Sunday, April 26, 2015

Today's archidose #833

A classic: Here are some photos of the Ricola Storage Building (1987) in Laufen, Switzerland, by Herzog & de Meuron, photographed by Trevor Patt.







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

Friday, April 24, 2015

What's About to Happen in Architecture and Design Book Publishing

Although I'm not sure if the title is a statement or a question, here's a heads up on an event taking place on May 14 at Cooper Union. Details on the free event are below and at Eventbrite.

Thursday, May 14, 2015 from 5:00 PM to 9:00 PM (EDT)
Herb Lubalin Study Center
41 Cooper Square
New York, NY

There are many important changes and challenges rippling through the world of architecture and design book publishing. This program will consist of a panel of top editors and executives from leading publishing companies talking about the changes they see coming (or would like to see coming) in how architecture and design books are conceived, created, designed, and sold.

Panelists include:
Will Balliett, President and Publisher of Thames & Hudson Inc.
John Donatich, Director of Yale University Press
Pamela Horn, Head of Cross-Platform Publishing at the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian National Design Museum
Kyle May, Editor in Chief, CLOG

The evening begins at 5:00 pm with a Pop-up architecture and design book fair.
The panel discussion goes from 7:00 pm until 8:30 pm.
A reception and the continuation of the Pop-up book fair follows from 8:30 pm until 10:00 pm.

Event Sponsors: Designers & Books and The Herb Lubalin Study Center of Design and Typography at the Cooper Union.

The New Whitney in 99 Photos

My write-up of the new Whitney Museum of American Art, opening May 1 in the Meatpacking District, is still to come. For now, here is a slideshow of the building with photos I took during yesterday's press preview. (If you don't see the slideshow below, click here to see it on Flickr.)

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Renzo Piano on the Whitney

Today was the press preview for the Whitney Museum of American Art, opening on May 1 in its new location at the southern end of the High Line. I'll have photos and words on the building before the opening, but for now I'd recommend watching a short video from Architectural Record with Renzo Piano explaining how the building works. It's worth it, if anything, for the last few seconds, where Piano is either jubilant because the interview is over or because the building is finally finished.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Today's archidose #832

Here are some photos of the Towada City Plaza (2015) in Aomori, Japan, by Kengo Kuma and Associates, photographed by Ken Lee.

十和田市市民交流プラザ, Civic center plaza, Towada City, Japan

十和田市市民交流プラザ, Civic center plaza, Towada City, Japan

十和田市市民交流プラザ, Civic center plaza, Towada City, Japan

十和田市市民交流プラザ, Civic center plaza, Towada City, Japan

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

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Book Review: Lighting Design & Process

Lighting Design & Process by Office for Visual Interaction
Jovis, 2014
Hardcover, 216 pages

I'll admit that when it comes to light, I veer toward books that focus on natural light, such as titles like Henry Plummer's Nordic Light and Mary Ann Steane's The Architecture of Light. As an architect I understand the important of artificial lighting for interiors and exteriors, even though I believe the best buildings exploit natural light's qualities to their fullest. People cannot exist today without artificial lighting, and therefore it should be an integral part of the design process. One problem for me is that books on lighting design, rather than those on natural light, tend to be overly technical, with an emphasis on general conditions rather that specific applications. This is the case with a book by ERCO I featured five years ago, but a book by Herve Descottes of L'Observatoire International, which I briefly reviewed three years ago, points in the other direction, toward accessible case studies that explain how general principles of light are applied to specific projects. Light Design & Process by Jean M. Sundin and Enrique Peiniger's Office for Visual Interaction (OVI) falls into the latter camp, and they do an excellent job of showing how lighting designers work to create solutions that can be dramatic, subtle or even invisible.

