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Thursday, February 11, 2016

Book Briefs #24

"Book Briefs" are an ongoing series of posts with two- or three-sentence first-hand descriptions of some of the numerous books that make their way into my library. These briefs are not full-blown reviews, but they are a way to share more worthwhile books than I'm able to review.



From top to bottom in the photo above:

Air Structures by Will McLean and Pete Silver | Laurence King | 2015 | Amazon
Part of Laurence King's "Form & Technique" series (other titles include Deployable Structures and Generative Design), this little book's release was timely, coming just after Frei Otto's passing and him winning the Pritzker Architecture Prize last year. Although his projects are nowhere to be found in the book, his influence permeates throughout. Along with R. Buckminster Fuller, Otto pioneered doing less with more. And he looked to nature – soap bubbles, spider webs – to figure out how to do it. With air as their primary "building material," the projects in this book show that the desire to build lightweight – and fun – structures continues.

Spaces of Serenity: Small Projects for Meditation and Contemplation by Jeffrey S. Poss | ORO Editions | 2015 | Amazon
This appropriately small book collects six small projects architect Jeffrey S. Poss designed as responses "to the basic human desire to identify and seek creative ways to resolve the conflicts of living in the everyday world." He is also a professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, so most of the projects are in the area, including a couple self-initiated projects for his family. They are poetic little construction that bring to mind Mike Cadwell's small buildings documented in Pamphlet Architecture 17, though Poss's buildings are less folly-like and more practical as places for relaxation and meditation (three of them are called Meditation Huts). They are well documented with photos, drawings and the occasional rendering, though I wish there were more hand drawings like those that accompany the short introduction. Those images reveal the source of the calm behind the designs.

Scaling Infrastructure by the MIT Center for Advanced Urbanism | Princeton Architectural Press | 2016 | Amazon
A pet peeve of mine (one of many) is when great minds assemble – be it for conferences, educational programs, or other events – but then don't share the information to a wider audience through books, videos, or some other means. I can't say for sure if the hoarding of information is more prevalent than the sharing of information these days, but I'm glad to see a couple books published by the Center for Advanced Urbanism at MIT. The program started in 2013 with a commitment "to fostering a rigorous design culture for the large scale" and a motivation "by the radical changes in our environment, and the role that design and research can play in addressing these." These two books take their commendable approach beyond the university's walls. "Scaling Infrastructure" was the program's second conference (following "Infrastructural Monument," below), and it is documented through thirteen contributions: lectures, projects, interviews, all geared to infrastructural investments at all scales.

Infrastructural Monument by MIT Center for Advanced Urbanism | Princeton Architectural Press | 2016 | Amazon
MIT CAU's first conference, "Infrastructural Monument," explored "how infrastructure can transcend the merely practical and fulfill a role that is profoundly cultural – one that moves beyond the transportation of goods and labor and into the realm of architecture, public space, and landscape form." This theme is considered in eighteen contributions across six sections. Befitting an academic conference, it's a varied lot, with architects, planners, engineers and urban designers alongside people from real estate, transportation and the US government. Amongst all of these voices, architects hold their own, though it seems that ecology is the consideration that comes to the fore above the rest. Numerous other trends are evident such as resiliency and crowdsourcing, which makes some sense, since infrastructure has been its own trend since Barack Obama spoke about it four years ago.

Note: The third Center for Advanced Urbanism conference, "Future of Suburbia," takes place March 31 and April 1, 2016.

Essays On Thermodynamics, Architecture and Beauty by Iñaki Ábalos and Renata Sentkiewicz | Actar | 2015 | Amazon
Architecture, beauty, thermodynamics. One of these terms appears to be out of place, not typically lumped in with the other two. Of course I'm referring to thermodynamics, which would seem to relate to architecture through sustainability; it deals with heat transfer after all and is therefore an important part of designing enclosures. But for Ábalos + Sentkiewicz it is really one of four terms that are used to organize this book into "issues that a projective definition of architecture must necessarily address:" Somatisms, Verticalism, Thermodynamic Materialism, and the Assemblage of Monsters. While I was intrigued by the inclusion of thermodynamics in the title, the term "projective" turned me off. I've tried to understand the use of the term relative to architectural practice (Constructing a New Agenda and Oxymoron and Pleonasm are loaded with it), but to me it is too much of a meta-term than something grasped even with some effort. My lack of understanding aside, this book is basically a monograph on Ábalos + Sentkiewicz that is accompanied by a number of essays. Do people have to understand the essays to appreciate the work? Obviously not. But as architects and academics, the essays have been tools for them to explore ideas and attitudes about architecture, and therefore they have influenced the projects. The essays are then a valuable part of the book and should be rewarding for those so inclined to read them.

The City That Never Was: Reconsidering the Speculative Nature of Contemporary Urbanization by Christopher Marcinkoski | Princeton Architectural Press | 2016 | Amazon
I am a sucker for books with aerial photography – I have enough of them that aerials is a tag on my "Unpacking My Library" blog. One architect/author who has exploited the use of aerials is James Corner. So it comes as no surprise that Christopher Marcinkoski used to work at James Corner Field Operations. Now the head of PLOT Urbanism and a professor at PennDesign, Marcinkoski sets his aim on the housing bubble of 2008, looking at areas of the Madrid metropolitan region from above through five case studies. Much more than other places, the boom and bust in the region was pronounced, the latter visible in the marks of infrastructure, unfinished cultural venues and other failed projects. More than eye candy from above, The City That Never Was is a thoroughly researched and well illustrated (with charts, not just photos) book on the adverse effects of large-scale speculative urbanization.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

MFGA's 'Khaleesi'

