Friday, January 18, 2019

A House Is Not Just a House

A House Is Not Just a House: Projects on Housing
Tatiana Bilbao
Columbia Books on Architecture and the City, October 2018



Paperback | 5 x 7-1/2 inches | 160 pages | # illustrations | Languages | ISBN: 978-1941332436 | $23.00

Publisher Description:
A House Is Not Just a House argues precisely this. The book traces Tatiana Bilbao’s diverse work on housing ranging from large-scale social projects to single-family luxury homes. Regardless of type, her work advances an argument on housing that is simultaneously expansive and minimal, inseparable from the broader environment outside of it and predicated on the fundamental requirements of living. The projects presented here offer a way of thinking about the limits of housing: where it begins and where it ends. Working within the complex and unstable history of social housing in Mexico, Bilbao argues for participating even when circumstances are less than ideal—and from this participation she is able to propose specific strategies for producing housing elsewhere.

The book includes a recent lecture by Bilbao at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation, as well as reflections from fellow practitioners and scholars, including Amale Andraos, Gabriela Etchegaray, Hilary Sample, and Ivonne Santoyo-Orozco.
dDAB Commentary:
One of the highlights of the inaugural Chicago Architecture Biennial was Tatiana Bilbao's "Sustainable Housing," one of four full-scale prototype dwellings I encountered in the exhibition. At only $9,000, the house made of CMUs, plywood, and wood pallets was framed relative to the 9 million houses needed in Mexico, where Bilbao lives and works. She was able to build 23 of the houses in Coahuila after the same number of houses was destroyed by a tornado. The wood was eschewed in favor of more concrete so they would stand up to any future tornadoes. Yet almost as important as the houses, Bilbao realized a shaded square and sports court adjacent to the houses; these illustrate how she also addresses urban planning and the public spaces outside of the houses themselves.

This small book documents a lecture Bilbao gave at Columbia GSAPP in October 2016, in which she discussed her housing prototypes, the houses in Coahuila, and other housing projects. Her talk illuminates the unique conditions of housing in Mexico and Mexico City in particular. Bilbao has been proactive in regards to the country's housing crisis, having approached INFONAVIT, the federally owned bank that funds most of the country's housing projects, with the goal of creating successful neighborhoods, not just good housing. This emphasis on context and the social conditions of housing is one explanation for the book's title. Other takes come courtesy of the essays by Ivnne Santoyo-Orozco, Gabriela Etchegaray, and Hilary Sample.
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Author Bio:
Tatiana Bilbao, born and raised in Mexico City, graduated from Universidad Iberoamericana in 1996. In 2004, she founded her titular office, initiating projects in China, Europe and Mexico.
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Thursday, January 17, 2019

Groundscapes

Groundscapes: Other Topographies
Dominique Perrault
Editions HYX, December 2016



Paperback | 6-1/4 x 9-1/2 inches | 208 pages | 265 illustrations | English | ISBN: 978-2910385989 | 28 €

Publisher Description:
In this book, the architect Dominique Perrault presents his thoughts on the architecture of the "Groundscape". An idea, a concept, the architect has been exploring and experimenting with for many years in his projects and through his fictions. "It is a work on shaping reality, through subterranean architecture, where is not a question of living but of marking and carving out places for urban life in the earth, this epidermis open to the sky".
dDAB Commentary:
If there is one architect who could be best associated with buildings that merge with the land, or "landscrapers" (as in the title of the 2002 book by Aaron Betsky), or "groundscapes," or whatever one wants to label them, it's Dominique Perrault. His French National Library from 1989 placed a sunken garden at the center of four "open-book" towers; the Velodrome and Olympic Swimming Pool from ten years later depressed a circle and a square into a raised landscape; and the Ewha Womans University from 2008 featured a Michael Heizer-esque cut through two parallel wings. These projects illustrate that Perrault spends a good deal of time thinking about how buildings relate to the landscape they sit upon, how they can be cut into the earth, and how buildings and landscapes can, in a sense, merge. Groundscape lays out the theoretical foundations (no pun intended) for subterranean architecture.

Perrault's arguments are organized into eight chapters (Fictions, Archi-tectonics, Geographic Extension, The Generic Void, Transition Zones, Logics of Density, Ontologies of the Ground, and The Urban Substance), each organized as text followed by images. The texts ("the fruits of exchanges and interviews with Frédéric Migayrou") are dense, often times hard to decipher. I chalk this up partly to the text being theoretical and full of pronouncements free of any necessary support, but I think the translation from French to English is also to blame. There are enough instances of poor punctuation, odd phrasing, and run-on sentences to make me think otherwise. The images, on the other hand, are a treat, ranging from Perrault's own projects to artworks to photographs of subterranean spaces most people will never venture into. But why separate the words and images? Why not integrate the two, allowing the images to clarify and carry along the theoretical text? Groundscapes would have made a much stronger argument if such an editorial approach were taken.
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Author Bio:
Born in 1953 in Clermont-Ferrand, Dominique Perrault studied in Paris and received his diploma as an architect from the École des Beaux-Arts in 1978. He created his own firm in 1981 in Paris.
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Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Mexico City Architecture Guide

Mexico City Architecture Guide
Miquel Adrià, Andrea Griborio, Alejandro Gálvez, Juan José Kochen
Arquine, August 2018



Paperback | 4-1/2 x 8 inches | 232 pages | 210 color illustrations | English | ISBN: 978-6077784869 | $28.00

Publisher Description:
Mexico City Architecture Guide is a compilation of more than 150 works of architecture dating from the early 20th century up to the present day. To help orient readers, the guide is divided into five areas and includes seven maps to create a comprehensive panorama of the Mexican megalopolis. Each project includes details about the relevant architects, location and year of construction, as well as public transport information. The texts, photographs and maps created for this guide give fresh shape to the city.

