Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Book Review: A Feeling of History

A Feeling of History by Peter Zumthor, Mari Lending
Scheidegger & Spiess, 2018
Paperback, 80 pages

Swiss architect Peter Zumthor finishes buildings so sporadically that the presence of each in various strands of architectural communication lasts years rather than days or weeks. It was five years, for instance, between two recently completed works: the Steilneset Memorial (2011) and the Allmannajuvet Zinc Mining Museum (2016), both in Norway. When I saw Zumthor speak with Paul Goldberger at the Guggenheim in February 2017, these were the two projects Zumthor focused on. In general, discussions around these and other Zumthor projects unfold over time, unlike projects by prolific firms such as BIG or Kengo Kuma Associates, where lots of attention follows an opening, only to give way quickly to the next project's completion. In turn, Zumthor's slowness invites interviews — but ones that play out over time rather than ones that take place in one evening like the Guggenheim.

A Feeling of History transcribes a series of conversations between Zumthor and Norwegian architectural historian Mari Lending that took place between September 2014 and August 2017. Not surprisingly, they focus on his two projects in Norway, though primarily the Zinc Mining Museum, which was finished in the middle of their conversations. History as a theme for their talks makes sense, since the museum marks the site of a mine that operated in the last half of the 19th century. To Zumthor, "landscapes are historical documents" that exhibit the traces of use; Zumthor then "can try to read and interpret the place" where he designs. At Allmannajuvet gorge, the small pavilions are subsidiary to the landscape, though they contain artifacts that explain certain aspects of the mine's history that the landscape cannot.

This small book consists of insights into Zumthor's design of the Zinc Mining Museum, but Lending also delves back in time to trace when and how Zumthor developed his approach to history. So the book is as much biography as project narrative, meandering around to paint a portrait of Zumthor and one of his projects. Free of illustrations, the conversations are accompanied by photos from Hélène Binet's photo essay on Dimitris Pikionis's Landscape around the Athens Acropolis. The b/w photographs by Zumthor's frequent collaborator are not mentioned in the interviews, though Zumthor describes Pikionis's project at the back of the book as "grounded" and having "a specific connection with the history of the place." So the parallels between his work and Pikionis's stone pathways are clear, even though the project types diverge and there is a considerable geographic distance between Norway and Greece.

Friday, November 16, 2018

Today's archidose #1024

Here are some photos of Midtown Center (2018) in Washington, DC, by SHoP Architects. (Photographs by Trevor Patt.)


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Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Book Briefs #39: More Biennale Publications

"Book Briefs" are an ongoing series of posts with short first-hand descriptions of some of the numerous books that make their way into my library. These briefs are not full-blown reviews (though some might go on to get that treatment), but they are a way to share more books worthy of attention than find their way into reviews on this blog

On Sunday, November 25th, the 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale wraps up its six-month run. Back in June I featured a half-dozen publications, including the main catalog, from my visit to the Biennale when it opened in May. Not all exhibition catalogs were available at the time, so here are a few that followed (with one from the 2016 Biennale): on the Australian, Chinese, Catalan, and Spanish pavilions.

Repair: Australian Pavilion, 16th International Architecture Exhibition, La Biennale di Venezia 2018 edited by Mauro Baracco, Louise Wright | Actar | 2018 | Amazon / IndieBound
How does one translate an exhibition or installation into book form? It's a particularly pertinent question for the Australian Pavilion, one of my favorite pavilions from this year's Biennale. Called Repair, the pavilion focuses on the role of architecture in repairing natural systems and generally creating "good" environments. Baracco+Wright Architects, with Linda Tegg, filled the pavilion in the Giardini with transplanted grasslands, drawings attention to the threatened plant community in Australia. Accompanying the plants are lights that enable the plants to thrive indoors and Tegg's short films about buildings projected on the walls when the lights are down. It's a highly immersive exhibit that involves sight but also movement, touch, thermal comfort, and interactions with others exploring the planted interior.

