Wednesday, February 27, 2013

28 in 28 #27: a+t 39-40

February is Book Month on A Daily Dose of Architecture. The "28 in 28" series features a different book every day of the month.

a+t 39-40: Reclaim Remediate Reuse Recycle edited by Aurora Fernandez Per and Javier Mozas
a+t, 2012
Paperback, 312 pages

28-28_at39-40.jpg

One of the most distinctive things about a+t magazine is the way it presents recent architecture in themed series. Most recent was the Strategy series; before it Hybrids, Civilities, and so forth. These topics (focusing on landscapes, large buildings, and public buildings, respectively) respond to trends in the world of architecture while also taking critical positions toward them. Choosing to look at buildings that hybridize housing, offices, recreation, and other uses, for example, is a way to present projects like Steven Holl's Sliced Porosity Block, but the act also takes a position on how the city should evolve—taking into account a mix of uses, demographics, and other features that respond to the growing diversity of urban and suburban areas around the world.

The publisher's newest series is Reclaim, which starts with a double issue subtitled "Remediate, Reuse, Recycle." The editors promote the series in an "environmental sense to reclaim the territory, the objects, the infrastructures and the materials [and] a call to reclaim dignity and citizen rights. It is a wake-up call to morally reclaim society using the Re- processes as atonement." In his introduction, Javier Mozas describes how the three subsets of Reclaim (remediate, reuse, recycle) into which the 82 projects are situated contain all of the other re-processes—rebuild, remake, reinvent, restore, etc. Of course, to reclaim, remediate, reuse, and recycle is to maintain and transform an existing building or landscape, therefore using less energy for demolition and construction of an alternatively new entity. In this sense Reclaim is an extension of Strategy—but one that works on smaller scales (Strategy dealt with landscape urbanism and other means of designing landscapes in cities)—and an increasing focus on sustainability as a path for continuity of the species.

The order of the double issue's chapters—Remediate, Reuse, Recycle—means that the projects move from the large to the small, from the landscape to the building to the material. Therefore the chapters are not about figuring out what project goes where (a common tactic in many collections of contemporary architecture) or about typology (landscapes, for example, can also be found in the Recycle chapter), but about what it means to take part in the "re-" strategies.

Like other a+t titles, the design, layout, and quality of presentation is exceptional, though with the new series a new design is in place. Nevertheless the editors' penchant for organizing and cross-referencing is still present. In particular, each project is tagged with page numbers to two chapters at the end the book; one describes the "agents" involved and how they worked together in either top-down or bottom-up scenarios, and the other shows their before-and-after conditions. These concluding chapters ground the 82 projects in action and time, aiding in the discovery of what lessons can be learned beyond the pretty pictures and drawings.

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