Saturday, November 16, 2019

House

House: Black Swan Theory
Steven Holl
Princeton Architectural Press, June 2007



Hardcover | 8-1/2 x 8-1/2 inches | 176 pages | 186 illustrations | English | ISBN: 978-1568985879 | $40.00

Publisher's Description:
In 1989, Princeton Architectural Press published Anchoring, the first book on the work of the then up-and-coming architect Steven Holl. Since then, Holl has become one of the most famous and highly regarded architects in the world through his award-winning residential and institutional work; his teaching, writings, and drawings; and his persistent vision of an architecture that takes into consideration its place, time, and all the senses of the viewer. This philosophy helped to create some of the richest and most celebrated buildings of the past several decades. Indeed, in 2001, Time magazine called Holl America's Best Architect for "buildings that satisfy the spirit as well as the eye." Sequels to Anchoring--Intertwining and Parallax--chronicled Holl's work from the period 1988 to 1995. House brings us up-to-date on Holl's most recent residences and collects his best-known projects from the past including a total of fifteen of Holl's residential works. Rather than having an unvarying style, these houses aim at the sometimes elusive ideal of the specific. Each house tackles a different design challenge, using site as the physical and metaphysical foundation upon which to build. Fusing building and situation, Holl creates a unique expression in each home. Beautiful and innovative, the houses span the globe, ranging from a secluded location in Hawaii, to the Catskill Mountains of New York, to Martha's Vineyard, to the Hague in the Netherlands. Each project is accompanied by Holl's charming watercolor building studies as well as an insightful explanation of how he was inspired by the land upon which the house sits and how the sumptuous materials utilized reflect the spirit of the location.
dDAB Commentary:
In the introduction to House: Black Swan Theory, a collection of fifteen house designed by Steven Holl Architects between 1986 and 2006, Holl writes, "this book is being developed with its counterpart, Urbanisms, the two books form a pair. The focus here is on the 'micro' scale, in the latter one it is on 'macro' scale." House came out in 2007, while Urbanisms followed two years later. With the publication this month of Compression, the latest monograph devoted to Holl's office, it's impossible to see the two earlier books as a pair; coming after Anchoring from 1989 and Intertwining in 1996, these five monographs now make a series. (The photo accompanying the announcement about the latest book's release on Holl's website attests to this way of seeing them.) All of them are given the same page size, linen covers, and clear documentation of buildings and ideas. Each volume in the series begins with an essay by Holl that grounds the projects that follow in some sort of phenomenological thinking. That he designs each building from the starting point of a concept (e.g., the Stretto House follows from a score by Bela Bartok, the House on Marta's Vineyard was based on a passage from Melville's Moby Dick) is almost as well known as the watercolors he creates every morning.

The "black swan theory" that Holl applies to the fifteen houses in House was first articulated in Anchoring: "an ideology forever changing, a black swan theory, mutable and unpredictable." Most simply put, white swans in residential architecture are the "traditional" modern houses that follow well-established principles, while black swans veer from the norm to focus on particulars of site, concept, natural light, and the experience of space. This approach is expressed in the fifteen houses that move from large to small (the TOC shows their relative sizes) rather than in chronological order. House starts with the huge, multi-faceted Swiss Residence in Washington, DC, and ends with the Round Lake Hut, a one-room lakeside structure where Holl paints. More accurately, the book ends with an essay by Michael Bell, Holl's colleague at Columbia GSAPP, who relates Holl to John Hejduk (and Le Corbusier, indirectly) in terms of form, concept, and particularly writing. For Holl, who has built much more than Hejduk ever did in his lifetime, words are obviously important, but for us they are secondary; the houses stand on their own, as materialized concepts and spaces oozing with tactile and visual qualities. These qualities come to the fore in the condensed focus on houses in Black Swan Theory.
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Author Bio:
Steven Holl founded Steven Holl Architects in New York in 1976. SHA is a design-oriented office. The firm has been recognized internationally with numerous awards, publications and exhibitions for quality and excellence in design.
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Friday, November 15, 2019

Paul Rudolph

Paul Rudolph: The Personal Laboratory / Paul Rudolph: The Hong Kong Journey
Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation, 2019



Paperback | 10-1/2 x 8 inches | 76 & 68 pages | 63 & 47 illustrations | English | ISBN: 978-1792304217 | $42.00

Publisher's Description:
Paul Rudolph (1918-1997) was one of America’s greatest Modern architects. Rudolph was famous for his strong, expressive forms, powerful spaces, and innovative uses of materials & light. He achieved great success doing buildings all over the US, and is most famous for his “Mid-Century Modern” work in the 1950’s-60’s---of which the Yale Art & Architecture Building in New Haven is the internationally famous iconic example. A very prolific designer—in both architecture and interiors—his active career extended to nearly the end of the 20th century, and across the decades he continued developing his aesthetic and experimenting with space & materials.

