Friday, February 15, 2019

Activators

a+t 51: Public Space Strategies - Activators
Aurora Fernández Per, Javier Mozas (Editors)
a+t architecture publishers, December 2018



Paperback | 9-1/2 x 12-1/2 inches | 120 pages | Spanish/English | ISBN: 978-8409049295 | 26.00 €

Publisher Description:
a + t magazine returns to the public realm through the STRATEGY series, which began in 2010 with the aim of highlighting and naming the strategies and actions underlying each project.

85 actions are identified within the 13 projects included in the issue. They are grouped according to: Scale of influence (Context, Site, Objects) and Type of strategy (Environmental, Socioeconomic, Aesthetic).

This new volume of the STRATEGY series, called ACTIVATORS, includes works by MVRDV, Jaja, Adept, Nendo, Vaumm, Wowhaus, and Ola, among others. They are all projects that add new dynamics to the public space through the incorporation of facilities for leisure, sports or recreational learning.
dDAB Commentary:
It seems like it was just yesterday that a+t architecture publishers released their trio of issues in the Strategies series. But it was a while ago, between seven and nine years ago, in fact, that numbers 35/36, 37, and 38 were released, each one presenting numerous projects in the public realm. Thirteen issues later, with number 51, a+t picks up the series again, focusing on so-called activators in public space: 13 projects in Asia, Europe, and North America. These include a planted bridge over railroad tracks (yes, that one) that "activates interstitial spaces"; a trio of pools that respectively "invigorate communities," "make connections," and "raise eco-awareness"; a series of urban lifts (my favorite project in the issue) that "ensures accessibility" while also "blurring the limits" by "camouflaging" itself into its context; and a plaza, depicted on the cover, that "induces experiences," among other highlighted strategies.

In the half-dozen years between issues 38 and 51, a+t put out magazines in its Reclaim, Workforce, Solid, and Complex series, but it also produced a couple sets of cards, one devoted to housing floor plans and one on urban blocks. These cards, with their rounded edges and myriad data sets, seem to have infiltrated Activators, as the first spread below indicates. Before the presentation of the 13 projects, the a+t editors lay out the strategies found throughout the book in terms of scale (context, site, objects) and types of strategies (environmental, socioeconomic, and aesthetic). The card-like, bilingual bubbles allow designers who gobble up books and magazines like these to find traits aligned with projects they are working on. The strategies and actions are keyed to the projects in the magazine and then reiterated alongside the photographs and drawings of the many commendable projects.
Spreads:


Author Bio:
a+t architecture publishers is an editorial company on architecture, founded in 1992 in Vitoria-Gasteiz, Spain. Aurora Fernández Per is Publisher and Editor in Chief; Javier Mozas is Editorial Advisor.
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Thursday, February 14, 2019

The Ordinary

The Ordinary: Recordings
Enrique Walker
Columbia Books on Architecture and the City, September 2018



Paperback | 4-1/2 x 7 inches | 88 pages | No illustrations | English | ISBN: 978-1941332061 | $20.00

Publisher Description:
Since the beginning of the century, the field of architecture has fervently turned its attention to documenting the contemporary urban condition. Every city has been examined as a repository of architectural concepts, scrutinized as an urban manifesto, and recorded as a series of found objects. The Ordinary articulates a potential genealogy for this practice and for the genre of books that derived from it. Organized around conversations with the authors of three seminal texts that document the city—Rem Koolhaas on Delirious New York, Denise Scott Brown on Learning from Las Vegas, and Yoshiharu Tsukamoto on Made in Tokyo—this volume traces the history of these “books on cities” by examining the material they recorded, the findings they established, the arguments they advanced, and the projects they promoted. These conversations also question the assumptions underlying this practice and whether in its ubiquity it still remains a space of opportunity.
dDAB Commentary:
For the longest time I was not a fan of books about books. In fact I'd avoid them outright, not that that was hard; there are not many books of that type, and even fewer if we're talking solely about books about architecture books. But lately I've come around to them, in some cases reviewing them and sometimes going so far as to obtain old copies of architectural bibliographies – a scarce and outdated subset of architecture books if there is one. Enrique Walker's The Ordinary is an almost ideal format for a book about architecture books: short, sharply focused, critical, and about the right books. Those books are three that paved the way for numerous books on cities: Rem Koolhaas's Delirious New York: A Retroactive Manifesto for Manhattan; Learning from Las Vegas by Robert Venturi, Denise Scott Brown, and Steven Izenour; and Made in Tokyo by Junzo Kuroda, Momoyo Kaijima, and Yoshiharu Tsukamoto, the latter two of Atelier Bow-Wow.

