World-Architects Daily News


Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Book Review: OfficeUS Atlas

OfficeUS Atlas edited by Eva Franch i Gilabert, Ana Miljački, Ashley Schafer, Michael Kubo
Storefront for Art and Architecture, Lars Müller Publishers, 2015
Hardcover, 1,250 pages

The 2014 Venice Architecture Biennale was one of the most anticipated since it started in the 1970s. Rem Koolhaas served as director and he aimed to unify the various national pavilions under one theme: "Absorbing Modernity 1914-2014." In most years the national pavilions do their own thing, often exhibiting the work of native architects; that is already the case with 2016 for the United States, which decided to focus on Detroit even before Alejandro Aravena was named director. But Koolhaas demanded more time and got it so he could leverage a bit more control and make the Biennale a bit more unified. For the most part it worked, with for the most part each country covering 100 years of architectural production. For the U.S. Pavilion, curated by Eva Franch i Gilabert, Ana Miljački, and Ashley Schafer, the theme was OfficeUS, which focused on American firms building overseas.

The U.S. Pavilion was the equivalent of information overload, since just about every wall of the "U"-shape building in the Giardini was covered with papers on American architects that the curators researched. These architects ranged from the obvious, like SOM and KPF, to smaller firms that would seem to be less likely to build overseas. But given the time frame covered in the exhibition, OfficeUS followed a number of changes in overseas, or imperial, architectural production. What was a rarity 100 years ago is now common practice, given the ease of telecommunications, travel and collaboration.

OfficeUS Atlas follows OfficeUS Agenda, which was published as a catalog to accompany the exhibition. It is much slimmer (only 272 pages) and more theoretical, since it "frames the narratives that have projected the organizational structures and branded identity of U.S. architecture firms internationally from 1914 - 2014." OfficeUS Atlas, on the other hand, is a gargantuan book on par with the exhibition itself. Thankfully it is not the book equivalent of the exhibition's information overload, since the design and layout help to break up the book into more manageable chunks and make it easy to navigate. The book works in a chronological order with content divided between archive materials (articles from magazines mainly) and profiles of firms building overseas; the former has pages with black edges and the latter has white pages, resulting in a book with black-and-white stripes. The order of the book makes the changing conditions of overseas work obvious, while it also (inadvertently?) shows how architectural publishing changed over the same period. Not only are some magazines long gone, but the content has changed from more big-picture and critical stories to project-specific coverage.

The combination of archive material and firm bios (with many projects illustrated with postage stamp-sized images) make this book appealing from different angles. Unfortunately, for those interested in the book as an archive the design falters. Although a black border is given around each clipped article (partially visible in the other two images above), there is no matching border in the fold. In many cases this does not affect the readability of the old articles (it should be noted these are smaller than their original page sizes, but they are still big enough to be read easily), but in far too many cases the text and/or drawings gets lost in the fold. Not allowing a margin in the fold is an inexcusable but common occurrence in architecture publishing. I've learned to overlook it at times, but I expect more from Lars Müller, who published this book and is known for thoughtful design in his books. Perhaps there was a sense on the part of the editors/curators that the archives were there for effect, to show how much and what has been written about the theme they developed. But far too often I found myself sucked into an old article only to turn the page and be frustrated by lost words – one blemish on an otherwise excellent book and record of an ambitious exhibition.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Japan: Three Generations of Avant-garde Architects

An oldie but goodie: This documentary from 1989 profiles Japanese architects Kazuo Shinohara, Itsuko Hasegawa, Toyo Ito, Fumihiko Maki, Arato Isozaki, and Tadao Ando. The 56-minute film, directed by Michael Blackwood, is narrated by Kenneth Frampton.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Today's archidose #852

Here are some of my photos of Alloy Development's DUMBO Townhouses (2015) in Brooklyn, New York.

