Thursday, March 21, 2019

Giedion and America

Giedion and America: Repositioning the History of Modern Architecture
Reto Geiser
gta Verlag, October 2018



Hardcover | 7 x 9-3/4 inches | 400 pages | 200 illustrations | English | ISBN: 978-3856763770 | $85.00

Publisher Description:
Paradoxically, Swiss art historian and architecture critic Sigfried Giedion (1888–1968) would only consolidate his reputation as one of the most influential architectural historians of the twentieth century far from his homeland, in America. In his study of Giedion’s life and work Reto Geiser foregrounds the formative character of Giedion’s extended stays in the United States and their role as an inspiring laboratory to propel his scholarship. By challenging the presentation of a continuous line of developments, and revealing the ruptures and contradictions within Giedion’s work, Geiser questions a heroic account of modern architecture, turning instead to the less ideological and frequently overlooked facets of Giedion’s oeuvre. The book argues that, although Giedion’s position in between two cultural spheres created discontinuities in his work, it also facilitated a mutual exchange between the architectural impresario and his North American peers and thereby helped to shape the development and reception of the modern project on either side of the Atlantic.
dDAB Commentary:
Sigfried Giedion is best known to architects for Space, Time and Architecture, which was first published in 1941 and revised as late as 1967, one year before the Swiss historian died. The book, still in print, sees Giedion tracing historical developments in architecture, technology, science and planning toward a new "space-time" conception of then-contemporary architecture. It was a book I read in college in the mid-1990s for a modern architectural history class, but by then the book was, not surprisingly, a dated, historical artifact rather than a text of ongoing relevance. Regardless, I really enjoyed reading it and still have a copy of the fourth edition, from 1962. The first page inside the book, even before the title page, simply says, "The Charles Eliot Norton Lectures for 1938-1939." As part of the Charles Eliot Norton Professorship in Poetry, the Swiss art historian gave six lectures on architecture at Harvard University. A couple curious things arise from this simple fact: Giedion crafted the book in the United States and he did it outside of a school of architecture. Reto Geiser, an associate professor at Rice University, hones in on Giedion's years in America to examine how his work was influenced by the place but also had an impact on educators there and back home.

As a fan of Giedion's class and of architectural history in general, I find Geiser's book fascinating -- and beautiful: it is carefully designed, illustrated, and bound, and is printed on a really nice lightweight paper. It is an extremely deep dive into a person and time (1930s to 1960s) courtesy of what must have been years spent by the author in the archives of Harvard GSD, ETH Zurich, and other institutions with materials related to Giedion. Geiser's accounts of the Swiss historian's trips to and from America (he did not stay permanently in the US, unlike Walter Gropius and others at the time) vividly capture the relationships and events that led to Space, Time and Architecture, as well as the later Mechanization Takes Command and The Eternal Present. He presents the bad with the good: the friction and the uneasy academic relationships alongside the trips and other experiences that were integral parts of Giedion's output. Geiser acknowledges the importance roles of the women in Giedion's life, particularly Jaqueline Tyrwhitt, who worked with Giedion for twenty years, and his wife, Carola Giedion-Welcker, a capable art historian in her own right. Ultimately Geiser finds the secret to Giedion in "in between" conditions that structure the book -- In Between Languages, In Between Approaches, In Between Academies, In Between Disciplines -- situations that were born from his trans-Atlantic trips before and after World War II.
Spreads:


Author Bio:
Reto Geiser is a designer and scholar of modern architecture with a focus on the intersections between architecture, pedagogy, and media. He is the Gus Wortham Assistant Professor at the Rice University School of Architecture where he teaches history, theory, and design.
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Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Mid-Century Modern Architecture Travel Guide

Mid-Century Modern Architecture Travel Guide: East Coast USA
Sam Lubell, photographs by Darren Bradley
Phaidon, October 2018



Flexicover | 5 x 7-1/4 inches | 376 pages | 255 illustrations | English | ISBN: 978-0714876627 | $35.00

Publisher Description:
Featuring architecture by some of the biggest Mid-Century names, including Mies van der Rohe, Marcel Breuer, Eero Saarinen, and Philip Johnson, each of the more than 250 buildings is located on a regional map. The book includes all the additional information needed to find and visit each building. Its cool and functional design makes this book a coveted Modernist-style object in itself.