Baracco and Wright didn't strive to create a catalog to the pavilion. They used it to go beyond "the limitations of exhibition" and unpack the Repair theme "through the diverse lens" of their team and some invited authors. Essays and interviews make up the first half of the book; strands of ecological thinking and indigenous culture permeate these texts. Following them are fifteen projects as well as more information on the Repair exhibition's design and realization. The projects are documented fairly traditionally, but they do include stills from Tegg's videos, linking the book and exhibition. My favorite project is the oldest one: Robin Boyd's Featherston House from 1967. Boyd brought nature indoors, creating a series of platforms over the sloping landscape and beneath the translucent roof: a clear precedent for Repair's transplanted landscape.

Architecture China: Building a Future Countryside by Li Xiangning, Mo Wanli, Rebecca Gros | Images Publishing | 2018 | Amazon / IndieBound
Another 2018 favorite, the Chinese Pavilion, (located at one end of the Arsenale), focuses on the rural, presenting many projects that run counter to the common view of China as the land of "weird" contemporary architecture. These are my kind of projects: AZL's Internet Conference Center, Rural Urban Framework's Angdong Hospital, Vector Architects' Captain's House, and other buildings that fit sensitively into their contexts rather than standing out from them, screaming for attention. The catalog documents many such projects (most built) in six typological categories (dwellings, production, cultural, etc.) plus the same number of installations built especially for the exhibition.

RCR Dream and Nature: Catalonia in Venice by Pati Núñez, Estel Ortega | Actar | 2018 | Amazon / IndieBound
Each Venice Architecture Biennale is made up of three components: the International Architecture Exhibition, the national pavilions, and collateral events. Since Catalonia is a region of Spain, its contribution falls under the last category. Situated on the island of San Pietro di Castello — halfway between the Giardini and the end of the Arsenale where the Chinese Pavilion is found — the Catalan "pavilion" is removed from the rest of the Biennale. In turn, the 2018 contribution is an immersive installation that further removes visitors from the exhibition and the city to express how Pritzker Prize-winning RCR (the trio of Rafael Aranda, Carme Pigem, and Ramon Vilalta) views dreams and nature in one project: La Vila. In June I described RCR Dreams and Nature as a "somewhat hazy environment crafted from various plastics" with low levels of illumination and videos projected on suspended discs. It's a tricky exhibition to translate into book form.

The book starts with some color photos of a few RCR projects followed by a handful of essays from the curators and some big names in architecture: Glenn Murcutt, Juhani Pallasmaa, Pedro Gadanho and William J. R. Curtis. The longest essay is by Jordi Pigem (none are very long, since the book is English, Spanish, and Catalan), who looks at the cosmology, or "flowing, creative, dynamic and living process," of RCR at La Vila. The last half of the book consists of the "visual episodes" that were suspended in the "hazy environment" at the Biennale. Although the circular, bubble-like images are removed from the immersive space, as pages in a book the images allow readers to spend more time with them, poring over the imagery but also the words accompanying them. Even so, these glimpses into the dreams of RCR are still impenetrable at times — as they probably should be.

Unfinished: Ideas, Images, and Projects from the Spanish Pavilion at the 15th Venice Architecture Biennale by Iñaqui Carnicero, Carlos Quintáns | Actar | 2018 | Amazon / IndieBound
Back in 2016, the Spanish Pavilion won the Golden Lion for Best National Participation with Unfinished. The exhibition compiled unfinished projects in order to provoke reflection on how Spain  had responded to the post-boom real estate crisis. Curators Iñaqui Carnicero and Carlos Quintáns wanted to generate debates on new strategies that have emerged within this period. Accordingly, some of the images were mounted on an armature that would raise to facilitate presentations and discussions. What stood out for me were projects like the Restoration of the Old Church of Corbera D'Ebre, which consisted of an ETFE roof over the ruins of the old church. This and other projects are documented in the book through photos and drawings, making up about half of the catalog, with the rest featuring photographic responses to the crisis, essays by some Spanish critics (unfortunately bios are not included in the book), and interviews with architectural voices from outside of Spain (Barry Bergdoll, Kenneth Frampton, Sou Fujimoto, Martino Stierli, etc.). Like the Chinese Pavilion, Unfinished veers away from the high-profile projects that garnered the most attention but detracted from the more sensible solutions born from history and crisis.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Three Exhibitions to See Now in NYC