[Scottish Parliament - Cafeteria ceiling]

The book starts with an introduction by Dietrich Neumann, editor of the book The Structure of Light: Richard Kelly and the Illumination of Modern Architecture. It then launches into the most in-depth project, the Scottish Parliament designed by Enric Miralles Benedetta Tagliabue with RMJM. Nearly 50 pages are devoted to the project's many spaces and lighting applications – exterior walls and walkways, public areas, lighting cast into concrete, the debating chamber and lighting for television broadcasts, to name a few, though my favorite is the exposed conduit lighting in the cafeteria. Just as the building is composed of numerous buildings, each unique yet exhibiting the hand of its designer, the lighting is diverse, working with the architecture to elevate it accordingly.

[Book spread on New York Times Building]

Most of the projects – many of them are notable buildings with notable architects – are given anywhere from 2 to 12 pages, but another project given a good amount of real estate (nearly 30 pages) is the New York Times Building designed by Renzo Piano. Like the Scottish Parliament, the Times Square high rise has many different applications of lighting, from illuminating the building's exterior, its public spaces and offices, to the theatrical lighting of the TimesCenter auditorium. In this project as in others, the reader is treated to numerous photos of the finished building, but also photos that document the process, and many sketches and other drawings that do the same. It's one thing to write that the uplights are yellow as a reference to the city's ubiquitous taxicabs; it's another to tell that story visually through photos of cabs and a local taxi shop painting a sample luminaire, plans, elevations and detail drawings, and photos revealing how the lamps were aimed so as to not throw light past the building's top; the last is important given that uplighting is an obvious source of light pollution in cities. Therefore the book tells the stories of the projects as much, if not more, through images as through text.

[Book spread with OVI's sketch for Zaha Hadid's Rosenthal Center for Contemporary Art]

Other projects in OVI's monograph consist of completed buildings but also historic preservation and a number of in-progress projects. All together, they act as an argument for integrating the lighting designer into the process at an early stage, so the lighting strategy plays as much a role as form-making, and in some instances influences the form of the building. In all my years of experience in practice, I can think of only one or two projects where this happened, one in which lighting was an integral part of the building's nighttime identity and one with a building type that required a lot of specialized lighting. But all too often the lighting designer is brought in well after most of the decisions are done, then just asked to figure out the spacing of lights and provide a spec list. Sure, not all buildings are the Times Building or the Scottish Parliament, but architects should certainly strive for results as extraordinary – and illuminating.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Book Review: Three Mies Books

Last Is More: Mies, IBM, and the Transformation of Chicago by Robert Sharoff, photographs by William Zbaren
Images Publishing, 2014
Hardcover, 160 pages

Mies by Detlef Mertins
Phaidon, 2014
Hardcover, 560 pages

Mies van der Rohe: A Critical Biography, New and Revised Edition by Franz Schulze and Edward Windhorst
University of Chicago Press, 2013
Hardcover, 512 pages

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe (1886-1969) is one of the triumvirate of 20th century architects (the other being Le Corbusier and Frank Lloyd Wright) who continue to be the subject of books long after their passing. They are the most influential architects of the modern age, with each afforded the occasional reassessment due to exhibitions, preservation battles and other contemporary happenings (Le Corbusier's recent labeling as a "militant fascist" is an example on the negative spectrum of this). Even with so many books devoted to them, each architect has been misunderstood over time, but none more than Mies, who is often blamed for every mediocre glass box that litters cities in the United States and beyond. Such blame is unfair, so it's good to have books, like these three, that effectively argue for the lasting qualities of his (then) unique approach to architecture.

Unique approaches can be found in these books: Sharoff and Zbaren (authors of the "American City" series that includes St. Louis Architecture) have created a case-study of the IBM Building, considered Mies's last commission, and his work in Chicago, while doubling as a coffee table book with its large format and generously sized photographs; Detlef Mertins, whose book was published three years after his 2011 death, has crafted a thorough historical monograph that is given the Phaidon touch, meaning it was made big and illustrated profusely; Franz Schulze has updated his equally thorough biography with Chicago architect Edward Windhorst to address new information and positions on the architect since its initial 1985 publication (the two MoMA/Whitney shows, Mies in Berlin/Mies in America, in particular), and to incorporate newly released information, such as transcripts from the trial with Edith Farnsworth.