The Ordinary: Recordings consists of interviews with Koolhaas, Scott Brown, and Tsukamoto that were done on video for the 2013 Bi-City Biennale of Urbanism/Architecture in China, as well as a transcript of a lecture by Walker given at the "What Happened to the Architecture Manifesto?" conference in 2011 at Columbia GSAPP, where he teaches. Although the last predated the interviews, and therefore probably served as a theoretical basis for them, here it comes on page 85, following the transcribed interviews. In turn, there is a good deal of repetition in Walker's words if the book is read in order, as I did. Actually that repitition happens throughout as Walker raises certain notions (e.g., "books on cities that imply a manifesto") with each person he interviews. Regardless, the personalities of his subjects comes through strongly (Koolhaas is concise, Scott Brown supplies lots of information beyond the questions asked, Tsukamoto's love of Tokyo is clear), making the book an insightful and enjoyable way to learn about three of the most important books about architecture and cities.
Spreads:


Author Bio:
Enrique Walker is an architect. He is Associate Professor at Columbia GSAPP, where he directed the Master of Science program in Advanced Architectural Design from 2008 to 2018.
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Wednesday, February 13, 2019

The Condition of Chinese Architecture

The Condition of Chinese Architecture
Pier Alessio Rizzardi, Zhang Hankun
TCA Think Tank, September 2018



Paperback | 7 x 10 inches | 480 pages | English | ISBN: 978-1916453722

Publisher Description:
In China, 1% of the world’s architects have to design 50% of all the buildings and must do so for 15% of the profit. This extreme situation in which architects have to operate, design and build, creates the theoretical basis for The Condition of Chinese Architecture.

In addition to interviewing the critical voices of contemporary Chinese architecture, the authors report the nowadays reality of the country, the architectural evolution since the first contacts with the West in 1582 and the issues affecting its contemporary practice.

The result is a groundbreaking, cumulative reckoning teased out through layers of personal accounts and cross-disciplinary research, drawing on architecture, aesthetics, philosophy, politics, and society.
dDAB Commentary:
Chinese architecture, a staple of news about the built environment for the last dozen or so years, tends to veer between two poles: the cookie-cutter high-rise housing developments that are enabling the mass migration from the countryside to cities, and architectural icons screaming for attention, many designed by foreign architects. Most books tend to focus on one or the other (e.g., Bianca Bosker's study of Chinese developments that copy European and other contexts, and Clare Jacobson's collection of a few of the country's many new museums) rather than both phenomena. The Condition of Chinese Architecture takes a different approach and attempts to create what the authors call a "cumulative reckoning" of contemporary Chinese architecture.
The theoretical basis behind the book written and published by TCA Think Tank (it is the product of their contribution to the Chinese Pavilion at the 2014 Venice Architecture Biennale) is spelled out in the first paragraph of the publisher's description above and is found on page 12, in the first of the book's three sections. Here, and in the following 125 pages, the authors paint a portrait of China through words and images; the former (translated words?) are in dire need of grammatical revision, but the latter's photos, diagrams, and historical illustrations are a helpful layer that aids in understanding what the authors are trying to convey in words. (Given that the book is apparently self-published/print-on-demand, it should be noted that the image quality is inferior to traditional publishers; but the quality is still satisfactory given the large number of images and the book's low price tag; less than $20 on Amazon.)

