Sunday, September 15, 2019

Circumventions

Circumventions
Michael Rakowitz
onestar press, 2003



Paperback | 5-1/2 x 8-3/4 inches | 162 pages | English | ISBN: 978-2915359046 | 35 €

Publisher Description:
When the parasite sets in, small white bubbles rise up. They are warm, transparent and may appear anywhere. Cases have been documented in Boston, Cambridge and New York and the number is increasing. The appearance is not on the skin but on the sidewalks.

New York artist Michael Rakowitz is the engineer of
paraSITE, a temporary living space for the homeless. We may see homeless citizens every day, but now we see them unexpectedly, living inside what looks like a space age tent. paraSITE uses the warm air that escapes buildings to inflate and to provide night-time shelter. The cities and their buildings become hosts for the homeless, providing a short term solution for an ongoing condition. Rakowitz presents paraSITE in a new edition by onestar press and the Dena Foundation for Contemporary Art.

Circumventions includes preliminary drawings, photos and an interview by Carolyn Christoph-Bakergiev, chief curator at Castello di Rivoli. The new book also reviews Rakowitz’s other projects including one in which he successfully relocated the aroma of a Chinese bakery up into a gallery. This November, Rakowitz will receive the 2003 Dena Art Award. A paraSITE is also planned for Paris.
dDAB Commentary:
One of the 44 projects in Scott Burnham's Reprogramming the City, reviewed a couple days ago, is Michael Rakowitz's paraSITE, an artwork started in 1998 in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and extended to the artist's native New York City the following year (according his website, paraSITE is ongoing). Rakowitz assembled plastic bags into double-layer enclosures that, after being hooked up to HVAC vents at the base of buildings, would simultaneously inflate and heat the enclosure. It's a remarkably creative idea — maybe even unprecedented — that provided comfort for homeless individuals and took advantage of otherwise wasted output. But as Rakowitz asserts in an interview at the start of this book, "it is dangerous to call it acceptable design," because it "prolongs life on the streets." By being art rather than design, paraSITE "highlights unacceptable circumstances that have not received adequate attention from designers." Its inclusion in Burnham's book is a testament to the originality of Rakowitz's artwork, its prolonged confusion as design, and the continued inattention on the part of designers.

Circumventions, published on the occasion of the 2003 Dena Foundation Art Award, primarily, but not exclusively, documents and discusses paraSITE. It also includes sketches and photos of Climate Control, which was installed at PS1 in 2000-01, its looping ducts echoing paraSITE and finding further appeal with architects — and maybe even mechanical engineers. There's also Rise, from the same year, which saw Rakowitz play with more ducts, using one to draw the smells of a Chinatown bakery to the gallery upstairs. Rakowitz's art may seem like variations on one theme given these three works, but the book also includes Romanticized All Out of Proportion (2002-03), in which he installed small cameras in the famous Panorama of the City of New York at the Queens Museum of Art, with each view referencing a famous scene from a film shot in NYC. And Minaret saw the artist ascend "architecturally appropriate" rooftops in Manhattan and project the Islamic call to prayer with a megaphone and an alarm clock bought in Jordan. This last artwork seems disconnected from the rest, but having seen the artist speak earlier this year at the Met as part of its annual A Year of Architecture in a Day — he talked about the sculpture he installed in front of London's National Gallery of Art, The Invisible Enemy Should Not Exist, a recreation of an ancient Iraqi sculpture made with date syrup cans — it appears that the themes of Minaret eventually took precedence over those of paraSITE.
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Author Bio:
Michael Rakowitz is an artist living and working in Chicago. In 1998 he initiated paraSITE, an ongoing project in which the artist custom builds inflatable shelters for homeless people that attach to the exterior outtake vents of a building’s heating, ventilation, or air conditioning system.
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Friday, September 13, 2019

Reprogramming the City

Reprogramming the City: Doing More with What We Have
Scott Burnham
VRMNTR, 2018



Paperback | 7 x 10 inches | 214 pages | 377 illustrations | English | ISBN: 978-1945971013 | $19.95

Publisher Description:
Reprogramming the City is a 214-page collection of over 40 examples of adaptive reuse in an urban context from 17 countries showing innovative ways existing urban infrastructure and other elements are being reused and repurposed for new use in cities around the world. From billboards in Lima, Peru, that now generate fresh drinking water to bus stops in northern Sweden transformed to boost the mental health of commuters during dark winter months, Reprogramming the City reveals the untapped potential of adaptive reuse and repurposing urban objects for new use to improve life for urban residents.