Celebrating Rudolph’s 100th birthday, this catalog is the official publication of the centennial exhibition:
Paul Rudolph: The Personal Laboratory. This exhibit focused on how Rudolph used his own residences as places for experimentation with space, materials, and light—truly as “laboratories” of architecture and interior design. From these experiments—in his own spaces—Rudolph took ideas & design lessons which he then used in architectural and interior projects for his clients.

Celebrating Rudolph’s 100th birthday, this catalog is the official publication of the centennial exhibition:
Paul Rudolph: The Hong Kong Journey. Although Rudolph was based in the US, and had done most of his work in America, his reputation as a designer was international—and he was called upon by clients in Asia to design a variety of projects, both commercial and residential. The exhibit (and its catalog) focuses on Paul Rudolph’s work in Hong Kong. There is a special emphasis on the Bond Centre (also known as the Lippo Centre): the double-skyscraper towers that Rudolph designed, which are prominent on Hong Kong’s skyline.
dDAB Commentary:
Paul Rudolph was born October 23, 1918, in Elton, Kentucky, and died in New York City on August 8, 1997. The Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation, which spreads knowledge about the architect's legacy and works to preserve his buildings, celebrated the centennial of Rudolph's birth with two exhibitions in 2018: The Personal Laboratory at the Modulightor, a building on East 58th Street in Midtown designed by Rudolph, used as his office near the end of his life, and now housing the Foundation; and The Hong Kong Journey a few miles away at the Center for Architecture. The timing of the exhibitions entailed me seeing the exhibition at Modulightor — a treat, since I had not explored the building's upper floors previously — but unfortunately missing the Hong Kong exhibition. Fortunately though, the Foundation has published two slim volumes on the exhibitions and packaged them together.

The Personal Laboratory volume presents drawings, photographs, and descriptions on four places where Rudolph lived and/or worked. The first is the Residence at 31 High Street in New Haven, the Connecticut city that is famously home to Yale University and his masterpiece, the Art & Architecture Building (now Rudolph Hall). The other three are all in New York City: his first apartment at 23 Beekman Place, the four-story duplex apartment he added at the same address, and of course the nearby Modulightor Building. In these pages, documentation of 23 Beekman Place is best, though I'll admit the documentation on the Foundation website may be even better. (The apartment, designated a city landmark earlier this decade, is currently for sale, asking around $18 million.) Accompanying those projects are some words from Ernst Wagner, his friend, business partner, and founder of the Foundation, as well as archival texts by Peter Blake, Michael Sorkin, Stanley Tigerman, and others.

Sorkin's long poem, delivered at Harvard GSD in 1993 when Rudolph was being honored, describes Hong Kong as "bristling pairs," referring to Bond Centre (now Lippo Centre) from the 1980s, which is documented at length in The Hong Kong Journey. With lots of drawings — many of them yellow-trace sketches — not available on the Foundation website, this volume should be valuable to fans of Rudolph's late work, which was more glass than concrete at Bond Centre but still exhibited his skillful manipulation of form. Accompanying the documentation of Bond and a few other Hong Kong projects that were not built is an essay by Nora Leung, who worked with Rudolph on those projects and curated the exhibition at the Center for Architecture. Having missed that exhibition last year, it's a treat to look at the drawings of Bond, which move from plans to large-scale details. That period of Rudolph's career is overshadowed by the Brutalism of the 1950s and 60s and the seemingly never-ending fights to preserve those buildings. So the Foundation's decision to draw attention to Hong Kong in an exhibition and publication is commendable, hopefully inspiring younger architects who tend to be enamored by buildings from the 1980s.
Spreads:


Author Bio:
Founded in in 2015, the Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation is a non-profit 501(c)3 organization. Its mission is to spread knowledge about the profound legacy of Paul Rudolph, and to preserve the work of this great and internationally-important 20th century architect.
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Thursday, November 14, 2019

Not Interesting

Not Interesting: On the Limits of Criticism in Architecture
Andrew Atwood
ar+d (Applied Research + Design), October 2018



Paperback | 7 x 9 inches | 230 pages | 100 illustrations | English | ISBN: 978-1940743530 | $29.95

