Thursday, November 30, 2017

Book Review: 100 Buildings

100 Buildings by Thom Mayne and Eui-Sung Yi, produced by The Now Institute
Rizzoli, 2017
Flexicover, 262 pages

When visiting the page for 100 Buildings on Amazon today, the "What other items do customers buy after viewing this item?" section lists one book: mine. This isn't surprising, given that both have "100 Buildings" in their title and have been published in the last couple years. But like many architecture books that share some similarities, the differences are also interesting. 100 Years, 100 Buildings features one building per year for the last 100 years (1916-2015), while 100 Buildings limits itself to the 20th century. My book is a fairly subjective sampling of visitable buildings spanning a whole century, given the year-by-year format, while the "must know" buildings in the book by Thom Mayne and Eui-Sung Yi are free from such constraints, as long as they were designed and/or completed somewhere between 1900 and 2000.

In fact, dates are played down in the book relative to the who, what and where of the 100 buildings, so it's hard to get a comparative sense of when the buildings were completed. Nevertheless, I'd wager there are more buildings from the 1930s than 1940s, for instance and very few from the 1980s. This stems from the fact Mayne solicited more than 50 "internationally renowned architects" to create a list of important 20th-century buildings — selective crowdsourcing, if you will. The book then takes the top 100 selections and orders them from most to least mentions. A matrix at the back of the book (also on the cover) lists the 50 contributors (vertical axis) and the 100 buildings from the book (horizontal axis). As can be seen, everybody but Craig Hodgetts, MVRDV, Dominique Perrault and Richard Meier (really?!) selected Villa Savoye, number 1 on the list of 100.

Each building is given one spread with a fairly consistent format, as the Villa Savoye spread below illustrates. There's one black-and-white (typically exterior) photograph, an axonometric, a floor plan, an elevation or section, a paragraph of text, and project data: name, architect, location, dates, and coordinates (N/S at the top edge, E/W at the right or left edge). In terms of the last item, coordinates, these come in handy for those knowledgable in entering them into Google Maps, but their location on the page is a missed opportunity. If they were switched (N/S on the right, E/W on the top) and located on the spread relative to a map, they would give a direct sense of where each building is located on the earth. Otherwise, a global map is found between the table of contents and first entry, but it only lists projects by country.

Of course, with only a spread per building, 100 Buildings cannot address everything such as this. It is a starting point, the book version of Wikipedia entries, compete with a list of references in the back of the book for further exploration. These references, though only 12 pages versus 200 pages for the main entries, are extremely important, considering that the book is aimed at students, at overcoming "a declining awareness of historical precedent," according to Mayne in his foreword. Some of this declining awareness will be overcome by the photos, drawings and paragraph of text about Villa Savoye, for instance, but Tim Benton's The Villas of Le Corbusier, the architect's own Towards a New Architecture, and Kenneth Frampton's Modern Architecture 1920-1945 will be more valuable in the long run. With this in mind, it's imperative that students using this book have ready access to a library well stocked with architecture books.

Returning to a comparison between Mayne's book and my own (something I never imagined I'd be doing, to be honest), there is plenty of overlap in the selections, even though my year-by-year, open-to-the-public format eliminated many buildings from appearing. Of the top ten 100 Buildings (in order: Villa Savoye, Chapelle Notre-Dame du Haut, Barcelona Pavilion, Centre Pompidou, S.C. Johnson & Son Headquarters, Farnsworth House, Salk Institute, La Maison de Verre, Couvent Sainte-Marie de la Tourette, and TWA Flight Center), seven of them are in my book – the top seven actually, with the others missing because they are not open to the public, are too similar to another design, and were in a state of limbo when I wrote my book, respectively.

So for somebody like me, there is little revealing in this book. But of course, this book was not made for somebody like me. It was written for who I was 25 years ago, when I was in architecture school but did not know what or who a Corbu or Mies was, much less how a plan and elevation corresponded to a building or photograph. So I would have loved a book like this to be around back then, a drafting table companion that would spark discussions with my professors and give me jumping-off points for learning about all the buildings that are worth learning about.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Today's archidose #986

Here are some photos of Bishan–Ang Mo Kio Park (2012) in Singapore by Ramboll Studio Dreiseitl. (Photos: Trevor Patt, who has more shots of the park in this Flickr set.)


To contribute your Flickr images for consideration, just:
:: Join and add photos to the archidose pool
To contribute your Instagram images for consideration, just:
:: Tag your photos #archidose

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Disappointment in Berlin

One of the buildings I went out of my way to visit on a recent trip to Berlin was Dominique Perrault's Velodrome and Swimming Pool, a project I wrote about way back in 2000, one year after the project was completed and seventeen years before I'd see it in person. Each of the main elements is given a regular shape – pool is a rectangle and velodrome is a circle – that is set into the landscape.

[Aerial view nabbed from Perrault's website]

In the text on Perrault's website, written by Sebastian Redecke, "[the] sports buildings are unique in the city if for no other reason than that they are largely underground." This impression held true as I approached the buildings from the east, from the bottom corner in the aerial above – what turned out, unknowlingly, to be a backdoor. Basically I was approaching via the automobile access, which is logically located alongside the railroad tracks.

