Book Review: 306090, Volume 13 and Workbook

306090 Volume 13: Sustain and Develop edited by Joshua Bolchover and Jonathan D. Solomon
306090 / Princeton Architectural Press, 2010
Paperback, 308 pages

Workbook: The official catalog for Workshopping: An American Model for Architectural Practice edited by Emily Abruzzo
306090 / Princeton Architectural Press, 2010
Paperback, 128 pages

Started in 2001, 306090 explores "contemporary issues in architecture 'from every angle' ... by publishing design projects, critical essays, and historic inquiries across a range of places, people and practices." Volume 13 tackles two apparently irreconcilable but equally necessary realms: sustainability and development; or as the editors put it, "the pursuit of either must be considered in a state of protracted poise relative to the other." Not surprisingly a good chunk of this hefty issue is devoted to China, its rapid urbanization seen as the poster-child for unsustainability, but where the situation is much more complex. More large-scale green strategies are carried out in that country than most, thanks in part to this urbanization and the country's authoritarianism, making it also a proving ground for explorations in urban sustainability that cannot be implemented elsewhere. Yet, as the now yearly journal's statement of intent proclaims, other places are presented alongside China, including Los Angeles, Alberta, New York, and England. Interspersed among the primarily academic but extensively illustrated essays are a few glossy-page sections with work of a more visual nature. In these sections can be found collages of a "hyper-real" Hong Kong, hopes for a self-sufficient New York City, a hypothetical article on a Wal-Mart distribution center in the Pacific Ocean, and other treats that address the theme in interesting ways.

Also stemming in part from 306090 is Workshopping, the official entry for the 2010 Venice Biennale, curated in conjunction with Atlanta's High Museum of Art. The exhibition "presents projects that involve the architect as the initiator of a trans-disciplinary cooperative team focused on research, social engagement, and private initiative for public benefit." As presented in the accompanying book, the results of those entrepreneurial efforts are what's important, more than the process of initiation. I was hoping for a little more of the latter, given the theme of the exhibition, but the (potential) impact of American architects on their cities is evidenced by the diversity of work chosen for the biennale. Among the seven projects/teams, Archeworks presents a mobile farm tool for Chicago; MOS honestly discusses their work, including their installation in Venice for the biennale; and John Portman Architects praises itself for the developments its realized in Atlanta. Some overlap is found between both titles: Michael Sorkin / Terreform's New York City (Steady) State is presented in both, more in depth in Workbook; Dana Cuff contributes LA-centered research and projects; and the Palisades Bay project from last year's Rising Currents exhibition at MoMA adorns the pages of both. Nevertheless the two books are very different: Sustain and Develop collects essays that complicate notions of those terms and their relationship, while Workbook acts more as a catalog to the US's contribution to the every-other-year party on the lagoon.