Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Seeking Chicago

Seeking Chicago: The Stories Behind the Architecture of the Windy City-One Building at a Time
Tom Miller
Universe, March 2019



Paperback | 5-1/2 x 7-3/4 inches | 256 pages | # illustrations | English | ISBN: | $19.95

Publisher Description:
Meticulously researched, engagingly presented, and richly detailed, Seeking Chicago is truly a must-read for anyone interested in the story of the Windy City and how it got that way. Unlike other books about local history, here Tom Miller reveals the stories of many smaller, more modest buildings that are off the beaten track - the very structures that most guide books overlook - along with the iconic landmarks.

Chicago is possibly the most important American city for experiencing important architectural masterpieces. There are numerous ways to learn about its architectural heritage, from museums to curated walking and driving tours and even a boat tour. While the basic factual histories of Chicago's landmarks are fairly well known, there are additional layers of history - often with dramatic human interest angles - that don't always get included in the "official" tours. Tom Miller tells the story of Chicago's rich architectural and social history building by building. The stories behind the city's buildings is an impressive architectural history reading and a dramatic sampling of American social history--family feuds, scandals, and mob hits. He excels at uncovering the dramas that have unfolded within the architecture and detailing them to tell an engaging and largely unknown side of Chicago's history.
dDAB Commentary:
Since at least college I've been a voracious reader of history; before that, history was just too dry, too full of dates and military conquests. Yet the more I read history books, the more I find myself drawn to certain types — architectural, obviously, yet also urban, geographical, bibliographical, and occasionally science — but turned off by one major strain: social. By "social history," I don't mean the "people's history of X" type books, which give voice to unrepresented people; I'm referring to the histories of people in the upper stratum of society, the rich and powerful that draw people's attention through their displays of wealth and their actions. In architecture this dislike creates a conundrum, since the rich and powerful are the people that tend to commission architects and build the most attention-getting structures — throughout history and today. That is especially pronounced in New York City (another quandary for me), yet also in other big cities, such as Chicago. With histories that bridge the architectural and the social, Tom Miller's Seeking Chicago (previously he wrote Seeking New York and he maintains a blog focused on Manhattan) is for me very much a love-hate kind of book.

In Seeking Chicago Miller presents nearly 50 works of architecture: 38 buildings, five monuments, a couple fountains, and a lily pool. Like most guides to the Windy City, the book is heavy in and north of the Loop. Here, in the city's commercial core, is where its iconic buildings — old and new — can be found: the Louis Sullivan's Auditorium Building, SOM's Sears Tower (yes, I know, Willis Tower), and Frank Gehry's Jay Pritzker Pavilion. And just north of the city, in the Gold Coast, is where the rich lived. Miller's essays on famous and not-so-famous buildings in and beyond the Loop trace their histories, but from a perspective that values lesser known anecdotes. Sometimes we learn why a building looks the way it does, be it through its design or its evolution over time, but more often we learn stories about the people behind the designs: sometimes the architect but more often the client. Although I read Seeking Chicago with my dislike for social history unconsciously rattling around in my head, many times in the book I found myself getting pulled along by Miller's prose, digesting all of the various histories. He is very good at gracefully telling decades of architectural/social history on familiar and overlooked gems, each in just a handful of pages.
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Author Bio:
Tom Miller moved to New York City in 1979 from Dayton, Ohio. The transplanted "Buckeye" ... currently holds the rank of Deputy Inspector within the NYPD's Auxiliary Police Force. In 2009 he started his blog, "Daytonian in Manhattan" which has now reviewed over a thousand buildings, statues and other points of interest. He is the author of Seeking New York published by Universe in 2015.
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Monday, April 22, 2019

Cultivating Compassion

Cultivating Compassion: Humanistic Architecture as Practiced by JJP Architects and Planners
Joshua J. Pan
Tongji University Press, November 2018



Paperback | 9-1/2 x 9-1/2 inches | 268 pages | 475 illustrations | English/Chinese | ISBN: 978-7560879048 | $59.95

