Book Briefs #44

Here is the next installment of "Book Briefs," the series of occasional posts featuring short first-hand descriptions of some of the numerous books that publishers send to me for consideration on this blog. Obviously, these briefs are not full-blown reviews, but they are a way to share more books worthy of attention than those that end up as long reviews.

Accumulation: The Art, Architecture, and Media of Climate Change edited by Nick Axel, Nikolaus Hirsch, Daniel A. Barber, Anton Vidokle | e-flux Architecture | February 2022 | 7 x 10 inches | 272 pages | $30 | Amazon / Bookshop
The old saying goes that if you want to know the weather just stick your head out the window. But what about climate? If you want to understand climate and how it has changed over time, "media is necessary," the editors of this volume of 22 essays contend. Usually such media takes the form of charts, graphs, maps, and other visualizations of data, showing how climatic zones have shifted northward in the Northern Hemisphere, for instance, or how much global carbon emissions come from the construction and operation of buildings. This being a publication of e-flux Architecture, architecture — "a material and symbolic intervention in the lifeworld" — is the subject of choice, one that "works towards new understandings of effective [...] means of engaging ecosystems and behaviors." Although the editors write that the essays in Accumulation "outline some of the opportunities and ambitions of visual scholarship" in addressing today's challenges, the book has fewer than a dozen illustrations. The contributions by academics and practitioners in diverse fields therefore require mental visualization on the part of the reader, who is ideally someone ready and willing to effect change toward what the editors call "other possible futures."

Architecture and Anarchism: Building without Authority by Paul Dobraszczyk | Antepavilion / Paul Holberton Publishing | November 2021 | 9 x 10-1/2 inches | 248 pages | £25 | Amazon / Bookshop
Surveys are a popular format for architecture books, with most of them focusing on typologies of buildings (skyscrapers, housing, museums), buildings in a particular region (Japanese houses, Santa Fe Modern), or some particular aspect of architectural culture (booksmagazineswomen architects). Surveys are most valuable when they draw attention to buildings, projects, places, and people that are unexpected, not covered widely in other architecture books or media but nevertheless of importance. I lump Paul Dobraszczyk's Architecture and Anarchism in here, alongside Design Like You Give a DamnRadical Architecture of the Future, Social Design, and other titles focused on the impact of architecture on society. This one features sixty "projects from the Global North that illustrate anarchist values in action" (I'm guessing the Global South is omitted because it would have pushed the book from art, self-building, and collective action toward slums and other communities of necessity) with the goal of presenting anarchism as "a powerful way of reconceptualizing architecture as an emancipatory, inclusive, ecological and egalitarian practice." Well-known places — past, present, and imaginary — abound (Christiana, Burning Man, Drop City, Kowloon Walled City, Occupy Wall Street, Theaster Gates's Dorchester Projects, Constant's New Babylon, etc.), but many are little-known by comparison. Instigated by Antepavilion, an arts and architecture charity in the UK, Architecture and Anarchism is a much-needed survey of alternative practices and approaches that arrives at a time when contemporary crises make alternatives necessary.

The Architecture of Yemen and Its Reconstruction by Salma Samar Damluji | Laurence King Publishing | May 2021 (Second edition) | 10-1/4 x 13-1/2 inches | 368 pages | $95 | Amazon / Bookshop
Salma Samar Damluji, who worked with Hassan Fathy in the 1970s and 80s, co-wrote a historical monograph on the famous Egyptian architect, Hassan Fathy: Earth & Utopia, an impressive — and large — book put out by Laurence King in 2018. A decade earlier, in 2007, Damluji wrote The Architecture of Yemen, billed as "the first book to offer an in-depth investigation into the characteristic architecture of [the] country," resulting from "nearly two decades of research." The second edition released last year has a large format similar to the Fathy book, allowing them to fit well side-by-side on one's bookshelf; both are worth having, especially for architects interested in traditional mud construction and the preservation of such buildings. The three chapters from the first edition — on Lahij ("Stone and Skyscrapers"), Shabwah ("Mud Brick and Desert Palaces"), and Hadramūt ("Stone, Shale and Mud Brick Skyscrapers") — are accompanied by a new chapter devoted to the reconstruction of Hadramūt between 2006 and 2014 (hence the and Its Reconstruction in the book's title) and an emergency project in Shibām, now a UNESCO World Heritage site. Initiated by the Daw'an Mud Brick Architecture Foundation, the documentation of the Yemeni buildings in the book is quite thorough, with photographs, drawings, and detailed dimensions and descriptions in the text. A much-needed glossary is provided for the many italicized terms in the text (jubā, majlis, dīwān, etc.), though their frequency is so great that a separate booklet with these terms related to the different parts of the traditional buildings would have been much better than having to flip back and forth while reading the book.

