Sunday, December 09, 2018

Old+New Book Review: Kongjian Yu

Designed Ecologies: The Landscape Architecture of Kongjian Yu edited by William S. Saunders
Birkhäuser, 2012
Hardcover, 256 pages

Letters to the Leaders of China: Kongjian Yu and the Future of the Chinese City edited by Terreform
UR Books, 2018
Paperback, 300 pages

One of the most memorable crits I attended during the World Architecture Festival a couple weeks ago was Turenscape's presentation of Puyangjiang River Corridor, which involved the demolition of the channelized river's concrete embankments and subsequent "softening and remediating" of the 10-mile-long river corridor. Even though the concrete-lined river sprouted industrial uses along its banks, Turenscape convinced the city's mayor to remove the concrete and the industry in order to bring the river back to life. How, the jury asked the designer from Turenscape, did they manage to do that? "Six months of drinking with the mayor!" It seemed like a joke and elicited laughter from the jury and audience, but it was true. And it captured something unique about Turenscape beyond its distinctive, influential "sponge city" landscapes full of winding colorful walkways and pavilions: founder Kongjian Yu and his other partners engage with mayors to transform sizable chunks of urban China into productive cultural landscapes.

Yu's political engagement is the theme of Letters to the Leaders of China, the eighth book from Terreform's UR Books. It collects almost ten of his letters to mayors and includes excerpts from his books, essays, and lectures; much of his words here have been translated into English for the first time. Following them are essays by such academics as Thomas J. Campanella, Zhongjie Lin, and Peter G. Rowe. Concluding the book are an interview with Ai Weiwei and maps that show the remarkable extent of Turenscape's projects for Chinese cities -- 48 in Qinhuangdao alone (!), the city where the famous Red Ribbon Park is located. I started with the Ai Weiwei interview. Although they clearly know each other and appreciate each other's work, the informal interview the artist and landscape architect probing each other to learn about the other person and provoke him about certain questionable traits. The candor and conversational tone make it a great start to the core features of Yu's career, from his agricultural upbringing and training at Harvard University, to his teaching at Peking University and work at Turenscape, which he founded in 1988 and has seen expand to hundreds of employees in three offices.

The main argument that permeates the interview as well as his letters to Chinese mayors is "little feet" versus "big feet" values. The first refers to the tradition no longer practiced of binding the feet of girls in the name of beauty, while the second refers to the strong women that work the land but are not seen as traditional beauties. Yu extends the analogy to landscape design and inverts the two, finding value in the productive over formal beauty. In turn, even though his landscapes are punctuated by formally striking features like the red ribbon (visible on the cover of the Birkhäuser book as well as via the link above), they address a number of functions: industrial remediation, cleaning water, habitat restoration, growing crops, etc. By integrating productive landscapes into urban situations (many Turenscape parks are located alongside the cookie cutter housing developments outsiders see as synonymous with Chinese urbanism), Yu and his team remind city dwellers of China's agricultural roots and reveal how rice paddies, for instance, can co-exist with housing, universities, and other urban uses.

Letters to the Leaders of China has some photographs, but they are all monochrome and serve to elucidate points in the writings rather than to illustrate Turenscape's colorful projects. A more traditional full-color monograph, though a fairly academic one, was put out by Birkhäuser back in 2012. The book alternates documentation of built and unbuilt Turenscape projects with scholarly essays, many of the latter coming from professors at Yu's Cambridge alma mater. The maps at the back of Letters illustrate the country-wide ambition of Turenscape, something that comes across more explicitly in Designed Ecologies. In addition to projects like the Red Ribbon Park, the monograph includes large-scale planning and research projects for Beijing and all of China. With color-coded maps reminiscent of the great Ian McHarg, these large-scale projects convey how Yu has brought ideas from his education in the United States to bear on his home country, in turn influencing the field of landscape architecture well beyond China.

Wednesday, December 05, 2018

Book Briefs #40

"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. This installment features four titles — two from Laurence King and two from Thames & Hudson – that are oriented to design and materials in education and practice.