Publisher Description:
This book is a monograph of J.J. Pan and Partners. Mr. Joshua Pan, one of the few western educated Taiwanese elite architects, returned to Taiwan from the U.S. in 1976 and started J.J. Pan and Partner. Their success is originated from their maturity and confidence on their professionalism, sense of identity towards the local culture and a strong sense of social responsibility. The basic belief behind Mr. Pan’s pursuit of excellence falls on his value of harmony with nature, proper use of technologies and materials, and people–orientation. These principles not only guided JJP Architects over the past four decades but will continue to lead JJP’s future generations despite various challenges.
dDAB Commentary:
Cultivating Compassion is the fourth monograph on the firm of Taiwanese architect J.J. Pan, but it is the first retrospective one, covering four decades of JJP Architects' output rather than just the previous ten years, as was done in the others. Before encountering the first projects bearing his name in the pages of Cultivating Compassion, we learn about J.J Pan's architectural education, which started in Taiwan but then moved to the United States for degrees from Rice University and Columbia University; the latter's focus on urban design prepared him for the large-scale projects he would eventually tackle after returning to Taiwan. Before moving back to Taiwan with his wife in 1976, J.J. Pan worked for a trio of firms in New York. A promising early project, one he designed while employed at Davis Brody and Associates, was SUNY Buffalo's Joseph P. Ellicott Complex. His design, a modern interpretation of a medieval European city, broke down the scale of the large buildings and eventually landed on the cover of Progressive Architecture. The design prefigures the capable handling of massing visible in the large projects he would design in Taiwan.

Yet if J.J. Pan is known to people outside of Taiwan it is for a small project, not a large one: the Ring of Celestial Bliss. One of many projects the firm has designed for Delta Electronics, the project was the recipient of a 2015 A+ Award from Architizer and has therefore been seen by an international audience. Appropriately, the temporary structure graces the book's cover. Inside it is documented, like other projects in the book, with finished photographs, construction photos, drawings, and diagrams that clearly convey the most important design features; in the case of the Ring of Celestial Bliss, the diagrams focus on the temporary structure's cradle-to-cradle design. It and the couple-dozen other projects are presented in three chapters (Vision, Social Impact, and Sustainability), each of which is prefaced by a "Discourse" or "Dialogue": a long essay and interviews that reflect upon the work of J.J. Pan Architects and Planners -- and look forward to the firm's lasting future.
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Author Bio:
Joshua J. Pan received his Master of Science degree in Architecture/Urban Design from Columbia University. He worked with firms such as Philip Johnson; Davis, Brody & Associates; and Collins Uhl Hoisington Anderson in the U.S. for nearly 10 years before returning to Taiwan in 1976. Founded in 1981, J. J. Pan and Partners has now grown into a multi-disciplinary group with offices in Taipei, Shanghai, Xiamen and Beijing.
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Friday, April 19, 2019

100 Years, 100 Artworks

100 Years, 100 Artworks: A History of Modern and Contemporary Art
Ágnes Berecz
Prestel, April 2019



Hardcover | 8-1/2 x 10-3/4 inches | 216 pages | 100 illustrations | English | ISBN: 978-3791384849 | $34.95

Publisher Description:
Starting with Marcel Duchamp’s 1919 whimsical, brilliant L.H.O.O.Q., this compendium offers a year-by-year tour of iconic paintings, photographs, sculptures, installations, and performance pieces from all over the world. The works are carefully selected to showcase a diverse range of artists. Read from cover to cover, this volume offers an evocative summary of stylistic trends, historic events, and technological innovations that changed art over the past 100 years. Opening the book to any random page will illuminate a singular perspective and aesthetic delight. Each work is impeccably reproduced and presented in double-page spreads alongside informative and engaging texts. From Georgia O’Keeffe and Man Ray to Kara Walker and Ai Weiwei, this unique survey will both satisfy and surprise art lovers everywhere.
dDAB Commentary:
I can't think of anything more flattering than having a format I developed be appealing enough to have a life beyond my own contributions. Such is the case with 100 Years, 100 Artworks, which follows from my 100 Years, 100 Buildings and 100 Years, 100 Landscape Designs. (Prestel, which published my two books, asked for my permission, something I was glad to give.) While I'll admit I didn't invent or beat others to the punch in the one-project-per-year format (C20 has published a few of them, though I didn't discover them until after pitching my first 100 Years book to Prestel in 2015), I'll also admit the approach isn't easy, especially when it comes to curating the selection. Although the format allows for a chronological unfolding of a century — its best trait — it also forces the omission of many projects and requires extensive research, at least with buildings and landscape designs, to nail down sometimes elusive dates. With this in mind, I'm excited to see another author tackle another theme using the 100 Years structure.