Starting on page 140 is the book's second section: interviews with sixteen Chinese architects, among them Ma Yansong (MAD), Li Xiaodong, Li Hu (OPEN), and Lu Wenyu (Amateur Architecture Studio). This section is what will be most appealing to readers, to fans of contemporary Chinese architecture. The selection of architects is highly commendable, the interviews are easier to read than the first section, and the images accompanying the Q&As highlight important works, some in the form of collages by TCA Think Tank. Following the roughly 150 pages of interviews is the third and last section, "Issues." Incorporating statements from the interviewees and words by the authors, this section explores six issues that embrace the book's "cumulative reckoning": Do What Is Taught, Peasant Construction Workers, Pushed by Practice, Visual Impact, Immaterial Legacy, and World Culture. "Issues" is a satisfying conclusion to a substantial book about a place often misunderstood by foreigners.
Spreads:


Author Bios:
Pier Alessio Rizzardi graduated from Polytechnic University of Milan and University of São Paulo. Since 2007, he worked in Milan, São Paulo, Melbourne, Shanghai, London, Beijing, Bangkok, Seoul, and Singapore. Zhang Hankun is an architect and writer graduated from Polytechnic University of Milan and Northwestern Polytechnic University in Xi’an.
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Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Concrete

Concrete: Case Studies in Conservation Practice
Catherine Croft, Susan Macdonald (Editors)
Getty Publications, January 2019



Paperback | 8-1/2 x 10-1/2 inches | 208 pages | 183 illustrations | English | ISBN: 978-1606065761 | $59.95

Publisher Description:
This timely volume brings together fourteen case studies that address the challenges of conserving the twentieth century’s most ubiquitous building material—concrete. Following a meeting of international heritage conservation professionals in 2013, the need for recent, thorough, and well-vetted case studies on conserving twentieth century heritage became clear. This book answers that need and kicks off a new series, Conserving Modern Heritage, aimed at sharing best practices.

The projects selected represent a range of building typologies, uses, and sizes, from the high-rise housing blocks of Le Corbusier’s Unité d’Habitation and public buildings such as London’s National Theatre to small monuments like the structures at Dudley Zoological Gardens and a sculpture by Donald Judd. The projects also represent a range of environmental and economic contexts. Some projects benefit from high levels of heritage protection and access to funding, while others have had to negotiate conservation with stringent cost limitations. All follow a rigorous conservation approach, beginning with a process of investigation and diagnosis to identify causes and target repairs, balanced with conservation requirements to preserve significance.
dDAB Commentary:
Last month a modern masterpiece in concrete entered the news, when Berthold Lubetkin's daughter said that "perhaps it's time to blow [the Penguin Pool at London Zoo] to smithereens." The 1934 structure by Lubetkin, with structural engineering by Ove Arup, has intertwining, paper-thin ramps that exploited the potential of reinforced concrete at the time. Sasha Lubetkin's call for its demolition arose from the pool having sat empty since the penguins were moved to a larger habitat in 2004. It was the innovative concrete that caused the penguin exodus: the concrete surfaces led to an infection, "bumblefoot," on the feet of the birds. So concrete drew attention to the small structure and its inhabitants, and concrete led to its irrelevance. While most innovative applications of reinforced concrete from the modern era eventually required technical attention (the Penguin Pool was restored in the 1980s), the circumstances of the bumblefoot seem unforeseeable. But reactions to Sasha Lubetkin's words (one architect said tearing it down would be "vandalism") point to the beloved nature of modern architecture in concrete and the myriad technical issues that accompanied such buildings.

Although the Penguin Pool is not one of the 14 "case studies in conservation practice" in Concrete, the book does include the Dudley Zoological Gardens, also designed by Lubetkin and his firm, Tecton, with Ove Arup. A few of the other impressive and varied case studies in Concrete are the Listening Mirrors in Denge, the rotating Villa Girasole in Verona, Oscar Niemeyer's Church of Saint Francis of Assisi in Belo Horizonte, Le Corbusier's Unité d'Habitation in Marseille, and even an outdoor Donald Judd sculpture in England. There is a diversity of function, geography, and form, equating to an equal diversity of conservation issues arising from the use of reinforced concrete. A common format for each case study presents background on the buildings and then allows Croft and Macdonald to delve into some highly technical information on research, analysis, and conservation efforts. Aiding them are lots of photographs that illustrate both the deterioration and the fixes. The conservation of innovative modern structures in reinforced concrete is very niche, but for practitioners dealing with such buildings Concrete is a must.
Spreads:


Author Bios:
Catherine Croft is director of the Twentieth-Century Society and editor of C20 Magazine. Susan Macdonald is head of Buildings and Sites at the Getty Conservation Institute and oversees the Conserving Modern Architecture Initiative.
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Monday, February 11, 2019