Archive and Artifact: The Virtual and the Physical
October 23 - December 1, 2018
The Cooper Union, Foundation Building
7 East 7th Street

Archive and Artifact "celebrates The Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture's experimental and influential pedagogy by presenting undergraduate Thesis projects completed at the school over the past 50 years." The show, in Cooper Union's Foundation Building, includes some big names (Elizabeth Diller, Daniel Libeskind, Stan Allen) but mostly people who didn't go on to such familiarity. Of course, the show isn't merely a before-they-were-famous peek at the student work of architects; it is an expression of the influence of founding School of Architecture dean John Hejduk (1975-2000) as well as how Anthony Vidler (2001-2013) and Nader Tehrani (2015-present) have carried on that legacy. This is a great show for fans of "physical" hand drawings and hand-built models. The "virtual" aspect of the show is found in an online database of nearly "8,500 digitized records" accessed via computer terminals in the gallery; unfortunately they weren't working when I visited.

The exhibition wraps up on Saturday, December 1st, with a symposium, Thesis Now, that will "address the agency, relevance, and history of the thesis studio in architecture curricula."

Close to the Edge: The Birth of Hip-Hop Architecture
October 1, 2018 - January 12, 2019
Center for Architecture
536 LaGuardia Place

Not far from Cooper Union is the Center for Architecture and Close to the Edge. Curated by Sekou Cooke (with graphic design by WSDIA and graffiti by Chino), the two-floor exhibition displays the work of students, academics, and practitioners at the center of what Cooke calls an "emerging architectural revolution" that incorporates the elements of hip-hop: deejaying, emceeing, b-boying, and graffiti. Hip-Hop Architecture, to Cooke, "produces spaces, buildings, and environments that embody the creative energy evident in these means of hip-hop expression." The exhibition design immerses visitors in a saturated black-and-white realm of graffiti and infrastructure (cut-up shipping containers) that serve as the backdrop for architectural designs, many of them colorful. Many of the projects remind me of Deconstruction, from my days as an undergraduate architecture student, but the intellectual backbone of so-called Hip-Hop Architecture is less obtuse; in turn it comes across as a lot more fun and accessible.

Paul Rudolph: The Personal Laboratory
October 4 - December 15, 2018
The Modulightor Building
246 East 58th Street

An exhibition on Paul Rudolph's Hong Kong projects doesn't open at the Center for Architecture until the end of this month, so in the meantime fans of the 20th-century master need to head uptown to the Modulightor Building where Paul Rudolph: The Personal Laboratory is on display. The show focuses on three residences Rudolph designed for himself, one in New Haven, Connecticut, from his days as head of the Yale School of Architecture, and two in NYC, where he later lived and worked. 23 Beekman Place is the most famous of the two Manhattan projects (the trace-paper photomontages he made to gain city approval for the four-story penthouse addition are alone worth a visit), but the Modulightor Building is the one that really shines. Although the Modulightor, like the others, is documented with drawings, photos, and other artifacts, it's the experience of traversing two posthumously built floors of the building – with its narrow, floating stairs, indirect lighting, and surprisingly comfortable Plexiglas chairs (for watching a half-hour documentary on Rudolph) – that make this exhibition a must.

Wednesday, November 07, 2018

Book Review: The Man in the Glass House

The Man in the Glass House: Philip Johnson, Architect of the Modern Century by Mark Lamster
Little Brown, 2018
Hardcover, 528 pages

Mark Lamster had me in the Prologue. The Dallas Morning News architecture critic begins his biography of Philip Johnson on the famous architect's death bed. Like his iconic Glass House from 1949, Johnson's life was full of myth, arising from his architecture, his words, and his actions — all of them controversial throughout his many decades. But Lamster opens The Man in the Glass House by focusing on Johnson's humanity: his ill health, his difficulty in eating, the list of drugs he took to prolong his life, the tai chi master that came to the house a few days a week. When Johnson dies on the last page of the Prologue, I actually shed a tear; not out of sadness for Johnson's passing, which happened in January 2005 just shy of his 99th birthday, but because of Lamster's sensitive and eloquent portrayal of it. The Prologue's seven pages were enough to draw me into Lamster's telling of Johnson's life over the next 528 pages.

