Sunday, July 14, 2019

Ladders

Ladders (Architecture at Rice 34)
Albert Pope
Rice School of Architecture & Princeton Architectural Press, December 1996 (Second Revised Edition, June 2015)



Paperback | 5-1/4 x 8 inches | 278 pages (2nd ed: 338 pages) | English | ISBN: 9781616894115 | $29.95

Publisher Description:
Albert Pope's 1996 seminal book Ladders is now available in a second edition. Considered a classic in the field of urbanism and one of our most requested out of print titles, Pope's provocative study of five post-war American cities examines the forces--including demographic upheavals, market expansions, and technological developments--that precipitated a change from the open system of the pre-war urban grid to the fragmented and closed spaces of suburban cul-de-sacs, expressways, and office parks. Through an incisive series of diagrams and photographs, Pope reveals the concepts, theories, and rules that have guided their organizational evolution into post architectural spaces whose character is shaped more by the effects of immense urban spaces and infrastructure than built forms. A new preface by architect and educator Pier Vittorio Aureli situates the book in the context of contemporary urban thinking and makes a compelling argument for it's continued relevance as springboard for the investigation of our contemporary cities.
dDAB Commentary:
In hindsight I should have read Albert Pope's Ladders before reviewing Joan Busquets' Urban Grids earlier in the week. Pope's book lays out the theoretical basis, not only for the promotion of the grid in Busquets' book, but for the danger that anti- or eroded-grid plans have had on the "open city." I wrote in the review that "given the pervasiveness of urban grids, I doubt [the grid's] validity was ever seriously in doubt." While this is true to some degree — the grid is best for laying out cities and large developments — the many urban and suburban departures from the continuous grid (mid-century public housing, office parks, gated communities, etc.) ended up invalidating the effectiveness of the grid. In other words, their validity was questioned a lot. Thing is, I couldn't have read Ladders first, because I didn't know about it until looking at Urban Grids. Mention of Pope's book early in its pages prompted me to go out and get it and quickly read it — well, most of it; enough to grasp its message and enough to be drawn into with the intention of finishing it (I start a lot of books but don't finish them). Ladders is dense and scholarly, yet it's a very readable book with a clear thesis and passionate message; I can see why it's praised so much and why a second edition was released four years ago. I'm ashamed I was unaware of it until now, nearly 25 years after it was written.

Pope defines two types of (American) cities in Ladders: the centrifugal city and the centripetal city. The first is the gridded, expansive "open city" that is often associated with 19th century cities but has its roots in even older cities. The centripetal city, on the other hand, is the postwar, auto-centric anti-grid and the places it created: suburban enclaves disconnected from the cities and inner-city developments also violating the grid. Pope calls these cities and developments "ladders," because they have one route in and out, not the multiple routes afforded by the grid; and he called the developments created by the grid's implosion "ellipses." Once the grid is ignored, as in suburbs or garden cities that ring a city but are disconnected from it, the centrifugal city suffers and the only recourse is for the centripetal city to infuse or infect the ailing city. Hence public housing on superblocks, and the massive convention centers, stadiums, atrium hotels, and other corporate complexes that are fitted into the grid but are otherwise closed off from it through functional homogeneity and the centripetal highways that cut up the city. As I said above, it's a very clear thesis, and it's one that runs parallel to other critiques of modern urban planning and the suburbs. But with its focus on the grid — the armature that enables the traditional city to work so well — Pope ekes out a niche for his argument. Pope's book argues that architects and planners cannot propose meaningful fixes for, or interventions in, the contemporary city without understanding its nature; Ladders is one of the most effective ways I've come across for them to achieve this.

(A note on the book's layout and graphic design: Just as Pope explains the erosion of the centrifugal grid from the forces of the centripetal city, the grid that serves as the background for the right-hand pages [throughout the book, not just at the chapter intros shown below, mind you] slowly erodes and is then washed away entirely by the conclusion. It's an intriguing, yet subtle way of expressing the book's argument.)
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Author Bio:
Albert Pope is the Gus Sessions Wortham Professor of Architecture at Rice University. He is the author of numerous articles concerning the broad implications of post-war urban development.
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Friday, July 12, 2019

Exhibit A

Exhibit A: Exhibitions That Transformed Architecture, 1948–2000
Eeva-Liisa Pelkonen
Phaidon, June 2018