Now available in an English-language edition for the first time,
Mexico City Architecture Guide is an invaluable guide for international visitors as well as locals, displaying a strong commitment to Mexico’s capital and celebrating the city’s architectural culture.
dDAB Commentary:
Ideally a review of a guidebook would involve actually using it as it was intended: walking around the city with the book in hand. But since I won't be making a trip to Mexico City anytime soon, and have yet to visit the city, this review will make do from 2,000 miles away. Mexico City Architecture Guide, published one year after the same guide in Spanish, organizes its more than 150 works of architecture into 5 chapters corresponding to the five color-coded maps displayed on fold-out inside covers at the front and back of the book (first spread, below). Each clearly numbered project is given one page (important works, such as Casa Estudio Luis Barragan, are given two pages) with one photo, address, nearest public transit, telephone and opening hours (if applicable), and a short description. It's a straightforward guide that is organized intelligently as a guidebook.

A couple details indicate just how much better this book would be if I were in Mexico City rather than in my NYC apartment. First is the inclusion of nearby buildings in the descriptions of some of the entries. These are not other numbered buildings; rather they are buildings of note that could be seen or visited due to geographic immediacy. Unless I "visited" the city via Google Street View to see the exteriors of the numbered buildings, there's no way for me to take advantage of this sometimes-feature. Second are a few detailed maps within the chapters (Polanco, Condesa, and Ciudad Universitaria) that point out even more buildings, keyed to the maps through letters rather than numbers. These two details make the guidebook about much more than its 155 numbered entries — and a handy guide for whenever I make it down to Mexico City.
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Author Bio:
N/A
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Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Drawing Architecture

Drawing Architecture
Helen Thomas
Phaidon, October 2018



Hardcover | 11-3/8 x 9-7/8 inches | 320 pages | 285 illustrations | English | ISBN: 978-0714877150 | $79.95

Publisher Description:
Throughout history, architects have relied on drawings both to develop their ideas and communicate their vision to the world.

This gorgeous collection brings together more than 250 of the finest architectural drawings of all time, revealing each architect's process and personality as never before. Creatively paired to stimulate the imagination, the illustrations span the centuries and range from sketches to renderings, simple to intricate, built projects to a utopian ideal, famous to rarely seen - a true celebration of the art of architecture.

Visually paired images draw connections and contrasts between architecture from different times, styles, and places. From Michelangelo to Frank Gehry, Louise Bourgeois to Tadao Ando, B.V. Doshi to Zaha Hadid, and Grafton to Luis Barragán, the book shows the incredible variety and beauty of architectural drawings.
dDAB Commentary:
One of Phaidon's tried and true formats is what I'd call the compilation book: one image with descriptive text per page, all geared to a particular theme. There's The Design Book, The Garden Book, Design for Children, and others related to architecture and design as well as books about art, cooking, and so forth. The success of these titles is certainly related to their subject. So for architects, Drawing Architecture is sure to please. Its nearly 300 pages of drawings range in time from 2130 BC to 2018. But instead of presenting the drawings in chronological order (a timeline at the back of the book, visible as the bottom spread, orders them as such) or in alphabetical order by their creators (as was done in The Garden Book, one of Phaidon's compilation books I'm most familiar with), author Helen Thomas opted for what she calls "an associational approach" meant to "provide imaginative space for the reader to make their own connections between the images." Yet with similarities in terms of color, form, perspective, and other visual means between the facing drawings on each spread, Thomas is already making those connections for the reader.

For me, the obvious appeal of the book isn't the connections; it's the individual drawings, some of them instantly recognizable (Boullée's Cenotaph for Isaac Newton, Le Corbusier's Maison Domino, Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater, Bernard Tschumi's Manhattan Transcripts, etc.) but many of them lesser known and therefore surprises to me. Thomas's descriptions are descriptive and analytical, finding significance in the drawings and how they were produced. In terms of the latter, I was disheartened to learn that Diller + Scofidio's iconic graphite-on-wood drawing of the unbuilt Slow House was a computer-generated print rather than a hand drawing (I should have realized that fact when I saw it in person years ago). I was also disappointed that Douglas Darden, Lauretta Vinciarelli, Michael Sorkin, and other talented architects were nowhere to be found, but any compilation is bound to have omissions. The drawings that did make the cut are on matte pages with uncut edges, making for a book lighter than expected given its size and very handsome; the latter is aided by the embossed cover with its drawing by R. Bucky Fuller. Unfortunately my cover warped quickly after unwrapping, something I wasn't expecting from a book with a cover price of more than $75.
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Author Bio:
Trained and registered as an architect, Helen Thomas spent 10 years as a senior lecturer in London schools of architecture, before moving to the new V&A/RIBA Architecture Collections at the V&A ... She is currently the Senior Research Fellow in Architecture and Construction, ETH Zurich.
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Monday, January 14, 2019

Architecture Can!

