoiding the tone and stance of the personal manifesto. Through his buildings, books, and travels, Moore consistently sought insights into the questions that always underlie architecture and design: What does it mean to make a place, and how do we inhabit those places? How do we continue to build upon but respect the landscape? How do we reconcile democracy and private land ownership? What is original? What is taste? What is the relationship between past and present? How do we involve inhabitants in making places? Finally, what is public life? As the world becomes smaller, and the uniqueness of places and landscapes gives way to sameness, Moore's celebration of the vernacular and of the surprising are more relevant than ever.The pieces in this book span the years 1952 to 1993 and engage a myriad of topics and movements, such as contextualism, community participation, collaboration, environmentally sensitive design, and historic preservation. The essays in this book reflect as well Moore's scholarship, humanism, urbanity, and great wit.REFERRAL LINKS:   dDAB COMMENTARY:In my review of Mediated Messages: Periodicals, Exhibitions and the Shaping of Postmodern Architecture a few days ago, I highlighted a few contributions to the book, including Patricia A. Morton's "Charles Moore's Perspecta Essays: Towards Postmodern Eclecticism." Morton focuses on three such essays that Moore wrote for the student-run journal of Yale School of Architecture: "Hadrian's Villa" (Perspecta 6, 1960), "You Have to Pay for the Public Life" (Perspecta 9/10, 1965) and "Plug It In, Ramses, and See If It Lights Up, Because We Aren't Going to Keep It Unless It Works" (Perspecta 11, 1967); she also looks at a 1962 contribution by Moore to Landscape, the journal founded and primarily written by John Brinckerhoff Jackson. People not so familiar with these essays need not hunt down those three issues of Perspecta (issue 9/10 is much-coveted and therefore can be hard to find), since You Have to Pay for the Public Life: Selected Essays of Charles W. Moore has all of them — and a lot more from a an architect and educator who was also a prolific writer.The book that takes its name from Moore's famous essay about Disneyland and other bits of "monumental architecture as part of the urban scene" on the West Coast, where the Princeton grad was based at the time, starts with an essay Moore wrote in 1952 for a student publication at the University of Utah and ends with the foreword he wrote to Alexander Caragonne's The Texas Rangers: Notes from the Architectural Underground, which was published in 1994, one year after Moore died. In between are more than forty other essays, reviews, and interviews spanning those four decades, some of them previously unpublished. They are arranged chronologically by Kevin Keim, director of the Charles Moore Foundation in Austin, Texas, not so much in strict chapters or sections, but in "sets" that Keim then prefaces with short thematic commentary. The trio of pieces that start with "Sagamore," for example, "explores themes of technology and craft, science and myth, architecture as engineering for function and architecture as instrument for imbuing sense of place."In the grouping of the sets visible in the table of contents, below, certain essays stand on their own, including the first and last pieces, the three Perspecta contributions that were the subject of Morton's essay in Mediated Messages, and yet another Perspecta piece: "Southernness," written for issue 15, which was published in 1975 under the theme "Backgrounds for an American Architecture." The importance of place — recognizing it and reinforcing or (re)defining it through new architecture — comes to the fore across the book; this goes along with the regional nature of Moore's career (he co-founded Places, after all), which started on the East Coast then went to the West Coast and eventually ended in Texas. But as Moore acknowledged in his writings, technology enabled him to be rooted in one place but be involved with the goings-on in those other regions or in other places around the world, be it through commercial flights or nascent digital communications. His embrace of technology and the ruminations on technology's impact on architecture were the most surprising aspects of the texts for me. "Our own places, however," he wrote in "Plug It in Ramses," "like our lives, are not bound up in one contiguous space." Such comments foreshadow the increasing role of digital technologies and their impact on "place" as something both physical and virtual. I can't help but wonder what Moore would have said about the spreading of the internet and the rise of smartphones, among other things, if he hadn't died of a heart attack at just 68 years old in 1993, on the cusp of the booming internet. I'm guessing those technologies would have managed to reinforce the importance of place for him, all the while expanding its boundaries into realms he sensed decades before.TABLE OF CONTENTS:

  • Renegades
    by John Hill on October 1, 2021 at 12:00 PM

    Renegades: Bruce Goff and the American School of ArchitectureEdited by Luca Guido, Stephanie Pilat, Angela PersonUniversity of Oklahoma Press, March 2020Paperback | 9-1/2 x 11 inches | 272 pages | 194 illustrations | English | ISBN: 9780806164601 | $50.00PUBLISHER'S DESCRIPTION:Like America itself, the architecture of the United States is an amalgam, an imitation or an importation of foreign forms adapted to the natural or engineered landscape of the New World. So can there be an "American School" of architecture? The most legitimate claim to the title emerged in the 1950s and 1960s at the Gibbs College of Architecture at the University of Oklahoma, where, under the leadership of Bruce Goff, Herb Greene, Mendel Glickman, and others, an authentically American approach to design found its purest expression, teachable in its coherence and logic. Followers of this first truly American school eschewed the forms most in fashion in American architectural education at the time—those such as the French Beaux Arts or German Bauhaus Schools—in favor of the vernacular and the organic. The result was a style distinctly experimental, resourceful, and contextual—challenging not only established architectural norms in form and function but also traditional approaches to instructing and inspiring young architects.Edited by Luca Guido, Stephanie Pilat, and Angela Person, this volume explores the fraught history of this distinctively American movement born on the Oklahoma prairie. Renegades features essays by leading scholars and includes a wide range of images, including rare, never-before-published sketches and models. Together these essays and illustrations map the contours of an American architecture that combines this country’s landscape and technology through experimentation and invention, assembling the diversity of the United States into structures of true beauty. Renegades for the first time fully captures the essence and conveys the importance of the American School of architecture.Luca Guido is a licensed architect, critic, and historian of contemporary architecture. He is Associate Professor of Architecture at the University of Oklahoma where in 2016 he served as the Bruce Goff Visiting Professor and Chair of Creative Architecture. Stephanie Pilat is Associate Professor and Director of the Division of Architecture at the University of Oklahoma and the author of Reconstructing Italy: The Ina-Casa Neighborhoods of the Postwar Era. Angela Person holds a PhD in Geography and is Director of Research Initiatives and Strategic Planning for the Christopher C. Gibbs College of Architecture at the University of Oklahoma.REFERRAL LINKS:   dDAB COMMENTARY:Before discovering and receiving this companion book to a traveling exhibition that was shown most recently at the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art in Norman, Oklahoma, (from January 23 to April 5, 2020), I had no clue about the "American School." According to the Christopher C. Gibbs College of Architecture at the University of Oklahoma, "the American School refers to the imaginative school of design and practice that developed under the guidance of Bruce Goff, Herb Greene and others at the University of Oklahoma in the 1950s and '60s." So the American School, even though it bears a trademark symbol on the Gibbs website, is an unofficial school, unlike the Beaux Arts and Bauhaus whose teachings it stood in staunch opposition to. Individual creativity, organic forms, and experimentation were the hallmarks of a curriculum that, to architect Donald MacDonald, emerged from "a truly American ethic, which is being formulated without the usual influence of the European or Asian architectural forms and methodologies common on the East and West coasts of the United States." MacDonald wrote those words in a special issue of A+U in 1981, an issue that, according to Christopher Curtis Mead in the first essay in Renegades, was when "the American School was first explicitly named." The issue was published less than a year before the death of Bruce Goff (1904–1982), who taught at University of Oklahoma and chaired the Department of Architecture from 1947 to 1955.Renegades: Bruce Goff and the American School of Architecture — both the book and the exhibition — appears to be the first major presentation of the American School since that November 1981 issue of A+U. Arising from a four-year-long research project at the University of Oklahoma, Renegades exhaustively examines the School of Architecture at the University of Oklahoma, Goff's architecture and teachings, and the architects following in the footsteps of Goff, Greene and others who embraced certain aspects of Frank Lloyd Wright's organic architecture last century. MacDonald described the American School as "probably the only indigenous [architecture school] in the United States," echoing New York Times architecture critic Ada Louise Huxtable's assertion in 1970 that Goff was "part of an indigenous American tradition." While the acknowledgment of truly indigenous cultures predating the arrival of European settlers has shifted views of indigenous in recent years, the sentiment is clear that Goff, his colleagues, and their followers did not abide by methods and models alien to the landscapes they built upon. While it's not clear in my perusal of the book if American School architects were inspired by Native American structures, the designs documented in the Renegades book and exhibition come closer to such truly indigenous buildings than any modern American architecture in that time. The book features eight essays split into two parts — "The American Schools of Architecture" and "Environmental, Cultural and Political Contexts" — that basically equate with architectural eduction and architectural practice. Those looking for a monograph of Bruce Goff will be disappointed, as there is more documentation of the designs of other architects than Goff's buildings, but the book does reference monographs by David De Long and Arn Henderson that fans of his should search out. If anything, the book and exhibition (taking a virtual tour of the latter is highly recommended) convey how enthusiastically the teachings of Goff — stressing individual creativity, organic forms, and experimentation — were embraced by students at the time. That the architecture of the American School faded in the face of International Style modernism shouldn't diminish its potential impact on architecture today, when a stronger land ethic should be fostered. Renegades, in this sense, is a valuable  historical document but also one that might guide architects looking to determine what shape American architecture could take this century.SPREADS:

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