Including icons from The Met Breuer to the fabulous beach houses of Fire Island, private homes in Connecticut, Manhattan skyscrapers, and the Tropical Modern residences of Sarasota, Florida, it is a must-have guide to one of the most fertile and lesser-known regions for the development of Mid-Century Modern architecture. From the publisher of
Mid-Century Modern Architecture Travel Guide: West Coast USA.
dDAB Commentary:
This is the second book in what I hope is a three- or four-book series of mid-century modern architecture, written by Sam Lubell and photographed by Darren Bradley. The first book, Mid-Century Modern Architecture Travel Guide: West Coast USA, was published in 2016, two years before its East Coast sibling. In my review of West Coast USA, I honed in on the design of the book, the chronology of the buildings included in it (ranging from 1921 to 1978), and the book's geographic structure. With the same players involved, including Phaidon, and a consistent format, the same could be said about East Coast USA (though the rectangles on the cover and chapter intros remind me of a John Ronan school rather than an album cover). But given that I have lived on the East Coast for a dozen years, I'm more inclined here to focus on the content relative to buildings I've visited and the how successfully the book spurs me to visit places I haven't.

East Coast USA has over 250 buildings in 5 color-coded geographic chapters: New England, New York & New Jersey, Mid-Atlantic, South, and Florida. The place I'm most familiar with, New York City, has just over 30 buildings, ranging from a school in the Bronx by Marcel Breuer to the "new" TWA Hotel by Eero Saarinen at JFK. It's a solid selection that has obvious choices (Mies's Seagram Building) but also lesser known mid-century gems (William Berger's Tribeca Synagogue); the same could be said about the whole book. There are a few projects in Queens, the borough I call home, including the New York State Pavilion by Philip Johnson, which was built for the 1964 World's Fair, has languished as a ruin but has gotten attention by preservationists in recent years. Curioiusly, the book's accessibility data indicates it is open to the public and has a free entrance; visitors can walk around the structure (it sits in a large park) but cannot get inside it. I'm not highlighting this here to point out an error – it's not really an error, given that it's not private and doesn't require admission. Rather, those points of data are not always so black and white as "yes" and "no," and readers should be wary of starting a road trip only to find that this or that building is only partially visible or accessible. Lubell's text does refer to the accessibility and visibility of buildings, particularly single-family houses, in the introduction. Likewise, the book includes a helpful section with visitor information at the back of the book, something people should use before they grab this book and hit the road.

Where would I most want to go with this book? To name just a couple things near NYC, there are churches by Victor Lundy and others in Connecticut, while farther north of the city are the numerous Kahn buildings I've yet to see in person. While I wouldn't need this guide to know about or plan a visit to, for instance, Kahn's Exeter Library, the inclusion of lesser known buildings in its pages means I would see some other interesting buildings on the way. I'd also use East Coast USA to navigate parts of Florida, the state my parents have called home just about as long as I've called NYC home. The last chapter has nearly 50 buildings there, clustered in Jacksonville, Orlando, Sarasota, and Miami. I've remained ignorant to modern architecture in Florida over the years, so Lubell and Bradley's book is perfect for me. It highlights buildings by Frank Lloyd Wright, Paul Rudolph, and Victor Lundy, but also a whole lot of obscure stuff – buildings that express the state's distinctive strand of mid-century modernism. Therein lies the appeal of the books in this series: its mix of familiar buildings by famous names and quirky buildings (Tiki anyone?) by forgotten architects captures the nuances of the period and makes the argument for their continued use and preservation.
Spreads:


Author Bio:
Sam Lubell has written eight books about architecture, including Mid-Century Modern Architecture Travel Guide: West Coast USA. He is a Contributing Editor at The Architect’s Newspaper and writes for The New York Times, Wallpaper, ... and other publications. Darren Bradley is a Southern California-based architectural photographer, active in the preservation of Mid-Century Modern architecture.
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Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Making Marks

Making Marks: Architects' Sketchbook - The Creative Process
Will Jones
Thames & Hudson, March 2019



Hardcover | 12 x 9 inches | 320 pages | 900+ illustrations | English | ISBN: 978-0500021316 | $50.00

Publisher Description:
Making Marks follows up on the highly successful Architects’ Sketchbooks, which presented, for the first time, the rich breadth of sketches being created by contemporary architects following the digital revolution. Taking a post-digital perspective, the sixty renowned architects whose work is collected here show how drawing and new forms of manual presentation have been refined since the reawakening of this basic technique. Notepads, stacks of paper, pencils and fine-point pens are as present in the architect’s studio as phalanxes of screens. Revealing why and how hand-drawing still matters, this global survey presents the freehand drawings, vibrant watercolours and abstract impressions of rising talents and well-known names, including Jun Igarashi and Brian MacKay-Lyons. Will Jones’s introduction reviews the importance of the physical sketch and its vital part in the architect’s creative process.

