"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 installments on magazines: "a bunch of journals" and "a bunch more journals."
1: eVolo #05: ARCHI73C7UR3 X3NOCUL7UR3 | eVolo Magazine | Winter 2013 | Amazon
The fifth issue of eVolo Magazine is the first with a guest editor. Carlo Aiello hands over the reigns to Juan Azulay of MTTR MGMT with Benjamin Rice. Xenoculture is the issue's theme, and its focus is on the other that dwells within; the exuberant, the grotesque, the mutations that the majority fears, or at least are wary of. It's a topic that can easily be limited to the aesthetic, but the editors insert some pretty interesting interviews among the predominantly visual pages. Across five "acts" are contributions from a diverse array of architects, artists, and photographers, from Nick Cave and Francois Roche in Act 01 to David Maisel and Perry Hall (who contributes the cover image) near the end of the XL issue.
2: Harvard Design Magazine 35: Architecture's Core? | Harvard GSD | 2012
Starting with issue 35 of its biannual magazine, Harvard GSD is exploring the disciplines of architecture, landscape architecture, and urbanism (urban planning and urban design), by looking inwards at their "cores" rather than outwards to their relationships with other fields. This may run counter to the popular thinking of inter-disciplinary processes and breaking down boundaries (or at least bridging) between disciplines, but as Dean Mohsen Mostafavi puts it his introduction to this issue, "we cannot speak of cross-fertilization...unless we understand and possess the know-how, creativity, and conventions distinct to each of these disciplines."
What follows are contributions by familiar names in academic circles: Preston Scott Cohen, K. Micheal Hays, Stan Allen, Pier Vittorio Aureli, Alejandro Zaera-Polo, Mario Campo, and many others. I particularly like Cohen's essay on "the hidden core of architecture" relative to late 19th-century changes in the construction and the subsequent shift to an architecture of facade and appearance; his call for transforming the core is a good one. Reinhold Martin's dissection of two books on "digital culture" and Farshid Moussavi's analysis of 30 St Mary Axe are other highlights. The other essays come at the theme from a multitude of ways, though given that it's the GSD academic flourishes prevail.
3: Harvard Design Magazine 36: Landscape Architecture's Core? | Harvard GSD | 2013
Emily Waugh (Survey Studio) is guest editor for issue 36, the middle of the three-issue focus on the disciplines taught at Harvard GSD (I'm especially interested in 37, the forthcoming issue on urbanism). There's a stronger structure to this issue; instead of the previous issue's loose collection of essays, Waugh breaks the contributions into four sections: Features (Jane Hutton's and Antoine Picon's one-two punch of material culture and digital culture, respectively, is a highlight), Territories of Engagement, Conjectures, and Excerpts. The bulk is made up of the first two, and I'd imagine that landscape architects will be drawn to the second, in which leading professionals (Andrea Cochran, PEG, Topotek 1, Dlandstudio, etc.) describe how their work addresses four areas: Scale and Scope, Approach, Tools, Challenges. Unlike the academic preference of issue 35, this one is a good balance of academia and practice.
4+5: Boundaries n.5: Architecture and Recycling + Boundaries n.6: Container Architectures | Boundaries · International Architectural Magazine | 2012 | Amazon
Each issue of the Italian magazine Boundaries is devoted to a theme, such as "Architecture for Emergencies" and "Architectures of Peace." Issues 5 and 6 have very similar themes, in that buildings made from shipping containers are another means of recycling; in fact, a couple of the projects collected in "Architecture and Recycling" use such containers. These two themes, and the projects found within, have a larger reach than, say, the first issue's focus on architecture in Africa; yet there still exists an emphasis on responsible architecture and finding alternatives for underserved people in much of the world. "Container Architectures" is an especially good issue, loaded with some of the best examples in the still-popular trend. It's as good (if not better in some respects) than the Container Atlas; and it's quite a bit cheaper.
6: Monocle Issue 63 | Monocle Magazine | May 2013 | Amazon
I have three issue of the UK magazine Monocle: the very first one, from March 2007; a special edition "devoted to building better cities, neighborhoods and residences" from summer 2008; and most recently an issue from a couple months ago. What is amazing when charting the changes between these three issues is how little has changed—the size, the design, the A-B-C-D-E structure, the page layout, the subjects, even the overall tone of the magazine. Sure, there are some tweaks to certain things (some flexibility in the column layouts, for example), but it's as if Tyler Brûlé and his crew had everything figured out before the first issue went to press. While the editors clearly have a knack for latching on to what's interesting, fashionable, and well-made, what I appreciate most about the magazine is just how much is crammed into each issue. Combined with a design that makes everything look appealing, the magazine is a great excuse for getting away from the screen and diving into some printed content.
7: Being BIG | Abitare | December-January 528 | Amazon
About every year or so, Abitare Magazine devotes a single issue to one architect after following them around for about the same amount of time. In 2009 it was Renzo Piano, followed by Zaha Hadid and Jean Nouvel in 2011, and most recently Bjarke Ingels at the end of 2012. Setting aside the fact of starchitect hero-worship and questions of if architects with the most press really need this much more, the idea is a great one. In the case of BIG, the editors are able to delve deeply into how Ingels travels back and forth between the offices in Copenhagen and New York, how he meets people, gets publicity, who he works with, what he's working on, what people think of him, and much more. The issue presents projects (most in-progress), but the focus is clearly on personalities, the architect(s) more than the architecture.