Friday, February 22, 2019

MONU #29

MONU #29: Narrative Urbanism
Bernd Upmeyer (Editor-in-Chief)
BOARD Publishers, October 2018



Paperback | 7-3/4 x 10-1/2 inches | 128 pages | English | ISSN: 1860-3211 | $23.99

Publisher Description:
Understanding Urban Narratives - Interview with Cassim Shepard by Bernd Upmeyer; Narrative is the New Black - On the Death of Modern Language by Omar Kassab; Hong Kong Is Land by MAP Office (Gutierrez and Portefaix); Les Grands Ensembles by Pierre Huyghe; Bangkok Domestic Tastes by INDA, Alicia Lazzaroni and Antonio Bernacchi; Talk on the Wild Side: Moving Beyond Storytelling in Cities by Nick Dunn and Dan Dubowitz; Narrating an Analogical Urbanism: Rooms+Cities by Cameron McEwan and Lorens Holm; Storytelling “No New York” by Lorenzo Lazzari; The Grid and the Bedrock by Tiago Torres-Campos; Geostories by Design Earth; Narrating Motherland through Migrating Architectural Objects by Seda Yildiz; Right to the Narrative – Walking Interviews by Amila Širbegovic; Wild Pigeon by Carolyn Drake; Detroit’s Nain Rouge by Kathleen Gmyrek; The Rise of the Kynics by Cruz Garcia and Nathalie Frankowski (WAI Architecture Think Tank); Voices of El Ermitaño - Narrating the Unwritten Urbanism of the Self-built City by Kathrin Golda-Pongratz; A Story of a Masterplan in China by Inge Goudsmit (OMA); Notes on the Architectural Cartoon by Amelyn Ng; The Pathways That Tell the Story of Cities by Phil Roberts; Second Thoughts in the Second City by Benjamin van Loon
dDAB Commentary:
Elsewhere I've stated that the content a book's midsection (e.g., a project in the middle of an architectural monograph) is particularly important, providing a crescendo to a book's narrative arc. This is not the case with magazines such as MONU, where the first article is the most important, due to it being the first piece readers confront. In turn it sets the tone for the rest of the issue, even as its contributors, in the case of MONU #29 for instance, are a diverse lot. First in this issue is MONU editor Bernd Upmeyer's interview with Cassim Shepard, who was the founding editor of the Architectural League's Urban Omnibus and now teaches "Narrative Urbanism: Strategic Storytelling for Designers and Planners" at Columbia GSAPP. A statement of his I find particularly insightful has to do with the goals of narrative urbanism being more about process ("the process of learning how to observe urban dynamics...how to talk to people about what is special or unique about a neighborhood") than product (moving images and sounds, etc.). The interview frames narrative urbanism as exploration, thereby impacting one's reading of the following contributions for the better.

The full list of contributions is above. Highlights beyond Shepard's interview include a few illustrated pieces: MAP Office's proposal for the addition of eight artificial islands in Hong Kong, Alicia Lazzaroni and Antonio Bernacchi's colorful isometric of a dense Bangkok scene, and Design Earth's illustration of "Geostories"; and essays by Phil Roberts and Benjamin van Loon that close the issue and discuss, respectively, post-High Line elevated public spaces and the role of narrative in four major developments reshaping Chicago. The form that narrative urbanism takes is quite diverse too, be it Tiago Torres-Campos's cartographic history of Manhattan, Amila Širbegovic's "walking interviews," or Amelyn Ng's use of cartoons for creating architectural narratives. Those interested in exploring cities via narratives will find plenty to chew on in the pages of the latest MONU.
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Author Bio:
Bernd Upmeyer is the founder of BOARD and editor in chief of MONU – Magazine on Urbanism. He studied architecture and urban design at the University of Kassel (Germany) and the Technical University of Delft (Netherlands).
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Thursday, February 21, 2019

Victor Lundy

Victor Lundy: Artist Architect
Donna Kacmar (Editor)
Princeton Architectural Press, October 2018



Hardcover | 8-1/2 x 10-1/2 inches | 240 pages | 200 illustrations | Languages | ISBN: 978-1616896614 | $55.00

Publisher Description:
If you're looking for something new under the midcentury sun, Victor Lundy (born 1923) is a real find, an important yet underappreciated figure in the history of American architecture. Trained in both the Beaux Arts and Bauhaus traditions, he built an impressive practice ranging from small-scale residential and commercial buildings to expressive religious buildings and two preeminent institutional works: the US Tax Court Building in Washington, DC (now on the National Register of Historic Places), and the US Embassy in Sri Lanka.

