"Book Briefs" are an ongoing series of posts with two- or three-sentence first-hand descriptions of some of the numerous books that make their way into my library. These briefs are not full-blown reviews, but they are a way to share more books worthy of attention than can find their way into reviews on my daily or weekly pages.
1: Ethics for Architects: 50 Dilemmas of Professional Practice by Thomas Fisher | Princeton Architectural Press | 2010 | Amazon
Book series come and go, many not taking off according to early (optimistic) plans. PAPress's Architecture Briefs series, on the other hand, is effectively churning out titles on "single topics of interest to architecture students and young professionals." These include model-making, lighting, materials, and even philosophy. Thomas Fisher tackles ethics, a topic with a potential for a big yaaaawn. But unlike the AIA Guide to Professional Practice, these 50 dilemmas are highly readable, providing an understanding through realistic scenarios across a broad range of obligations. Cross-referencing of the dilemmas and an index would have been helpful, but Fisher gives architects plenty to consider, even if the initial response is disagreement with his recommendations.
2: Journeys: How Travelling Fruit, Ideas and Buildings Rearrange Our Environment edited by Giovanna Borasi | Actar | 2010 | Amazon
The super-small niche of "architectural fiction" continues (see also Beyond) in this collection of essays accompanying the recent exhibition of the same name at the Canadian Centre for Architecture. Fiction is used to tell the stories of various migrations, many with memorable titles, like "When a cucumber is not a cucumber: an E.U. tale of customs and classifications." These stories follow 80 pages of relevant imagery culled from the exhibition. While not all of the contributions can be considered fiction (narrative non-fiction is more appropriate for many), the ones that take the plunge are very rewarding. The cucumber piece is one of the good ones, a vivid and humorous story that creatively gets across the difficulties and absurdities of government bureaucracy.
3: 21st Century London: The New Architecture by Kenneth Powell | Merrell | 2011 | Amazon
Closer in size to a coffee table book than a portable guide, this book collects over 150 recent buildings in London organized by building type and mapped for reference. High-profile projects (Millennium Dome, 30 St. Mary Axe, Tate Modern, etc.) are found alongside more obscure ones that range in size from small pavilions to large developments. Buildings on the horizon, such as the Shard and other skyscrapers, are also found in the book, mapping the continued evolution of London. A good selection of projects illustrated with many color photos as well as drawings make this a handsome collection.
4: Julius Shulman Los Angeles: The Birth of a Modern Metropolis by Sam Lubell and Douglas Woods | Rizzoli | 2011 | Amazon
This coffee table book on the photography of the late Julius Shulman (also the subject of the 2009 documentary Visual Acoustics) is full of many pleasant surprises. Many people, like me, probably associate Shulman's photographs with the mid-20th-century houses in Los Angeles; his iconic photo of Case Study House #22 is one of many he created. Yet houses comprise only one of five chapters in this book, the other four comprising the surprises for me: LA's urban landscape, blooming developments, life in all its mundane glory, and workplaces, be they offices or industry. We see a city captured at a time of great change (like the rest of the country), but also a photographer with a diverse portfolio (unlike many pros today) and an insatiable appetite for capturing life around him.
5: Revolution of Forms Updated Edition: Cuba's Forgotten Art Schools by John A. Loomis | Princeton Architectural Press | 2011 | Amazon
Twelve years after its first edition, John Loomis gladly and surprisingly reports that his book had the unintended consequence of the preservation and restoration of the Escuelas Nacionales de Arte designed by Ricardo Porro, Roberto Gottardi , and Vittorio Garatti. A history of the schools is followed by extensive illustrations of the buildings through photographs and drawings. One chapter focuses on the acknowledgment of "other modernisms," something echoed in a recent A/N commentary by Carlos Brillembourg. The book is clearly a labor of love, which, it should be noted, has a companion website.