The Architecture Concept Book by James Tait | Thames & Hudson | 2018 | Amazon / IndieBound
The title page of The Architecture Concept Book includes title, author, and publisher but also one important number: 565 illustrations. Yes, that's a lot of illustrations. I'd say as many of them are sketches by James Tait as they are photographs by others. In turn, the book explains architectural concepts primarily through the author's words and illustrations. Even when the images are not his own, they are composed in a way that tells a story or explains a point. This is, I think, how illustrated books should be, taking advantage of their page-format and the relationship between words and images. Although Tait's four-A (Assess, Analyze, Assemble, Augment) argument is about 30 years too late for this architect/writer, I appreciate his references and at-times opinionated writing, as well as his approach to composing a helpful book for architecture students and young architects.

Design Process in Architecture: From Concept to Completion by Geoffrey Makstutis | Laurence King Publishing | 2018 | Amazon / IndieBound
The cover of this book hints at part of its contents: bubble diagrams and flow charts that explain the architectural design process. Given that the design process is broadly similar in the architecture profession — moving from relatively vague concepts based on research and other factors to precise, detailed designs born from numerous revisions — but highly varied from one architect to another, teaching the design process through a book, rather than a class, is no easy task. Makstutis covers every aspect of the design process but does it in a way that is cognizant of these inherent variations; the latter is covered through many miniature case studies: two-page spreads that explain the approach in a single building. Geared to people considering an architectural education or architecture students in their early years of architecture school, the book is full of illustrations (350 of them, most not bubble diagrams and flow charts) and compact for easy transport between dorm and studio.

3D Thinking in Design and Architecture: From Antiquity to the Future by Roger Burrows | Thames & Hudson | 2018 | Amazon / IndieBound
I thought 565 illustrations was a lot (see The Architecture Concept Book above), but this one boasts of 800 illustrations, with more than 600 of them in color. What are all these illustrations? The book starts with photographs in its journey from historical epochs to the present and the future, but it quickly shifts to diagrams by Roger Burrows, who works in the fields of "geometry, design, architectural form and interactive learning," per the back cover. The diagrams, hinted at by the cover, explain geometries in architecture and design, moving from an explanation of the Chartres labyrinth at the beginning of the book to "Dynamic Close-Packing Circle Geometry" in the last chapter. The first indicates how Burrows embraces geometries throughout nature and time, while the second points to the mathematics underlying much of the book. Thankfully, for un-math-minded folks like myself, the author's diagram are very clear in explaining how 2D (many of the geometries in the book are 2D patterns) and 3D thinking has evolved over time.

Manufacturing Architecture: An Architect's Guide to Custom Processes, Materials, and Applications by Dana K. Gulling | Laurence King Publishing | 2018 | Amazon / IndieBound
Reminiscent of the materials books by Victoria Ballard Bell and Patrick Rand, Dana Gulling's Manufacturing Architecture explains the use of various materials through many contemporary case studies. But with Gulling the focus is on material processes, particularly "repetitive manufacturing processes for architectural application." In turn there are as many photos of factory floors as completed buildings; many architects will love this book for the former alone. The main chapters look broadly at processes (manipulating sheet, continuous shaping, making thin or hollow, and forming solid) with subchapters focused on particular processes. The second chapter, Continuous Shaping, for instance, is broken down to Extrusion and Pultrusion through a handful of materials: clay, stiff mud, metal, plastic, and fiber-reinforced plastic. With more than 1,100 illustrations (we have a winner!) and a thorough, practical take on material processes with great case studies, Gulling's book is one every practicing architect should have in their library.

Monday, December 03, 2018

Triple Dutch

The lack of posts between my roundup of Holiday Gift Books on Thanksgiving and now was due to a trip to Amsterdam to cover the World Architecture Festival for World-Architects. Thankfully I was able to do some sightseeing on what was my first trip to the Netherlands, zipping around Amsterdam and taking day trips to Delft and Rotterdam. Below are photos of some highlights in these three Dutch cities, presented in the order I visited them.


