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Thursday, April 19, 2018

Of Architecture and Pelicans

Somehow, in the course of reading email, checking Twitter and doing other things on the computer when I got to work this morning, I got off on the tangent of looking at covers of architecture books — specifically those produced by Pelican in the 1950s and 60s.

The small paperbacks, of which I have a two or three, are visually appealing. In turn, the designs of the covers have been compiled on websites and make up many a Pinterest and Flickr board. But most of the attention focuses fittingly on the graphic design rather than the content of the books. Accordingly, Pelican architecture books were scattered here and there.

That's when I decided to find some (though far from all) of the Pelican architecture and urbanism titles, put them together in a grid, and see how they relate to each other. Doing that, I present this grid of 18 books without comment, only to say that some of the covers (namely Georgian London and London: The Unique City) had to be cropped to fit the grid.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Building Tall in Manhattan, eVolo Style

While four honorable mentions in the eVolo 2018 Skyscraper Competition are focused on Manhattan, only one comes close to approaching a traditional skyscraper. The others, like the first place winner in 2016 that proposed a horizontal skyscraper around Central Park, take a more liberal approach to designing "skyscrapers."

Additive Effect: 3D-printed Skyscrapers:

These skyscrapers littering Manhattan would be built by everybody's favorite 21st-century technology: 3D printing. At such a scale, the towers would take time to "print," so they take on a striated appearance. Yet instead of housing apartments or offices, the skyscrapers would serve as factories for creating cartridges for 3D printing from waste, part of which would be used for the factories' skins. In other words, the towers express what they do — and apparently illustrate a future where just about everything is printed and therefore requires such factories.

Manhattan Ridge: Affordable Housing for Commuters:

Affordable housing is one of those big issues that hasn't found an architectural solution (if one exists). But that doesn't stop people from trying. Asserting that "People who work in Manhattan deserve a home in Manhattan," the designers propose linear buildings propped on giant columns that form "ridges" along the island's north-south avenues (Fifth Avenue is illustrated). Considerations of access and egress and other practicalities aren't even worth addressing in such a proposal, but I'm floored at how the design fills in those valuable slots of sunlight that the city's zoning code protects. Setting aside this and other criticisms, the proposal makes me think: If affordable housing requires such an extreme approach, the problem is even bigger than I thought.

Community as a Cloud:

Although some visions of Manhattan have proposed sky bridges (Hugh Ferriss and the RPA's Urban Design plan in the 1960s come to mind), this project appears to do it as a critique of the city. The designers write: "Those heavy and high volumes with vertical lines as well as programs for commerce represents de-humanity," and: "On the other hand, a village’s horizontal and natural form seems have more connections to human beings." So, if Manhattan is dehumanizing, cap its tall buildings with some village-like forms and — voila — life is affirmed!

Revealing the Boundaries:

This last project is the most practical, and I'm guessing it comes from Columbia GSAPP students. It adds a U-shaped structure to the north edge of Columbia's Morningside campus, a "gigantic movement [that] transforms each of the differently functioning buildings into an aggregated entity, and at the same time gives the campus block a new uniformity." Although that "uniformity" is questionable aesthetically, I'll give the designers credit that they limited their proposal to the buildings north of the McKim, Mead & White buildings that were realized as part of their masterplan; aside from Rafael Moneo's Northwest Corner Building, there are a lot of stinkers along the north edge of campus.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Book Briefs #35: Better Late Than Never

"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 books worthy of attention than can find their way into reviews on this blog. This installment features books I received years ago but never got around to posting about — until now.



