Monday, May 10, 2010

Book Review: HYBRIDS III

HYBRIDS III: Residential Mixed-Use Buildings by Aurora Fernández Per
a+t, 2009
Paperback, 272 pages

The third and last in a+t's HYBRIDS series focuses on projects where residential components are the driving force behind large-scale developments, after the first issue's look at high-rises and the second issue's exploration of their antithesis, low-rise buildings. Twenty projects, built and on-the-boards, are presented in a+t's consistent, graphically rich format, fitting the book with its companions so comparisons can be made across each. They are arranged in order of floor area, from "36 apartments with a medical center" in France by Hamonic + Masson to Steven Holl's Sliced Porosity Block in China. The designs are a mish-mash of the first two books, in terms of equal parts low-rise and high-rise; not surprisingly the latter prevails towards the end of the book.

In addition to the twenty projects, Fernández Per begins the book with an essay on "hybrids versus social condensers" and modernist examples of each. Differentiation between the two works at the level of interaction between the different uses in the building and the people that use them. U.S. examples like Aqua Tower by Studio Gang (hotel and residential) and Frank Gehry's Beekman Tower (residential, school, offices) point to the preference for hybrids, where functions rarely if ever overlap. Per defines social condensers as exclusive and isolated, finding most on the periphery or beyond. Therefore the hybrids and their functions catering to the surrounding urban fabric in all its diversity are the purview of cities. This installment of the HYBRIDS series can then be read as a barometer of 21st-century cities, in relation to the larger projects that comprise their evolution.