Wednesday, June 26, 2019

The Heart of the City

The Heart of the City: Creating Vibrant Downtowns for a New Century
Alexander Garvin
Island Press, May 2019



Paperback | 6 x 9 inches | 264 pages | 100 illustrations | English | ISBN: 9781610919494 | $30.00

Publisher Description:
Downtowns are more than economic engines: they are repositories of knowledge and culture and generators of new ideas, technology, and ventures. They are the heart of the city that drives its future. If we are to have healthy downtowns, we need to understand what downtown is all about; how and why some American downtowns never stopped thriving (such as San Jose and Houston), some have been in decline for half a century (including Detroit and St. Louis), and still others are resurging after temporary decline (many, including Lower Manhattan and Los Angeles). The downtowns that are prospering are those that more easily adapt to changing needs and lifestyles.

In
The Heart of the City, distinguished urban planner Alexander Garvin shares lessons on how to plan for a mix of housing, businesses, and attractions; enhance the public realm; improve mobility; and successfully manage downtown services. Garvin opens the book with diagnoses of downtowns across the United States, including the people, businesses, institutions, and public agencies implementing changes. In a review of prescriptions and treatments for any downtown, Garvin shares brief accounts—of both successes and failures—of what individuals with very different objectives have done to change their downtowns. The final chapters look at what is possible for downtowns in the future, closing with suggested national, state, and local legislation to create standard downtown business improvement districts to better manage downtowns.

This book will help public officials, civic organizations, downtown business property owners, and people who care about cities learn from successful recent actions in downtowns across the country, and expand opportunities facing their downtown. Garvin provides recommendations for continuing actions to help any downtown thrive, ensuring a prosperous and thrilling future for the 21st-century American city.
dDAB Commentary:
Alexander Garvin has practiced planning for close to 50 years. In that time American downtowns have changed dramatically, some for the better, some for the worst, and others in barely perceptible ways. Whatever the case, change is constant in such places. In the 1970s, when Garvin was working at New York City’s Department of City Planning and NYC was in the midst of a fiscal crisis, cities were on the wane, with people having moved to the suburbs and the companies employing them starting to follow. In the greed-is-good 1980s, when Garvin was developing private real estate, cities were trying to lure people back downtown by creating faux-nostalgic places like South Street Seaport. In the late 1990s, which could be seen as the start of the resurgence of American dowtowns, Garvin worked at getting the Olympics to come to NYC. At that time, people were moving back to downtowns, changing them from 9-to-5 work-week settings to 24/7 neighborhoods. A case in point is Lower Manhattan, where Garvin worked briefly as Vice President for Planning, Design and Development of the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation (LMDC) following 9/11. Although rebuilding of the World Trade Center site focused almost entirely on replacing the lost office and retail space, Garvin became aware of the increasing residents in the that downtown.

The dramatic demographic changes in Lower Manhattan — one of a few downtowns in Manhattan and other parts of NYC (cities don't have just one) — spurred Garvin to look at downtowns in other parts of the United States and then write a book about creating healthy downtowns. Like his 2016 book What Makes a Great City, which includes numerous examples and anecdotes based on firsthand experience and travels in Europe and North America, Garvin's latest book stems from his decades of practice and his on-the-ground experiences in American downtowns. To cite one small example, Garvin had heard about Detroit's "much-discussed downtown revival" but needed to see it firsthand, so he flew there in 2017 and recounts to readers how he rode the People Mover for 20 minutes but only encountered three other people — hardly an indicator of a resurgence. Other cities he discusses — but as success stories and at greater length — include: Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Cincinnati, Dallas, Denver, Los Angeles, and Philadelphia. Each city provides a lesson or lessons through some sort of tangible project or program (e.g., Dana Crawford's preservation of buildings on Laramie Street in Denver and, separately, the city's 16th Street Mall) created by various public or private stakeholders. In essence, the book is like a more sharply defined, compact version of Garvin's textbook-like The American City: What Works, What Doesn't, first published in 1996 and now in its third edition. That wide-ranging book looks at many projects and programs in cities and suburbs, while The Heart of the City limits itself to downtowns, the economic and cultural hearts of cities that, as the word "heart" implies, often serve as indicators of the health of the larger city — or even America as a whole.
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Author Bio:
Alexander Garvin has combined a career in urban planning and real estate with teaching, architecture, and public service. He is currently President and CEO of AGA Public Realm Strategists, Inc., a planning and design firm in New York City that is responsible for the initial master plans for the Atlanta BeltLine, Tessera (a 700-acre new community outside Austin), and Hinton Park in Collierville, Tennessee. Between 1996 and 2005 he was managing director for planning at NYC2012, the committee to bring the Summer Olympics to New York in 2012.
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Monday, June 24, 2019