Hardcover | 10 x 11-1/2 inches | 288 pages | 480 illustrations | English | ISBN: 978-0714875170 | $79.95

Publisher Description:
How do you exhibit a building, a locality, a city? Exhibit A reveals how architecture has pushed the boundaries of exhibition as a medium and how, in turn, exhibitions have shaped the discipline of architecture. Focusing on 80 landmark architecture exhibitions mounted in countries around the world between 1948 and 2000, and featuring 300 images, this groundbreaking overview is both a vital reference and a visually compelling study of the way we look at built work.
dDAB Commentary:
The most famous architecture exhibition is surely Modern Architecture: International Exhibition, held at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in 1932 and attended by more than 30,000 people in its six-week run. Like other exhibitions, architecture or not, Modern Architecture had an influence beyond its attendance figures, thanks to a companion catalog, reviews, and scholars later writing about the exhibition as a historical event. Other MoMA exhibitions on architecture, such as Deconstructivist Architecture in 1988, have been influential yet also controversial; the latter surely helped them to gain influence and longevity. But for various reasons most architecture exhibitions are not so widely written about and remembered, which is a shame because I'm guessing many of them are superior to those MoMA shows and deserve more attention. So I'm pleased that Eeva-Liisa Pelkonen has documented dozens of postwar, 20th century exhibitions, roping in contributions by other architectural scholars on some of the most important exhibitions.

An important aspect of Exhibit A is that it's not limited to exhibitions about architecture, such as monographic exhibitions or those like the MoMA shows mentioned above. The book also includes exhibitions where architecture played a prominent role. These include World Fair and Expos, which often featured cutting edge architecture of a temporary nature though sometimes as permanent buildings (think Expo 67 and Moshe Safdie). Also thrown in to the chronological mix are important institutions and venues, many no longer around but just as many still going strong. Entries range from just a few lines (the entry on the Louis I. Kahn exhibition "mounted in a rush" at MoMA five days after the architect died in 1974 stands out) to multiple pages, as in Léa-Catherine Szacka's six-page write-up of the 1980 Venice Architecture Biennale, which also features a couple pages excerpted from the catalog. Like many Phaidon books, Exhibit A is set up to be delved into as needed, not read cover to cover. But it departs from the strict "one-page-per" format of such titles as Drawing Architecture or Houses, opting for a more organic layout. It's a delight to flip through and learn about so many exhibitions I didn't know about or didn't know enough about.
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Author Bio:
Eeva-Liisa Pelkonen is an associate professor at Yale School of Architecture, where she teaches architectural design, history, and theory. Her award-winning books include Alvar Aalto: Architecture, Modernity and Geopolitics (2009) and Saarinen: Shaping the Future (2006).
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Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Urban Grids

Urban Grids: Handbook for Regular City Design
Joan Busquets, Dingliang Yang, Michael Keller
ORO Editions, March 2019



Hardcover | 8-1/2 x 11 inches | 680 pages | English | ISBN: 978-1940743950 | $60.00

Publisher Description:
Urban Grid: Open Form for City Design is the result of a five-year design research project undertaken by professor Joan Busquets and Dingliang Yang at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. The research that is the foundation for this publication emphasizes the value of open forms for city design, a publication that specifically insists that the grid has the unique capacity to absorb and channel urban transformation flexibly and productively. Urban Grid analyzes cities and urban projects that utilize the grid as the main structural device for allowing rational development, and goes further to propose speculative design projects capable of suggesting new urban paradigms drawn from the grid as a design tool. Consisting of six major parts, it is divided into the following topics: 1) the atlas of grid cities, 2) grid projects through history, 3) the 20th-century dilemma, 4) the atlas of contemporary grid projects, 5) projective tools for the future, and 6) good-grid city as an open form coping with new urban issues.
dDAB Commentary:
Like the cities it studies, this book is massive. With nearly 700 pages and a generous A4 page size, Urban Grids is a substantial book that is loaded with thousands of illustrations that examine the past, present, and future of cities organized by grids. It is the outcome of eight years of research conducted at Harvard GSD, though the book is not alone; it follows four smaller books on four "paradigmatic" gridded cities: Barcelona, Chicago, Hangzhou, and Manhattan. The six chapters of Urban Grids, listed in the publisher description above, consist of three historical chapters, two on the present, and a brief one on the future. So the book starts with an atlas of gridded cities — 101 of them, from Abu Dhabi to Zhengzhou — moves on to grid projects across history and then contemporary grid projects, and ends by looking forward to guidelines for future city design. International in scope, and carefully and consistently presented in drawings and diagrams, Urban Grids is an impressive documentation of a finely honed, long-term research project.

