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Wednesday, February 20, 2013

28 in 28 #20: Intensities

February is Book Month on A Daily Dose of Architecture. The "28 in 28" series features a different book every day of the month.

Lewis.Tsurumaki.Lewis: Intensities by Paul Lewis, Mark Tsurumaki, David J. Lewis
Princeton Architectural Press, 2013
Paperback, 192 pages

LTL Architects is very particular about the names of their monographs. Their first—the 21st in the Pamphlet Architecture series—is called Situation Normal...; it is the beginning of the acronym SNAFU (the rest is All F@*!ed Up), which describes a "normal" state where things are a little bit off (their project for a putting green/smoker's lounge on the window-washing armature of the Seagram Building is a good case in point). Ten years later they followed up with Opportunistic Architecture, what they describe as "a design philosophy that transforms the typically restrictive conditions of architectural practice—small budgets, awkward spaces, strict zoning—into generators of architectural innovation." Just over four years later comes Intensities, what they describe in the introduction as "a focused form of architectural practice ... [they] engage the pragmatics of a given project, pursuing design invention through nonlinear yet logical sequence of speculations and probes." Further, "the work that materializes is then saturated, multilayered, or otherwise demonstrative of an intensification of architecture itself."

The compressed time frame of the newest monograph—half the time between the first two—indicates that LTL is producing and building more at a faster pace (will the next one be in two years?). Twenty projects are in the book, about half of them built. On the cover is the Arthouse at the Jones Center, a renovation of a (very) old building in Austin, Texas, for a contemporary arts space; the project also ends the book, perhaps as a way to bookend the contents. The cover's photo/drawing hybrid grounds the project in their early projects that are heavy on perspective drawings, something they have not abandoned, even as they have refined the method to incorporate computers. The project also documents LTL's design and fabrication of mobile lounge furniture, harking back to the small Lower East Side eateries that they used to install themselves. So as projects have expanded in scale and frequency, and moved beyond their Manhattan locale, many things have remained constant.

In addition to the Arthouse, the projects given the most pages are Water Proving Ground (their contribution to MoMA's 2010 Rising Currents show), the Sullivan Family Student Center at the University of Wyoming (the project is anchored by a double-height topographic mural of the state, echoed in their office design for The Open Planning Project, which features shelving in the shape of Manhattan), and the Claremont University Consortium Administrative Campus Center (another renovation, one that illustrates how their skill with small interiors has been successfully carried to larger projects). Yet even projects given only a couple pages are presented with the same attention to detail as these and others. Each project reveals a consistent approach that emphasizes quality of space and detail. The equally consistent presentation that mixes photos, drawings, and words makes the book extremely rich, indicative of their talents.

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