The Man in the Glass House is not the first biography on Philip Johnson (1906-2005). That honor goes to Franz Schulze, whose Philip Johnson: Life and Work came out in 1994. A decade before his authorized biography of Johnson, Schulze wrote "a critical biography" of Mies van der Rohe, one that was updated (with Edward Windhorst) in 2013. No update of his biography of Johnson occurred, though if Lamster's book is any indication that's for the best. Lamster doesn't bring up Schulze's book until the second-to-last chapter (befitting its timing in the chronology of Johnson's life), but he recounts that Johnson was upset with Schulze's tellings. There were various reasons behind this, but most illuminating is that Johnson though his personality didn't show: "I'm not there." Although I own Schulze's book, I've only dipped into it here and there in regards to particular projects; while I can't corroborate Johnson's reading of the book, Lamster's book lacks that deficiency: Johnson is there, warts and all.

Between the Prologue and Epilogue — the latter manages to insert the "Save AT&T" campaign following a developer's 2017 plans to disfigure the Postmodern icon — Lamster tells the story of Johnson's life across seventeen chapters. He delves deep into Johnson's early life, such that by the middle chapter ("A New New Beginning") Johnson isn't yet 40 years old. By that point we have seen how the Ohio native toyed with humanities and philosophy and ended up in architecture; how he toyed — less playfully — with fascism; how a bad first impression with the MoMA board failed to derail him becoming the museum's first architecture director; and how he returned to Harvard in his thirties to become an architect. Lamster's deep, deep research means these and other happenings in Johnson's life are illuminated with facts and stories that humanize the myths, that make them real parts of a real life. That the stories of Johnson's long yet busy life are told in a way that makes the book hard to put down surely doesn't hurt.

One of the most interesting aspects of Lamster's biography is the recurring presence of architecture critics in the latter half of the book (when Johnson's buildings are given nearly as many words as his life), primarily those at the New York Times from the 1960s to the 1990s: Ada Louise Huxtable, Paul Goldberger, and Herbert Muschamp. Johnson's knack for finding talent, making relationships, and keeping his friends (and sometimes enemies) close to him meant that reviews of even his barely mediocre buildings were met with some praise, albeit tempered at times. Lamster, who wrote his book a decade after Johnson's passing, obviously isn't in the same situation and therefore doesn't hold back with his negative opinions on certain projects. But his takes on the Times critics reveal the central role of power in Johnson's life: what pushed him on his fascist detour, made him the ideal architect for corporate America, and enabled him to mount an influential MoMA exhibition at the age of 82, more than 50 years after his first groundbreaking show there. It's one of the many traits that made him the ideal subject of another biography — one thoroughly and beautifully told by Lamster.

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Monday, November 05, 2018

Today's archidose #1023

Here are some photos of 520 West 28th Street (2017) in New York City by Zaha Hadid Architects. (Photographs by Maciek Lulko.)

520 West 28th by Zaha Hadid
520 West 28th by Zaha Hadid
520 West 28th by Zaha Hadid
520 West 28th by Zaha Hadid

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Thursday, November 01, 2018

Today's archidose #1022

Here are some photos of Muzeum Ognia (2014) in Żory, Poland, by OVO Grąbczewscy Architekci. (Photographs by M. M. Czarnecki.)

Muzem Ognia
Muzem Ognia
Muzem Ognia

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Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Stop the Presses!

Seeing a TV commercial for Verzenio the other day, I was reminded of that day I made the cover of my local newspaper after getting an architectural commission.