Yet to what end is the research assembled in this book? The back cover touts the research as "revealing new emerging conditions for the urban grid," though the bulk of the book is historical (the first three chapters make up 500 of the book's 680 pages). So Urban Grids could be seen as an argument for the validity of the grid; though given the pervasiveness of urban grids, I doubt its validity was ever seriously in doubt. Nevertheless, the 101-page atlas at the start of the book uses a consistent format that allows readers to compare Copenhagen, for instance, with Kansas City or Ouagadougou or any of the other cities. The second chapter delves into the ends for which grids have been used throughout history, while the third chapter touches upon real and imagined projects that respectively abandoned and reimagined urban grids.

Which brings us to chapter four, what I find most interesting. Here are 48 contemporary projects, presented again with a consistent format for easy comparison. Instead of cities, the projects range in scale from the two-block Riverside Center in Manhattan to the 26-square-mile Lingang New City in China. Be they residential, commercial, or mixed-use, they all say to me that the grid is what works best for creating parcels for smaller developments within the larger whole. In other words, money is guiding grids, not architects. Yet Joan Busquets and his collaborators see the potential for architects and urban designers to create places of value through the freedom embodied in grids. Those willing to digest this meaty book might just end up agreeing with him.
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Author Bio:
Joan Busquets, world-renowned urban planner and architect, is the first Martin Bucksbaum Professor in Practice of Urban Planning and Design at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. Dingliang Yang is an instructor in Urban Planning and Design at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design. He is an architect, urban designer, and the founding partner of VARY Design. Michael Keller is a landscape and architectural designer and a recent graduate from the Harvard University Graduate School of Design.
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Tuesday, July 09, 2019

The Structural Basis of Architecture

The Structural Basis of Architecture, Third Edition
Bjørn N. Sandaker, Arne P. Eggen, Mark R. Cruvellier
Routledge, May 2019



Paperback | 8-1/4 x 11 inches | 560 pages | 566 illustrations | English | ISBN: 978-1138651999 | $39.95

Publisher Description:
This is a book that shows how to "see" structures as being integral to architecture. It engages a subject that is both about understanding the mechanical aspects of structure as well as being able to relate this to the space, form, and conceptual design ideas that are inherent to the art of building.

Analyzing the structural principles behind many of the best-known works of architecture from past and present alike, this book places the subject within a contemporary context. The subject matter is approached in a qualitative and discursive manner, illustrated by many photographs and structural behavior diagrams. Accessible mathematical equations and worked-out examples are also included so as to deepen a fundamental understanding of the topic.

This new, color edition’s format has been thoroughly revised and its content updated and expanded throughout. It is perfect as either an introductory structures course text or as a designer’s sourcebook for inspiration, for here two essential questions are addressed in parallel fashion: “How do structures work?” and “What form do structures take in the context of architecture – and why so?” A rich, varied and engaging rationale for structural form in architecture thus emerges.
dDAB Commentary:
To be honest, Structures was one of my least favorite classes in architecture school. After eking out a passing grade, I was glad to rely on structural engineers for sizing and calculations for projects I would work on after graduation. This somewhat embarrassing fact would seem to make me the last person who should take a stab at reviewing the third edition of The Structural Basis of Architecture; after all, it would be near impossible for me to know if certain information, be it calculations or general assertions, were helpful or even correct. But at the same time, the structural deficiencies in my brain might make me the ideal candidate: If I can follow what the book is saying, anyone can.

The Structural Basis of Architecture is dramatically different than the textbooks I had in Structures class. Instead of page after page of calculations and diagrams, like the first spread below, the book is full of photographs and drawings of historical and contemporary buildings. The authors use the buildings to illustrate structural principles and in many cases discuss them in some detail, like mini case studies. With 560 pages and 566 illustrations (a number that doesn't include all the force diagrams and other "figures" the authors include alongside the illustrations), there are plenty of examples. Think of a building that has a distinctive structural system and it's probably in here. Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater? Yes, in the chapter on "The Beam and the Slab." Mies van der Rohe's Crown Hall at IIT? Yes indeed, in the chapter on "The Frame and the Shear Wall." Anything by Frei Otto? He's in the chapter on "The Cable and the Membrane." And so on — the book aids architecture students by grounding structural principles and calculations in highly interesting, real-world examples. The book cannot serve as a standalone textbook on Structures, but the book's mix of case studies and technical information makes it an excellent, thorough introduction to the many ways buildings stand up.

