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Monday, February 20, 2012

Book Review: a+t 37

a+t 37: Strategy Space
a+t, 2011
Paperback, 168 pages

Strategy Space is the second installment in Spanish publisher a+t's Strategy series -- the first, Strategy Public was reviewed here, and a review of the third, Strategy and Tactics in Public Space, is forthcoming. The series "breaks up the approach to [each featured] project through its strategies, delimiting the project and marking out a path, while permitting the project to be seen in its entirety." Further, it is "a way of integrating it into general knowledge, through several anchor points, which are the objectives and the strategies." By tackling urban public spaces in this issue, from the small to the very large, the strategies that the editors incorporate into the presentation of the various projects are able to highlight considerations at various times throughout a project's long duration. This a fitting approach, given the way these predominantly landscape projects span years, decades, or more.

The strategies are also ways to link the projects and give readers a way to follow their own interests and concerns throughout the book. The strategies are listed at the front of the book and grouped within broader categories -- habitat, users, fluxes, lighting, etc. -- that are then keyed to the projects and their location in the book. The reverse also happens, so each project's strategies are keyed to the grand list at the front of the book; at the start of each project the strategies are further located within a matrix with an X-dimension of scale (territory, site, object) and a Y-dimension of contextual concerns (environmental, social, formal). This level of organization may be more helpful for the editors than the readers, but the more one uses the book the more it all helps to create a mental map through the strategies. The only thing missing are page numbers where each strategy is listed, something that would be helpful in the longer entries, such as the Madrid Rio project by West 8 and others, which spans almost 30 pages.

The selection of projects range from the obvious (High Line by James Corner Field Operations/Diller Scofidio + Renfro) and the attention-getting (Centro Abierto de Actividades Ciudadanas in Córdoba, Spain by ParedesPino Studio) to less flashy infrastructure (Saragossa Tramway by Aldayjover) and small parks (Erie Street Plaza in Milwaukee, Wisconsin by Stosslu). The Madrid Rio project sits in the middle of the volume and takes up a good chunk of it, not surprising given the massive scale of the project. Just about every strategy in the book, or at least almost every square of the matrix, is represented in this project. Like the other projects, it is presented with an aerial, maps, plans, and plenty of photos. The last range from helicopter views that take in the scale of the park built over a submerged roadway to details of the fixing systems for newly planted trees. It's indicative of the volume and the series as a whole, in the thorough presentation and the even more thorough organization.

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