Oh, wait. That never happened. Because architects DON'T MAKE IT ON THE FRONT PAGE OF NEWSPAPERS! Much less above the fold – and with a photo, a smiling photo.

Sure, there are exceptions: your name is Frank Gehry; the newspaper is The Architect's Newspaper; or the design contract being awarded is the most coveted one in the entire world, and you're a young architect from a small "central community" nobody's ever heard of. In that case, this example of architectural advertising is, unlike others, spot-on.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

So You Want To Learn About: Michael Sorkin

The "So You Want to Learn About" series highlights books focused on a particular theme: think "socially responsible architecture" and "Le Corbusier," rather than broad themes like "housing" or "modern architects." Therefore the series aims to be a resource for finding decent reading materials on certain topics, born of a desire to further define noticeable areas of interest in the books I review. And while I haven't reviewed every title, I am familiar with each one; these are not blind recommendations.

This year's release of Michael Sorkin's latest collection of critical essays, What Goes Up: The Rights and Wrongs to the City, prompted me to put together a "learn about" post on the influential critic, educator, and designer of buildings and cities. An outspoken critic of misguided architecture, urban inequality, oppressive ideologies, and other impediments to truly egalitarian and sustainable societies, Sorkin is principal of Michael Sorkin Studio, president of the non-profit Terreform, and director of the Graduate Program in Urban Design at City College of New York (CCNY). Need a Sorkin primer? This 2010 interview on CUNY TV, at the time of Twenty Minutes in Manhattan, is a good start.

Considering how much Sorkin has written, I've categorized his print output into six categories: criticism, design, New York City, editing, education, and UR (Urban Research). All titles are authored or edited by Sorkin, unless noted otherwise. Full disclosure: I attended the Urban Design Program at CCNY under Sorkin (2006-07) and have helped him with UR.


What Goes Up: The Right and Wrongs to the City | Verso | 2018 | Amazon / IndieBound
This title is the fourth collection of Sorkin's critical essays, covering the years 2010 to 2017. Many of the pieces come from The Nation, where he served as Architecture Critic from 2013 to 2016. Still, not quite half of the 48 essays originated there, meaning a mix of lectures, articles for other publications, book excerpts, and a few unpublished pieces fill the rest of the pages. Not surprisingly, the majority focuses on New York City, with the rest covering "Elsewhere and Otherwise." Only one essay is dated after Donald Trump's election win, and it doesn't even broach that elephant in the room; thankfully, Sorkin's introduction takes on Trump, albeit briefly.

All Over the Map: Writing on Buildings and Cities | Verso | 2011 | Amazon / IndieBound
It's hard to believe that the predecessor to What Goes Up was released seven years ago; it seems like just the other day that I wrote my review. All Over the Map packs in 76 essays (nearly twice as many as the new collection) that fall between 2000 and early 2011. Most were culled from Sorkin's Commentary columns in Architectural Record. I read those on a nearly monthly basis, given my subscription to the magazine, so I ended up gravitating to the articles from other publications. Given the timing of the book, September 11 and the responses of the 2001 terrorist attacks shaped the content of Sorkin's essays -- but not his progressive takes on architecture, cities, culture, politics, and society.

Some Assembly Required | University of Minnesota Press | 2001 | Amazon / IndieBound
Continuing backward in time, the second installment of Sorkin's criticism covers the years 1995 to 1999. Most of the 36 essays were pulled from two sources: Architectural Record and Metropolis. At only around 250 pages, it is the shortest of the four collection of Sorkin's criticism, though with great essays such as "Eleven Tasks for Urban Design," first published in Yale's Perspecta, quantity here is not an indicator of quality.

Exquisite Corpse: Writing on Buildings | Verso | 1991 | Amazon / IndieBound
Which brings us to the one that begat the rest: the compendium of Sorkin's articles from his ten-year tenure (1978-88) at New York's Village Voice. The paper, which halted print publication last year and then sadly ceased publication entirely a couple months ago, was the ideal pulpit for Sorkin's progressive views. He could rail against Philip Johnson and other overrated architects, draw attention to ones he liked but were otherwise little known, and proffer alternative points of view on important developments in New York City. Although the book is subtitled "Writings on Buildings," it's clear that Sorkin was already focused as much on cities as on the buildings filling them.