The book's thirteen chapters are set up as pairs like the three mentioned above, with others including "The Hanger and the Tie," "The Column and the Wall," "The Truss and the Frame," "The Arch and the Vault," and "The Dome and the Shell." These come after five chapters that introduce structural systems, discuss the different types of loads that act on structures, run through statics, and then touch upon the various materials buildings are structured from. With chapters no more than 55 pages and each chapter broken down into smaller sections, the book is easy to dip into as needed: Curious, for instance, about tensegrity? Head to chapter 9.10. Unfortunately the two-part index (by subject and by project name) makes it hard to find projects by architect or engineer — a minor fix for the fourth edition.
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Author Bio:
Bjørn N. Sandaker is a structural engineer and Professor of Architectural Technology at The Oslo School of Architecture and Design (AHO), Norway, as well as Adjunct Professor at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) in Trondheim, Norway. Arne P. Eggen is an architect and Emeritus Professor at The Oslo School of Architecture and Design (AHO), Norway. Mark R. Cruvellier is a structural engineer and the Nathaniel and Margaret Owings Distinguished Alumni Memorial Professor in Architecture as well as former Chair of the Department of Architecture at Cornell University, USA.
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Monday, July 08, 2019

Rene Gonzalez

Rene Gonzalez Architects: Not Lost in Translation
Rene Gonzalez
The Monacelli Press, June 2018



Hardcover | 9-1/4 x 12-1/2 inches | 288 pages | English | ISBN: 9781580934947 | $60.00

Publisher Description:
As one of Miami’s most influential architects, Rene Gonzalez revolutionizes the way luxury buildings are equipped for climate change. Tactile, experiential, and holistic, the work of his namesake office demonstrates a belief in the inseparable connection between nature and architecture, creating spaces that are memorable and timeless. Surveying fourteen residential, commercial, and cultural projects in Florida, marking the first phase of his career, Rene Gonzalez Architects: Not Lost in Translation illustrates Gonzalez’s ability to distill the essence of place, distinguishing his work both in his home state of Florida and in the global landscape of contemporary architecture. Projects featured in the book include three Alchemist boutiques, the first of which won the 2011 National AIA Institute Honor Award; the Cisneros Fontanals Art Foundation, whose one million glass mosaic tiles create the illusion of a jungle oasis on the exterior; the eighteen-story GLASS Residential Tower in Miami Beach; the “pocket sanctuary” that is vegan restaurant Plant Food + Wine; and the North Beach Oceanfront Center, which serves as an inviting gathering ground to the North Miami Beach community.

Gonzalez is especially attuned to environmental issues that are affecting the world, and which will drastically alter design practice in the coming years. RGA is receiving widespread attention for its efforts to respond to these emerging conditions, and these projects reveal Gonzalez’s commitment to embrace and celebrate the environment, seizing the opportunity to enhance our future.

Rene Gonzalez Architects: Not Lost in Translation is a deeply personal book that illustrates Gonzalez’s fascination with the world that surrounds him. Featuring a conversation with Gonzalez’s colleagues Tod Williams and Billie Tsien, essays by journalists Caroline Roux and Beth Dunlop, as well as his own photographs of Miami’s vernacular architecture, this book documents Gonzalez’s progressive and responsive architecture that is of its place yet universally resonant.
dDAB Commentary:
Breaking up the many pages of the glassy, reflective, and polished surfaces that pervade the designs of Miami's Rene Gonzalez are two photo essays, one by the architect and one by him with fellow Floridians Cecilia Hernandez and Mauricio Del Valle, both accompanied by essays by journalist Beth Dunlop. Respectively documenting "Stiltsville" and Little Havana, the two photo essays are jarringly different than the rest of the book's contents, both in terms of their media (the photos are on a paper thinner, more muted, and more tactile than the rest of the pages) and their subject matter. Unlike the slick designs by Gonzalez and colleagues at his eponymous firm, the photos capture places that are more raw or "real," less self-conscious. Stiltsville hones in on some of the few remaining houses built on stilts above the waters of Biscayne Bay, while Little Havana captures the colorful and lively street life of Miami's Cuban neighborhood.

