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Monday, May 09, 2011

Book Review: Bracket 1

Bracket 1: On Farming edited by Mason White & Maya Przybylski
Actar, 2010
Paperback, 252 pages

Bracket, a collaboration between Archinect and InfraNet Lab, is "an annual publication documenting issues overlooked yet central to our cultural milieu that have evolved out of the new disciplinary territory at the intersection of architecture, environment and, now, digital culture." The first issue is On Farming, which the editors define as "beyond its most common agricultural understanding ... the modification of infrastructure,urbanisms, architectures, and landscapes toward a privileging of production." The collection of roughly forty projects and texts on the topic embodies the broader diversity of this definition, be it a framework for tissue engineering, a look at gas exploration in Texas, a project reintroducing horses into Luxor, or a look at the Body Farm -- yes, there really is a body farm. Uniting the mix is a solid book design by Thumb, where green is the natural color of choice and the image-rich projects stand out with the occasional glossy spread.

In comparison to the various collections of contemporary architecture reviewed on this web page, this first issue of Bracket is obviously different because it does not confine itself to buildings and/or completed projects. While the projects and papers were chosen in response to a call for submissions (the second issue [goes soft] closed its submissions last fall, which means issue three's call won't be far behind), the publication does not read like a number of competition entries. Instead the projects are like snapshots in ongoing investigations in agriculture, landscape, and architecture, combined with essays by members of the editorial board (highlighted with green pages) and other essays. All is partitioned into six thematic sections that seem to exist only to structure the book into manageable chunks; the black-and-green graphic cardstock inserts between chapters are a nice touch. With the popularity of urban agriculture, vertical farming, and other hybrids of architecture and landscape, "on farming" may not be as overlooked as the editors assert, but the collection of projects and writings is the best one so far, a publication that doesn't push one agenda but embraces a multitude of approaches to thinking about food in our future.

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