Louvre Abu Dhabi

Louvre Abu Dhabi: The Story of an Architectural Project
Jean Nouvel, Olivier Boissière
Skira Paris, May 2019



Paperback | 8-1/4 x 11-1/2 inches | 128 pages | 150 illustrations | English | ISBN: 978-2370740816 | $34.95

Publisher Description:
Louvre Abu Dhabi is a comprehensive exploration of Jean Nouvel's (born 1945) latest masterpiece, from the first sketches and through each phase of its conception and construction. From its majestic, novel dome to its exhibition halls, this book walks the reader through this architectural jewel.
dDAB Commentary:
The first page of this monograph on Jean Nouvel's Louvre Abu Dhabi, which opened to the public in November 2017, is a tribute to Olivier Boissière, who wrote many books on Nouvel's architecture, including one of Birkhäuser's Studio Paperbacks. "Olivier Boissière wrote all of his life," Nouvel writes. "Books of art and architectural critique, a novel and some articles distinguished by common sense, pertinence and impertinence ... As attested by this, his last written work ..." Although I don't know when Boissière, who was born in 1939, died, nor can I find mention of his passing online (as of today, his Wikipedia entry is in the present tense), it makes sense that Nouvel's longtime collaborator would write about one of his most amazing projects: Louvre Abu Dhabi, a museum with a massive, double-layered filigreed dome shading a plaza, a series of boxy galleries, and in-between spaces. While the book provides plenty of insight into the project, particularly the layout and articulation of the galleries and other enclosed spaces, ultimately it is an overly praiseworthy celebration of the design — more a work of promotion than architectural critique.

The book moves from the inception of the project, complete with Nouvel's early sketch of "the dome and its microclimate," to its realization. Yet with a publication date of early 2019 and an opening of late 2017, I don't understand why there are so many renderings and so few photos of the completed building. The photos I've seen, with rays of light streaming in through the filigreed "parasol," are as stunning as the renderings, making the deficit of photos perplexing. Furthermore, although the book goes into some detail on parts of the project not discussed much elsewhere (restaurant, children's museum, VIP area, site-specific artworks), these pieces are not keyed to the plans, making it hard for readers to get their bearings in a highly complex layout. Another questionable piece is the conclusion, described as (no joke) a "recapitulation in the form of evocation-accumulation presented in a deliberately random order." It's basically eight pages of low-resolution thumbnails of the images that came in the preceding pages (and some that didn't), here accompanied by such non-revealing filenames as "DSC03448.jpg" and "G14-2.jpg." Though I haven't seen it in person, I'm inclined to recommend GA Document 145 over this book for people who want a stronger focus on architecture and more photos of the completed Louvre Abu Dhabi.
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Author Bio:
Olivier Boissière was a French writer and art critic of contemporary architecture. His articles and interviews were published in international magazines such as Domus, Abitare, L'Architecture d'Aujourd'hui and Vogue France. Boissière was the author of several books on renowned architects and designers: Le Corbusier, Frank Gehry Jean Nouvel, Ron Arad et Philippe Starck.
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Friday, June 21, 2019

Home Futures

Home Futures: Living in Yesterday's Tomorrow
Eszter Steierhoffer, Justin McGuirk (Editors)
The Design Museum, April 2019



Paperback | 6-3/4 x 9-1/2 inches | 308 pages | 260 illustrations | English | ISBN: 978-1872005423 | $49.95

Publisher Description:
The “home of the future” has long been a topic of fascination in popular culture and an intriguing prospect for designers, and the 20th century offered up countless visions of the future of domestic life, from the aspirational to the radical. Whether it was the dream of the fully mechanized home or the notion that technology might free us from the home altogether, the domestic realm was a site of endless invention and speculation.