African Modernism: The Architecture of Independence. Ghana, Senegal, Côte d'Ivoire, Kenya, Zambia edited by Manuel Herz | Park Books | 2015 | Amazon
Although the size of a coffee table book and graced by full-page Iwan Baan photographs, African Modernism is a deep, scholarly work, not just something to flip through. Focused on the five subtitled African countries that gained their independence in the late 1950s and early 1960s (5 of 32 countries on the continent that did so), the book examines how architecture played a role in expressing their independence and modernity. Each country is given an introduction, a timeline, a photo spread by Baan, documentation of important buildings in photos (most by Baan) and words, and an in-depth academic essay. Though many buildings show signs of wear (not surprising, given the time between their realization and today), the architectural quality is astounding. That the buildings in the book are largely unknown points to a deficit in architectural education and publishing — and the need for more books like this one and Adjaye Africa Architecture.

The Architecture of Paul Rudolph by Timothy M. Rohan | Yale University Press | 2014 | Amazon
A lot has happened in the four years since this book's publication: Bertrand Goldberg's Prentice Women's Hospital in Chicago was demolished, Paul Rudolph's own Orange County Government Center was maligned through a partial demolition and insensitive addition, and the famed Robin Hood Gardens was demolished. A new exhibition, in fact, hones in on the demolition of Brutalist structures, something that books like Rohan's haven't been able to reverse. This isn't to say that saving Rudolph's buildings and others like it was Rohan's goal, but as Alexandra Lange points out in her 2014 review of The Architecture of Paul Rudolph, "it's a timely publication." That times seems to have slid by rapidly, but given that 2018 is the centennial of Rudolph's birth, we might just see a renewed appreciation in his work. If so, Rohan's thorough, well-researched book will surely play a part.

The Broad: An Art Museum Designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro edited by Joanne Heyler with Ed Schad and Chelsea Beck | The Broad/Prestel | 2015 | Amazon
Like African Modernism, this book devoted to DS+R's Broad museum in Los Angeles relies upon the photography of Iwan Baan for much of its appeal. In fact, the book's Introduction starts on page 63, coming after 62 pages of Baan's photos — many of them full-bleed and double-page. Following those pieces is a roundtable discussion on the building with Eli Broad, Liz Diller, Paul Goldberger, and book editor Joanne Heyler. After that are essays by Aaron Betsky and Joe Day, more Baan photos, drawings, and construction photos (not by Baan) that show what went into make such a photogenic building — or, in Betsky's words, "a veiled icon."



Brodsky & Utkin by Alexander Brodsky, Ilya Utkin | Princeton Architectural Press | 2015 | Amazon
I'm not certain when I first learned about Russian Architects Alexander Brodsky and Ilya Utkin. Maybe it was in a 2005 blog post at Pruned. For sure it was well after the title that Princeton Architectural Press put out on the duo in the early 1990s, as well as the 2003 first edition they put out and then printed again (with new Preface) in 2015. The duo's intricate etchings are more art than architecture (they're represented by Feldman Gallery, after all), though many were submissions for architectural competitions hosted by Shinkenchiku and others in the 1980s. At 9x12 inches, the book isn't small, but with so many layers of information in their images it could easily be twice as large.

Le Corbusier, Homme de Lettres by M. Christine Boyer | Princeton Architectural Press | 2010 | Amazon
When I received this book way back in 2010, I had every intention of reading the whole thing — all 702 pages (780 pages with notes and index). Well, life got in the way and I only got through two of the book's twelve chapters before putting it down and, unfortunately, not returning to it again. I recall those hundred or so pages being — though not an easy read — certainly an enjoyable one. Boyer managed to mine Le Corbusier's original documents and discuss them in a way that pulls the reader along. A strong interest in Le Corbusier and his writings (the book focuses on 1907-1947) helps greatly; though there are plenty of architects out there meeting that criteria.