Flipping through 100 Years, 100 Artworks by art historian Ágnes Berecz, my first thought is that the format is more suited to art than buildings and landscapes. Most art takes a lot less time to produce than architecture; and given that paintings, sculptures, and other artworks are typically displayed in exhibitions, dates are easier to establish. Although the media of art can vary from two-dimensional canvases to three-dimensional sculptures and fleeting performances, seeing 100 years of art unfold year by year really provides a strong indication of how art has changed in that time and how artists have responded to the world around them. Curiously, 100 Years, 100 Artworks is bookended by a couple readymades: Duchamp's mustached Mona Lisa and Karin Schneider's piece that consists of an iPad displaying "SHE" in front of a black canvas, both tucked into a custom sleeve. The former is famous but the latter is unknown to me. This reflects the book as a whole: familiar works by famous artists are loaded at the front, while the years closer to the present are more obscure. In turn, I enjoyed discovering artworks this century, when I've spent less time looking at art and more time writing about buildings. Nevertheless, every now and then I came across an artwork I've seen in person, such as Christian Marclay's The Clock. Berecz calls it "a broken monument to the history of cinema" and "a riddle that enchants and frustrates its viewers" — revealing takes on just one of a hundred artworks worth knowing about.
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Author Bio:
Ágnes Berecz is an art historian who has taught courses at Christie’s New York, the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York, and the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. She completed her Ph.D. at Panthéone–Sorbonne University in Paris.
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Thursday, April 18, 2019

Life Takes Place

Life Takes Place: Phenomenology, Lifeworlds, and Place Making
David Seamon
Routledge, May 2018



Paperback | 6 x 9 inches | 230 pages | English | ISBN: 9780815380719 | $47.95

Publisher Description:
Life Takes Place argues that, even in our mobile, hypermodern world, human life is impossible without place. Seamon asks the question: why does life take place? He draws on examples of specific places and place experiences to understand place more broadly. Advocating for a holistic way of understanding that he calls "synergistic relationality," Seamon defines places as spatial fields that gather, activate, sustain, identify, and interconnect things, human beings, experiences, meanings, and events.

Throughout his phenomenological explication, Seamon recognizes that places are multivalent in their constitution and sophisticated in their dynamics. Drawing on British philosopher J. G. Bennett’s method of progressive approximation, he considers place and place experience in terms of their holistic, dialectical, and processual dimensions. Recognizing that places always change over time, Seamon examines their processual dimension by identifying six generative processes that he labels
interaction, identity, release, realization, intensification, and creation.

Drawing on practical examples from architecture, planning, and urban design, he argues that an understanding of these six place processes might contribute to a more rigorous place making that produces robust places and propels vibrant environmental experiences. This book is a significant contribution to the growing research literature in "place and place making studies."
dDAB Commentary:
The phrase "life takes place" hints at the fact that all of our lives happen...somewhere. Even when we browse in the supposedly placeless world of the internet and partake in other acts across virtual networks, we are doing those things in a place: in an office, in bed, in a cafe, even on the toilet. That "life takes place" is just obvious. But like many things that are obvious it ends up not being explored as much as it should. When it is, at least in the realm of architecture and the built environment, place is something to be created, designed for people in a way that enables for different actions to take place. People sleep at home, work at the office, relax in the park, dance in the nightclub, and so forth. Of course, reality is a lot more complex and a lot less regimented. But how do we portray the interactions of people and places? This is an important question, especially if we want to move beyond any direct causal connections between the designed environment and people's actions and well-being. David Seamon, a professor at Kansas State University (where I attended architecture school a couple decades ago), tackles this provocative topic in his latest book of architectural phenomenology.

First off, I'll admit this is not an easy book to get into and then tackle. Its language and point of view are specialized, making it more suited to academics interested in philosophy and phenomenology rather than architects concerned with place making. Regardless, Seamon walks the reader step-by-step through his almost mathematical definitions of understanding place, making complex concepts understandable. He starts with "analytic relationality" vs. "synergistic relationality," in which the first "is understood conceptually as a collection of parts which are arbitrarily identified as a series of linkages then measured and correlated to demonstrate stronger and weaker connections and relationships" and the second "assumes a phenomenological perspective and works to interpret place conceptually as an integrated, generative field that shapes and is shaped by parts integrally interconnected in a physical and experiential whole." (See what I mean by specialized?) He then moves on to monads, dyads, and triads of place: The monad simply defines a place as a thing, such as a school, while a dyad sets up a place as consisting of opposites (e.g. within and without), and triads see affirming (active) and receptive (passive) impulses interacting with a third, reconciling impulse.