Publisher's Description:
Not Interesting proposes another set of terms and structures to talk about architecture, without requiring that it be interesting. This book explores a set of alternatives to the interesting and imagines how architecture might be positioned more broadly in the world using other terms: boring, confusing, and comforting. Along with interesting, these three terms make up the four chapters of the book. Each chapter introduces its topic through an analysis of a different image, which serves to unpack the specific character of each term and its relationship to architecture. In addition to text, the book contains over 50 case studies using 100 drawings and images. These are presented in parallel to the text and show what architecture may look like through the lens of these other terms.
dDAB Commentary:
It's hard not to say it, but Andrew Atwood's Not Interesting is very interesting. The professor at UC Berkeley and designer at First Office, frustrated with the overuse of the term "interesting" in architectural crits, wrote a book that explores other domains of architecture: the boring, the confusing, and the comforting. I'll admit that reading the introduction to Not Interesting made me realize just how often I've succumbed to saying "it's interesting" when somebody asks me what I thought about a building, a book, or something else, or writing that something is interesting instead of being more accurate about my thoughts and pulling from the wealth of words available to me. Often used to express where one's attention lies and what is calling for it in a design, the inexact nature of "interesting" in architectural circles is summarized by Atwood when he recounts that someone told him one thing was interesting because it was "smart" and another thing was interesting because it was "dumb." If practicing architects and students of architecture are designing buildings to be interesting -- to grab the attention of journalists and professors, respectively -- what about buildings or parts of buildings that are not overtly interesting? Does "interesting" prioritize certain formal approaches over other concerns, and certain peoples over others? It's an interesting (sorry) approach to how buildings are designed and how they're critiqued.

Atwood defines a coordinate system with the x-axis veering from ambiguous to discernible and the y-axis ranging from same to different, which in turn defines four quadrants: interesting, boring, confusing, and comforting. The three chapters that follow the introduction focus on everything but interesting: not interesting! The text for each chapter is written in a style and with a format that follows from the "modes of attention," such that the chapter on confusion, for example, has notes that parallel the main text and often confuse which is which. Atwood uses examples from his own practice (with Anna Neimark) to help explain the modes, though they also make it clear that the current generation of young architects is designing in a way that departs from the attention-getting trend that has been at the fore in architecture for at least a couple decades. In turn, Atwood's text provides some theoretical reasoning for him and his contemporaries. The same can be said of the many color renderings that are between the chapters, a few examples of which are below. A wide range of buildings and natural formations -- Diller Scofidio + Renfro's Blur building, vernacular buildings, even the sun -- are represented in flat blocks of color, often in frontal compositions as in the Johnston Marklee building below. With the selective exclusion of certain details and the emphasis of context in many cases, what's left are images that are difficult to comment on. But I think that difficulty is the point. "That's interesting" has come to be a lazy shorthand both for thinking about architecture and designing it, and Not Interesting shows that now is time for a more critical stance and an openness to other modes of attention long neglected.
Images:


Author Bio:
Andrew Atwood is an assistant professor at UC Berkeley. His work centers on techniques of representation as historical and conceptual instruments and how they specifically relate to the production of architecture and architectural pedagogy. His machines, drawings, and other works have been exhibited widely.
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Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Soviet Metro Stations

Soviet Metro Stations
Christopher Herwig, Owen Hatherley
FUEL Publishing, September 2019



Hardcover | 8 x 6-1/2 inches | 240 pages | English | ISBN: 978-0995745568 | $34.95

Publisher's Description:
Following his best-selling quest for Soviet Bus Stops, Christopher Herwig has completed a subterranean expedition – photographing the stations of each Metro network of the former USSR. From extreme marble and chandelier opulence to brutal futuristic minimalist glory, Soviet Metro Stations documents this wealth of diverse architecture. Along the way Herwig captures individual elements that make up this singular Soviet experience: neon, concrete, escalators, signage, mosaics and relief sculptures all combine build an unforgettably vivid map of the Soviet Metro.

With an essay by leading architecture, politics and culture author and journalist Owen Hatherley.
dDAB Commentary:
Before this year's publication of Soviet Metro Stations, photographer Christopher Herwig released two books with FUEL, both of them documenting bus stops in former Soviet countries. Although I've only seen spreads of those books on the publisher's website (Soviet Bus Stops, Soviet Bus Stops II), they exhibit a restless soul — one who traversed 45,000 kilometers (28,000 miles) in 15 countries — who has an eye for both the mundane and the extraordinary. That Herwig honed in on bus stops says as much about his attitude to capturing the built environment as it does about the artists and designers who created them, and whom they created them for. Seen relative to these two books, Soviet Metro Stations is a logical next step; not surprisingly it even has the same small, landscape format as the others, turning them into a series. But given that images of the Metro stations of Moscow, St. Petersburg, and other Russian cities has seen a flowering online and on Instagram in recent years, Herwig had his work cut out for him: the photos can't regurgitate what armchair travelers have already seen. One way he overcomes this is by venturing beyond Moscow and even Russia to other cities in former Soviet countries, but he also presents more of the stations than just the famed on-axis views of the vaulted, often highly orrnate spaces.