Street Design: The Secret to Great Cities and Towns by Victor Dover, John Massengale | Wiley | 2013 | Amazon
If this book came out in 2006 rather than at the end of 2013, I just might have used it as a reference while in graduate school for urban design. Much of my work on our class project located in Lago Agrio, Ecuador, looked at the town's streets: all varying degrees of depressing. While it's hard to imagine the many examples peppering the book by Dover and Massengale being directly applicable to a frontier oil town in the Amazon jungle, it's hard to deny their assertion that "making good streets comes naturally to people." The focus in their book is clearly on improving towns, suburbs, and cities in the United States, though the examples are culled from other countries as well. Although the authors focus on design in a primarily neo-traditional manner (much of it culled from Dover's practice), it's hard to argue with their general approach to give more parts of streets back to pedestrians and turn them into healthier places to be.

Monday, April 16, 2018

A305 Complete

The Canadian Centre for Architecture has just wrapped up posting the series A305, aka "History of Architecture and Design 1890-1939," on its YouTube channel. The 24 programs created by the Open University originally aired on BBC2 between 1975 and 1982. The CCA uploaded them as part of its exhibition, The University Is Now on Air: Broadcasting Modern Architecture, which was on display until the beginning of April.



Head to my A305 post from January to watch all 24 episodes.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

#TBT to NWA

Last summer I visited Crystal Bridges of American Art in Bentonville, in Northwest Arkansas, but I didn't get around to processing my photographs until this month. An unexpected gem from the visit was the welcome pavilion for Frank Lloyd Wright's Bachman-Wilson House, designed by students at the Fay Jones School of Architecture + Design. Below are my photos and a video by the University of Arkansas.



Bachman-Wilson House

Bachman-Wilson House

Bachman-Wilson House

Bachman-Wilson House

Bachman-Wilson House

Bachman-Wilson House

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Are You the Next Eva?

Recently the Storefront for Art and Architecture's Executive Director and Chief Curator Eva Franch i Gilabert was appointed Director of the Architectural Association in London. Her new position means the Storefront needs a new director — its fifth director following Franch, Joseph Grima, Sarah Herda, and co-founders Kyong Park and Shirin Neshat.

Franch took her position at Storefront in 2010 and in the ensuing eight years she oversaw a staggering number of exhibitions, publications, and other projects, including the OfficeUS, the US Pavilion at the 2014 Venice Architecture Biennale. Her last undertaking at Storefront will be the New York Architecture Book Fair, set to take place in June.



The job posting from storefrontnews.org:
Storefront for Art and Architecture is seeking a Director who is an ambitious visionary, a curatorial risk-taker, and a dynamic leader, and who will continue and expand Storefront’s position as an innovative and fearless platform for debate and exploration of ideas at the intersection of contemporary art, architecture and design.

The Director is expected to expend their full professional time and efforts to advance the interests of Storefront and ensure its proper management. The duties of the Director include creating and overseeing an expansive program of exhibitions, talks, performances, events, publications and related activities; managing Storefront’s programs and operations; identifying opportunities for extending Storefront’s mission through the development of new initiatives; fundraising for programs and operations (in concert with the Board); hiring and managing Storefront’s staff; attending all meetings of the Board of Directors and Executive Committee; and working together to advance the objectives of the Institution.

The successful candidate will have relevant curatorial or related experience; an international perspective and network in the realms of art, architecture and design; excellent interpersonal, team participation, staff and project management skills; eagerness to collaborate; strong presentation and communication skills; experience in innovative communication and media praxis; ability to develop focused programming; aptitude to cultivate local and international constituencies; a talent for organization and considerable personal drive; an acute understanding of and commitment to fundraising for the gallery’s programs and operations; the desire and ability to closely collaborate with Storefront for Art and Architecture’s Board of Directors.

Benefits and Salary
The successful candidate’s salary will be determined in conjunction with the search committee and will reflect the candidate’s background and experience. A comprehensive benefits package will also be provided.