DUMBO Townhouses

DUMBO Townhouses

DUMBO Townhouses

DUMBO Townhouses

DUMBO Townhouses

DUMBO Townhouses

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Thursday, July 23, 2015

More of André Chiote's Architectural Illustrations

A couple years ago I featured some of the illustrations created by André Chiote, an architect who also dabbles in creating "a set of images in which the aim is to simultaneously outline the emblematic and distinctive side of the building while creating a graphic composition whose expression could speak out beyond the building itself." Earlier today he sent me some illustrations of the work of Brazilian architect João Batista Vilanova Artigas, who would have been 100 years old in June. His most well known work is the FAU Center at University São Paulo, a large concrete building with a skylit gathering space at its center.

Other notable buildings include the Jaú Bus Terminal:

And the Louveira Residential Complex:

See more of André Chiote's illustrations on his website and Facebook page.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Today's archidose #851

Here are some photos of the Investcorp Building (2015) at St Anthony's College, Oxford, by Zaha Hadid Architects, photographed by Iqbal Aalam.

Middle East Centre, St Anthony's College, Oxford by Zaha Hadid 3

Middle East Centre, St Anthony's College, Oxford by Zaha Hadid 4

Middle East Centre, St Anthony's College, Oxford by Zaha Hadid 2

Middle East Centre, St Anthony's College, Oxford by Zaha Hadid 1

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Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Magazine of the Moment: Kimbell Art Museum – Drawing Collection

This one is hard to resist: the 538th issue of a+u is devoted to Louis I. Kahn's Kimbell Art Museum, presenting drawings as well as some photographs and essays by Lawrence Speck and Carlos Jimenez.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Book Review: World Atlas of Sustainable Architecture

World Atlas of Sustainable Architecture: Building for a Changing Culture and Climate by Ulrich Pfammatter
DOM Publishers, 2014
Hardcover, 584 pages

The back cover of this hefty book purports a total of 333 projects in its nearly 600 pages. With so many projects, the question in any book is how to structure them. The words "world atlas" in the title, as well as the weather map image on the cover, point to a geographical structure, but that is not the case. Instead the projects are arranged thematically in a complex, nested array of sections, chapters, subchapters and sub-subchapters. It's a very logical structure that responds to, if anything, how architects work on projects, particularly in regard to site planning and other "big picture" areas. Nevertheless it's a bit unwieldy at times, such that sometimes the structure seems to overwhelm or take priority over the content.

Let's look at one portion from Section 1, Genius Loci - Unique Places in a State of Change (the other sections are Building in Extreme Situations; Space, Structure and the Climate Change; the Nature of Materials - and the Future of Materials Technology; and architectural Memory: Industrial Culture and Transformation Strategies). The Genius Loci section is broken down into three chapters that are numbered 1.1, 1.2, and 1.3, each of them further broken down into three subchapters. So chapter 1.2, Contextual Building Typologies in a Changing Culture and Climate, has 1.2.A, 1.2.B, and 1.2.C. But it doesn't stop there, since 1.2.A, Atria of the Future, to take one example, has three further sub-subchapters: 1.2.A/1, 1.2.A/2, and 1.2.A/3.

The sub-subchapter 1.2.A/1 is titled Atria as Communication Spaces and has two projects within, each of them numbered: 1.25 is the Genzyme Center in Cambridge, MA, and 1.26 is the Centraal Beheer office building in The Netherlands. To take Behnisch, Behnisch & Partner's Genzyme Center as an example, we see that within its description the project is keyed to another part of the book (3.3.A/1), meaning the project is found in more than one section (I'm not sure if the 333 projects are all standalone projects or involve repetitions). Given that each spread gives the section, chapter, and subchapter in the top-right corner (note that the spreads shown here don't coincide with the pages I'm discussing here), it should be easy to find the Genzyme Center. But the sub-subchapter is not indicated, so it takes a little bit of effort to find it. Given that each project has a number (1.25 for Genzyme, again), why not reference the project number rather than the section? Which is more important, the project or the thematic structure? All signs point to the latter.