Basing much of his thesis on the philosophical texts of J.G. Bennett, Seamon defines each of the triads' impulses as 1 (affirming), 2 (receptive) and 3 (receptive) and breaks down their interactions in six ways: 1-3-2, 2-3-1, 3-2-1, 3-1-2, 2-1-3, and 1-2-3. Furthermore, he links these numbered impulses more directly to place, making them sequentially People-in-Place (PP), Environmental Ensemble (EE), and Common Presence (CP), in turn yielding: PP-CP-EE, EE-CP-PP, CP-EE-PP, CP-PP-EE, EE-PP-CP, and PP-EE-CP. Trust me, this makes a bit more sense reading the book than seeing it here, but Seamon does simplify these six triads even more as, respectively, Place Interaction, Place Identity, Place Release, Place Realization, Place Intensification, and Place Creation. More difficult than following the logic in these interactions is seeing them in the world around us; so Seamon uses stories from newspapers and short examples to create narrative linkages between the triads and our understanding of them. It takes some effort, but I think Seamon's book is an important addition to the libraries of people who are versed in space syntax and who, more importantly, care deeply about how places are shaped and lived in.
Spreads:
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Author Bio:
David Seamon is a Professor of Architecture at Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kansas, USA. Trained in geography and environment-behavior research, he is interested in a phenomenological approach to place, architecture, and environmental design as place making.
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Wednesday, April 17, 2019

General Theory of Urbanization 1867

General Theory of Urbanization 1867
Ildefons Cerdà
Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia (IAAC) & Actar, March 2018



Hardcover | 7-3/4 x 10-1/2 inches | 720 pages | English | ISBN: 978-1945150906 | $49.95

Publisher Description:
First translation into English on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the publication of the General Theory of Urbanization by Ildefons Cerdà, an essential work on urban development.

In 1867 Ildefons Cerdà published his “Teoria general de la urbanització.” In this text, the “science of building cities”, understood as a phenomenon, became a new discipline with a broad economic, social and cultural impact on the life of the people of the city. Coinciding with 150 years since its publication, its first translation into English is being presented along with the publishing online urbanization.org with the statistics transformed into interactive graphics and open data, with the aim of expanding the knowledge of Cerdà’s work and encouraging debate on the process of “urbanization” in the future.
dDAB Commentary:
Don't let the spreads below fool you. This book has very few illustrations (less than 10), and they are ancillary to the main 700-page text, the first English translation of Ildefons Cerdà's General Theory of Urbanization, which recently celebrated its 150th anniversary. This isn't to say the project of translating and celebrating Cerdà's influential publication on the "science of making cities" did not yield visual materials: these are collected at urbanization.org, which is "publishing [the Theory's] statistical and analyses in graphs and interactive maps as an open data platform." Produced by IAAC, the online platform also includes the translation of the second volume of Cerdà's Theory, with the first volume printed and bound in book form by Actar and IAAC. Yet without illustrations, and being full of anachronistic writing*, this book by the planner of Barcelona's Eixample is a historical artifact for planning scholars and others strongly interested in 19th century urbanism, not for the general reader.

*One example, from §-VII The Laws of Urban Function / 2A On urban function, from the standpoint of roads / B On urban functions and roads in the longitudinal sense / C On the function in the longitudinal sense of the road on the part of pedestrians: "The extraordinary volume of petticoats that fashion has imposed on ladies in our times greatly increases the difficulties of walking on our sidewalks – all the more so because certain considerations involving the weaker sex impose certain sacrifices on the stronger that not everyone performs with spontaneous generosity."
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Author Bio:
Ildefons Cerdà was the progressive Catalan Spanish urban planner who designed the 19th-century "extension" of Barcelona called the Eixample.
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Monday, April 15, 2019

Labics – Structures

Labics – Structures
Maria Claudia Clemente, Francesco Isidori
Park Books, March 2019



Hardcover | 9 x 12 inches | 420 pages | 660 illustrations | English | ISBN: 978-3038601289 | $69.00

Publisher Description:
Labics is a rising Rome-based architectural firm that has gained great international acclaim in recent years for both its projects and its submissions to major competitions. Its guiding principle is the idea of “structure.” Each of the firm’s projects—which range from housing and office buildings to museums, cultural centers, schools, subway stations, and public spaces—is intended to exemplify the importance of the respective type of structure.

Labics—Structures is the first book on Labics’s remarkable and rapidly growing body of work. It is arranged in four chapters that explore the idea of structure in different contexts: Geometric, Bearing, Circulation, and Public Space Structures. Alongside topical essays, it features twenty projects selected by the firm’s founding directors, Maria Claudia Clemente and Francesco Isidori, to represent the diversity of the firm’s work, as well as its wide geographic reach—with buildings in Italy, Finland, Switzerland, England, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Saudi Arabia, and Iran. Each project is documented with atmospheric photographs and a wealth of plans and diagrams to illustrate concepts and details.
dDAB Commentary:
The most high-profile commission for Labics, the Italian architecture and planning firm founded in 2002, is Citta' del Sole. The mixed-use project in Rome squeezes office, retail, and residential uses on to an irregular site it shares with older buildings. A dramatic cantilever expresses how some of the functions are lifted high into the air, a decision that preserves existing buildings but also creates a zone between the base buildings and the raised buildings: an interstitial public space the complex "gives back" to the public equivalent to the area it "takes away" at grade. The project, completed in 2016 following a 2007 competition, makes it clear that Labics -- the practice of Maria Claudia Clemente and Francesco Isidori -- concerns itself with the city and its occupants as well as individual buildings and their own occupants. Clemente actually spells out in "Public Space," one of four essays inserted between 22 Labics projects, how the duo sees architecture and the city as "no longer separate and often opposing entities, each defending their own position, but both parts of a wider, common system." Fittingly, Citta' del Sole follows immediately after this essay, occupying a prominent place in the middle of the book, and is given 30 pages, more than most projects in the book. (It also graces the book's cover.)