Organized into the thematic chapters of Food and Water, Housing and Shelter, Health and Wellbeing, Energy and Ecology and Renewal and Recovery, this book shows how the full range of human needs can be realized from the assets cities already have in place through adaptive reuse and repurposing.
dDAB Commentary:
With all the hype over Big Data in recent years, particularly how it will infiltrate (has infiltrated?) cities to make them better places to live, it seems logical that the inclusion of "reprogramming" in this book's title would align it with such techno-utopian dreams. But the 44 examples of adaptive reuse that Scott Burnham presents are physical solutions rather than purely digital ones (there are some solutions that incorporate computer programming though). More specifically, Burnham focuses on how designers are adapting obsolete infrastructure — what he calls in a more business-like parlance "existing urban assets" — with new uses that respond to contemporary life. The solutions he has assembled aim to make life better for people living in cities, often for those typically overlooked by designers and bureaucrats, while also bypassing the demolition of obsolete or abandoned buildings and infrastructure. These are socially minded designs rooted in sustainability.

The 44 projects are gathered into five color-coded, paired-word chapters: Food + Water, Housing + Shelter, Health + Wellbeing, Energy + Ecology, and Renewal + Recovery. Although the architect in me was drawn to the second chapter, Housing + Shelter, some of the most creative designs are found elsewhere. There's the water billboard that graces the cover, in which clean water is drawn from the humid air over Lima, Peru, and made available to anybody turning on the faucet at its base. Also in the Food + Water category is the Borneo Project, which turns fire hydrants into drinking fountains when not in use (most of the time, that is) by firefighters. These projects and the two examples shown below (Michael Rakowitz's paraSITE from the Housing + Shelter chapter and Edge Design Institute's The Cascade from the Health + Wellbeing chapter) are built, but the book also has speculative designs not yet implemented. I always prefer built examples, yet given the fact the built designs tend to be demonstration projects, artworks, one-off installations, or even exercises in corporate branding (e.g., JetBlue's small rooftop farm at JFK), it's safe to assume the designs are not widespread and cities still need work. And that's where Burnham's book comes in; it's an argument for using existing resources in creative ways, not a catalog of solutions to be implemented. As such, the book is ideal for city leaders unsure of what to do with outdated infrastructure, as well as for designers interested in the idea of "reprogramming" cities and in need of inspiration.
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Author Bio:
Scott Burnham is an author, keynote speaker, and strategist specializing in resourceful solutions for sustainable cities and helping people be more resourceful in their lives and communities.
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Thursday, September 12, 2019

Ugliness and Judgment

Ugliness and Judgment: On Architecture in the Public Eye
Timothy Hyde
Princeton University Press, April 2019



Hardcover | 5-1/2 x 8-1/2 inches | 232 pages | 70 illustrations | English | ISBN: 978-0691179162 | $35.00

Publisher Description:
When buildings are deemed ugly, what are the consequences? In Ugliness and Judgment, Timothy Hyde considers the role of aesthetic judgment—and its concern for ugliness—in architectural debates and their resulting social effects across three centuries of British architectural history. From eighteenth-century ideas about Stonehenge to Prince Charles’s opinions about the National Gallery, Hyde uncovers a new story of aesthetic judgment, where arguments about architectural ugliness do not pertain solely to buildings or assessments of style, but intrude into other spheres of civil society.

Hyde explores how accidental and willful conditions of ugliness—including the gothic revival Houses of Parliament, the brutalist concrete of the South Bank, and the historicist novelty of Number One Poultry—have been debated in parliamentary committees, courtrooms, and public inquiries. He recounts how architects such as Christopher Wren, John Soane, James Stirling, and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe have been summoned by tribunals of aesthetic judgment. With his novel scrutiny of lawsuits for libel, changing paradigms of nuisance law, and conventions of monarchical privilege, he shows how aesthetic judgments have become entangled in wider assessments of art, science, religion, political economy, and the state.

