My recent posts at World-Architects


Tuesday, September 27, 2016


From September 28 to October 2, the Architecture and Design Film Festival is taking place in New York City.

I haven't seen any of this year's 30+ films, but based on what I know and have heard, these sound the most promising:

Today's archidose #924

Here are a couple photos of the Young Workers' Hostel (2015) by Stéphane Maupin, part of the Entrepôt Macdonald in Paris. (Photographs: Julianoz Photographies)


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Monday, September 26, 2016

Book Review: Austere Gardens and Treacherous Transparencies

Austere Gardens: Thoughts on Landscape, Restraint, & Attending by Marc Treib
ORO Editions, 2016
Paperback, 108 pages

Treacherous Transparencies by Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron
Actar/IITAC Press, 2016
Hardcover, 96 pages

Does architectural theory – the definition of principles that can be applied toward architectural projects – still exist? Or has it been replaced by longform articles that expound on an author's take on something: history, current events, technology, practice, whatever they fancy? One could argue that architectural theory, in the 1990s sense of the term, died with the shuttering of Assemblage in 2000, which also coincided with the last ANY conference (during the conference Peter Eisenman stated "Theory is dead"). Of course, the esoteric, post-structuralist strand of theory isn't the only one out there, so proclaiming theory as dead is a bit like saying TV is dead because everybody is streaming online. There's still theory, it's just...different. Nevertheless, writing and talking about architecture – and in the case of one of these books, landscape – is not as popular as producing something: buildings, landscapes, renderings, diagrams – anything else besides words. So it's refreshing to come across these two books that exist somewhere between theory and longform, or whatever else prevails today.

Both of these books clock in around 100 pages. That each has plenty of photographs means the number of pages that require reading is about half. So these are books that can be read easily in one day – on a plane ride even. If they were written by younger folks, they'd probably be posted to Medium or some other online platform where fans of longform congregate. But these books would not be written by youngsters, since each author brings their decades of experience to bear on their subjects.

Marc Treib, Professor Emeritus of Architecture at UC Berkeley, has written so many books on landscape architecture I'm often amazed to find books on the subject not written by him (a scant 16 "selected publications" are listed on his UC Berkeley profile). Many of these books are histories of particular designers, periods, or styles in landscape architecture, with a strong emphasis on the modern era. With this fount of knowledge, his "thoughts on landscape, restraint, and attending" reach across centuries, countries, and even disciplines. He does not limit himself to landscapes shaped by architects; he brings art into the fold as well as a few marks upon the land that are practical or vernacular rather than designed or artistic. This happens because the goal of Treib's text is changing how readers look at their surroundings. Sure, he embraces Japanese dry and moss gardens (what must be the ultimate forms of landscape austerity), but he does not propose that all landscapes follow their principles. Instead, he shares his perspective on approaches to landscape design that are restrained yet powerful, which makes perfect sense in our resource-strapped, over-populated world.

Swiss architect Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron, who are seven years younger than Marc Treib, won an inaugural MCHAP award from IIT in 2014 for 1111 Lincoln Road in Miami. In Chicago in October of that year for the award symposium, the duo visited Mies van der Rohe's nearby Farnsworth House alongside IIT dean Wiel Arets, fellow MCHAP winner Álvaro Siza, Chicago architect Dirk Denison, and MCHAP jury chair Kenneth Frampton. That visit, and the recorded conversation that took place inside the house, were the impetus for Treacherous Transparencies. As the title hints, Herzog, who wrote the text, and De Meuron, who took the photos, are not smitten with Mies's architectural statement.

Like Treib, Herzog & de Meuron embrace the art world in their book. This is no surprise, given the duo's overt appreciation of art and the numerous commissions they've undertaken with artists. In the book the embrace takes the form of analyses of five artists/works alongside a longer analysis of the Farnsworth House. Given that the book started as a conversation, and then was filtered through lectures before becoming a book, the text is fairly conversational: it is insightful but hardly academic; assertive yet not preachy. Ultimately it serves to deflate the pedestal that Mies has been propped upon for decades, by looking at one of his masterpieces through a different lens. Herzog concludes that artists had more to say – or more interesting things to say – about transparency than Mies. This would have been unheard of during the deanship of Donna Robertson or any other dean at IIT before her, but with Arets at the helm it makes sense. It is also apparent that, like theory, the principles espoused by Mies have waned in favor of...something else. Treacherous Transparencies is one way of figuring out what that something else is.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Mark Yr Calendars: Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture at 50

To mark the 50th anniversary of the publication of Robert Venturi’s Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture, MoMA and the University of Pennsylvania are holding a three-day symposium taking place from November 10th to 12th in New York and Philadelphia. Details on the events that are free, open to the public, and don't require advance registration are below. The event also includes a $45 bus tour on the 12th and a conversation with Denise Scott Brown on that evening, which is free but requires an RSVP; details on those can be found on MoMA's website.