This first book on Lundy's life and career documents his early work in the Sarasota School of Architecture, his churches, and his government buildings. In addition to essays on his use of light and material, many of the architect's original drawings, paintings, and sketches---including those from his travels throughout Europe, the Middle East, India, and Mexico, now held at the Library of Congress---are reproduced here for the first time.
dDAB Commentary:
I discovered architect Victor Lundy in July 2017, when I borrowed a friend's car, Googled "modern Connecticut architecture," and discovered Lundy's First Unitarian Church in Westport. Considering that he produced some amazing churches and other buildings starting in the 1950s, it seems my discovery was quite late, inexcusable for somebody who has been writing about architecture for the last twenty years. But as this new historical monograph -- as well as the now five-year-old documentary produced by the GSA -- reveals, Lundy's style of architecture fell out of favor and in turn led him to be forgotten. A 2006 exhibition at Harvard GSD, Beyond the Harvard Box, put Lundy alongside more familiar names (Edward L. Barnes, Ulrich Franzen, John Johansen, I.M. Pei, and Paul Rudolph) and renewed interest in his buildings. Three years after that the Library of Congress acquired Lundy's impressive archive. These three pieces -- the documentary, the exhibition, and the archive -- acted like a perfect storm for the creation of this long overdue monograph about Lundy's life and work.

Victor Lundy: Artist Architect consists of eight essays that trace the life and work of Lundy, who was born in 1923 and lives in Bellaire, Texas, the state he has called home since the 1970s. The three decades covered in the book (those before he became principal at HKS in Houston) roughly coincide with the different states he called home: Florida in the fifties, New York in the sixties, and Texas in the seventies and beyond. Donna Kacmar, the book's editor, penned a few of the essays: one presents his often-fascinating life, including an incident in WWII that led to a Purple Heart; one is focused on Lundy's U.S. Embassy in Sri Lanka, one of his most important commissions; and one on Lundy's knack at "sculpting space" in projects like the I. Miller Showroom in New York City that graces the book's cover but sadly no longer exists. Essays by others focus on his drawings, his decade in Sarasota, the U.S. Tax Court Building in D.C., his Houston projects, and his "sacred spaces," which, like the Westport Church, were realized mainly in his New York decade. The Miller Showroom, a church in East Harlem, and other projects demolished or built as temporary commissions get at another reason Lundy went unnoticed to people my age: His extant buildings are impressive, but projects as or more impressive as those exist only in photos and Lundy's great drawings, making this that much more important.
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Author Bio:
Donna Kacmar, FAIA, is a professor at the University of Houston, where she teaches design studios and directs the Materials Research Collaborative. She is the author of Big Little House: Small Houses Designed by Architects.
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Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Modern Forms

Modern Forms: A Subjective Atlas of 20th-Century Architecture
Nicolas Grospierre
Prestel, April 2018



Paperback | 7-3/4 x 9 inches | 224 pages | 176 color illustrations | English | ISBN: 978-3791384313 | $24.95