Pamphlet Architecture 22: Other Plans: University of Chicago Studies, 1998-2000 | Princeton Architectural Press | 2002 | Amazon / IndieBound
I'll admit to being shocked that Sorkin was the author of one of the annual Pamphlet Architectures, since I tend to think of the roughly yearly publication as a forums for up-and-coming voices rather than established names. But Sorkin the designer had built little (if nothing) at the time, and #22 enabled him to showcase a project that should have led to a building commission. Sorkin's studio was hired by University of Chicago, one of his alma maters, to produce an alternative to its official master plan. Dropped as quickly as he was hired, his studio nevertheless trudged along on the task, foreshadowing the "voluntary" work of Terreform, established in 2005. As I wrote earlier this year when I unpacked the book: "They produced a plan that is undeniably 'Sorkin,' with wonky buildings curving among the old buildings on campus. But they expanded the canvas well beyond the U of C footprint, envisioning how commercial and residential development could aid not just the client."

Michael Sorkin Studio: Wiggle | The Monacelli Press | 1998 | Amazon
Four years before PA22, Sorkin put out a monograph emblazoned with, not one of his projects, but a cluster (army?) of frogs. The cover image and the book's title, Wiggle, certainly aren't at odds with each other, but it's clear to me that idea trumps image, particularly when compared to other architecture monographs. What those ideas or visions are is not spelled out in an essay; instead the projects — with some short but honest and helpful explanatory text — speak for themselves. They range from small exhibitions to city plans. Tying them together are Sorkin's distinctive "wiggly" designs and his beautiful (and underappreciated, I think) drawings. Most striking are the plans, which are dense with lines, have nary a right angle, and give the impression that social life would be much more intimate if we lived in Sorkin World.

Local Code: The Constitution of a City at 42°N Latitude | Princeton Architectural Press | 1993 | Amazon
Design for Sorkin is much more than lines on paper or a scale model. It is also the codes that determine to a large degree what those lines must follow and what shape those models will become. For most architects building and zoning codes are mandates to follow. But what if they could develop their own? What would they dictate? How would they be written? And what would be their underlying goals? Sorkin did what most architects and urban designers would never spend the time on: he developed a code, complete with a Bill of Rights and designed for a Utopia that will never exist. Hardly a text to be read cover to cover, Local Code is more a template for students of urban design to use in their projects; best I can recall, it was used that way in the past.

New York City:

Twenty Minutes in Manhattan | Reaktion Books | 2009 | Amazon / IndieBound
It's hardly a surprise that the New York-based Sorkin has dedicated hundreds of thousands of words to his home city. The best of his NYC books uses his short walk from home to office, both in Lower Manhattan, as a starting point for expounding on myriad things about cities in general, NYC in particular. As I wrote in my review in The Architect's Newspaper back in 2010: "Each realm of social interaction [in the walk] is a looping mix of descriptions, recollections, histories, critiques, and explications, with the tangential offshoots always returning to the walk, as if to acknowledge and elevate the importance of the individual’s experience in the city, both physically and mentally." Although much of the content was pulled from Voice and Record over a period of more than a decade, it reads as a fluid narrative rather than essays disconnected in time and setting.

Starting From Zero: Reconstructing Downtown New York | Routledge | 2003 | Amazon / IndieBound
Being not just a critic, September 11 was an opportunity for Sorkin to imagine Lower Manhattan with designs that veered far from the business-as-usual that eventually — but not surprisingly — filled the WTC site. There's still plenty of critique in the form of essays in Starting from Zero, but it's accompanied by numerous designs for the sixteen-acre site (including a memorial design) and a visual analysis of the WTC within the larger urban context. Best is when Sorkin treated the site as a green void rather than something to be built upon. The former makes sense in a later proposal in which Sorkin proposed (logically, I think) shifting the 10 million square feet of office space to be rebuilt to other parts of the city, infusing neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Queens, among others, with money typically limited to Lower Manhattan and Midtown. (Unfortunately I can't find a link to that proposal so am not sure if I'm remembering it 100% accurately.)