Moving beyond superficialities of taste in order to see how architectural improprieties enable architecture to participate in social transformations,
Ugliness and Judgment sheds new light on the role of aesthetic measurement in our world.
dDAB Commentary:
With "ugliness" in its title and seven chapters devoted to the architecture of England and London over a roughly 300-year period, I figured Timothy Hyde's Ugliness and Judgment would involve some references to Roger Scruton, the British philosopher who wrote one of the few (if only) books on architectural aesthetics in philosophical terms. Scruton wrote The Aesthetics of Architecture in the late 1970s; since then he's been an outspoken critic of modern architecture and in recent years he's been in the news for his on-again, off-again, on-again position at the UK's Building Better Building Beautiful Commission, which "will advise government on how to promote and increase the use of high-quality design for new build homes and neighborhoods." Scruton can be seen as a symbol of an aesthetic, taste-based view of architecture, one that clearly favors buildings designed in Classical styles over Modern ones. But when I looked for Scruton's name in the index of Hyde's book, or checked out his list of the five best books on architecture and aesthetics, the aesthete's name is nowhere to be found. This omission hints that Ugliness and Judgment, while it discusses taste and style at length, isn't really about those things; it's about how judgments of ugliness play out in the social circumstances of architecture.

Hyde traces the interactions of taste, style, ugliness, judgment, and social circumstances — how the future of buildings, especially public ones, are debated — through seven chapters in chronological order, from Bath in the 1700s to the competition for the National Gallery Extension in London in the 1980s. Each chapter ekes out a particular angle on the overall thesis. "The Monarch," for instance, presents the National Gallery competition, in which Prince Charles famously derided the winning scheme by Ahrends Burton & Koralek as "a monstrous carbuncle on the face of a much-loved and elegant friend." Although his words played a part in the competition being set aside in favor of a direct commission for Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown's Postmodern extension, Hyde is interested in how Prince Charles inserted himself into the debate (at a RIBA lecture, not in an official competition forum) and convinced the greater public — of which royalty could hardly relate directly — that he spoke for them. "The Profession," the chapter that includes Mies van der Rohe's posthumously squashed Mansion House Square project, is also enlightening. Hyde presents the history of the project and the politics around it as he also focuses on the role of authorship in aesthetic judgments. These projects, in which aesthetics and taste were introduced to modify their outcomes, are indicative of how matters of aesthetics and taste are never so simple — and never just about the way a building looks.
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Author Bio:
Timothy Hyde is associate professor in the history and theory of architecture at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is the author of Constitutional Modernism: Architecture and Civil Society in Cuba, 1933–1959. He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
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Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Architectural Voices of India

Architectural Voices of India: A Blend of Contemporary and Traditional Ethos
Apurva Bose Dutta
Cambridge Scholars Publishing, August 2017



Paperback | 8 x 11-1/2 inches | 200 pages | English | ISBN: 978-1443891400 | £25.99

Publisher Description:
The field of architecture has gradually evolved from being a mere profession to becoming a representation of the society in which we live. Architects form the voice of this profession, and an in-depth discussion with them allows a greater understanding of their theories, visions for architecture, and contributions towards the field, and how they are managing the non-linear societal evolution in a comprehensive manner.

This volume brings together 17 iconic Indian architects across generations, and, through dialogues, probes into their lives, beliefs and philosophies, and candid thoughts and opinions. It offers a platform for discussions on the core issues of architecture, and serves as a reference for the state of architecture both in India and globally.

The book will appeal to architectural and building industry practitioners and students of architecture, as well as the general reader, as it speaks about architecture as an integral part of building a nation. It traverses the architecture journey in India, and bestows a clarity on the directions still to be taken.
dDAB Commentary:
My experience of architecture through books and websites has been conditioned by Western media. By this I mean that I'm used to particular types and levels of quality of photographs, renderings, drawings, and even writings when it comes to how buildings are presented. This means, for instance, that I am prey to professional photographs that present buildings in literally their best lights, as well as renderings that can sometimes even be confused as photographs. Such a bias, albeit an unintentional one, has evolved over time as publications and websites have demanded high-quality "eye candy" for pages and screens. I believe this bias is rooted in early/mid-20th century Modernist publishing in Western Europe in general and Switzerland in particular (where the "Swiss grid" of graphic design preferred parallel verticals in photographs of buildings, for instance). So now it's hard to not expect a certain level of quality in presentation and it's therefore too easy to dismiss projects that aren't depicted in a similar fashion.