Publisher Description:
Both a reference work and a personal exploration of modernist architecture, this fascinating collection of Nicolas Grospierre’s photography covers structures built between 1920 and 1989 in Europe, North and South America, the Middle East, and Asia. These images range from iconic buildings, such as the Gateway Arch in Saint Louis and the Ukrainian Institute of Scientific Research and Development in Kiev, to little-known structures such as the Balneological Hospital in Druskininkai, Lithuania or Oscar Niemeyer’s unfinished International Fair Grounds in Tripoli, Lebanon. Derived from his popular blog, A Subjective Atlas of Modern Architecture, and organized by architectural form, this book reveals how modernist architecture is the embodiment of political and social ideologies, especially in public institutions such as banks, churches, libraries and government buildings. Following the series of full-page images, an index details the location, date, architect, and purpose of each building. While many of the buildings in this archive often go unrecognized, their forms are prominent in the landscape of modern civilization. Grospierre’s keen eye and enthusiasm for the mundane as well as the sublime will motivate readers to look at the buildings around them in new and exciting ways.
dDAB Commentary:
The building on the cover of this compact edition of Nicolas Grospierre's 2016 Modern Forms falls on page 84, about halfway through the 186 pages of fairly straightforward photos of modern architecture. The building looks occupied, if a bit lifeless. But occupied it's not. As described in the back of the book, the House of the Soviets was never completed after its 1967 start "due to structural problems." But in 2005 the exterior was painted blue and windows were added when President Vladimir Putin visited to celebrate Kaliningrad's 60th anniversary. On the page opposite is a parking garage in Dallas, the walls between its concrete slabs and columns intentionally open -- no need to fill them in with windows. Turning the page we see two more buildings, both about the same size as the House of Soviets and the Texas parking garage, but they appear to be ruins. In fact they are hotels in the country of Georgia that were then occupied by refugees and demolished between Grospierre's photos and the book's publication.

The few examples above get at a couple of Modern Forms most interesting facets. First is that the sometimes unassuming forms conceal hidden histories and deeper meanings that are revealed in the book's index. The photographs on the page are treated simply, accompanied only by the building's name and its location. Such information as the architect and tidbits like the examples above is kept to the back so as to not overshadow the forms captured by Grospierre. Second is how the photos are grouped, both as spreads and as a flowing gradient throughout the whole book. The spreads below, from the beginning of the book, reveal how shapes and forms (circles, domes) drove the pairing of photos and slowly evolve as the pages are turned; so by page 84, when we come upon the rectilinear cover building, circles and domes have morphed into sawtooths, hyperbolic paraboloids, and other forms. By the end, circles appear again, such that the book effectively loops back on to itself, like a snake eating its tail. That the first photo -- a bus stop in Crimea -- is repeated as the last photo makes this intent explicit.
Spreads:


Author Bio:
Nicolas Grospierre was awarded the Golden Lion at the 2008 Venice Architecture Biennale for his joint exhibition in the Polish Pavilion with Kobas Laksa.
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Monday, February 18, 2019

Towards Openness

Towards Openness
Li Hu, Huang Wenjing
ar+d (Applied Research + Design), February 2018



Paperback | 6-3/4 x 9 inches | 288 pages | English | ISBN: 978-1940743226 | $35.00

Publisher Description:
Drawn from keen observation of the rapidly changing social economic landscape of China, and using OPEN projects as case studies, Towards Openness is a symphony of seven built projects and six idea chapters which are intriguingly interwoven to offer an in-depth examination of OPEN’s unique practice and the critical thinking underlying their work, work that actively engages with the rapid transformation of the society, with unwavering hope for a better future.

Towards Openness offers a unique approach to understanding the transformational power of architecture, presenting a humanistic approach to architecture in relation to nature, touching upon our fundamental sensitivity as human beings to go far beyond the boundaries of nations. This book challenges the preconceived and often prejudicial notions of what Chinese architecture ought to be, by providing a fresh perspective on contemporary architectural practice in China through the innovative work of OPEN.
dDAB Commentary:
OPEN Architecture was founded by Li Hu and Huang Wenjing in New York City in 2003, and five years later they established a Beijing Office. In the ensuing decade the studio has realized just over a half-dozen impressive projects in China: Gehua Youth and Cultural Center (2012), Beijing No.4 High School Fangshan Campus (2014), Stepped Courtyards (2014), HEX-SYS (2015), Tsinghua Ocean Center (2016), Pingshan Performing Arts Center (2018), and UCCA Dune Art Museum (2018). I use the word impressive to describe the seven projects that make up Towards Openness in regards to their size, their diversity, and the quality of their designs, especially the way the architects shape outdoor and interstitial projects. The scale and diversity of their projects arises largely from their settings, the country in the midst of the largest and quickest modernization and urban migration in history.