Labics – Structures carefully presents Citta' del Sole and the other 21 projects through drawings and photographs; the former are consistently drawn (though unfortunately not keyed) and the latter alternate between photos of completed buildings and photos of models, both for buildings and projects. All of the photos are done with the washed-out look that is so popular these days. Although I'm not a huge fan of this style of photography that don't embrace shadows, it's great to see so many model shots, especially given how well-crafted their models are. It's apparent they take pride in them too: the table of contents and first images for each project feature photos of models in Labics' studio space. If this monograph were only the 22 projects as documented, I would like it but not love it. But with the addition of the four essays ("Geometry," "Tectonic," and "Circulation" accompanying "Public Space") the book is that much better. The essays amplify the considerations that drive Labics and show how their designs reach back into history (esp. in Italy, from Ancient Rome and the Renaissance to Aldo Rossi and Giancarlo de Carlo last century) to acknowledge the past while always looking forward.
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Author Bio:
Maria Claudia Clemente and Francesco Isidori are founding directors of Labics and served as visiting critics at Cornell University’s Department of Architecture in Rome and Ithaca, NY.
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Sunday, April 14, 2019

The Augusta National Golf Club

The Augusta National Golf Club: Alister MacKenzie's Masterpiece
Stan Byrdy
Sports Media Group, March 2005



Hardcover | 10-1/2 x 10-1/2 inches | 224 pages | b/w & duotone illustrations | English | ISBN: 978-1587262586 | $35.00

Publisher Description:
This book reveals the true genius of the Augusta National Golf Club like no other-documenting its original design, chronicling the architectural and design changes over time, and analyzing the philosophies of its creators, Alister MacKenzie and Bobby Jones. The Augusta National Golf Club will help you understand why the course has a reputation of legendary proportion and how MacKenzie single-handedly changed forever the way courses are built.
dDAB Commentary:
Golf courses, like any designed landscapes, change over time: contours erode, trees grow and they die. And just like parks and gardens, human uses and desires reshape landscapes. For golf courses, such changes often relate to technological developments in clubs and balls, which have increased the length of accuracy of shots, particularly with professionals in the last few decades. Those developments are dramatic for a course as old as Augusta National, created by golfer Bobby Jones and golf course architect Alister MacKenzie in the early 1930s. The Masters, the annual tournament held annually at Augusta since 1934, has been tweaked numerous times since to keep the course challenging, while at the same time retaining the original design's intentions and character. Put another way, if Jones and Mackenzie were to magically rise from the dead and wander over to Augusta, would they still recognize their creation? (I'd say yes.)

I'm featuring this book and pondering such thoughts since the Masters is being played this weekend. While most of the attention today is squarely on a potential fifth green jacket for Tiger Woods, who starts Sunday in a tie for second place, much of the pre-tournament coverage had focused on changes to one hole: the fifth. The long par-4 features new bunker locations, new trees, and an extra 40 yards, pushing it to 490 yards. The changes are dramatic but indicative of what the course has been subject to at numerous times since the 1930s. Stan Byrdy's The Augusta National Golf Club presents a history of the famous design by Jones and MacKenzie, but it is most valuable for its hole-by-hole account of design changes that many Masters watchers might not have been aware of. Illustrations by William Lanier III give side-by-side comparisons of the original and ca. 2003 layouts of each hole. What about changes within the last 15 years? There's David Sowell's third edition of The Masters: A Hole-by-Hole History of America's Golf Classic, published just last month, though it is more interested in how pros have played the course over time rather than how keepers of the course have modified it in response to them.
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Author Bio:
Stan Byrdy was born and raised in Youngstown, Ohio, and is a graduate of Youngstown State University. Beginning with Jack Nicklaus' historic win in 1986, he served as golf analyst for WJBF-TV in Augusta, Georgia, for "Masters Reports," an award-winning local program featuring daily Masters Tournament coverage.
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