Studio Joy Works

Studio Joy Works
Rick Joy
Princeton Architectural Press, October 2018



Paperback | 9-3/4 x 8-1/2 inches | 208 pages | # illustrations | English | ISBN: 9781616897550 | $55.00

Publisher Description:
Rick Joy's reputation as one of the country's most gifted designers, whose
mining of materials and site create transcendent, even poetic buildings, was
established in his first book,
Desert Works. This follow-up, Studio Joy Works,
marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of his firm's founding and continues the
careful documentation of the growing body of his important work, including
houses in Vermont and California, his first public project, a train station in
Princeton, New Jersey, and residences abroad in Mexico and Turks and
Caicos. The projects in this book are further contextualized with an essay by
Joy and spectacular photographs.
dDAB Commentary:
Tucson-based architect Rick Joy has been practicing for a quarter of a century. In that time his "cooperative practice," Studio Rick Joy, has evolved from single-family houses in the region to the same across North America and larger commissions, some of them public. Even with this evolution, which parallels the career paths of many successful architects, his "desert works," to take the phrase from his first monograph, stick in the mind of those, like me, who appreciate his work. With rammed earth walls and carefully placed apertures for framing views and introducing natural light, projects like the Catalina House (gracing the cover of 2002's Rick Joy: Desert Works) impress with almost primordial qualities, with spaces that appear to embed inhabitants, both figuratively and literally, within the landscape.

Those same qualities are exuded on the cover of Studio Rick Joy, but the setting and typology are quite different: the stairwell is part of Tennyson 205, a five-story apartment building in dense Mexico City, a far cry from the remote settings of his desert houses. What the cover and other photos documenting Tennyson 205 reveal is that Joy and his cooperative practice have managed to retain the characteristics he defined in his desert works and refine them to other places and types of spaces. The same could be said of the Princeton Transit Hall and Market, the only Rick Joy project I've seen in the flesh. Although the two-building project does not hold the same drama or mystery as buildings like his own studio, it has a certain quiet and embrace that make it a pleasing place to wait for the Dinky, as the short branch serving Princeton University is known. With 13 completed projects, ranging from the Adobe Canyon House to Princeton, Studio Rick Joy lets readers trace Joy's career to date, grasping the many differences ― and many consistencies.
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Author Bio:
Rick Joy is a Tucson, Arizona-based architect with an international reputation for designing timeless modern houses deeply grounded in place. He lectures widely and his work has been published around the world.
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Monday, February 04, 2019

Week Off + Reading List

It's only been one month since this "new" blog started, and I already need to take a week off. (No worries though; it's a break for work.) Before posts resume next week check out the Reading List I posted a few days ago. It features "100 must-know architecture books, presented in chronological order ― from Vitruvius to Koolhaas."


Saturday, February 02, 2019

Over

Over: The American Landscape at the Tipping Point
Alex S. MacLean
Abrams, October 2008



Hardcover | 9 x 13-1/2 inches | 336 pages | 300 color photos | English | ISBN: 978-0810971455 | $50.00

Publisher Description:
For more than 30 years, Alex MacLean's aerial photographs have captured the evolution of the American landscape and the complex relationship between its natural and constructed environments that contribute to climate change. Over: The American Landscape at the Tipping Point is an ambitious and visually breathtaking catalogue of the extraordinary patterns and profound physical consequences brought about by natural processes and human intervention.