Inserted between the seven projects are six sections that illuminate OPEN's take on China's urbanization this century. Articulated as text and drawings on yellow pages, these inserts take on phrases constructed around the practice's name – OPEN city, OPEN community, OPEN system, OPEN nature, OPEN institution, OPEN future – making them a mix of manifesto and branding. These illustrations culminate in the OPEN CITY, an aerial perspective of OPEN's built and unbuilt projects in a compact seaside context (also visible on the cover). This imaginary city captures the creativity of OPEN's designs, but it also conveys just how much their compositions of solids and voices are shaped by the Chinese urban context of large parcels and larger populations.
Spreads:


Author Bios:
LI Hu is founding partner of OPEN Architecture, visiting professor at the Tsinghua University School of Architecture, former partner of Steven Holl Architects, and director of Columbia University GSAPP’s Studio-X Beijing. HUANG Wenjing is founding partner of OPEN Architecture, visiting professor at Tsinghua University.
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Sunday, February 17, 2019

Sources of Modern Architecture

Sources of Modern Architecture: A Critical Bibliography
Dennis Sharp
Granada Publishing, 1981 (Second Edition)



Hardcover | Page Size inches | # pages | # illustrations | Languages | ISBN: 0246112182 | $X.00

Publisher Description:
This unique guide to the literature of modern architecture has been completely revised, expanded and redesigned for its second edition.

The first section is devoted to books and articles on individual architects and to one or two influential critics and painters. This section is arranged alphabetically. After a brief biography each part is arranged in date order with the books and articles written
by the person appearing first; then follow the books and monographs on the individual and by other writers, and finally articles on the individual. The subject bibliography is concerned with general works on modern architecture and theory. The last section is devoted to books concerned with national trends and a selective list of magazines, related to the Modern Movement in architecture.
dDAB Commentary:
If Sources of Modern Architecture -- first published in 1967 and then revised and enlarged in 1981 -- were released in the same form today it would carry the subtitle "A Bunch of Dead White Male Architects." The cover displays twelve of them, including Frank Lloyd Wright, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, and Le Corbusier. Inside are dozens more (with quite a few I've never heard of ... Jaramir Krejcar, anyone?), with most accompanied by portraits just like the cover. With these portraits rather than photos of their buildings or even covers of their books (this is a bibliographic book, after all), the book draws attention to the who as much as the what. Fifty years ago, the fact architects were in the majority white men (only two women are included: Alison Smithson and Denise Scott Brown, but only Smithson is pictured and both are included alongside their male partners) was no biggie, but the lack of diversity in the field is an issue today, when women make up the majority of architecture students but don't get registered or advance to the level of partner in the same numbers, and when the stats around architects of color are just as depressing.

Featuring this book was prompted by The Ordinary, a book about books I reviewed a few days ago. I have very few such books, but a few years ago I was prompted to buy a used copy of Sources of Modern Architecture as a means of finding books and other resources on modern architecture for a book I was writing. This "critical biography" by the late Dennis Sharp was helpful in terms of biographical information but it was so far out of date, and included many foreign-language books, that the bibliography did not do me much good. (Sharp's Twentieth Century Architecture: A Visual History was more helpful for my research.) Considering its publication dates, this is hardly a surprise. But would a book like this make sense today, when Wikipedia and other online resources are the go-to references on architects? No, unless it were critical in myriad ways to make it both relevant and helpful to scholars of architecture.
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Author Bio:
Dennis Sharp (1933-2010) was best known as an author, teacher and critic, with countless articles, books, exhibitions, events and magazines to his name. He helped set up Docomomo International and worked tirelessly to save modern buildings from demolition. He maintained an architectural practice throughout his working life.
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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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