The bathtub-like addition to the Stedelijk Museum (2012) by Benthem Crouwel Architects:

Superlofts Houthaven (2016) by Marc Koehler Architects, which won at WAF in 2017 and was open for tours this year:

Het Schip, the Amsterdam School masterpiece from 1920 by Michel de Klerk:

ARCAM (Architecture Centre Amsterdam), housed in a shapely building designed by René van Zuuk (2003):


Delft City Hall and Train Station (2017) by Mecanoo:

BK City (Faculty of Architecture and the Built Environment) at TU Delft with glasshouses designed by Octatube, Fokkema & Partners, and MVRDV:

Library at TU Delft (1998) by Mecanoo, my favorite building of the whole trip:

Student Housing DUWO (2009) by Mecanoo:

Delft likes stilts, if these two buildings I have no details on are any indication:

The hodgepodge of townhouse architecture in Nieuw Delft, a residential area being developed south of the new train station and city hall...:

...including House CB005 (2018) by GAAGA:


Rotterdam Central Station (2014) by Team CS, the collaboration of Benthem Crouwel Architects, MVSA Meyer en Van Schooten Architecten and West 8:

Shouwburgplein ("Theater Square," 1996) by West8:

Netherlands Architecture Institute (1993) by Jo Coenen, renovated by the architect in 2011 for Het Nieuwe Instituut (sculpture in top photo is The Hermitage, 1999, by Lebbeus Woods):

Next to Het Nieuwe Instituut is the construction site for the spaceship-like public art depot for the Museum Boijmans van Beuningen designed by MVRDV and set to be completed next year:

Kunsthal, designed by OMA in 1991 and then renovated by OMA in 2013:

Markthal (2015) by MVRDV:

Timmerhuis (2015) by OMA:

Thursday, November 22, 2018

2018 Holiday Gift Books

For this year's roundup of Holiday Gift Books I'm highlighting 36 books by the same number of publishers, arranged alphabetically by publisher – from Actar to Yale. Titles link to IndieBound and covers link to Amazon for easy gift-buying.

Álvaro Siza Viera: A Pool in the Sea
By Kenneth Frampton, Vincent Mentzel

A slim, 92-page book that sees Siza, with Kenneth Frampton, revisiting the great pool he designed more than 50 years ago in Leça de Palmeira, Portugal.

ar+d (Applied Research + Design)
Towards Openness
By Li Hu, Huang Wenjing

A really nice monograph on OPEN, the firm led by Li Hu and Huang Wenjing that recently completed the UCCA Dune Art Museum.

Mexico City Architecture Guide
By Miquel Adrià, Andrea Griborio, Alejandro Gálvez, Juan José Kochen

One of these days I'll make it south of the border to see the great architecture in Mexico City. When I do, I'll have this excellent guide to steer me around.

Herzog & de Meuron 1978-1996, Volume 1-3
By Gerhard Mack

A reprint of the first three "Complete Works" on the influential Swiss architects. Per the publisher's website, the set is in German/English, not just German as in the links above.

Circa Press
Archigram - The Book
By Warren Chalk, Peter Cook, Dennis Crompton, Ron Herron, David Greene, Michael Webb

I'm excited to get my hands on this large-format book that catalogs Archigram's activities in the 1960s and 70s and includes 165 pages from the ten Archigram magazines.

Clarkson Potter
Daniel Libeskind: Edge of Order
By Tim McKeough

An artistic, and visually dense and layered take on the architectural monograph, Edge of Center runs through Libeskind's life and important projects. Told in first person through collaborator Tim McKeough.

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

This petit book transcribes a lecture given by Mexican architect Tatiana Bilbao at Columbia GSAPP in October 2016. With a focus on housing, Bilbao makes many logical arguments for improving housing for all.

Hatje Cantz
Neutelings Riedijk Architects: Ornament & Identity
By Neutelings Riedijk

Neutelings Riedijk's buildings and projects are presented in twelve thematic chapters (seam, pattern, cutout, etc.) that focus on expression and identity in a globalized world.