Applying for the Position
To apply for this position, please email a curriculum vitae and a one-page letter of interest as a single PDF to: search@storefrontnews.org

Application Deadline: May 4, 2018

Monday, April 09, 2018

Book Review: The Arsenal of Exclusion & Inclusion

The Arsenal of Exclusion & Inclusion by Interboro Partners (Tobias Armborst, Daniel D’Oca, Georgeen Theodore)
Actar, 2017
Hardcover, 460 pages



Back in 2011, Interboro Partners won MoMA PS1's Young Architects Program, installing "Holding Pattern" in the courtyard of the Long Island City, Queens, institution that summer. Although seven years old, the installation comes to mind when reviewing their new book, The Arsenal of Exclusion & Inclusion, for a few reasons: It was the first I'd heard of Brooklyn's Interoboro; "Holding Pattern" was accompanied by a mural designed by Lesser Gonzalez to visually explain the installation's concept, a diagram very similar to the one he made for the book's cover and accompanying foldout poster; and although the installation's most striking feature was the "soaring hyperboloid" of fabric over the courtyard, its most lasting impact came from the furnishings and other elements (kiddie pools, ping pong tables, lounges, etc.) below the fabric canopy, pieces that were determined and designed following input from MoMA PS1 neighbors and then donated to them after the installation was taken down. The motive behind the last — that objects from a temporary architecture installation are given a second life with people who could probably care less about architecture, much less the kind commissioned by MoMA — is clearly aligned with Interboro's new book.



The Arsenal of Exclusion & Inclusion is an encyclopedia-like collection of "weapons" that either exclude or invite people from doing things — or just being — in public spaces. Although not explicitly categorized as one or the other, most of the weapons — from "Armrest" and "Bouncer" to "Saggy Pants Ban" and "Ultrasonic Noise" — clearly fall into the exclusionary camp (some, it could be argued, encompass both exclusion and inclusion). Authored primarily by Interboro's Tobias Armborst, Daniel D'Oca and Georgeen Theodore (with Riley Gold), the book has more than fifty contributors penning some of the main entries in yellow (per the spread above) and the "Bonus Materials" that are highlighted in pink. More information is literally layered over the yellow and pink columns in the form of bubbles that have references to weapons elsewhere in "the Arsenal."


[Foldout poster by Lesser Gonzalez]

With an A to Z format, dozens of entries, and layers of textual and visual information, it's easy to see The Arsenal of Exclusion & Inclusion as a reference, something to be consulted now and again when wanting to know a little more about "Covenents, Conditions, and Restrictions" or "Lavender-Lining." But the entries are too short (though all are accompanied by bibliographic references) and polemical to be definitive resources. So to better make the book something to be read — and read as an argument — Interboro provides six "tours" through the Arsenal. One, for instance, tackles racial segregation, while another is focused on increasing accessibility (a very inclusive tour). These tours are called out subtly with numbers next to the author (note numbers 3 and 6 in the spread above), but readers can also follow the overlaid bubbles in a choose-your-own-adventure manner, thereby jumping from "Armrest" to "Sprinkler" to "Curb Cut" and so on. Whatever tactic readers take, they should come away with an appreciation for the importance of (public) space, a realization that it is often shaped by one group of people at the expense of another, and that, as prevalent as exclusionary practices may be, Interboro and many others today are pushing against them with ammunition for creating a more inclusive society.

Friday, April 06, 2018

Mies, Sitting and Smoking

Every architect knows this famous photo of a famous architect:

[Mies in his Chicago apartment, 1964, photographed by Werner Blaser]

Lately I've noticed this figure of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe collaged into architectural renderings. A case in point:

[Art Academy Heist-op-den-Berg by Compagnie O. Architects]

Images like this are enabled by Photoshop and easy-to-find cutout images such as this PNG with an invisible background:

[Cutouts of Famous Architects at 3NTA]

Not surprisingly, images incorporating Mies sitting and smoking on his MR10 Chair pay homage to Mies:

[Source unknown]

Likewise, this one depicts Mies in his Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin and swaps out the MR10 for a Barcelona Chair:

[Image by Aaron Bass from Maxwell Render Challenge 20 Finalists]

But other renderings displace Mies into an unexpected setting, such as this gem by Norman Kelley:

[Aesop Lincoln Park by Norman Kelley]

Know of more? Comment or email me and I'll add them to this post.