From MoMA's website:
To mark the 50th anniversary of the publication of Robert Venturi’s Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture (1966), The Museum of Modern Art and the University of Pennsylvania have co-organized a three-day symposium bringing together international scholars and architects to discuss the significance and enduring impact of this remarkable book, published by MoMA 50 years ago.

It is generally agreed that Complexity and Contradiction, described by its author as a “gentle manifesto,” has lived up to the prediction made by Vincent Scully in the book’s preface: that it would be the most important architectural text written since Le Corbusier’s 1923 manifesto Vers une architecture.

Thursday, November 10, 6:30pm
MoMA, Mezzanine, Education and Research Center, Theater 3

Architects’ Roundtable:
David De Long, University of Pennsylvania (moderator)
Kersten Geers, Office Kersten Geers David Van Severen, Brussels
Sam Jacob, Sam Jacob Studio, London
Momoyo Kaijima, Atelier Bow-Wow, Tokyo
Stephen Kieran and James Timberlake, KieranTimberlake, Philadelphia
Michael Meredith, MOS Architects, New York

Friday, November 11, 10am - 4pm
MoMA, Mezzanine, Education and Research Center, Theater 3

Session 1: Post Modernism:
David Brownlee, University of Pennsylvania (moderator)
Stanislaus von Moos, University of Zurich: “Complexity and Contradiction and Art”
Joan Ockman, University of Pennsylvania: “The Idea of Complexity circa 1966”
Andrew Leach, University of Sydney: “Dilemmas without Solutions”
Emmanuel Petit, Yale University: “Complexity, Figure, Architecture”

Session 2: Creative Contexts
Alice Friedman, Wellesley College (moderator)
Martino Stierli, The Museum of Modern Art: “Robert Venturi and MoMA; Institutionalist and Outsider”
Mary McLeod, Columbia University: “Venturi’s Acknowledgements: The Complexities of Influence”
Pier Paolo Tamburelli, Baukuh, Milan: “Book of Pictures, Book of Books. Gentle Manifesto, Rough Manifesto.”

Saturday, November 12, 10am - 12:30pm
Philadelphia Museum of Art, Van Pelt Auditorium

Session 3: Making the Book:
Kathryn Hiesinger, Philadelphia Museum of Art (moderator)
Lee Ann Custer, University of Pennsylvania: “Teaching Complexity and Contradiction: Robert Venturi’s Lecture Course ‘Theories of Architecture,’ 1961–1965”
Christine Gorby, Pennsylvania State University: “Manuscripts into Manifesto: The Evolution of Robert Venturi’s 1966 Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture”
Deborah Fausch, independent scholar: “Comparative Method in the Visual and Verbal Organization of Complexity and Contradiction”
Enrique Walker, Columbia University: “The ‘Difficult Whole’ [and the ‘Decorated Shed’]”

Friday, September 23, 2016

Calatrava Back in Zurich

Today Santiago Calatrava unveiled a new office building for Zurich:

[All images via Haus Zum Falken]

Fans of the architect/engineer/artist may recognize his earlier Stadelhofen rail station on the left, with its steel canopy visible in the image above. Calatrava's remodeled Stadelhofen station, which he built after winning a competition in 1983 (his first win), is one of his best projects – I included it in my 100 Years, 100 Buildings coming out soon.

The site is a tapered lot near the southern end of the station, which is now occupied by a building with a cafe and shops. With the new project for AXA, the site would go from this:

To this:

Although the project required a variance from the City of Zurich to "allow for the construction of an avant-garde building," it's a pretty conservative design by Calatrava's standards. Maybe that's the point – it doesn't compete with his earlier masterpiece right next door.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Today's archidose #923

The Shinshoji Zen Museum and Gardens opened on the campus of Tenshinzan Shinshoji temple in the hills of Fukuyama City, Hiroshima Prefecture on September 11, 2016. Here are some photos of the museum's KOHTEI Art Pavilion by artist Kohei Nawa. (Photographs: Ken Lee)

Shinshoji Zen Museum and Gardens, Fukuyama, Japan
Shinshoji Zen Museum and Gardens, Fukuyama, Japan
Shinshoji Zen Museum and Gardens, Fukuyama, Japan
Shinshoji Zen Museum and Gardens, Fukuyama, Japan

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Monday, September 19, 2016

Today's archidose #922: '100 Years, 100 Buildings'

My new book, 100 Years, 100 Buildings, is coming out on October 6. The book features, as the title indicates, 100 buildings built over the last 100 years, with the gimmick that there is only one building per year based on completion or some other important milestone. Each building is extant and public to some degree, so it makes sense that the photographers in my archidose Flickr pool have visited a bunch of them. Here are some recent photos culled from the pool (more 21C buildings than earlier ones, naturally) to give a taste of what's in the book. For more information on 100 Years, 100 Buildings, which is published by Prestel, check out the page I set up for the book. Click the photos below to see who photographed each building.

