Wednesday, December 11, 2019

The Revolution Will Be Stopped Halfway

The Revolution Will Be Stopped Halfway: Oscar Niemeyer in Algeria
Jason Oddy
Columbia Books on Architecture and the City, September 2019



Paperback | 9 x 11 inches | 208 pages | English | ISBN: 978-1941332504 | $35.00

Publisher's Description:
Of all of the Brazilian modernist Oscar Niemeyer’s many built works, his Algerian projects are among the least well known. Beginning in 1968, Algeria’s President Houari Boumediene commissioned Niemeyer to build two universities and an Olympic sports hall, as well as a series of large-scale, never-realized projects across Algeria, in an attempt to forge a modern, independent nation. In 2013, Jason Oddy produced an in-depth photographic survey of these buildings as they exist in Algeria today. The Revolution Will Be Stopped Halfway collects those images alongside archival documents and Oddy’s further research into Niemeyer’s Algerian work in order to explore the revolutionary politics that inspired and formed these buildings.
dDAB Commentary:
Think of Oscar Niemeyer and most likely Brazil pops to mind, not Algeria. Sure, Niemeyer completed some of the hundreds of buildings he designed outside of Brazil and South America, particularly during his two-decade-long "exile years" starting in 1965, but I'm probably not alone in lacking familiarity with his Algerian projects before seeing this book. I'm glad the book made its way to me, not only for it apprising me of his university and sports projects there, but for the beautiful documentation of them. Jason Oddy's photographs capture the current state (as of 2013) of the extant buildings at the University of Science and Technology Houari Boumediene, La Coupole arena, and the University of Mentouri Constantine, while drawings from the Oscar Niemeyer Foundation describe the same in the architect's lines and words.

Oddy also contributes an essay that contextualizes the late-1960s projects and recounts their creation. This lengthy essay might have spurred MTWTF, which designed the book, to alternate photos and words on the flip sides of the pages, making the book an exceptional object. More specifically, each page is glossy on one side and matte on the other, the first for Oddy's photos and the latter for his words (or captions, or the words of Samia Henni, who penned the preface). In turn, two glossy sides make a two-page spread and two matte sides make a spread as well, such that most of the book alternates between the two. A departure happens in the book's last third, where Niemeyer's drawings are found on blue-green paper. With its paper selection, wraparound cover, and lay-flat binding, the book is worth owning solely as a marvelous printed artifact -- thankfully the contents are worth the price as well.
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Author Bio:
Jason Oddy is a writer and artist whose work focuses on the politics of place. His photographic investigations of the Pentagon, ex-Soviet sanatoria, and Guantanamo Bay have been published and exhibited internationally, including at the Photographers' Gallery (London), Paris Photo, the Milan Triennale, Tropenmuseum Amsterdam, and the Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisations in Marseilles.
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