Thursday, April 05, 2018

On Arakawa + Gins

Last Friday, Columbia GSAPP opened Arakawa and Madeline Gins: Eternal Gradient at the Arthur Ross Gallery, the same day it convened a conference — Encounters with Arakawa and Gins — on the collaboration of Arakawa (1936-2010) and Madeline Gins (1941-2014). If architects know of the pair, it is because of such architectural works as Site of Reversible Destiny – Yoro, Reversible Destiny Lofts, and Bioscleave House rather than their earlier artworks or literature. How a conceptual artist and poet/philosopher (Arakawa and Gins, respectively) ventured into architecture and the production of buildings and landscapes is the subject of Eternal Gradient.

Arakawa and Gins: Eternal Gradient

Before delving into the gallery, a few words on how I came across the pair's work. It was in undergraduate architecture school in the early 1990s when I obtained the AD monograph Architecture: Sites of Reversible Destiny (Architectural Experiments After Auschwitz-Hiroshima). Published in 1994, the book is filled with computer renderings of proposals, including the park that would be built in Japan, but also instructions for "generating a site of reversible destiny." The latter starts with an ordinary living room with rather mundane furniture, but then step by step the space is transformed into an undulating, labyrinthine fun house, for lack of a better term, that looks impossible to navigate but is intended — like all their architectural works — to become a "reversible site," where a person's longevity would be extended and he or she would "learn not to die."



Since graduating from architecture school, I've picked up a couple more books on Arakawa + Gins, one published before and one after the AD monograph: The Mechanism of Meaning, which was published in 1979 and then revised in 1988; and Reversible Destiny: Arakawa/Gins, a hefty companion to the 1997 exhibition of the same name at the Guggenheim SoHo. If Eternal Gradient is aligned with any of these three books, it's The Mechanism of Meaning, which is more a document of their two-dimensional, conceptual artworks but hints at their embrace of space as a medium for engaging the human body.

Arakawa and Gins: Eternal Gradient

The last third of The Mechanism of Meaning is an architectural hinge, with peach-colored pages displaying a long, linear model and series of spaces with scale figures. The model is found in Eternal Gradient (photo above), while the drawings — gridded walls and surfaces overlapping each other — clearly inspired Norman Kelley in their design of the exhibition. One spot in the one-room Ross Gallery (photo below) affords a one-point perspective where the lines of one of Arakawa and Gins's drawings can be "found" in the convergence of the lines of the gridded partitions and vinyl flooring.

Arakawa and Gins: Eternal Gradient

When I saw Eternal Gradient in person, I had the renderings of Arakawa + Gins floating in my head. With a model, lots of drawings, and some photos and books on display, the exhibition touches on about every medium but those renderings and the buildings and landscapes that followed them. Irene Sunwoo, who curated Eternal Gradient with Tiffany Lambert, explained in the symposium that they wanted to explore the decade (the 1980s) when the duo's work headed in the direction of architecture; the exhibition would have gone in a completely different direction if the renderings were included.

Arakawa and Gins: Eternal Gradient

Though initially disappointed, I found the collection of artifacts impressive, in part because many of the drawings have never been displayed before. And, I thought, with so much more to Arakawa + Gins's career, perhaps this is just the first of a number of exhibitions on their output, be it by GSAPP or curators elsewhere who delve into the Reversible Destiny Foundation's archives and/or the holdings of the Estate of Madeline Gins. Whatever the case, although the exhibition is small, there's plenty to see and appreciate in the brief snapshot of the couple's long, prolific, and uncommon collaboration.


Arakawa and Gins: Eternal Gradient

Wednesday, April 04, 2018

Book Briefs #34

"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 books worthy of attention than can find their way into reviews on this blog.