Spanning diverse approaches, styles and physical forms,
Making Marks is not merely a compendium of the preoccupations and stylistics of current practice, but also a rich and varied insight into architectural creativity.
dDAB Commentary:
Being an architect, I'm rarely without a sketchbook. But being an architect who now writes rather than practices architecture, most of what I fill up my sketchbooks with are words rather than drawings. This situation really came to the fore the other night, when I was at dinner with an architect. I noticed that just about every story he told in words he also drew on paper: plans, details, whatever best conveyed his experiences. It made me a little sentimental for practicing architecture, when I would do the same sort of thing: the proverbial napkin sketch at a bar or restaurant. It also made me realize just how natural it is for architects -- of a certain age, at least -- to sketch as they talk, to sketch as they think, to sketch all the time. Most architects see such quick sketches as throwaways, or at least not as materials ripe for publication, unlike more polished drawings that require more time to produce. But Making Marks is full of, but not limited to, the quick sketches that architects produce as they think, design, and convey ideas to their colleagues. There are also plenty of polished drawings, some models, and the occasional hard-line drawing, adding up to a diverse collection of marks on paper.

Making Marks comes eight years after Architects' Sketchbooks, also by Will Jones. Although put out by a different publisher, the new book is very much a sequel, given that it has the same page size, landscape orientation, and paper quality, and a similar selection of architects. In regards to the selection, I noted in my review of Architects' Sketchbooks that the London-based Jones loaded up the book with UK architects. There is less of that here, but still many UK architects, alongside ones from Canada, USA, Australia, Japan, Scandinavia, and other parts of Europe. The most glaring omission is South America, which has so many good contemporary architects but only one in the book (from Costa Rica). Like its predecessor, Making Marks is packed with eye candy that illustrates just how "architectural" drawings by architects are, while at the same time capturing the uniqueness of each hand. In this sense, the book is most helpful for students, who have yet to find their style but can find it as they absorb the drawings of others.
Spreads:


Author Bio:
Will Jones is a journalist and writer specializing in architecture and design. His articles have appeared in the RIBA Journal, the Financial Times and Blueprint, and he is the author of several books including Architects’ Sketchbooks.
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Monday, March 18, 2019

Santiago Calatrava

Santiago Calatrava: Drawing, Building, Reflecting
Cristina Carrillo de Albornoz, Santiago Calatrava
Thames & Hudson, November 2018



Hardcover | 7-1/2 x 10-1/4 inches | 224 pages | 300 illustrations | English | ISBN: 978-0500343418 | $45.00

Publisher Description:
Santiago Calatrava is an intimate insight into one of the world’s most celebrated architects. Calatrava first made a name for himself in the late 1980s, with delicately designed structures in Zürich that seem to grow out of the earth. He went on to create a series of highly innovative, iconic bridges across Europe and, in recent years, has drawn attention for such large-scale projects as the City of Arts and Sciences in his birth town of Valencia, Spain, and the World Transportation Hub at Ground Zero in New York.

Written in the first person and accompanied by a wealth of sketches never seen outside Calatrava’s studio, this book reveals the breadth of his influences, and how they have combined with his background in engineering and architecture to inspire his signature buildings. Moving beyond a documentation of Calatrava’s architectural output, this book offers a rare opportunity for readers to explore the creative process of one of the world’s great architects. In this heartfelt memoir of an architect of singular conviction, Calatrava’s inspirations, lessons, and achievements will touch every reader, whether aspiring architect or lover of art and nature.
dDAB Commentary:
If this book really is an "intimate insight" into Santiago Calatrava, the Spanish architect/engineer is a man out of time. Even though his famous bridges, train stations, and other buildings require cutting-edge technologies, especially in regards to steel construction, Calatrava asserts that "technique and technology should never be goals in themselves, but merely supports in our efforts to create poetic structures." Striving for the poetic finds Calatrava defining his structures as art and finding inspiration in artists from centuries ago: Alberti, Bach, Beethoven, Rodin, Shakespeare, and Vitruvius. By seeing architecture and engineering as art and aligning his design approach with such names as these, Calatrava comes across as old-fashioned, eschewing the social concerns and other considerations that are preoccupying younger designers today. Cristina Carrillo de Albornoz's text, written in the first person from Calatrava's viewpoint (like Studs Terkel's books), reiterates the myth of architect as sole genius, an outdated notion but one that necessarily comes with the "starchitect" label.

