Monday, September 17, 2012

Book Review: Architectural and Program Diagrams 1

Architectural and Program Diagrams 1 edited by Miyoung Pyo and Kim Seonwook
DOM Publishers, 2012
Hardcover, 416 pages

As Ben van Berkel and Caroline Bos define them in their introductory essay to this collection of 48 projects by 10 architects, diagrams are "visual tools used for the compression of information." The duo's contribution to the collection (they are not one of the ten architects, unfortunately) makes a lot of sense, as it made me recall the numerous diagrams -- scientific, structural, musical, dance, art, etc. -- that litter Ben van Berkel's great 1994 monograph Mobile Forces. In the essay they describe these sorts of notations as inspirations for "organizational effects," and "as proliferators in a process of unfolding." Their mining of external forces for architectural design isn't necessarily shared by the architects in this collection, but each is tuned into the importance of diagrams, both in terms of the design process itself and in explaining a design after the fact.

Easily the most popular architectural diagrams today are those produced by the Bjarke Ingels Group to show how a design starts with, for example, a rectangular slab and end up as terraced mountain. Their step-by-step diagrams give the impression that we are seeing how the design evolved; in this they bridge the design and explanatory types of diagrams. By making the architectural process clear -- why does the final design look that way? -- BIG's diagrams have also made the architect a common name to people besides architects, a position that many architects would love to be in. So in this regard architectural diagrams can prove more valuable than many architects anticipate, and therefore having a book devoted to them is a good idea.

Some books are for reading and some are for looking at. This book is definitely the latter. It is loaded with diagrams accompanied by renderings and photos that help illustrate how the diagrams relate to the built work or final design of the project. While BIG is not represented, his old partner at PLOT, Julien De Smedt is one of the ten architects in the book; his diagrams are similar to BIG's, but not enough to be confused. Other highlights include ecosistema urbano and interface studio. Given the "1" in the title, more installments can be anticipated, with more office and even more projects.