Embodied Energy and Design: Making Architecture between Metrics and Narratives edited by David Benjamin | Columbia University GSAPP, Lars Müller Publishers | 2017 | Amazon
In April 2016, Columbia GSAPP held the Embodied Energy and Design symposium, which aimed to frame embodied energy "in the context of broader design ecosystems and architectural issues." This book collects the papers from that symposium, interspersing them with "material stories" that illustrate the questions architects should be asking about the sources, energy, and production of their buildings, focusing on concrete, steel, and wood. As energy use in the operation of buildings decreases but the energy required to build them increases, this book points architects in the right direction — if not answering every question.

Naïve Intention by Pezo von Ellrichshausen | Actar | 2018 | Amazon
During Wiel Arets's brief tenure as dean of at IIT's College of Architecture, he produced many books, some of them related to MCHAP (Mies Crown Hall Americas Prize). Pezo von Ellrichshausen were recipients of the MCHAP's inaugural Emerging Architecture prize, an award and teaching position that led to this book. Its' a small but lovely book made up primarily of single-page color photos of the duo's architecture and art (the latter not as impressive, to me, as the former, though the two aren't always easy to distinguish). The images follow a short, verbose essay on the apparently contradictory statement of the book's title — a phrase that guides the production of the architects/artists.

Radical: 50 Latin American Architectures by Miquel Adrià, Andrea Griborio | Arquine | 2017 | Amazon
This handsome book collects 50 built works by 50 architects under 50 years old. Although the majority of the projects are from just a few countries (Chile, Colombia, Mexico), most Latin American countries are included. In other words, the architectural quality in the region is rampant. Projects are numbered 1 through 50 and documented through text, drawings, and photos. The book is split into two halves (quite literally, with differently sized pages and types of paper), with project text and photos in the first half, following an essay by Miquel Adrià, and color photos in the second half. The book's layout means readers have to flip back and forth to fully absorb each building, a necessity made easier through clear numbering and simple, straightforward page design.



Remembering Places: A Memoir by Joseph Rykwert | Routledge | 2017 | Amazon
An architectural historian is an unlikely candidate for a memoir (will Kenneth Frampton be next?), but Rykwert's upbringing in a Jewish family in Warsaw before and during the time of Hitler makes for some fascinating reading, at least for fans of the historian and the type of history he recounts. Composed as small episodes that can be dipped into now and then, Rykwert admits at the end that "more than a half century has passed since the last episodes I reported." So, is a followup covering the remainder of his life in the works?

The Social Imperative: Architecture and the City in China edited by H. Koon Wee | Actar | 2017 | Amazon
"Architecture and the city in China" is a massive topic befitting nearly infinite — or 1.4 billion — viewpoints. Accordingly, the contributions to The Social Imperative are many, by many of the biggest names in Chinese architecture, such as Wang Shu, Dong Gong (Vector Architects), Li Hu (OPEN Architecture Office), Ma Qingyun (MADA s.p.a.m.), and Zhang Ke (standardarchitecture), as well as a small number from outside of China. The myriad contributions are fitted into eight chapters with titles such as "Laboring," "Networking," and "Rationalizing." They follow editor H. Koon Wee's long essay ("Spatial Limits of Socialist China") born from a three-year study of social issues and architecture in China.

The Vitra Schaudepot: Architecture, Ideas, Objects edited by Mateo Kries, Viviane Stappmanns | Vitra Design Museum | 2017 | Amazon
Since the Vitra Design Museum's 2014 publication of The Vitra Campus — a guide to its buildings designed by Frank Gehry, Zaha Hadid, Herzog & de Meuron, and others — the furniture maker added yet another building to its collection: HdM's Schaudepot. Billed as "the world's largest permanent exhibition of modern furniture design," the book is about 80 percent furniture and 20 percent architecture, making the book more for fans of chairs than buildings — or for the many people that are fans of both.