But what happened to those visions? Are the smart homes of today and patterns of use in the sharing economy the future that architects and designers once predicted, or has the “home” proved resistant to radical change?

Home Futures: Living in Yesterday’s Tomorrow explores different approaches to reinventing domestic life, tracing the social and technological developments that have driven change in the home. The first comprehensive survey of the 20th century’s aspirational, radical and futuristic visions of the home, this richly illustrated publication showcases a range of ideas and plans for the future—from the prescient to the fantastical—that designers produced as they imagined new ways of living at home and on the move, independently and collectively, with more and with less.
dDAB Commentary:
I'm surely not alone in finding great value in catalogs to exhibitions I've seen in person. They serve as mementos of visits — visits that are often too short and therefore benefit from the prolonged intake afforded by books. Furthermore, most catalogs have additional scholarship in the form of essays that expand upon the themes developed by curators and explored by the contributing artists or architects. Visually, the plates of most catalogs combine with my photos of the installations to keep exhibitions fresh in my memory for a long time. But when it comes to exhibitions I missed, that I wasn't able to travel to and that didn't travel to my part of the world, that's a different story. I find the omission of installation photos — a necessary omission considering that catalogs should be done when an exhibition opens — detrimental to fully understanding an exhibition. Without moving through a space to look at displays and therefore orient myself to their contents through the actions of my body, such exhibitions and catalogs are only partial at best.

These thoughts come to mind in regards to Home Futures, which was on display at the Design Museum in London earlier this year and was in turn inspired by MoMA's Italy: The New Domestic Landscape from 1972. I missed both shows (the earlier one because I wasn't born yet) so can only try to understand them through their catalogs and from reviews of the exhibitions. Home Futures, done in collaboration with the IKEA Museum, is a visual feast of future-minded living, much of it from the era of the earlier MoMA show. Presented in six easy-to-digest chapters paralleling the structure of the exhibition (or so I read, on a website with photos of the show) — e.g. "Living with others" and "Living autonomously" — the book is loaded with examples of future visions unfulfilled. This is not a book of failures; rather it explores unexpected outcomes, by presenting, for instance, a still from The Jetsons, in which the robot-maid is cleaning up after George Jetson, opposite the Roomba. Not all dots are so easy to connect, but the hundreds of images allow for just as many interpretations on the part of readers. Interspersed among the many images spread across six chapters are short, one-page "What happened to..." essays, while longer essays come at the back of the book, including one by Jing Liu of SO-IL, who designed the exhibition at the Design Museum. Presented across a Supersurface-like gridded graphic design (complete with transparent wrapper), the images and texts add up to a cohesive, intriguing document that makes me wish I was in London before the exhibition wrapped up in March.
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Author Bio:
Eszter Steierhoffer is Senior Curator at the Design Museum and editor, among other books, of Imagine Moscow: Architecture, Propaganda, Revolution. Justin McGuirk is a writer and Chief Curator at the Design Museum, formerly the design columnist for the Guardian, and editor of Icon magazine.
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Thursday, June 20, 2019

Sigfried Giedion

Sigfried Giedion: Liberated Dwelling
Reto Geiser (Editor)
Lars Müller Publishers, January 2019



Hardcover/paperback in two volumes w/transparent slipcase | 5 x 7-1/2 inches | 100/96 pages | 86 illustrations | English/German | ISBN: 978-3037785683 | $40.00

Publisher Description:
Sigfried Giedion’s small, but vocal manifesto Befreites Wohnen (1929) is an early manifestation of modernist housing ideology and as such key to the broader understanding of the ambitions of the International Congresses of Modern Architecture (CIAM) and the debate on the industrialization of construction processes and its impact on public housing at the beginning of the twentieth century. An important step in Giedion’s rise as one of the foremost propagators of modern architecture, this manifesto is based on the argumentative power of visual comparisons, and the only book the art historian both authored and designed.