The most rewarding aspect of Santiago Calatrava is the drawings. No wonder it's the first word in the book's subtitle: Minus the occasional photograph and rendering, the book is wall-to-wall drawings. These range from sketches drawn from nature or the human body to watercolors that approach the finished buildings. Clearly Calatrava has a skilled hand; this comes from drawing every day of his working life but also from his "first vocation": painting. Before he was educated in architecture and engineering in Spain and Switzerland, respectively, Calatrava painted, learning to see and learn from nature and the human body. To this day he finds inspiration in parts of the body, the structure of creatures, and the forms of nature. And to this day he sees himself as an artist, one who combines architecture and engineering (two different fields that Calatrava sees as one) to create structures that are his alone.
Spreads:


Author Bio:
Cristina Carrillo de Albornoz is an art curator, critic, and author who has authored and coauthored a number of books on leading artists and architects, including Ai Weiwei. Santiago Calatrava is an internationally celebrated Spanish architect, structural engineer, sculptor, and painter.
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Sunday, March 17, 2019

The International Style

The International Style
Henry-Russell Hitchcock, Philip Johnson
W. W. Norton, June 1995



Hardcover/Paperback | 6-1/2 x 8-1/2 inches | 269 pages | English | ISBN: 978-0393315189 (PB) | $22.95 (PB)

Publisher Description:
Initially produced as the catalog to accompany a controversial and groundbreaking 1932 Museum of Modern Art show of the then new architecture emerging in Europe and America, The International Style quickly became the definitive statement of the principles underlying the work of such giants as Mies van der Rohe, Le Corbusier, Walter Gropius, and other pioneers. It might be said that Henry-Russell Hitchcock and Philip Johnson discovered as well as defined "the International Style," and over the decades their book has served as both a flashpoint for criticism and a frame for growth in the architectural profession. It has never been out of print in over sixty years.

This new edition has been completely redesigned and reset, and it features a new foreword by Philip Johnson, who reflects on the legacy of the International Style and examines the still-precarious power of architecture in our public life.
dDAB Commentary:
Published as a companion to Modern Architecture: International Exhibition, the 1932 exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, The International Style brought modern architecture, a European phenomenon, stateside. The exhibition and book came seven years after International Architecture, which was edited by Walter Gropius at the Bauhaus: an architect and design school that defined the "style" that Henry-Russell Hitchcock and Philip Johnson would embrace and promote. The earlier book presents photos and drawings of buildings by Gropius, Le Corbusier, Mies van der Rohe, and other European architects, and the MoMA curators basically did the same, focusing on form over substance, appearance over function, style over social concerns. In terms of publications, The International Style has held sway much longer than International Architecture. The latter was reprinted this year, coinciding with the 100th anniversary of the Bauhaus's founding, while The International Style received two later editions following its original publication: in 1966 and in 1995, the latter of which I bought for a history of modern architecture class in college the same year and am most familiar with. (The spreads below do not reflect this most recent edition.)

By 1995, the lasting influence of The International Style was not only well-established, it was repeated in the 1988 Deconstructivist Architecture exhibition by none other than Philip Johnson (with Mark Wigley). Each exhibition and companion publication aimed to define a style that captured the zeitgeist by focusing on form and appearance. Johnson and Hitchcock defined three traits of what they called the "international style" but what is commonly known just as "modern architecture": Architecture as Volume, rather than architecture as mass, arising from steel framing; Concerning Regularity, on the articulation of windows in exterior walls free from the role of structural support; and The Avoidance of Applied Decoration, a self-explanatory phrase. These are important aspects of what Gropius and other European architects were doing in the 1920s and 30s, but there was more to their buildings than just structure and surface. No matter, as MoMA's traits would come to define modern architecture and supplant any deeper concerns for the social repercussions that arose from the conflicts, technological changes, and economic shifts that dramatically changed the world a century ago.
Spreads (from MoMA PDF of 1932 book):


Author Bio:
Henry-Russell Hitchcock (1903–1987), architectural historian, was Sophia Smith Professor of Art at Smith College and author of many works on architects and architecture. Philip Johnson (1906-2005) was a Trustee of the Museum of Modern Art, and a fellow of both The American Institute of Architects and The American Institute of Arts and Letters. In 1978 he received the Gold Medal from the AIA, and in 1979 the first Pritzker Architecture Prize.
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Saturday, March 16, 2019

Spring 2019 Walking Tours

It's less than a week until spring, which means my walking tours are starting up again. I have a few scheduled with the 92Y, listed below. Additionally I've created a static Walking Tours page where I will maintain a list of upcoming walking tours. That page can be found from the top menu on this blog. Click link for tickets or visit that page for more information on the below tours.