Since some projects are found in more than one place, the text and illustrations for them are different, catered to the appropriate thematic section. This certainly makes sense, but if somebody wants to know as much as possible about a single project it should be a bit easier to do so. Instead it's cumbersome and, at times, frustrating. But if readers are more interested in focusing on atria as new communication spaces, for example, then the book works well for them.

 You may be asking, "With all this talk about the structure of the book, how about the content?" I'd have preferred giving more attention to the latter, but my use of the book was stymied by its structure. Nevertheless, I found the descriptions capable but a bit cursory. Those wanting to delve deep into projects of sustainable architecture (a fairly loose definition in the case of what is included here) might be frustrated in discovering information they already know about, but those who are less familiar with the projects in the book will find much to discover and appreciate; the latter is definitely the target audience, though I wish each project entry had references as a launch pad for the former.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Today's archidose #850

On the occasion of being named the director of the 2016 Venice Architecture Biennale, here are some photos of buildings by Alejandro Aravena/Elemental culled from the archidose Flickr pool. The Biennale will run from May 28 to November 27, 2016.

UC Innovation Center - Anacleto Angelini:




Siamese Tower:


Chile 143 of 245

Torres Siamesas

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Thursday, July 16, 2015

Book Briefs #22

"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 my daily or weekly pages.

This installment compiles six books that surely deserve their own longer reviews, but they have been piled up at work staring at me for a while, so I'm putting them together here.

1: Radical Cities: Across Latin America in Search of a New Architecture by Justin McGuirk | Verso | 2014 | Amazon
This spring I attended a couple book talks at the Center for Architecture, one on Keller Easterling's Extrastatecraft and the other on Justin McGuirk's Radical Cities; both are published, perhaps coincidentally, by Verso. While widely divergent in topic and tone, both have the common approach of exploring the margins of architecture and urbanism. Easterling looks to free trade zones and other infrastructural constructions, McGuirk heads south and looks at what is being produced in South America. The book is equal parts travelogue, portraits of architects, history, and criticism, each aspect overlapping and intertwining in a remarkably enjoyable manner that was echoed in his talk at the Center. The subjects that McGuirk explores are a mix of the well known (Elemental's houses in Quinta Monroy and Urban-Think Tank's work in Caracas, for example) and the obscure (PREVI and Alto Comedero). His solid writing and firsthand experience binds everything, while his skeptical optimism pervades the book enough to encourage readers that architects are not completely helpless in the face of dramatic economic, social, and political problems.

2: Broadway by Michelle Young | Arcadia Publishing | 2015 | Amazon
I'm a really big fan of the books in the Images of America series, visual histories of particular places. I've read one on St. Louis Union Station and another on "Forgotten Chicago," which recounts places like the Maxwell Street Market, which was razed so UIC could expand and replace it with some bland and questionable neo-traditional buildings. This book by Untapped Cities founder Michelle Young is the third book in the huge series that I have (of more than 7,000!), and it is one of the better ones. As the name makes clear, it tells the story of Manhattan's tip-to-tip thoroughfare. The book works in chronological order, which also means it moves from south to north, just as the island grew. Young veers away from Broadway in some places, but it's never more than a couple blocks and is justifiably done to tell a story – and there are plenty of fascinating stories here to discover.

3: Timber in the City: Design and Construction in Mass Timber edited by Andrew Bernheimer | ORO Editions | 2015 | Amazon
Timber mania is washing over architecture: Canadian architect Michael Green and MetsäWood designed a wooden version of the the Empire State Building, and earlier this summer I interviewed Solid Wood author Joseph Mayo about his research on wood structures. Okay, maybe "mania" is going a bit far, but it's hard to deny that large timber is being seen increasingly as one of the most sustainable means of construction. It helps that a number of techniques – CLT, or cross laminated timber, is one of the most popular – are addressing fire and other concerns that have kept wood from being a structural element for taller buildings in cities. New York City is definitely one place where concrete and steel are favored over wood, not surprising given the historical conflagrations that hit the city and rewrote its building codes. But momentum is shifting toward timber construction, and this book looks at some ways that wood buildings could be reintroduced into the city. It happens in two parts: the winner and runners-up in the Timber in the City student competition, sited in Red Hook, Brooklyn; and international examples of built work. Architects already convinced that wood is the way to go should pick up Mayo's more thorough and technical book, but doubting architects should start with Timber in the City, an appealing look at a trend that's not going away anytime soon.

