Book Briefs #30

"Book Briefs" are an ongoing series of posts with two- or three-sentence first-hand descriptions of some of the numerous books that make their way into my library. These briefs are not full-blown reviews, but they are a way to share more books worthy of attention than can find their way into reviews on this blog.

Architecture Is All Over edited by Esther Choi, Marrikka Trotter | Columbia Books on Architecture and the City | 2017 | Amazon
Depending on how one reads this book's title, it's either full of pessimism ("architecture is all over") or promise ("architecture is all over"). The apparent coexistence of "architecture’s simultaneous diminishment and ubiquity" extends to the book's graphic design, which imprints photos from one page in reverse and in orange on the preceding or following page. It makes for an apparently dense and layered book that is thankfully reflected in its scholarly contributions. One highlight: Patty Heyda's "Erasure Urbanism" on the demolition of two neighborhoods astride Lambert International Airport in St. Louis.

Intelligent Infrastructure: Zip Cars, Invisible Networks, and Urban Transformation edited by T. F. Tierney | University of Virginia Press | 2017 | Amazon
"Intelligent infrastructure" refers to a the ubiquitous but often invisible systems reshaping cities today: cell networks, cloud computing, smartphones, networked traffic signals, and responsive electric grids, to name just a few. T. F. Tierney, the founding director of URL: Urban Research Lab at the University of Illinois Urbana Champaign, tackles this topic with essays by some familiar names (Bjarke Ingels, Mitchell Joachim, Carlo Ratti, Urban-Think Tank, etc.) in three sections: soft systems, hard systems, and mashed systems. The influence of the late William J. Mitchell is evident throughout, particularly in a technological optimism that pervades the contributions.

Morphogenesis: The Indian Perspective. The Global Context. by Manit Rastogi, Sonali Rastogi | Images Publishing | 2017 | Amazon
The delicate orange dust jacket to this monograph on India's Morphogenesis functions like a veil, shielding the photograph beneath it. With a pattern lifted from the British School, the cover hints at how the firm of Manit and Sonali Rastogi approaches context and sustainability: with a contemporary eye and an emphasis on passive design. The 27 projects across three sections (passive design, resource optimization, and contextual identity) reiterate this approach. About half of the projects are built and half are in-progress; the former – carefully documented with photos, diagrams and drawings – are much stronger than the latter, perhaps revealing that Morphogenesis's built reality exceeds what is depicted beforehand in renderings.

Paradoxes of Green: Landscapes of a City-State by Gareth Doherty | University of California Press | 2017 | Amazon
The most obvious paradox about "green landscapes" and Bahrain would be that most of the country is tan, the color of sand. But for Gareth Doherty, Assistant Professor of Landscape Architecture at Harvard GSD, the paradox is about the resources required to create green spaces in arid environments. Paradoxes of Green's focus on Bahrain, the greenest of the Arab gulf states, taught Doherty a great deal about landscape – not the other way around. The tiny country with a mix of constructed green and indigenously arid environments is portrayed in eight chapters ("vignettes") that explore the relationship between the color green and the infrastructure needed (half of the city's water usage!) to sustain it.

Robot House: Instrumentation, Representation, Fabrication by Peter Testa | Thames & Hudson | 2017 | Amazon
Although much of the most high-profile robotic architecture is coming out of ETH Zurich's Gramazio Kohler Research and the University of Stuttgart's Institute for Computational Design, this book is focused squarely on SCI-Arc and its Robot House, an interactive robotics platform headed by Peter Testa and Devyn Weiser. Split into two parts (imagination, representation and fabrication in the first, projects in the second), the book is an image-drenched presentation of the platform's process and output – bordering on robot-porn, if there is such a thing – that shouldn't have a hard time finding its niche audience.

Trace Elements by Benjamin Aranda, Chris Lasch | Columbia Books on Architecture and the City | 2017 | Amazon
It's been ten years since Aranda/Lasch's Tooling, aka Pamphlet Architecture 27, meaning it's about time for a proper monograph on the New York- and Tucson-based design studio. Trace Elements doesn't resemble a proper monograph – it's small and reads more like a manifesto than a collection of projects – but it does a great job in expressing their work and the ideas behind their projects. The inclusion of precedents (e.g. Piranesi and Labrouste) in some parts of the book is a welcome element in our time of cultural amnesia.