The German facsimile edition of Giedion’s
Befreites Wohnen is completed by an English translation and a scholarly essay that anchors the work in the context of its time and suggests the book’s relevance for contemporary architectural discourse.
dDAB Commentary:
One of the many things I learned when reading Reto Geiser's excellent Giedion and America was that the Swiss, German-speaking Sigried Giedion wrote his most famous work, Space, Time and Architecture, in English. In fact, the German translation followed much later than the 1941 first edition, the opposite of his earlier books, which were written in German then translated into English decades later. Bauen in Frankreich, Bauen in Eisen, Bauen in Eisenbeton, for instance, was published in 1928 but wasn't translated into English, as Building in France, Building in Iron, Building in Ferroconcrete, until 1995. Likewise, Befreites Wohnen, from 1929, is just now hitting the shelves in English, courtesy of Lars Müller Publishers and Geiser, who edited Sigfried Giedion: Liberated Dwelling and translated the original with Rachel Julia Engler. The "facsimile edition" consists of the original German text with illustrations in a handsome hardcover accompanied by a paperback with the text in English (keyed to the original through thumbnails of the spreads) and an informative introduction by Geiser.

Geiser's long introduction (I think it has more words than Giedion's book) illuminates a few significant things that make the translation of Befreites Wohnen 90 years later worthwhile. For Giedion, the book was a quickly written "punchy manifesto" for the modern architecture he had recently embraced and first promoted one year before with Bauen in Frankreich (before those two books, he was an art historian interested in the past). As part of a series of compact books for publisher Orell Füssli, the book was geared to a larger, lay audience rather than to architects or design scholars, as in all of Giedion's other books. And focused on housing — specifically on how modern design and technology could provide affordable dwellings with lots of light (licht), air (luft), and openness (oeffnung) — the book still resonates today, when many cities and countries face crises of affordable housing. Furthermore, as Geiser brings up in his introduction, the construction advances being explored in Giedion's time (prefabrication, mainly) are still being worked out close to a century later. Although the original is a historical document, its translation reveals how much work still needs to be done, especially with educating a wider audience about the benefits of modern solutions for affordable housing.
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Author Bio:
Sigfried Giedion (1888–1968) was born in Prague on April 14, 1888, a son of Swiss textile entrepreneurs. ... In 1931, He was appointed Charles Eliot Norton Professor in Poetry at Harvard University for the academic year 1938–39. The collected lectures were published as Space, Time and Architecture in 1941. ... Giedion was a prolific writer and authored more than ten monographs in a half dozen languages. On April 9, 1968, he died in Zurich.
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Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Zoned Out!

Zoned Out! Race, Displacement, and City Planning in New York City
Tom Angotti, Sylvia Morse (Editors)
UR Books, 2017



Paperback | 6 x 9 inches | 176 pages | English | ISBN: 978-0996004138 | $20.00

Publisher Description:
Gentrification and displacement of low-income communities of color are major issues in New York City and the city’s zoning policies are a major cause. Race matters but the city ignores it when shaping land use and housing policies. The city promises “affordable housing” that is not truly affordable. Zoned Out! shows how this has played in Williamsburg, Harlem and Chinatown, neighborhoods facing massive displacement of people of color. It looks at ways the city can address inequalities, promote authentic community-based planning and develop housing in the public domain.
dDAB Commentary:
In March, when my book NYC Walks was released, I was fortunate enough to be in conversation with Michael Sorkin at Rizzoli Bookstore. Following our talk and me signing a few copies of my book, I passed by titles from Sorkin's UR Books (an imprint of his nonprofit Terreform) conveniently located by the register. The product placement worked and I walked out with a copy of Zoned Out!, the best-selling book out of UR's roughly dozen titles to date. Previously I've reviewed a few UR titles: Downward Spiral: El Helicoide's Descent from Mall to PrisonLetters to the Leaders of China: Kongjian Yu and the Future of the Chinese City, and Spaces of Disappearance: The Architecture of Extraordinary Rendition. The diversity of subject matter, the quality of the scholarship, and the progressive ideals shared by the various subjects are highly commendable in the case of those three books. The same can be said of Zoned Out!, which features six chapters on the role of zoning in displacing low-income communities of color in New York City.