I bring up this conditioning here because I've often found departures from today's "norm" in architecture from India, be it on the Indian-Architects platform of World-Architects or in books such as this one. In such places the polish of professional photos is rare; renderings come across as amateurish rather than realistic; and drawings, if included at all, have colors that make them distracting rather than clear. These characteristics obviously don't apply to all architects from India, but I've found, especially when speaking with people who know the Indian context more that me, that architects there are not so preoccupied with how their projects are documented and presented. Of course, those architects with international ambitions — the names one tends to see over and over in architecture awards — pay very close attention to photographs, renderings, and so on. I also make mention of the presentation of images, because I believe that there's a good deal of high-quality architecture coming out of India, but it needs to be "read" with an eye that needs to set aside its Western conditioning.

Even though the images in Apurva Bose Dutta's book on 17 Indian architecture offices is in-line with my comments above, her interviews with the architects get at the quality of their buildings, qualities that may not be evident in quick glances at photos of built work or renderings of future projects. Her selection of architects spans multiple generations, from Balkrishna Doshi (interviewed before he won the 2018 Pritzker Architecture Prize) and Raj Rewal on the older end of the spectrum to Sanjay Puri and Morphogenesis (Manit and Sonali Rastogi) on the younger end. Apurva Bose Dutta's questions are tailored to each architect, but they are presented in a consistent format, accompanied by b/w images of projects, an intimate portrait of their family lives, and the inclusion of "the project that redefined architecture" for them. Fifty pages of color plates, inserted into the middle of the book, provide "glimpses of projects," though due to my comments above I found myself gravitating to the words, where the architects are candid about their own work but also the state of Indian architecture today. Those interested in the country's architecture should find Apurva Bose Dutta's book rewarding.
Pages (from PDF excerpt):


Author Bio:
Apurva Bose Dutta is a Bengaluru-based architectural journalist. Her professional experience includes decade-long work and collaborations with multiple international and national design publications, publishing houses, building and design firms and organisations, and web portals.
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Monday, September 09, 2019

Spirit of Place

Spirit of Place
Oppenheim Architecture
Tra Publishing, June 2019



Paperback | 9 x 13 inches | 236 pages | 120 illustrations | English | ISBN: 978-1732297821 | $55.00

Publisher Description:
"For thousands of years, civilization has constructed its buildings on the land. We prefer to construct our buildings with the land, where architecture recedes and becomes a frame," writes Chad Oppenheim. These words are the theme of Spirit of Place, the first monograph of the work of Oppenheim Architecture. Through passion and sensitivity towards man and nature, the firm creates monumental yet silent work that invokes a site’s inherent power.

The book, with 120 stunning photographs and minimal text, features seven of the firm's projects, ranging in scale and location from homes in the Bahamas and Aspen to a resort in the Jordanian desert. The projects are categorized by each site’s predominant natural element: dune, desert, stream, river, sea, canyon, and peninsula. The images, like the architecture, focus on and celebrate the natural world, illustrating Oppenheim’s design philosophy that "form follows feeling." The volume includes text by Chad Oppenheim, Val K. Warke, Antón García-Abril, and Mark Jarzombek.
dDAB Commentary:
Even though architect Chad Oppenheim's eponymous practice has offices in three cities — Miami, New York, and Basel — and has completed buildings on three continents, the locale of South Florida defines his architecture more than anywhere. In and around Miami he has realized large houses that take advantage of the tropical climate through carefully designed outdoor spaces and large glazed expanses that slide open to meld inside and outside. Feasibly Oppenheim could devote his career to cranking out tropical residences for Miami's rich, designing variations on Villa Alegra, for instance, or the House on a Dune in the nearby Bahamas. Instead his ambitions extend into other typologies and contexts, ranging from a hotel in Brazil to a water purification plant in Switzerland. Oppenheim's unbuilt projects veer into the fantastical, be it a spa and resort that buries itself in the sand and then bridges over the sea, and a mixed-use project that melds into the Costa Rican jungle. Uniting the buildings and projects is an approach to site in which the architects discover the unique aspects of each place and exploit them to the fullest.