Saturday, March 30, 2019 - 11am-2:30pm
Architectural Tour of Brooklyn via the G Train

Saturday, April 13, 2019 - 11am-1:30pm
Architectural Tour of Pedestrian Lower Manhattan

Saturday, May 4, 2019 - 11am-1:30pm
Architectural Tour of the High Line and Its Environs

Thursday, March 14, 2019

International Architecture

International Architecture: Bauhausbücher 1
Walter Gropius (Editor)
Lars Müller Publishers, March 2019



Hardcover | 7 x 9 inches | 108 pages | 100 illustrations | English | ISBN: 978-3037785843 | $45.00

Publisher Description:
When the Bauhaus moved to Dessau in 1924, it was finally possible to publish the first of the Bauhausbücher that Walter Gropius (1883–1969) and Làszlò Moholy-Nagy (1895–1946) had first conceived of in Weimar. The series was intended to give insight into the teachings of the Bauhaus and the possibilities it offered for incorporating modern design into everyday aspects of an ever-more-modern world. First in the series was Gropius’ International Architecture, an overview of the modern architecture of the mid-1920s and an early attempt to articulate what would come to be known as International Style architecture. In a brief preface, Gropius summarized the guiding principles he identified uniting the avant-garde around the world. But the real thrust of the book is visual, with an extensive illustrated section showing buildings in Europe and the Americas. According to Gropius, these illustrations show the “development of a consistent worldview” that dispensed with the prior decorative role of architecture and expressed itself in a new language of exactitude, functionality and geometry.

Published for the first time in English, this new edition of the first of the Bauhausbücher is accompanied by a brief scholarly commentary. Presented in a design true to Moholy-Nagy’s original,
International Architecture offers readers the opportunity to explore the Bauhaus’ aesthetic and its place in the world as Gropius himself was trying to define them.
dDAB Commentary:
Between 1925 and 1930, the Bauhaus put out 14 of a planned 54 titles in the Bauhausbücher series edited by Bauhaus founder Walter Gropius and photographer László Moholy-Nagy. Derailed by the turmoil in Europe leading up to WWII, the books that were printed were snapped up quickly and are now difficult to find. Swiss publisher Lars Müller is gradually making the fourteen titles available again "in a form true to the originals," but in English. First in the original series was Gropius's International Architecture, whose reprint comes out next week, a couple weeks before the 100th anniversary of the Bauhaus Weimar. Centennial celebrations are rampant in Germany, and reprints like International Architecture and Bauhaus Journal 1926-1931 extend the reach of those celebrations all over the world – a world transformed by the principles developed at the short-lived school (1919-1933).

International Architecture is a short book, with a four-page introduction by Gropius and 100 pages of photographs and drawings of "ever more daring design[s]" by the likes of Peter Behrens, Erich Mendelsohn, Bruno Taut, Frank Lloyd Wright, and of course Gropius himself. Given that it's nearly a century since original publication, most of the projects are well known. So, not surprisingly, the handsome hardcover reprint is most valuable as a historical artifact. Nevertheless it's a treat to flip through. With two images per spread – sometimes showing the same project but often two different projects – it's easy to make comparisons; and it's clear that Gropius considered the juxtaposition of images, be it in terms of visual composition, typology, materials, or other traits. (This tactic is still in use today, with such books as Modern Spaces.) Five of the 100 illustrations present designs for the Chicago Tribune in 1922, highlighting Gropius's famous scheme and three other modern designs that were passed over for the neo-Gothic winner. What may have seemed like the failure of modern design versus traditional design turned out to be a slight hiccup in Modernism's ascension courtesy of the Bauhaus.
Spreads:


Author Bio:
Walter Gropius (1883-1969) was a German architect and founder of the Bauhaus School, who ... is widely regarded as one of the pioneering masters of modernist architecture. Gropius was also a leading architect of the International Style.
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