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Monday, November 24, 2008

Book Review: Toshiko Mori Architect

Toshiko Mori Architect by Toshiko Mori
Monacelli Press, 2008




This first monograph on Toshiko Mori Architect features 30 built and unbuilt projects by the New York-based firm. The built works are primarily residential, with some retail and exhibition spaces, while the unbuilt/unfinished projects extend the range of types to larger buildings for institutional clients. In this steady movement to larger projects since the firm's 1981 inception, there is an apparent shift from simple, neo-Modern designs to more expressive and exploratory forms, most evident in the recently completed Syracuse University Link Hall.

Instead of being organized chronologically or by building type, the book arranges the projects into three sections: History/Precedent, Material, and Site/Climate. Naturally these considerations overlap and are present in each project to a greater or lesser degree. History/Precedent includes projects that interact directly with a historical context or figure, in some instances as additions to houses by Modern Masters like Frank Lloyd Wright and Paul Rudolph. The projects in the Material section utilize new materials and/or new applications of old materials, such as Mori's most well-known project, the storefront for Pleats Please in SoHo, where glass with a microlouvered film makes window shopping memorable. The last section presents the projects with the most extreme sites and climatic challenges, like the aforementioned Link Hall, which must negotiate the plans and character of the existing campus buildings.

Like Mori's architecture the book is simple, but with layers, textures. From the chip board cover with its stenciled title to the carefully produced and assembled drawings (in need of labeling) on colored pages, the design is sleek and simple, a bit conventional at times but aided by an attention to details. Both the foreward by K. Michael Hays and Mori's own introduction are respectively observant and honest portraits of the architect and her designs. The most recent projects point towards a new direction for Mori, yet one that doesn't abandon the strains found from the early days, such as raised boxes and linear bars that respond to site and historical context. The book is a "moment of reflection" for the architect. Perhaps it signals a shift towards larger commissions and different forms, but it also reinforces the important aspects that structure both the book and Mori's architecture.


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