"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. See my recent installment with "a bunch of journals."
1: eVolo #04: Re-imagining the Contemporary Museum, Exhibition and Performance Space | eVolo Magazine | Summer 2012 | Amazon
A quick glance at the cover of eVolo's fourth issue may tip readers that something is different; namely, where is the tall building? With eVolo's annual Skyscraper Competition (again, the results of which make up a good chunk of the issue) and all things tall, it's a bit odd that the cover image is a mushroom-like building that hugs the ground rather than rising vertically from it. Yet the issue's focus on "re-imagining the contemporary museum, exhibition and performance space" gives the project (MVRDV's China Comic and Animation Museum) a context that maintains eVolo's coverage of the cutting edge, even if cultural buildings rarely rise above a few stories. The issue is basically split into thirds: the 2011 eVolo Skyscraper Competition (on which I was a juror), some opinion pieces, and the cultural projects; my favorite is this last one, which makes up about half of the issue. One reason is that the thorough drawings and photos or renderings for the built and in-progress projects are often accompanied by critical text, giving writers the chance to discuss striking architecture while exploring it in a larger context.
2: Ground Up 01: Landscapes of Uncertainty | Department of Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning at University of California at Berkeley | 2012 | Amazon
"Landscapes of Uncertainty" is the first issue of the "student-initiated and curated" journal of the Department of Landscape Architecture & Environmental Planning at the University of California at Berkeley. The issue was assembled against the backdrop of last year's global uprisings, so the uncertainty addresses the "tension between these societal shifts and the physical landscape that we both inherit and construct." Essays and projects are split into three sections: Unclaimed Territories, Temporal Environments, and Pop Up; I'm guessing that the theme of subsequent issues will find relevant threads to group contributions. Issue 01 is a solid collection that gives a good snapshot of how landscape architects and students are addressing important issues today. The next topic is "Grit," and for those interested the call for submissions deadline is January 4, 2013.
3: New Geographies 3: Urbanisms of Color | Harvard GSD | 2011 | Amazon
The theme for the fourth issue of Harvard GSD's New Geographies (there was a Zero issue) is a simple one—color in cities. Yet the many responses indicate it is a complex issue that hasn't really been addressed that much. As editor Gareth Doherty mentions in his introductory essay, the theme is not about race, color perception, optics, or other areas of color, but "the interrelationships, spatiality, and geographies of color in the built environment"—the physical nature of color. Often I describe how collections in journals and books benefit from varied responses to a theme (a description that might be trite enough to retire), but I think in the case of New Geographies 3 that variety is at the extreme end of the scale—in terms of geography, subject matter and form the diversity is stunning. What is praiseworthy is how the diversity of the contributions becomes the key to issue's success. Each essay (be it an interview with Petra Blaisse or Alan Hess's analysis of color in 1950s suburbia, to choose two examples) is a self-contained response to color in the city, creating a gradient across the issue, a gradient that is reinforced by the two-way, honeysuckle-to-turquoise color shift on the page edges (coincidentally, I think, is the location of Doherty's photo spread of Irish houses in the middle of the book, where the gray page edges let the red and green facades stand out even more). This gradient is echoed on the book's cover, where the table of contents resides, sans page numbers; pagination happens inside, but it's basically unnecessary, as this is a book to be browsed and savored, just like the presence of color in the city it wakes us up to.
4: Boundaries n.4: The Other City | Boundaries · International Architectural Magazine | April - June 2012 | Amazon
The theme for the fourth issue of Boundaries refers to the informal settlements of the poor in cities around the world. The cover illustration depicts a vertical city rising from a flat base that is mirrored by the slums silhouetted against the steep terrain they occupy; the image hints at the proximity, inequality, and interrelationship of this "other city." The projects and research in the issue are targeted at Bangkok, São Paulo, Caracas, Manila, Dehli, Buenos Aires, and other places where informal settlements predominate. While many of the images inside echo the cover's illustration, the varied responses to the enormous difficulties of informal housing seem to share one important trait: They strive to improve the infrastructure and well-being of the places and people while embracing their positive aspects and incorporating residents into the process; eviction and clearance is not the preferred solution. There are no easy answers to such a large, multi-faceted issue, but it's a testament to the vision of Boundaries that they tackle it head on, reminding us once again of problems that need to be addressed.
5: Mark #40 | Frame Publishers | Oct/Nov 2012 | Amazon
Most issues of Mark magazine jump around through various strands of contemporary architecture, highlighting a number of new buildings that vie for the reader's attention. Issue #40, on the other hand, has seven Japanese houses at its core. This is not to say this it is just limited to residential architecture on the island nation, just that the usual variety of buildings swirls around the houses designed by ON Design, Suppose Design Office, and others. We can thank Cathelijne Nuijsink (whose book How to Make a Japanese House is one of my favorites of 2012) for this theme and many of the interviews for the seven houses. It's been seven issues since my last Mark review, and I'm glad to see the "bookmarks" feature is still going strong, even as it discusses the unfortunate demise of 010.
6: CLOG: Rendering | CLOG | 2012 | Amazon
Like previous issues, the various short contributions to CLOG cover a wide area around the theme, be it theoretical slants, technical talk, or the blurring of reality in renderings. (Disclaimer: An essay I wrote on Allied Works' MAD project in NYC is included in this issue.) I especially like the editors' contributions, which stand out on yellow paper and take the form of semi-objective explorations of renderings in terms of labor, money, lingo, types, and the composition of elements in images, some of them from elsewhere in the issue. A long interview by the editors with Luxigon and MIR points to a loosening of CLOG's format of short essays and visuals.