After the World Trade Center: Rethinking New York City edited by Sorkin with Sharon Zukin | Routledge | 2002 | Amazon / IndieBound
Before Sorkin assembled critiques and designs into Starting from Zero, he teamed up with fellow CUNY (CCNY is part of the City University) professor Sharon Zukin. The urbanist and sociologist together are, in my mind at least, a heavenly match; I absorb and enjoy Zukin's book as much as I do Sorkin's. The two co-authored the introduction, but after that they express their own takes on post-9/11 New York City alongside a slew of other great minds: Marshall Berman, M. Christine Boyer, Keller Easterling, David Harvey, Neil Smith, and Mike Wallace, among many others. I didn't pick up this book until last year, much too long after its publication to have enthusiasm for the topic; like other New Yorkers, I've moved on, swept along by the city's Bloomberg-era transformations.


Indefensible Space: The Architecture of the National Insecurity State | Routledge | 2008 | Amazon / IndieBound
In addition to lots of writing, teaching, and designing, Sorkin finds time for the occasional editorial project. This seems to consist of setting a theme, writing an introduction and essay, and pulling in acquaintances from a wide sphere of academics and practitioners with aligned interests. Accordingly, there tends to be some overlap in terms of contributors and some consistency in terms of themes. Given how much Sorkin railed against the fortification of cities after 9/11, he was ideal for editing some essays about the erosion of public space and rights to the city in the face of increased security. The list of contributors is powerful and fitting for the topic: Teddy Cruz, Mike Davis, Stephen Graham, Dean MacCannell, Eyal Weizman, etc.

Giving Ground: The Politics of Propinquity edited by Sorkin with Joan Copjec | Verso | 1999 | Amazon / IndieBound
Although he edited this book with his wife, Sorkin's only contribution is the introduction, while Copjec pens one of the nine essays that follow it. Perhaps stemming from the two minds at editorial work, the book's theme is a bit more obscure and unclear than the titles above and below it; in turn, it's not as rewarding to me as other Sorkin titles. My favorite essay is Dean MacCannell's "'New Urbanism' and Its Discontents," which tackles a movement I love to hate.

Variations on a Theme Park: The New American City and the End of Public Space | Hill & Wang | 1992 | Amazon / IndieBound
Like Exquisite Corpse, this book is classic Sorkin. It's a timely and influential collection of essays on  a well-honed topic: critiquing the urbanism of the late 1980s and early 1990s that was marked by "megamalls, corporate enclaves, gentrified zones, and pseudo-historic marketplaces." Sorkin penned the introduction and the memorable essay "See You in Disneyland," which is accompanied by a photo of the sky above the theme park, given Disney's "litigiousness" and therefore difficulty in taking photos for publication inside. He's joined by names that would become usual suspects in his growing sphere of publications: M. Christine Boyer, Mike Davis, and Neil Smith, to name just three. At more than 35 years old, the book is ripe for an update — or maybe a 21st-century remake, where Boyer's analysis of South Street Seaport, for instance, morphs with its rebranding as Seaport District and "pseudo-historic marketplaces" give way to glass-box marketplaces.


Beyond Petropolis: Designing a Practical Utopia in Nueva Loja edited by Sorkin wtih Ana María Durán Calisto and Matthias Altwicker | Oscar Riera Ojeda Publishers | 2017 | Amazon / IndieBound
Sorkin's role at CCNY has led to some books coming out of the Urban Design program, including one on the year I attended. My classmates and I spent two semesters focused on creating a sustainable, post-oil master plan for Lago Agrio, the oil boomtown in Ecuador's rainforest. (My photos from a trip there in November 2006 were posted to this blog.) The project also roped in some architecture and landscape architecture students, and the book documents all of our contributions and includes some additional materials, including an article from The New Yorker on the drawn-out lawsuit against Chevron. Although the book, as most do, took much longer than anticipated, I'm glad to have such a nice documentation of close to a year of hard work — and fun.