That Mies is a continuously appealing subject for writers and architects is due not just to the buildings he created. It also arises from his personal life, a two-act, made-for-TV story (not as dramatic as Wright, but close) that started in Germany and saw him leave his family and war-torn Europe for the United States, where he changed the course of modern architecture. This appeal arises from the influence he had and continues to have on architecture, not just in terms of mundane glass boxes, but through the school he set up (Armour Institute of Technology, now Illinois Institute of Technology or IIT) and in the beautiful modern buildings created by architects who embraced his artistic approach to architecture and attention to details. The three books – Mies van der Rohe, Mies, Last Is More – break down respectively along these three subject lines: Mies's life, his buildings, and his influence.

Of the three books, I'd recommend Schulze and Windhorst's Mies van der Rohe to those with little familiarity of Mies and those who know his buildings but not his story. It has the greatest proportion of depth to readability. It is a smooth narrative that occasionally veers off course when discussing Mies's buildings – the "critical" approach is laudable, but many of the buildings get bogged down in dry descriptions that could be aided by more illustrations on more than one occasion. But when the authors tell the story of Mies's life, which of course encompasses his architecture, not just the personal parts outside of it (the relationships, the health problems, and so forth), and discuss the details of Mies's buildings (many carefully illustrated) the book is excellent, explaining not only the what but also the how and why of his buildings.

Schulze and Windhorst delve into detail on the most important Mies buildings (ignoring or just briefly mentioning ones carried out primarily by his associates, such as 2400 Lakeview), which is a trait that is shared by Detlef Mertins in his historical monograph. He also tells the story of Mies's buildings chronologically, going into depth on nearly 20 projects, both built and unbuilt, but when he discusses them his historical skills shine, aided by numerous photographs and drawings. Given the length and size of the book, it's not one to be read from front to back like Mies van der Rohe (it can be, but it's not for the faint of heart); instead one can delve into any of the five sections or the chapter project histories as desired. With Mertins' depth of scholarship and dense but readable style of writing, each chapter functions like a case study in its own right. Beyond the particulars of the significant projects, though, Mertins does an excellent job of elucidating the ideas behind Mies's buildings, the philosophical positions that led to his architecture of order and clarity.

Just as Mertins' book is separated into five sections, so is Last Is More by journalist Robert Sharoff and photographer William Zbaren. But the similarities end pretty much there, as the duo presents Mies in a much easier to digest manner, starting with a quick history of the architect in twenty pages. The IBM Building – now home partly to the Langham Hotel, which prompted the creation of this book – is the subject of the second chapter. The first chapter and the subsequent ones – on buildings in Chicago inspired by Mies, on early Chicago landmarks, and on the Langham itself – serve to situate the IBM Building in a larger, albeit still local, context. It's a unique approach that benefits greatly from Zbaren's great photos, which give the book a visual consistency, even when it is presenting Wright or Sullivan, rather than Mies. While the quick history and compact chapters might leave some wanting more information on the larger-than-life Mies, they need look no further than the other two books reviewed here.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Today's archidose #831

Here are some photos of the Can Framis Museum (2009) in Barcelona, Spain, by BAAS Arquitectura, photographed by Maciek Lulko.

Can Framis Museum

Can Framis Museum

Can Framis Museum

Can Framis Museum

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, April 15, 2015

Storefront's TRANS Auction

From April 7 to April 21, Paddle8 is hosting an online benefit auction for the Storefront for Art and Architecture that leads up to the Storefront's Spring Benefit, honoring artist Do Ho Suh and architect Thom Mayne, at 432 Park Avenue on April 21. Below are 10 highlights from the nearly 70 works that "TRANScend boundaries." Online Bidding Ends Apr 21 at 12:00pm EST.