I've never been to Russia or any of the countries in this book, so I'm not sure if the stations are as consistently free of people as Herwig presents them. Also, given that my interests have not led me to that (large) part of the world, I couldn't get into Owen Hatherley's lengthy intro (though I'll admit he was definitely the best writer for the job) as much as I could Herwig's photos. Unfortunately the stations documented in the book — all of them completed between 1935 and 1995, quite a long period of time — are not listed in a table of contents or index; a graphic like a subway line is provided on the back cover, but backwards and without page numbers. So clearly this is a book meant for slow browsing, for lingering over the exterior views, the details of artworks and architectural surfaces, and those on-axis platform photos. I'll admit the last are most appealing to me, but not for the architectural ornament and styles. Instead, I'm drawn to the room-like qualities of the usually vaulted spaces, which arise from not seeing the tracks at the sides and the appearance as if the flooring continues all the way to the walls. So this visual trick, combined with a lack of people and trains (the number of people in the third spread below is a lot for this book), gives the long spaces some sort of hidden potential; they look like they could have some other function and it is up to the reader to imagine what. At least that's one way I look at them, though I know it would be much different if some day I finally made a visit to the former USSR.
Spreads:


Author Bio:
Christopher Herwig is a photographer who has worked commercially in London, Stockholm,Vancouver and New York. He is now based in Jordan working primarily with the Syrian Crisis. Owen Hatherley is a British writer and journalist based in London who writes primarily on architecture, politics and culture.
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Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Reglazing Modernism

Reglazing Modernism: Intervention Strategies for 20th-Century Icons
Angel Ayón, Uta Pottgiesser, Nathaniel Richards
Birkhäuser, October 2019



Hardcover | 8-1/2 x 11-3/4 inches | 256 pages | English | ISBN: 978-3035618457 | $X.00

Publisher's Description:
The worldwide use of building envelopes in steel and glass is one of the characteristic features of modern architecture. Many of these pre- and post-war buildings are now suffering severe defects in the building fabric, which necessitate measures to preserve the buildings. In this endeavor, aspects of architectural design, building physics, and the preservation of historic buildings play a key role. Using a selection of 20 iconic buildings in Europe and the USA, the book documents the current technological status of the three most common strategies used today: restoration, rehabilitation, and replacement. The buildings include Fallingwater House by Frank Lloyd Wright, Farnsworth House by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Fagus Factory and Bauhaus Building by Walter Gropius.
dDAB Commentary:
Five years ago, in October 2014, the restoration of Alvar Aalto's Viipuri Library in Vyborg, Russia, won that year's World Monuments Fund/Knoll Modernism Prize, which "recognizes outstanding and innovative design solutions that save modern icons." Many architects know the building for the undulating wood ceiling in the auditorium, but the multi-faceted design has a couple areas where glass is an important material: 52 skylights bring a soft, even light to the reading room and a glass wall at the lobby and stair give the library its most overt Modernist expression. Those two areas are explored in one of the twenty case studies in Reglazing Modernism, whose title clearly spells out its conservation niche. With descriptions about each project's history, the conditions of glazed areas prior to intervention, the intervention itself — categorized as Restoration, Rehabilitation, or Replacement — and with comments on the outcome (or in some cases potential future outcome), the case studies give a good overview of both the unique and shared situations under which some modern masterpieces have had to contend. But it's the drawings (a few are visible in the spreads below) that make the case studies so valuable to architects and preservationists.

About half of the buildings in Reglazing Modernism are also in my 2016 book 100 Years, 100 Buildings, indicating that these are exceptional cases, where the efforts to preserve a particular appearance were paramount and demanded much consideration on the technical side. The Restoration section illustrates projects, such as Philip Johnson's Glass House (second spread), that maintained appearance over the provision of energy efficiency; it being a house museum rather than a house made that possible. But in the case of the TWA Flight Center (now TWA Hotel), a shift from single-pane to insulated glass would have necessitated reinforcing the steel trusses supporting the angled window walls and negatively impacting their appearance; in turn, the restoration work maintained single-pane glazing throughout. The Rehabilitation section, with the De La Warr Pavilion (third spread) and a few other projects, is the shortest.