The New York 2030 Notebook edited by Jeff Byles and Olympia Kazi | Institute for Urban Design| 2008 | Amazon
Sorkin is Vice-President of the Urban Design Forum, the "independent membership organization that advances bold solutions to urban challenges." It was formed a few years ago from a merger of the Forum for Urban Design and the Institute for Urban Design; Sorkin served as President of the latter, which was founded in 1979 by Ann Ferebee. In November 2007, the Institute hosted New York 2030, a day-long symposium that dissected Mayor Bloomberg’s PlaNYC, "an ambitious project to turn New York into the world’s most sustainable metropolis." Out of that event came this slim, 72-page book, with far-too-short contributions by Sorkin, Marshall Berman, Teddy Cruz, Richard Sennett, Sharon Zukin, and many more. Running along the bottom of each page, like a ticker, are the 127 initiatives of PlaNYC, most too broad or ambitious to be realized or even considered in the ensuing eleven years.

The Aarhus Protocols: The Michael Sorkin Workshop at the Arkitektskolen Aarhus by Anette Brunsvig Sørensen | Arkitekturtidsskrift B | 2006 | Amazon
If I didn't come across this book while digging through the shelves of a local bookstore, I wouldn't have known anything about it. I was intrigued because of Sorkin's role, but also because my wife spent a semester at the Aarhus School of Architecture. The Sorkin Workshop of the book's title was carried out across one week in October 2005, aimed at envisioning possibilities for Aarhus Harbor, the potential setting for the school's new building. (Twelve years later, the school selected a scheme in a competition [PDF link] for a new building in Godsbanearealerne, in the heart of Aarhus.) I've misplaced this pocket-sized book, but I recall the workshop paralleling the exquisite-corpse format that Sorkin taught us at CCNY, in which individuals create plots but then modify them based on a series of transformations. The result is a plan created by a variety of designers following certain rules and negotiating with each other along the way.

UR (Urban Research):

UR (Urban Research), the publishing imprint of Sorkin's non-profit Terreform, was launched in 2016 as "a book series devoted to cities and their futures." There are a dozen titles to date (six are pictured here), including one on the late, great Marshall Berman and three on various aspects of New York City. I'm familiar with the two titles highlighted below.

Downward Spiral: El Helicoide's Descent from Mall to Prison edited by Celeste Olalquiaga and Lisa Blackmore | UR | 2018 | Amazon
Although Downward Spiral was not published in time for the companion 2017 exhibition, El Helicoide: From Mall to Prison, at the Center for Architecture in New York, the book does not disappoint. In my review from earlier this year, I describe the book as "the definitive cultural history of El Helicoide," a spiraling inside-out mall built atop a hilltop in Caracas. Following from the diminutive exhibition's numerous artifacts, the book tells the historical story of the building, which would have enabled people to drive up to the store they wanted to patronize, but also its later use by the police as a prison. It's a perfect subject for UR: politically charged and fairly obscure beyond its local context — and therefore in need of a wider audience.

Letters to the Leaders of China: Kongjian Yu and the Future of the Chinese City edited by Terreform | UR | 2018 | Amazon
This is the book I'm reading right now (a full review is forthcoming): a collection of letters and other essays by Kongjian Yu, founder of Turenscape. These texts were, as far as I know, only available in Chinese beforehand, and some weren't published until Letters to the Leaders of China. Accompanying Yu's texts are critical essays by a half-dozen scholars and a great, rambling interview (the first thing I read) between Yu and artist Ai Weiwei. Those looking for pretty pictures of Yu's amazing "sponge cities" and other landscape projects will be disappointed, but those familiar with Turenscape should be pleased with some insightful background on what led to their thousands of groundbreaking designs all over China.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Today's archidose #1021

Here are some photos of the Campinarana House in Manaus, Brazil, by Laurent Troost and Raquel Reis. See also photographs by Leonardo Finotti.

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