The first and last chapters come from Angotti, a stalwart of community-based planning and an enemy of REBNY and YIMBYs throughout the city. In the first chapter Angotti spells out how zoning is legally defined and is used by the city at the behest of "the land market" to promote new development: in 140 areas by Mayor Michael Bloomberg and 15 to date by his successor, Bill de Blasio. The last chapter focuses on community-based planning and, in concert with the first chapter, is aligned with his assertion that planning is not practiced in New York City but needs to be. (In between is a chapter on race and zoning, and three chapters with case studies of zoning displacement in action: in Williamsburg, Harlem, and Chinatown.) Right around the time of my conversation with Sorkin, Angotti spoke to the Charter 2019 NYC Revision Commission, arguing for the Department of City Planning to actually do community planning rather than relying on zoning for shaping the city. (His remarks and those of other pro-planning advocates are on YouTube.) The side of me that believes in the benefits of urban planning hope he sways the commission, but the cynical side of me sees the continuation of zoning as-is, with land-use decisions benefiting developers and new residents rather than people who actually live and work in the communities targeted for rezonings. With zoning so far entrenched in the machinations of city government, real estate, and architecture, reorienting it toward more just ends seems insurmountable. Zoned Out! is a perfect place for pro-planning progressives to prepare their protestations.
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Author Bio:
Tom Angotti is Professor of Urban Policy and Planning at Hunter College, the Graduate Center, and City University of New York, and Director of the Hunter College Center for Community Planning & Development. He is author of New York For Sale: Community Planning Confronts Global Real Estate, which won the 2009 Davidoff Book Award.
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Sunday, June 16, 2019

Fundamentals

Fundamentals: 14th International Architecture Exhibition
Rem Koolhaas
Marsilio, 2014



Paperback | 5-1/4 x 6-3/4 inches (mini version) | 582 pages | English | ISBN: 978-8831718691

Publisher Description:
Fundamentals is the official catalogue of the 14th International Architecture Exhibition at the Venice Biennale and it describes its three interlocking components: Elements of Architecture; Monditalia; and Absorbing Modernity: 1914-2014. Together, these chapters presents the 2014 Architecture Biennale as a whole, illuminating the past, present and future of the architectural discipline.
dDAB Commentary:
Reviewing A Moving Border the other day prompted me to pick up my copy of Fundamentals, the catalog to the 2014 Venice Architecture Biennale. The former arose from a project in the Monditalia section of the Biennale, one of three sections that Rem Koolhaas created when he curated the exhibition. The others were Absorbing Modernity 1914-2014 and Elements of Architecture. Basically, Monditalia occupied the Arsenale and focused on Italy, Absorbing Modernity was the theme addressed by each of the country pavilions (usually they are free to develop their own themes), and Elements of Architecture, located in the Central Pavilion, presented the basic elements upon which architecture is built: facades, roofs, doors, even toilets. Each section is presented in the hefty catalog (I own the miniature version, but the larger, more expensive catalog is what's available online and linked below). Like most exhibition catalogs, the content expresses what the curators and participants wanted to achieve with their contributions rather than what was actually presented. So drawings, renderings, and historical photos prevail, while the experience of the exhibition and photos documenting it followed online and in magazines (my articles for World-Architects are linked above).

The catalog's 582 pages break down as follows: 166 pages for Absorbing Modernity, 158 for Elements of Architecture, and 180 pages for Monditalia, which includes descriptions for the cinema, dance, music, and theater interactions done during the course of the Biennale. (The difference is taken up by some advertising, a photo essay by Wolfang Tillmans, and the presentation of the collateral events.) For the most part, each contribution is given just a couple pages in the catalog -- enough space for a short description and one or two images but not much else. While each country produced a booklet or full-blown book for their participation -- and in the case of Studio Folder's "Italian Limes," their contribution led to a publication -- Elements of Architecture had the largest printed life during and beyond the Biennale. It was published as a fifteen-volume set in 2014, with each element given its own booklet (e.g. Façade), and was repackaged with Irma Boom (she also designed the catalog) as a 2,528-page book for Taschen. Ironically, it was Elements of Architecture that received the harshest criticism from architects and architecture critics when the Biennale opened. It was also the most accessible section for the general public -- which says a lot, considering most architecture exhibitions are only understood and appreciated by architects.
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Author Bio:
Rem Koolhaas, winner of the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement at the Biennale Architettura 2010, and the Pritzker Prize in 2000, founded OMA (Office for Metropolitan Architecture) in 1975 together with Elia and Zoe Zenghelis and Madelon Vriesendorp.
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Friday, June 14, 2019