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

Closer in size and proportion to a guidebook than a traditional monograph, HWKN's first monograph mixes their words and renderings with professional photos and images from social media.

Island Press
Copenhagenize: The Definitive Guide to Global Bicycle Urbanism
By Mikael Colville-Andersen

I learned about Mikael Colville-Andersen many years ago through Flickr, where he has thousands of photos of people on bikes, both in his native Copenhagen and in many other cities and countries. This book collects his thoughts on bicycles and their place in cities.

Japanese Creativity: Contemplations on Japanese Architecture
By Yuichiro Edagawa

Architect Yuichiro Edagawa explores the roots of Japanese creativity in architecture, focusing on the role of details in whole buildings.

Lars Müller Publishers
The Architecture of Closed Worlds: Or, What Is the Power of Shit?
By Lydia Kallipoliti

Analyses of self-sustaining physical environments such as Biosphere and Masdar City accompanied by stunning "feedback drawings."

Little, Brown
The Man in the Glass House: Philip Johnson, Architect of the Modern Century
By Mark Lamster

Easily one of the best books I read this year: my review.

Laurence King
Hassan Fathy: Earth & Utopia
By Salma Samar Damluji, Viola Bertini

Hassan Fathy's Architecture for the Poor is a classic and a must for any architect (I'm grateful to have gotten my hands on a first edition at a used bookstore a few years ago). Earth & Utopia is a beautiful tribute to Fathy's words and buildings, presented as a large-format book with plenty to absorb on every page.

Lund Humphries
The Global Spectacular: Contemporary Museum Architecture in China and the Arabian Peninsula
By Mark Swenarton

Documentation and comparisons of starchitect-designed museums in China and the Arabian peninsula as well as such nearby places as Azerbaijan and India.

The MIT Press
By Olivia Erlanger, Luis Ortega Govela

A "provocative history and deconstruction" of that appendage to the American house that's supposed to shelter cars but is often used for other things; a collaborative creation by an artist (Erlanger) and an architect (Ortega Govela).

The Monacelli Press
Le Corbusier: The Built Work
By Richard Pare, Jean-Louis Cohen

A great combination: Around 60 buildings designed by Le Corbusier, photographs by Richard Pare, and words by Jean-Louis Cohen. It's Pare's photos that stand out, drawing attention to the varied states of Corbusier's buildings.

The Museum of Modern Art
Oasis in the City: The Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Sculpture Garden at The Museum of Modern Art
Edited by Peter Reed, Romy Silver-Kohn

Philip Johnson's great sculpture garden at MoMA turned 75 this year. This coffee table book celebrates the "oasis" in Midtown Manhattan, just as MoMA transforms itself through another architectural expansion.

nai010 Publishers
Too Big: Rebuild by Design’s Transformative Response to Climate Change
By Henk Ovink, Jelte Boeijenga

Rebuild by Design is an innovative process for creating resilient cities and coastlines, born from Hurricane Sandy in 2012. This book documents the process and the various designs in the works around the USA.

New York Review Books
Makers of Modern Architecture, Volume III: From Antoni Gaudí to Maya Lin
By Martin Filler

The latest collection of architecture critic Martin Filler's "reassessments" of significant modern architects — all originally published in NYRB — spans from Frederick Law Olmsted to Maya Lin, with roughly 20 more architects in between.

ORO Editions
The Work of Machado & Silvetti
By Javier Cenicacelaya, Iñigo Saloña

I've been a fan of the built and unbuilt "unprecedented realism" (the name of their 1996 monograph) of Rodolfo Machado and Jorge Silvetti since at least the mid-1990s. This monograph collects projects designed by the duo over the last four decades.

Park Books
House Tour: Views of the Unfurnished Interior
Edited by Adam Jasper

The official publication of the Swiss Pavilion at the 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale, winner of the Golden Lion for best National Participation. The labyrinth of empty apartments at various scales drew attention to the literal emptiness of photos of residential architecture in Switzerland.