Architecture Can! HWKN Hollwich Kushner 2008-2018
Matthias Hollwich, Marc Kushner, HWKN
Images Publishing, October 2018



Flexicover | 5-1/4 x 9-1/2 inches | 216 pages | 290 color illustrations | English | ISBN: 978-1864707915 | $30.00

Publisher Description:
Architecture Can! is an intriguing journey through the works and projects of the groundbreaking architecture firm Hollwich Kushner, based in New York. Partners Matthias Hollwich and Marc Kushner design projects at every scale: intimate, awe-inspiring, and everything in between; from residences to universities, museums, and urban plans.

As two founders of leading architecture social media network Architizer, Hollwich and Kushner frankly admit the power of social media in contemporary architecture practice. Images of new and advanced buildings and concepts travel the globe at high speed, influencing a new generation of projects before the previous generation has broken ground. To stand out, they believe, architecture must "empower people to engage with others, to produce memorable experiences, and to live with a sense of wonder."
dDAB Commentary:
What form should the architectural monograph take in the digital age? Architecture Can! is one answer. Documenting the first ten years of HWKN, aka Hollwich Kushner, the firm of Matthias Hollwich and Marc Kushner, Architecture Can! resembles a guidebook in size and shape. Its tall pages are more comfortable in the hands than on the coffee table. Following a short manifesto, with large text (akin to mobile-friendly websites) on yellow pages, the projects are presented like an endless scroll: images are cropped and extend to the next page and the next project. Some projects, such as their popular Wendy installation at MoMA PS1, are also given two-page spreads of full-bleed projects culled from Instagram and other social media sources. Following the colorful presentation of selected projects are all 125 projects HWKN projects to date, each presented simply with one b/w image.

Architecture Can! is best when the social media spreads add life, literally, to the projects Hollwich, Kushner, and team designed. Not all of the photos depict the buildings in a flattering or even substantial light (quite a few are selfies or photos about people in their setting rather than about the settings themselves), but they reiterate HWKN's assertion, spelled out below, that buildings are shared experiences. While I'm not convinced by Kushner's assertion that Instagram posts and the like are taking over the role of architectural criticism, here the imgages become a means of gauging how successfully a design imbues a place with vitality. HWKN's buildings, as Architecture Can! presents them, are lively places indeed.
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Author Bios:
Matthias Hollwich and Marc Kushner founded Hollwich Kushner, a leading architecture firm based in Lower Manhattan ... They are a new kind of architecture firm that believes in entrepreneurship - they founded Architizer.com and were named one the world's Most Innovative Companies by Fast Company.
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Saturday, January 12, 2019

Anchoring

Anchoring: Steven Holl, Selected Projects, 1975-1991
Steven Holl
Princeton Architectural Press, January 1996 (third edition)



Flexicover | 8-1/2 x 8-1/2 inches | 172 pages | 205 b/w illustrations | English | ISBN: 978-1878271518 | $40.00

Publisher Description:
One of our most popular titles, Anchoring presents New York architect Steven Holl's projects from 1975 to the present. Among the works featured are Void Space/Hinged Space Housing, Fukuoka; School of Architecture, University of Minnesota; Pace Showroom, New York; Stretto House, Dallas; and the Berkowitz House, Martha's Vineyard.
dDAB Commentary:
In 1989, about thirty years before his Seven Houses monograph, New York architect Steven Holl put out Anchoring. With a square format, linen cover, and plenty of b/w illustrations (mainly drawings and model photos as he'd built little at the time), the monograph was very popular. It was updated at least two times (the third edition is what I own and focus on here) and established the format for subsequent monographs, including Intertwining and Urbanisms (all three from Princeton Architectural Press, it should be noted), which I discussed in terms of continuity five years ago. When I was in architecture school in the early 1990s, Anchoring was one of my go-to books in the library for inspiration.

Three decades later the book isn't so much a source of inspiration as an encapsulation of one architect's output over a period of time but also of the evolution of monographs. In regards to the latter, I'm amazed at just how much information is packed into Anchoring, information that is ditched in contemporary monographs in favor of more professional photos, larger text on the page, or praiseworthy words from a critic or fellow architect. Sure, Anchoring comes complete with an essay by Kenneth Frampton, but it also has loads of drawings and other illustrations that document an architect's process — even for projects that were completed and come with photos. Anchoring was far from the first monograph to rely so heavily on drawings, but it's easily one of the best.
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Author Bio:
Steven Holl is the founder and principal of Steven Holl Architects (est. 1977) in New York and is a tenured professor in the Graduate School of Architecture and Planning at Columbia University.
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