Spirit of Place

Spirit of Place
Oppenheim Architecture
Tra Publishing, June 2019

Paperback | 9 x 13 inches | 236 pages | 120 illustrations | English | ISBN: 978-1732297821 | $55.00

Publisher's Description:
"For thousands of years, civilization has constructed its buildings on the land. We prefer to construct our buildings with the land, where architecture recedes and becomes a frame," writes Chad Oppenheim. These words are the theme of Spirit of Place, the first monograph of the work of Oppenheim Architecture. Through passion and sensitivity towards man and nature, the firm creates monumental yet silent work that invokes a site’s inherent power.

The book, with 120 stunning photographs and minimal text, features seven of the firm's projects, ranging in scale and location from homes in the Bahamas and Aspen to a resort in the Jordanian desert. The projects are categorized by each site’s predominant natural element: dune, desert, stream, river, sea, canyon, and peninsula. The images, like the architecture, focus on and celebrate the natural world, illustrating Oppenheim’s design philosophy that "form follows feeling." The volume includes text by Chad Oppenheim, Val K. Warke, Antón García-Abril, and Mark Jarzombek.
dDAB Commentary:
Even though architect Chad Oppenheim's eponymous practice has offices in three cities — Miami, New York, and Basel — and has completed buildings on three continents, the locale of South Florida defines his architecture more than anywhere. In and around Miami he has realized large houses that take advantage of the tropical climate through carefully designed outdoor spaces and large glazed expanses that slide open to meld inside and outside. Feasibly Oppenheim could devote his career to cranking out tropical residences for Miami's rich, designing variations on Villa Alegra, for instance, or the House on a Dune in the nearby Bahamas. Instead his ambitions extend into other typologies and contexts, ranging from a hotel in Brazil to a water purification plant in Switzerland. Oppenheim's unbuilt projects veer into the fantastical, be it a spa and resort that buries itself in the sand and then bridges over the sea, and a mixed-use project that melds into the Costa Rican jungle. Uniting the buildings and projects is an approach to site in which the architects discover the unique aspects of each place and exploit them to the fullest.

Spirit of Place presents seven projects — three built, four unbuilt —  by Oppenheim Architecture in an über-minimal format, with page after page of full-color photographs and renderings, no drawings, just three lines of text to describe each project, and not much else (not even page numbers). Chad Oppenheim provides a short introduction, and three essays (two short, one a little bit longer) come at the back of the book, but in between is wall-to-wall imagery, where place seems to take precedence over design. This prioritization is expressed first in the title of each project: place rather than project. So House on a Dune, for example, is "dune," accompanied by a three-line haiku: "jungle and ocean / a horizon connection / sky framed and captured." Photos of the house focus on moments, views, and details rather than overall shots (no drone shots here) or other views that might provide an overall grasp of the house. What comes across is the mood of the house and the way it interacts with its surroundings, the latter accentuated by occasional photos where the lens is directed solely at the landscape. The same can be said of all the projects, which are presented on heavyweight matte paper that lays flat. Spirit of Place is architectural monograph as art and inspiration, sure to be at home on any uncluttered coffee table.

Author Bio:
Chad Oppenheim is a Miami-based architect whose work has been praised for its ability to transform the prosaic into the poetic. ... In 1999, he founded Oppenheim Architecture (Miami, Basel, New York), which has garnered global recognition for large-scale urban architecture, hotels and resorts, private residences, interiors, and furnishings.
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