[David Adjaye - Smithsonian Sketch]

[Erieta Attali - Glass-wood House (designed by Kengo Kuma), New Canaan USA]

[Denise Scott Brown - MGM Film Studio, Los Angeles, 1967]

[Robert Herman - The Apple Store, New York, 2014]

[Bjarke Ingels - W57]

[Andrew Kovacs - AXONOMETRICS, 2015]

[Thom Mayne with Morphosis Architects - 6th Street Fragment: Large Heavy Metal, 1988]

[Christina McPhee - Transsynaptic Model, 2015]

[Do-Ho Suh - Rubbing/Loving Project: Door Closure, Corridor, 348 West 22nd Street, New York, NY 10011, USA, 2015]

[Rafael Viñoly - 432 Park Ave: Sketch with Wind, 2011]

Book Review: Urban Literacy

Urban Literacy: Reading and Writing Architecture by Klaske Havik
nai010 Publishers, 2014
Paperback, 256 pages

Well known architect and author Juhani Pallasmaa supplies the foreword to this book by Klaske Havik, a professor at Delft University of Technology and contributing editor of OASE. The choice is not surprising, since I've read interviews with Pallasmaa where he recommends that architecture students read fiction instead of books on architecture. Within fiction are found "truths" about how individuals interact with their surroundings, exhibiting the fusion between internal states and the settings of stories. For Havik, fiction is key to creating a new approach for architecture – a literary approach – that takes advantages of the descriptions of places and spaces in novels toward improving the design of the same. It's a provocative thesis that is explained through a triad of interrelated concepts: description, transcription, and prescription.

Actually, the rule of three is taken to the extreme in the book, as it is a means of structuring the book into three sections reflecting the three concepts, each broken down into three chapters that look at the concepts in literature, theory, and practice. This approach is born from a "reading" of the triple bridge Tromostovje in Ljubljana, which Havik describes in the beginning of the book as something that acts as unity but encompasses different directions. This metaphor is applied stringently to the book, but it is extremely helpful in elucidating Havik's thesis of using reading and writing in architecture via description, transcription and prescription, and in applying language to something more inherently visual.

[Triple bridge Tromostovje in Ljubljana | Image source]

Gaining "urban literacy" comes across in each section in the chapters on literature, architectural and other theory, and the analysis of individual architects – Steven Holl for description, Bernard Tschumi for transcription, and Rem Koolhaas for prescription. These architects are fairly obvious choices – Tschumi's "Manhattan Transcripts" is a highlight of architectural investigations carried out through transcription, for example – but they exist within an overlapping gradient, where the architects' work reaches into the other areas, which themselves overlap. In other words, there is no one descriptive approach to urban literacy, for example, even though Havik's analysis of phenomenology in that section is a highlight of the book. Therefore a literary approach to design – incorporating narrative or fiction in the practical methods Havik describes at the back of the book, for example – would become just one part of an architect's arsenal, ideally elevating considerations of experience from the scale of the door handle to sections of a city.

The book started as a dissertation and reads as such at times – dense at times, sure, but too much of "this section will analyze..." and the like – meaning the book could be a bit shorter without losing any of the author's message or meaning. It also uses many familiar sources (Walter Benjamin, Italo Calvino, Henri Lefebvre, Juhani Pallasmaa, Georges Perec, etc.), all gathered in the lengthy bibliography (but no index, unfortunately) that thankfully balances the familiar sources with more obscure sources from The Netherlands, many from her work with the OASE journal.

The weakest section is the one at the end, where Havik explains ways of applying the literary method to education, research, and design practice. It is weak because the incorporation of narrative and fiction into design is marginal and fairly new (some examples include Beyond, edited by Pedro Gadanho, and Fairy Tales), so while the theory around it can be convincing the means of making the bridge to something physical exhibits the difficulties an infant would have in, say, walking. It should only be a matter of time that willing architects and designers incorporate the method into their work, so the value in Havik's book can be found in convincing them to take a chance on it now.