Although finding a direct translation between Gonzalez's photos of Stiltsville and Little Havana and his work is difficult (the most obvious is the Alchemist Boutique, lifted high on the fifth floor of Herzog & de Meuron's concrete-stilted 1111 Lincoln Road parking garage), to me his buildings and interiors ooze Miami. I've only been to Miami once, for the AIA Convention in 2010, so I'm far from an expert on the area's architecture; but there's something about the articulation of glass and stone surfaces, the occasional wood screens, and the creation of spaces for outdoor living that seems rooted in the area. While one could argue that Gonzalez's brand of modern architecture could be placed anywhere and would look the same (e.g. Glass), his projects tap into the year-round warmth of Miami as well as the area's wealth and its fashion and art scenes. So when Miami is seen as a place of culture as well as climate (as well it should be), Gonzalez's architecture actually helps define what exactly Miami architecture is today.
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Author Bio:
Rene Gonzalez is principal of Rene Gonzalez Architects. He is the recipient of AIA Miami's 2012 H. Samuel Kruse Silver Medal for Design and in 2011, RGA received AIA Miami's Firm of the Year award.
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Monday, July 01, 2019

Independence Week

Thursday is July 4, Independence Day, so I'm taking the week off to go read some books on the beach — or in my air-conditioned apartment. Posts will resume next week.

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Abstract 09/10

Abstract 09/10
Scott Marble (Editor) with Jordan Carver and Jason Roberts
Columbia GSAPP, December 2010



Paperback w/slipcase | 7-1/2 x 11 inches | 316 pages | English | ISBN: 978-1883584689 | $X.00

Publisher Description:
Abstract is the yearly publication of student work from Columbia University’s GSAPP. The catalog is produced through the office of Dean Mark Wigley. The archive of student work, containing documentation of projects selected by faculty at the conclusion of each semester, is utilized in the making of Abstract.
dDAB Commentary:
As mentioned in my review of the most recent Abstract from the Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation (GSAPP), the annual publication of student work has taken a different form depending on the dean. Both Bernard Tschumi (dean from 1988 to 2003) and Amale Andrao (dean since 2014) use(d) consistent formats, with the former relatively slim and modest by today's standards and the latter marked by a large spiral binding and clear organization. Between the two, during Mark Wigley's tenure as dean, each Abstract was a graphic design thesis courtesy of designer Stefan Sagmeister and GSAPP's Scott Marble. From the spiral-bound, slipcase 04/05 to the magnetic 03/14, each Abstract was a unique design statement that explored ways of organizing the many student projects, the events taking place at the school, and the people converging at Avery Hall on Columbia's Morningside Heights campus. Abstract 09/10, the only issue I have from the Wigley years, actually uses GSAPP's home, Avery Hall, for its organization; the contents start off site, with the Studio-X labs and nearby buildings like Buell Hall, and then they work their way down Avery Hall, floor by floor. Instead of the contents organized by type or curriculum, they are presented based on their geography in the school's home. It hardly makes for a replacement to visiting the chaotic ("hyperactive" to Marble) scene of the studios inside Avery, but in hindsight the book certainly captures the architectural trends at the end of the previous decade (continuous surfaces, parametric design, landscape urbanism, etc.).

Sagmeister's design of 09/10 makes its boldest statement through its cover, where black lines radiate from a circle across a reflective gold background. Both the gold and lines wrap the whole outside of the book, extending across the edges of the pages to create a shiny object. No wonder it's in a transparent slipcase: all the better for holding the covers and pages tight and displaying it as a 3D object. I found the design a bit jarring at first, but it was appealing enough I walked out of a used bookstore with it many years ago. It nevertheless seems like something the designer should be proud of, but for some reason it's nowhere to be found on Sagmeister & Walsh's website. Every other Abstract that the firm designed from 2004 to 2014 is there, but not this one. It's also a hard issue to find, unavailable on Amazon or elsewhere online. All the more reason for me to cherish this book: one year of GSAPP activities bundled into a shiny object.
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Author Bio:
Scott Marble is a founding partner of Marble Fairbanks Architects ... Scott is also a life-long educator and was a faculty member at the Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation for 25 years before being appointed Professor and William H. Harrison Chair of the School of Architecture at Georgia Tech in 2015.
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