Spirit of Place presents seven projects — three built, four unbuilt —  by Oppenheim Architecture in an über-minimal format, with page after page of full-color photographs and renderings, no drawings, just three lines of text to describe each project, and not much else (not even page numbers). Chad Oppenheim provides a short introduction, and three essays (two short, one a little it longer) come at the back of the book, but in between is wall-to-wall imagery, where place seems to take precedence over design. This prioritization is expressed first in the title of each project: place rather than project. So House on a Dune, for example, is "dune," accompanied by a three-line haiku: "jungle and ocean / a horizon connection / sky framed and captured." Photos of the house focus on moments, views, and details rather than overall shots (no drone shots here) or other views that might provide an overall grasp of the house. What comes across is the mood of the house and the way it interacts with its surroundings, the latter accentuated by occasional photos where the lens is directed solely at the landscape. The same can be said of all the projects, which are presented on heavyweight matte paper that lays flat. Spirit of Place is architectural monograph as art and inspiration, sure to be at home on any uncluttered coffee table.
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Author Bio:
Chad Oppenheim is a Miami-based architect whose work has been praised for its ability to transform the prosaic into the poetic. ... In 1999, he founded Oppenheim Architecture (Miami, Basel, New York), which has garnered global recognition for large-scale urban architecture, hotels and resorts, private residences, interiors, and furnishings.
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Sunday, September 08, 2019

a+t 16

a+t 16: Memory I
Aurora Fernández Per, Javier Mozas (Editors)
a+t, 2000



Paperback | 9-1/4 x 12-1/2 inches | 160 pages | Spanish/English | ISSN: 1132-6409 | 22.00 €

Publisher Description:
Consider for a moment opening one's eyes wiithout memory or memories; without an understanding of one's environment, without an awareness of one's individuality, without a conception of one's being and without an appreciation of one's history. What is it one would see, hear and feel? What would be the sensation? Surely, to instantaneously re-initalise one's existence without the cushion of gestation would result in confusion to say the least, an agonising over-simulation most probably and no solace in nostalgia for the womb.

Memories of where one has been, of journeys an of participants, leave a particular perspective but they only 'exist' in perspective too. It is not possible to grasp memory in terms of appreciation an recollection any more than it is possible to mentally recreate an event in its entiirety.

Only memories give us a sense of time, a sense of space and a sense of society. However, whilst individual an collective memories can generate open-ended discussion, an understanding of memory itself enables confidence to embark towards a partial understanding without preconceptions or an expectation of fulfilment.
dDAB Commentary:
Recently reviewing Non-Referential Architecture, the book "ideated" by Swiss architect Valerio Olgiati and written by Markus Breitschmid prompted me to recall when I first became familiar with Olgiati. Having written on my blog since early 1999, I can pinpoint it exactly: to the 16th issue of a+t, Memory I. That issue, which is also the first issue of a+t I purchased, has Olgiati's Yellow House in Flims, Switzerland, among around a dozen buildings and projects aligned with the issue's theme. I subsequently wrote on my blog about Yellow House, a very un-yellow building owned by Olgiati's father, Rudolf, an architect who donated the house to Flims as a cultural center. Valerio restored and renovated the building, whitewashing the stone exterior to give it its ghostly presence in the middle of town; no wonder it's in a+t's first of two Memory issues.

This issue begins, not with architecture, but with portraits: of people in Mali photographed by Seydou Keïta, of people in Germany captured by August Sander, and of industrial structures famously shot by Bernd and Hilla Becher (first spread below). With texts by Xavier Gonzalez, an editor at a+t, the portraits explore the role of photography in cultural memory. The buildings and projects that follow tend toward renovations, be it of a single building as in Yellow House, or a whole complex as in the Zollverein mining complex in Germany. A couple buildings in Japan (both new buildings, not restorations, and both most likely encountered by the editors on their 1995 trip documented in a+t's recent Japan Diaries) take a different approach: the Hiroshige Ando Museum and Takayanagi Community Center, both designed by Kengo Kuma, are contemporary buildings with traditional forms and materials. Combined with the other projects, memory is presented as a diverse area for exploration by architects willing to consider the past as much as the future.
Spreads:


Author Bio:
Aurora Fernández Per is Publisher and Editor in Chief of a+t architecture publishers, and architect Javier Mozas is Editorial Advisor.
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