[Justin McGuirk, with Antanas Mockus over his shoulder, at the Center for Architecture speaking about Radical Cities]

4: Loft Living: Culture and Capital in Urban Change by Sharon Zukin | Rutgers University Press | 2014 | Amazon
If I were pressed to name my five favorite authors, Sharon Zukin would be on that list. (Others might be John McPhee, Juhani Pallasmaa, Jonathan Rosenbaum, and Michael Sorkin.) Her writings on cities, particularly New York, are thorough yet clear, large in scope yet nuanced to details, theoretical yet full of firsthand observations, and always on topic in terms of what is pressing. In the early 1980s that topic was SoHo (South of Houston in Manhattan), an area full of cast iron warehouses that are now home to luxury brands on the ground floor and rich tenants living upstairs, a far cry from its industrial origins. Loft Living is Zukin's most groundbreaking work, the one that she will be remembered for, the one worthy of this 25th anniversary edition (it is the same as the 1989 version plus a new introduction on how "loft living grows up). What makes the book so impressive, and so lasting, is how Zukin analyzes one place – SoHo – in the context of wider social and economic changes, particularly the commodification of art and the role of the artist in gentrification. These are common views now, thanks to Zukin and this book that is a must-read, even two-and-a-half decades later.

5: The Death of Drawing: Architecture in the Age of Simulation by David Ross Scheer | Routledge | 2014 | Amazon
If any title will prick up the ears of architects over, say, 41 years of age (yes, that's my age), it's The Death of Drawing. No matter the ubiquity of computers in schools and in offices, drawing can't die, right? It can't be completely replaced by BIM, can it? I'd say that drawing can't be replaced flat out by software, but adopting BIM can affect the roles of architects by transforming what they do and how they do it. As Scheer, a professor who has become something of an expert on building simulation technologies, argues in this book, the architect's traditional means of drawing translated into a role as form-giver. But with BIM becoming the favored means of production – and sustainability being the most widespread means of keeping architects relevant – performance gains priority over form. And try as they might, architects surely cannot predict and measure performance (be it in energy or some other metric) through hand drawings; architects need software to create simulations and therefore deal with performance. But as Scheer states in this smart and well-timed book, and which should give an indication to where he goes in it, "There is more to life than performance."

6: Urban Acupunture by Jaime Lerner | Island Press | 2014 | Amazon
Medical analogies applied to cities and planning are nothing new. The problems of cities have often been described as "ailments," and in the middle of last century the "diagnosis" resulted in removing the "tumor" of blight and replacing it with "healthy" buildings and landscapes through urban renewal. Even though this technique, post-Jane Jacobs, is not the preferred route, the way of looking at the city as a body to be cured prevails. Look no further than this book by the former mayor of Curitiba, Brazil, who proposes small-scale "pinpricks" of action that should have a ripple effect on the larger city. Like anything in cities, the effect of any physical change – big or small – depends on so many more things than just the building, landscape, installation, or whatever the piece may be. Nevertheless, I like the thought of something mildly painful yet more gentle than surgery – acupuncture – being used as the analogy, just as I like the idea that small things have big impacts. Lerner's book similarly is full of short chapters that describe various ways of intervening or just plain thinking about the city. It's a diverse crop of ideas that ultimately is focused on the coming together of people in public space.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Today's archidose #849

Here are some photos of Neue Staatsbibliothek (1978) in Berlin, Germany, by Hans Scharoun, photographed by Trevor Patt.








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