Velodrome and Olympic Swimming Pool

From there I went left and walked up some stairs to the eastern edge of the project, the bottom-left edge in the aerial above.
Velodrome and Olympic Swimming Pool

Finally I was confronted with the view I was expecting: low, mesh-covered buildings tucked into the landscape. A rectangular one:
Velodrome and Olympic Swimming Pool

And a circular one:
Velodrome and Olympic Swimming Pool

My disappointment with Perrault's project firsthand stemmed from a few things: the landscape, access to the buildings, and the project's edges. All are related, but I'll discuss them one by one. First, in terms of the landscape, one does not need to visit to see how people have created their own paths across the lawns to connect the buildings and perimeter spots or just make their way across the raised landscape. Compare the aerial at top with the one below, where those new paths are visible (amazingly, both aerials are from Perrault's website, one from the project page linked above and one from the urban design page).

[Another aerial view nabbed from Perrault's website]

Normally I don't have a problem with people creating their own paths – while they serve to illustrate design defects they also show how a landscape has been made more democratic, less delegated – but here those paths are combined with other flaws: a notable lack of maintenance across much of the landscape and a thinning out of the 450 apple trees planted as part of "the orchard." The only other people I saw there (about ten of them on a chilly, gray weekday) were cutting across the elevated landscape, most via the new paths.

Velodrome and Olympic Swimming Pool

The second bit of disappointment had to do with access to the pool and velodrome. I walked down the steps (above) to get inside the pool, where I could see an event was taking place, but the doors were locked. This was the case on both sides of the pool building and at the velodrome. Instead of accessing the buildings via the elevated landscape, as seems to be the intention, entrances to the facilities are found in bulkhead structures along the northern railroad edge. (Sorry, I didn't take pictures of them.) So visitors either drive to gain access, or they walk across the elevated park to these access points; they do not descend directly to the individual buildings. This plan illustrates one such access point:

Not only did I not take photos of the bulkheads aligned along the project's northern edge, I didn't take photos of the other edges, which are basically huge expanses of steps connecting the raised landscape to the neighborhood. Here are a few views taken from Google Street View, showing the southeast corner:

The southern edge, which echoes the northern edge in terms of supplying bulkheads to the facilities, but in this case they are closed, most likely emergency exits:

And the wheelchair access in the middle of the long southern expanse:

These Street Views make it pretty clear that the project, though "largely underground," is for most people a – literally, not figuratively – elevated experience. While it's obvious that the raised landscape turns the two main components into nearly invisible volumes surrounded by lawn, it does this with unrelenting steps across most of the perimeter. And this makes me wonder if a flush edge and landscape, instead of raised ones, would have made the outdoor spaces between the main volumes more inviting and usable instead of, based on my brief visit, little used or merely conduits for getting from point A to point B.

This site section reveals that dropping the level of the landscape between the buildings could happen (at least in some places – not necessarily along the railroad edge, based on the plan above), but without allowing direct access to the velodrome and pool it would be for nought. Views into these buildings from the landscape are appealing, but without access the plan doesn't make sense – the only reason to ascend to the landscape is to circumvent it. Without the planning, use, and maintenance of the project's buildings and landscape in sync, what should have been full of potential only exhibits disappointment.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

2017 Holiday Gift Books

This year I'm highlighting 33 books by the same number of publishers, arranged alphabetically by publisher – from A+A to Zone. Titles and covers link to Amazon for easy gift-buying.

A+A Books
Álvaro Siza Architectural Guide: Built Projects
Edited by Maria Melo, Michel Toussaint

By Interboro Partners

Caruso St. John Architects, Javier Mozas, Aurora Fernández Per

By Edgar Stach

Black Dog & Leventhal
Bridges: A History of the World's Most Spectacular Spans
By Judith Dupré

Edited by Andrew Goodhouse

Frame Publishers
By Julien De Smedt, Julien Lanoo

Harvard University Press
By Reinier de Graaf

Hatje Cantz
Álvaro Siza: Neighbourhood: Where Alvaro Meets Aldo
Edited by Roberto Cremascoli, Nuno Grande

Images Publishing
By Krueck + Sexton Architects

Island Press
By John Cary

Edited by Eduard Kögel

Lars Müller
OfficeUS Manual
Edited by Eva Franch,‎ Ana Miljački,‎ Carlos Minguez Carrasco, Jacob Reidel,‎ Ashley Schafer

Laurence King
By Colin Davies

Lund Humphries
By Mark Swenarton

McClelland & Stewart
By Patricia McHugh and Alex Bozikovic

The MIT Press
Learning from Las Vegas (facsimile edition)
By Robert Venturi,‎ Denise Scott Brown,‎ Steven Izenour

The Monacelli Press
By Amale Andraos, Dan Wood

The Museum of Modern Art
Edited by Barry Bergdoll, Jennifer Gray

ORO Editions
By Ken Yeang

Park Books
SOS Brutalism: A Global Survey
Edited by Oliver Elser, Philip Kurz, Peter Cachola Schmal

By Phaidon Editors

By John Hill (yes, me)

Princeton Architectural Press
By Ian Volner

Zurich Housing Development 1995–2015
Edited by Heinz Wirz, Christoph Wieser

RIBA Publishing
By Terry Farrell,‎ Adam Nathaniel Furman

By Thom Mayne and the Now Institute

By John Hill (yes, me again)

Spector Books
Frei Otto: Thinking by Modeling
Edited by Georg Vrachliotis, Joachim Kleinmanns, Martin Kunz, Philip Kunz

University of Minnesota Press
By Victor Gruen, edited and translated by Anette Baldauf

W. W. Norton
By Kenneth Breisch

Yale University Press
By Dale Allen Gyure

Zone Books
Forensic Architecture: Violence at the Threshold of Detectability
By Eyal Weizman