Drawing Architecture
By Phaidon Editors

Although Phaidon's one-page-per (building, garden, etc.) format is a bit formulaic and inherently shallow, sometimes the subject makes one of these titles irresistible. For me, it's architectural drawings by Zaha Hadid, Roberto Burle Marx, and many more.

Modern Spaces: A Subjective Atlas of 20th-Century Interiors
By Nicolas Grospierre

French-Polish photographer Nicolas Grospierre captures the interiors of buildings "both grand and mundane," most I was completely unaware of. The photos are presented as pairs with similar spaces and characteristics but divergent uses and geographies.

Princeton Architectural Press
Studio Joy Works
By Rick Joy

The sequel to Rick Joy's Desert Works presents 13 projects completed by the architect in the last 15 years, many outside his home state of Arizona. Beautiful photographs make this monograph, just like his first one, a must.

Steven Holl: Seven Houses
By Steven Holl

Sub-subtitled "Luminist Architecture," this handsome, slipcased book documents seven Steven Holl houses completed over the last twenty years, some of them on the architect's own property north of New York City.

Life Takes Place: Phenomenology, Lifeworlds, and Place Making
By David Seamon

An academic title on phenomenology that argues for the importance of place in our "mobile, hypermodern world." David Seamon was a professor of mine in undergraduate architecture school at K-State, so I'm looking forward to diving into his latest book.

Scheidegger and Spiess
Peter Zumthor Talks About His Work: A Biographic Collage
By Christoph Schaub

One of two new titles on Swiss architect Peter Zumthor from Scheidegger and Spiess (here's the other), this one offers copious insights into the contexts of his work and his self-conception as an artist." (Note: This title is a DVD, not a book.)

Rem Koolhaas: Elements of Architecture
By Rem Koolhaas

Koolhaas updates his 2014 Venice Architecture Biennale exhibition as a 2,528-page behemoth designed by Irma Boom.

Thames & Hudson
Santiago Calatrava: Drawing, Building, Reflecting
By Santiago Calatrava with Cristina Carrillo de Albornoz

I've heard of exhibitions on the models that Santiago Calatrava has produced over the years, but lost in the shuffle are his sketches, collected and discussed here relative to his bridges, train stations, and other structures.

Timber Press
GGN: Landscapes 1999-2018
By Thaïsa Way

The first monograph of Gustafson Guthrie Nichol, it contains such landscapes as the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Campus in Seattle, the National Museum of African American History and Culture in DC, and the Lurie Garden at Chicago's Millennium Park.

UCL Press
The Venice Variations: Tracing the Architectural Imagination
By Sophia Psarra

Sophia Psarra paints a portrait of Venice as a prototypical city aided by analyses of Italo Calvino's classic Invisible Cities and Le Corbusier's project for Venice Hospital.

University of Virginia Press
Shaping the Postwar Landscape: New Profiles from the Pioneers of American Landscape Design Project
Edited by Charles A. Birnbaum, Scott Craver

The fifth installment in TCLF's "Pioneers of American Landscape Design" project chronicles the lives and work of important landscape designers in an encyclopedia format. Necessary for landscape designers and those interested in the preservation of modern landscapes.

UR (Urban Research)
Spaces of Disappearance: The Architecture of Extraordinary Rendition
By Jordan H. Carver

Jordan H. Carver, a contributing editor to the Avery Review, has investigated the architectural spaces of secret prisons and taken a look into the post-9/11 spaces via architectural drawings.

W. W. Norton
Historic Preservation, Third Edition: An Introduction to Its History, Principles, and Practice
By Norman Tyler, Ilene R. Tyler, Ted J. Ligibel

The third edition of Historic Preservation comes a couple years after the National Preservation Act of 1966 turned 50. One could argue preservation is even more important now, making this a much-needed introduction to the subject.

Yale University Press
City Unseen: New Visions of an Urban Planet
By Karen C. Seto

The authors of City Unseen reveal that the satellite views of Google Earth aren't the only way to see the earth from above. They present traditional satellite views with non-visible wavelengths colored to convey more information about cities and landscapes.