Contested Modernities: Postcolonial Architecture and the Construction of Identities in Southeast Asia edited by Sally Below, Moritz Henning, Eduard Kögel | ARCH+ / Birkhäuser | November 2021 | 9-1/4 x 11-1/2 inches | 240 pages | $29.99 | Amazon / Bookshop
The German architecture magazine ARCH+ makes just one of its four issues each year available in an English translation. This most recent issue, last year's, is Contested Modernities, the printed companion to a multifaceted program of the same name that consisted of symposia and an exhibition focused on postcolonial architecture in Southeast Asia as part of Encounters with Southeast Asian Modernism. The four "initiators and artistic directors" of the program also edited the publication that features more than thirty essays, conversations, and photo essays organized into four country chapters: Cambodia, Indonesia, Myanmar, and Singapore. It is an impressive publication, with deep scholarship on architects, buildings, and places that are most likely unknown to the majority of architects in Europe and North America. Although the program was put together with a German perspective (the "encounters" are those between Germany and Southeast Asia), Contested Modernities offers plenty for people who want to know more about architectural production in Southeast Asia last century, wherever they're from. The highlights are numerous, though the conversations stand out above the rest. One of them is an insert on glossy pages, an "ARCH+ feature," in which two of the editors talk with Farid Rakun from Indonesia, one of the members of the ruangrupa collective that curated the 15th Documenta, which just opened in Kassel, Germany.

Lloyd’s 1:1: The Currency of the Architectural Mock-Up by Michael Eidenbenz | gta publishers | October 2021 | 6-1/2 x 9-3/4 inches | 230 pages | $55 | Amazon / Bookshop
I'm a big fan of book-length case studies — or building monographs — and therefore I have many in my library. This is one of the most unique such books I've come across in a while. Based on the ETH Zurich doctoral thesis of Michael Eidenbenz, Lloyd's 1:1 details the design of the famous Lloyd's of London building designed by Richard Rogers, while focusing on the role of full-scale mockups in terms of researching construction, materials, and assemblies. The book has eight chapters, but the meat of its contents are primarily in two long chapters, one on design and one on mock-ups. Across nearly 70 pages, "Making Promises" runs through the iterative design process, with Eidenbenz's text in this fourth chapter accompanied by, among other illustrations, some great sketches by John Young, a partner at Rogers' office at the time and lead on the construction of Lloyd's. Chapter six, "Looking for Answers," explains how mock-ups were made for the concrete structure, the glazing system, the structured glass, luminaires, air flow tests, and other aspects of the unprecedented design. For Eidenbenz, "the experimental nature of the Lloyd's Building mock-ups allowed the client, the architects and the engineers to take risks in the building design." If David Ross's Archetypes, reviewed last year, is any indication, 1:1 mock-ups continue to maintain their value for architects and clients looking to take similar risks.

Radical Normal: Propositions for the Architecture of the City by Vittorio Magnago Lampugnani | DOM Publishers | November 2021 | 8-1/4 x 9 inches | 240 pages | €28 | Amazon / Bookshop
The latest book by Vittorio Magnago Lampugnani, author of Architecture of the 20th Century in Drawings, Encyclopedia of 20th-Century Architecture, and numerous other books, compiles 27 texts by the architect and theorist that were originally published in other languages between the 1980s and 2020, the majority from the previous decade. Falling into three chapters (Serene Modernity, Memory and Sustainability, and Contemporary Urban Design), the texts aim to provide "an appropriate framework of arguments" for an urban design "oppose[d] to the wanton and reckless destruction of European cities." The essays are short, with an average length of around seven pages, so they can be read fairly briskly and in any order. Each essay has just one image, though the selection of photographs — of modern European mainly — is diverse, with more people than the typical architecture book, and with photos of modern European architecture depicted, less as completed buildings, and more in various states of design, construction, demolition, and decay. Radical Normal is the 138th title in DOM's "Basics" series, which is billed as "a platform for established authors and committed young researchers who publish texts in their native language" and therefore consists of books in English, French, German, and other languages.