Which leaves the Replacement section and its nine projects, some of them consisting of single-pane glazing shifting to IGUs, or insulated glass units. That happened at Frank Lloyd Wright's Guggenheim Museum (fourth spread), though its steel framing was substantial enough it didn't change the appearance dramatically. The same cannot be said for Louis I. Kahn's Yale Art Gallery, which was renovated by Ennead Architects and involved replacing the steel window walls with bulkier aluminum framing. Given that aluminum is the default material the framing of curtain walls and window walls these days, the Kahn building might be the most suitable precedent to the preservation of historic Modernist glass buildings initially framed in steel. But the authors' recommendations at the end of the book make it clear that a lot of research and development still needs to be done to best address the conservation of modern buildings that predate the transition from steel to aluminum in the 1960s.
Spreads:


Author Bio:
Angel Ayón, AIA, LEED AP, is the founder and principal of AYON Studio Architecture • Preservation, P.C. (AYON Studio) in New York City. Uta Pottgiesser, PhD, is Chair of Heritage & Technology at TU Delft in the Netherlands. Nathaniel Richards, LEED AP, is a senior project manager for JRM Construction Management and General Contracting.
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Monday, November 11, 2019

Compression

Compression
Steven Holl
Princeton Architectural Press, November 2019



Hardcover | 8-1/2 x 8-1/2 inches | 176 pages | English | ISBN: 978-1616898519 | $40.00

Publisher's Description:
Steven Holl celebrates the thirtieth anniversary of his landmark book Anchoring with Compression, a collection of thirty-five major projects from the past decade. Holl applies concepts from neuroscience, literature, social science, and philosophy to develop the idea of compression: the condensation of material and social forces to create meaningful and sustainable architecture. A diverse roster of international works includes an expansion of the Museum of Fine Arts Houston; academic facilities for Columbia University, Princeton University, and the Glasgow School of Art; urban plans; a harbor gateway for Copenhagen; and an extension of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. All demonstrate Holl's poetic attention to light, space, and water; a subtle and tactile employment of material and color; and an awareness of architecture's potential to connect people through inspiring public spaces.
dDAB Commentary:
Two months ago, after nearly ten years of planning, design, construction, and delays, the Hunters Point branch of Queen Public Library finally opened to the public. One week before the ribbon cutting attended by the mayor and other local politicians, New York Times architecture critic Michael Kimmelman praised the design by Steven Holl Architects as "among the finest and most uplifting public buildings New York has produced so far this century." That enthusiasm was echoed in the crowds that flocked to the library on the day of its opening and soon after — but it was short lived. People criticized the inaccessible shelves arrayed on steps not served by elevators; librarians moved book from those shelves to elsewhere in the compact, vertical library; they closed a portion of the children's library due to safety concerns; they added extra story time readings due to the crush of strollers in a narrow passageway by the building's single elevator; cracks were spotted in the terrazzo flooring; and there were reports of leaks. This perfect storm of problems was reported in various outlets, but just last week they were addressed in an article in the same paper as Kimmelman's pre-opening paean. If the comments on the article (667 of them, as of yesterday) are any indication, the fault lies exclusively with the architects and, in one case, the design gives architecture "a bad name."

While I can't address these complicated issues in this short review (though I will say, Mr. Kimmelman, it reinforces the argument for architectural critiques to come after a building has been "broken in" by users rather than scooping other outlets), the timing of the news with Steven Holl's latest monograph — the fifth in a series that began with Anchoring thirty years ago — is unfortunate (it comes out tomorrow), particularly since a diagram of the building graces Compression. The slim square book follows the format established with Anchoring, though if one looks at the content of both books side by side it's clear Holl's architecture has evolved greatly, veering far into the sculptural realm. If anything, Hunters Point is timid compared to other recent projects (from 2005 to 2018), many of them winning competition entries that must have been designed to impress. The writing in Compression also expresses the issues Holl has focused on in his career: light, the senses, place, concept — clearly formal considerations. It's hard, in the light of the PR disaster hitting Holl's office, not to be skeptical of his description of the library as "an entirely public building" or other more poetic ways of describing it and other projects' forms and spaces. But I think Holl and his team are creative and will solve these issues alongside Queens Public Library, which commissioned the building and stuck with the architect for nine years, from early concepts to the completion of the beautiful, if flawed, building. In the meantime, it's probably best not to display Compression too prominently in the library.
Spreads:


Author Bio:
Steven Holl is founder and principal of Steven Holl Architects, with offices in New York and Beijing. Considered one of America's preeminent architects, he has been awarded the Praemium Imperiale (2014), the American Institute of Architects' Gold Medal (2012), and the Royal Institute of British Architects' Jencks Award (2010).
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