I'll admit I'm a bit late in posting about Mark Foster Gage Architects' West 57th Street Tower (aka "The Khaleesi"). Perhaps this is because I have a hard time taking the project seriously, no matter how much discussion about contemporary ornament and computer-controlled fabrication can be thrown at it. According to a press release, MFGA was hired to design the 102-story tower on the Midtown Manhattan street that is now known as Billionaire's Row. Even with a (unknown) client, I have a hard time seeing the tower joining those designed by Christian de Portzamparc, Rafael Viñoly, SHoP, AS+GG and BIG. Nevertheless, I have a harder time resisting an oversized rendering of a skyscraper (see also my "World's Tallest Blog Post" on AS+GG's Kingdom Tower):

mfga-57.jpg
[Elevation of West 57th Street Tower by Mark Foster Gage Architects | image source]

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Houzz TV

It's been almost two years since I stopped writing stories (aka Ideabooks) for Houzz. Even though comments on my stories – like just about everything on the Internet – petered out within a few days of going online, I continue to get email notifications about comments on my stories as Houzz has expanded and translated some of those stories into foreign languages. The latest expansion of the immensely popular site is Houzz TV, which has about 40 short videos to date. Of those, the subjects of a couple of my pieces have made the leap to video.

Meet the Gamble House, a ‘Symphony in Wood’:

(My original story)

Reinvigorating a Gable Eichler for a Family:

(My original story)

Monday, February 08, 2016

Book Review: Wiel Arets-Bas Princen

Wiel Arets-Bas Princen edited by John Bezold
Hatje Cantz, 2015
Hardcover, 164 pages



The two names in this book's title indicates it is not a run-of-the-mill monograph. Instead, it is as much about artist/photographer Bas Princen as it is about architect Wiel Arets. It follows two other atypical books on the Dutch architect: Stills (2011), which compiles Arets's numerous essays and interviews alongside some photographs of projects; and Autobiographical References (2012), which features mainly interviews between Arets and author/educator Robert McCarter. Those books are heavy on words and theory, perhaps paving the way for this book's almost total reliance on photographs by Princen.



Photos in the coffee table book are full-page, with the occasional full-spread photo. To give each photo the utmost attention, the full-page photos are accompanied by a blank white page — as the spreads here attest, there is never another photo to distract. There are no page numbers or captions either, not until the last few pages of the book, where the dozen buildings are identified and described, and accompanied by an essay by Ludovic Balland.



With shots that range from the typically architectural to the highly abstract, the book is about understanding buildings through the medium of photography. In the case of the first two buildings in the book — two of Arets's most regarded designs (not pictured): the Academy of Art & Architecture in Maastricht and the Utrecht University Library — only one of the six photo is general enough to resemble the types usually used to describe architecture. In Maastricht, the emphasis is on the glass block and the intertwining of landscape and building. They are intimate photos, but not nearly as much as the surface details for Utrecht, which are so close the texture appears to be ingrained on the pages. Details are prevalent throughout the whole book, balanced by wider shots and even construction photos. Pervading is a an immediacy and an absence of humans — outside of the one interacting with the buildings through his lens.


Thursday, February 04, 2016

Today's archidose #882

Here are some photos of Labyrinth (2015) at C-Mine in Genk, Belgium, by Gijs Van Vaerenbergh, photographed by Joris D'Haese.

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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

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Comic Book of the Moment

Yesterday, quite to my surprise, this new book arrived in the mail:



The Life of an Architect… and what he leaves behind (note the little house at the bottom of the cover) is the print version of Mike Herman's arch., an online comic strip "about the life of architect Archibald and his daily struggle with his office colleagues, employees, clients, contractors, civil servants, consultants, architecture critics and other people involved in the building industry."



DOM Publishers' print version is just right. The horizontal format lends itself to the typically three-pane comics. And with one per page the 128-page book can be read in one sitting. The strips aren't bad either!



Here's the description from DOM's website:
"This title is about the life of architect Archibald and his daily struggle with his office colleagues, employees, clients, contractors, civil servants, consultants, architecture critics, and other people involved in the building industry. Archibald runs an architecture office with his partner and engineer, Gerald. While Archibald is a visionary and a romantic dreamer with a tendency to idealistic and egocentric behavior, Gerald is the rational one who keeps his feet on the ground. An exploited intern named Ralph; a narrowminded IT-specialist named John, and a weird Asian cardboard model builder named Mr. Shan also work in their office. Archibald is married to Charlotte, a succesful lawyer who quit her job to help Archibald clean up his administrative mess. They have two children: Archie, his six-year-old son who wants to be the best architect in the world and Charly, a smart-mouthed ten-year-old daughter with a strong dislike for everything regarding art."
And here's a link to buy the book at Amazon:

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

What a Difference 15 Years Makes

These two photographs of OAB's Botanical Garden Barcelona composed into an animated GIF are a reminder to architects – if an obvious point to landscape architects – that landscapes have a way of changing pretty quickly.


[Photos: Alejo Bagué, via Spanish-Architects]

I'm guessing the b/w photo was taken when the garden was completed in 1999, and the color one was taken fairly recently.

Must-read Reader

Click on the image to download a free PDF of Architecture and Empathy, with essays by Juhani Pallasmaa, Harry Francis Mallgrave, Sarah Robinson and Vittorio Gallese as well as a conversation between the four contributors.



Thanks to Scott G. for the tip.

It's Groundhog Day...

...yet again. But how many days does Bill Murray's character actually spend reliving the day over and over and over again in Groundhog Day?

Monday, February 01, 2016

Building of the Year 2015

A tower with a photovoltaic facade is Building of the Year: With 20 percent of the votes, Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture's (AS+GG) FKI Tower in Seoul, South Korea, has won the Building of the Year 2015 on American-Architects.



Visit World-Architects to learn more about the FKI Tower and see the runners-up.