Spots in Shots

Spots in Shots: Narrating the Built Environment in Short Film
Mélanie van der Hoorn
nai010 Publishers, March 2019



Hardcover | 8-1/2 x 10-1/4 inches | 240 pages | 120 illustrations | Dutch/English | ISBN: 978-9462084568 | $50.00

Publisher Description:
Spots in Shots explores a selection of little-known but fascinating short films made in Europe and the US between 1990 and 2017 that tell stories about architecture and urban development. Based on interviews with the filmmakers, the book asks how cinema can stir public interest in the oeuvres of architects.

Among the numerous cinematic gems discussed here are John Smith’s
Blight (1996); Kibwe Tavares and Factory Fifteen’s Jonah (2012); Assembly Studios’ Fort Dunlop Green (2004); The Neighbourhood’s Saxton Leeds (2008); Imagen Subliminal’s El Espinar House (2013); Squint/Opera’s Post Barnsley (2003); Jem Cohen & Luc Sante’s Le bled (Buildings in a Field) (2009); Gabriel Kogan & Pedro Kok’s Casa Redux (2014); and Jordi Bernadó & 15-L Films’ Hic Sunt Leones (2013).
dDAB Commentary:
I have a sometimes unhealthy obsession with architecture and film, to the point that I'll be drawn to settings in films rather than stories. Likewise, I'm also a big fan of books about architecture and film, although there aren't many that tackle the subjects together. Some of my favorites include Mark Lamster's Architecture and Film, Juhani Pallasmaa's The Architecture of Image: Existential Space in Cinema, James Sanders' Celluloid Skyline: New York and the Movies, and Steven Jacobs' The Wrong House: The Architecture of Alfred Hitchcock. With an apparent shared interest in architecture and film, I was surprised to not know any of the "cinematic gems" listed in the above description of Mélanie van der Hoorn's Spots in Shots, the second in a trilogy on "alternative forms of representation and communication in architecture and urbanism." (The first was Bricks & Balloons: Architecture in Comic-Strip Form and the third will be focused on architecture games.) I recognize the names Imagen Subliminal (Miguel de Guzmán) and Pedro Kok, but as photographers rather than filmmakers. Yet delving into the book, it's clear that Van der Hoorn is open to all sorts of architectural shorts, be they documentary, narrative, or even publicity.

Spots in Shots is organized into six chapters, three expository chapters with fairly explanatory names ("Between Fact and Fiction: Understanding the Short Architecture Film"; "From Moving Snapshots to Refined Artworks: The Development of the Short Architecture Film"; and "Festivals, Websites, Museum Collections: Where Does the Short Architecture Film Call Home?") and three chapters with the films themselves. The latter chapters partition the films – a dozen films per each – via narrative type and intent: "FEEL: Captivating the Imagination" (stories), "THINK: Challenging Reality" (documentaries), and "WANT: Gripping Positions" (promotion). A book about films can only explain them through words and still images, so the Spots in Shots website is helpful for watching the shorts. (That said, about half of the FEEL and THINK videos embedded on the website are password protected, while most of the WANT ones are, not surprisingly, available to watch.) A few highlights (and there are many), one from each chapter respectively: Jonah, which tells the story of Zanzibar's transformation into "Fish Man Town" through Hollywood-level special effects and acting; Petra Noordkamp's La Madre, il Figlio e l'Architetto, the first part of a documentary trilogy about Gibellina, Italy (yes, that Gibellina); and Bombastic Rubbish, a fast-paced, anti-modern reappraisal of UK theater architect Frank Matcham.
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Author Bio:
Mélanie van der Hoorn studied Cultural Anthropology at the Universities of Leiden and Amsterdam, where she specialized in Material Culture. In 2005, she obtained her doctorate at Utrecht University... Since her move to Vienna in 2007 and the foundation of Gratwanderung in 2007, she has been working as an independent researcher and curator, and since 2013 as an external lecturer at various Austrian universities.
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