The book allows readers to visualize climate change and our culture's excessive use of resources and energy, which account for our oversized carbon footprint. It demonstrates the extent to which the human ecosystem, and our economic and social well being, are dependant upon our wise use of land and its resources.
Over is divided into sections covering such as Atmosphere; Way of Life; Automobile Dependency; Electricity Generation; Deserts; Water Use; Sea-Level Rise; Waste and Recycling; and Urbanism. MacLean's powerful photographs and insightful text make it clear that maintenance of the current American lifestyle is incompatible with a planet of diminishing natural resources and a finite atmosphere. Over compels us all to reconsider our basic assumptions about how we live, work, and play, and reveals that, while the challenges we face today are not insurmountable, the future depends on our collective vision, passion, and commitment.
dDAB Commentary:
Although the types of imagery are different, the satellite images of City Unseen reminded me of the aerial photography of Alex S. MacLean, particularly his large-format Over. Where the former collects satellite images in various wavelengths to show, for instance, the "vulnerabilities of cities to the effects of climate change," the latter finds MacLean pointing his camera at parts of the United States that express the sprawl and destruction we have unleashed across it, from the Atlantic to the Pacific. The book's subtitle, The American Landscape at the Tipping Point, makes it clear this isn't a celebratory book, but MacLean's photos of highway interchanges and the like are nevertheless full of beauty. And even when we think we're looking at a piece of untouched nature, such as the snowy peaks of the Rockies, the photographer's captions link the photos to one of the themes explored in this book of "aerial activism."

The years, or maybe decades, of MacLean's aerials photos collected in Over are clustered in Arizona, Florida, and other fraught areas. They are spread across nine thematic chapters (atmosphere, ways of life, automobile dependency, electricity generation, deserts, water use, sea-level rise, waste and recycling, urbanism) and are accompanied by, as noted, short captions. Given that the only other text is a short introduction by Bill McKibben (he seemed to write an intro to every environmentally minded book last decade), these captions are important in conveying information we might not immediately grasp. Regardless, the ideas MacLean is trying to express are often very clear. MacLean's photos convey the scale and circumstance of our impact on the land while still portraying its beauty, though their impact would be strongest if they swayed Americans in their choices about where they live, work, shop and play.
Spreads:


Author Bio:
Pilot and photographer, Alex MacLean, has flown his plane over much of the United States documenting the landscape. Trained as an architect, he ... maintains a studio and lives in Lincoln, Massachusetts.
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Friday, February 01, 2019

Norman's Architecture Adventure

Norman's Architecture Adventure
Joshua P. Sanabria
GoArchitect, October 2018



Hardcover | 8-1/2 x 8-1/2 inches | # pages | # illustrations | English | ISBN: 978-1732945104 | $24.99

Publisher Description:
Norman is a young boy who wants to be an architect just like his mom. One day he goes on an unexpected adventure and along the way explores his imagination, meets new friends, and learns about the joy of architecture.

Through gorgeous illustrations and a relatable story Norman's Architecture Adventure teaches children how having an imagination is the greatest adventure anyone can have. Nothing holds Norman back, he sees what could be and he creates it. He is unrestricted by age, ethnicity, or preconceptions.
dDAB Commentary:
Norman is a young child whose mother is an architect. Like anybody his age, Norman is impatient, so much so that instead of waiting for his mother to take him on "an adventure," he heads out for his own adventure ― all alone. Or so it seems. As Norman wanders about a construction site, the workers are anything but human: an architect (not his mother but clearly an architect given the suit and roll of drawings) is a robot, ironworkers are "giggling gorillas," painters are "pompous penguins." They are hints that something else, something imaginative is going on. What that is I won't say here, even as it's unlikely that the intended audience for this picture book ― the kids whose parents would read it to them before bed ―  would read this blog.

The setting for Norman's adventure may be decipherable by the cover and the couple spreads included here. The glass and steel building with diagonal bracing is Norman Foster's Hearst Tower in New York City. When Foster's tower was completed a decade ago, I was not a fan; I called it one of the ugliest buildings in New York because it was an insensitive addition to the 1928 stone base and it was far less elegant than most Foster buildings before it, particularly in regard to the oversized diagonals. In the ensuing years I've warmed up to the tower, realizing how the thickened diagonal lines allow the building to stand out as buildings along 57th Street tower over it; and I got to go on my own adventure inside the building with some friends, seeing the atrium and office floors firsthand on a tour. My point here is that I can sympathize with the author's decision to have Norman play in and around Hearst Tower; its atrium teases at people who enter the lobby, while the diagonals and "bird beaks" on the exterior make passersby wonder what it's like to work inside the tower. But of course writing this commentary makes me wonder, which Norman is going on an adventure in the book?
Spreads:


Author Bio:
Joshua Sanabria is CEO of GoArchitect, an independent publisher of design and leadership books that foster curious and creative confidence. Josh lives in California and enjoys bringing architecture to life through sketching, writing, and creating software.
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