1931 Villa Savoye | Le Corbusier | Poissy, France:

1951 Farnsworth House | Ludwig Mies van der Rohe | Plano, Illinois, United States:
Casa Farnsworth. Plano, Estados Unidos.  Ludwig Mies van der Rohe

1955 Notre Dame du Haut | Le Corbusier | Ronchamp, France:

1956 S. R. Crown Hall | Ludwig Mies van der Rohe | Chicago, Illinois, United States:
Crown Hall. Instituto de Tecnología de Illinois Arq. Ludwig Mies Van der Rohe

1965 Salk Institute | Louis I. Kahn | San Diego, California, United States:
Salk Institute

1985 Hongkong and Shanghai Bank Headquarters | Norman Foster | Hong Kong, China:
Hong Kong

1996 Therme Vals | Peter Zumthor | Vals, Switzerland:
The Therme Vals / Peter Zumthor

2003 Selfridges | Future Systems | Birmingham, England:
St Martin's at the Bullring

2004 Scottish Parliament | Enric Miralles and Benedetta Tagliabue | Edinburgh, Scotland:

2011 Metropol Parasol | Jürgen Mayer H. | Seville, Spain:

2014 Markthal | MVRDV | Rotterdam, The Netherlands:
fruit of the roof

2015 The Broad | Diller Scofidio + Renfro | Los Angeles, California, United States:
The Broad

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Friday, September 16, 2016

Book Review: Manual of Section and Vertical Urban Factory

Manual of Section by Paul Lewis, Marc Tsurumaki, David J. Lewis
Princeton Architectural Press, 2016
Paperback, 208 pages

Vertical Urban Factory by Nina Rappaport
Actar, 2016
Hardcover, 460 pages

It must seem odd to see these two books together in one post. One is a book on an architectural drawing – the section – and its role in architectural production. The other is a book on a particular strand of industrial buildings: factories in cities. Yet when we consider one important aspect of sections – the stacking of floor one on top of the other – it makes sense to put these books together. After all, what is a "vertical urban factory," as Nina Rappaport calls it, but a large horizontal factory cut up into smaller floors and stacked upon each other? Further, although the folks at LTL Architects include all sorts of different project types in their section manual, most of the buildings are in urban areas, where stacking is necessary due to constraints of space and economic demands. Yet even though I'm choosing to put these books together in one post, I'll review them separately rather than trying to delve too much into any more similarities or contrasts.

[The Lewis brothers and Marc Tsurumaki | Photo via LTL Architects]

If anybody should author a book on building sections, it's architects David Lewis, Marc Tsurumaki and Paul Lewis, better known as LTL Architects. Ever since their Pamphlet Architecture, Situation Normal... (when I and many people first became acquainted with the New York firm), their output has prized sections, both in terms of drawing and in the spaces they create. The last twenty pages of Manual of Section, in fact, is made up of their own projects, spanning from 1997 to 2015. But most of the book is devoted to spreads that feature one building, cut into section, its spaces and context receding in a one-point perspective. This last point is important, since it goes well beyond what architects draw as sections and therefore makes the book visually brilliant, recalling Atelier Bow-Wow's amazing section drawings.

[Spread from Manual of Section showing Lina Bo Bardi's São Paulo Museum of Art]

Following an in-depth introduction on the history of the section and the explanation of different formal types, the authors organized the 63 projects into eight chapters based on these types: Extrusion, Stack, Shape, Shear, Hole, Incline, Nest, and Hybrids. It's obvious – and the authors admit so – that buildings do not fit neatly into just one type. Lina Bo Bardi's São Paulo Museum of Art, for instance, is found in the Stack chapter, but as can be seen in the spread above, the "+ Hole" indication is included in gray in the top-left corner. So most of the projects can then be seen as hybrids, but putting them into different chapters allows the focus to be put on special aspects of each design, particularly in regards to the role of the section. I'd argue that the hole of Bo Bardi's plaza, the hole, is more important than the stacking (the authors contend the open plaza is but one part of the stacking), but I'm just glad to see this building drawn so beautifully, showing both the above- and below-grade portions at the same time. And this gets at the power of the section and one appeal of this book: since these two realms of the museum can not be experienced at the same time, they exist together only in the section.

I should point out that PAPress did a great job with finding a suitable physical form for the book. Anybody who owns architecture books, particularly monographs, knows the frustration of broken bindings that come from opening up books to see photos and/or drawings that are spread across the fold. Since all of the sections in Manual of Section fill two-page spreads, the book has been made to allow it. Flip to any page and the book lays flat, without any need to force it. Even though these digital drawings (done by 25 individuals who were not, as the authors point out, unpaid interns) would probably yield further joys when zoomed in on a screen, this is a case where the content and the physical book have found a remarkable synthesis.

Vertical Urban Factory
[My photo of the Vertical Urban Factory exhibition at the Skyscraper Museum in 2011]

Vertical Urban Factory began its life as a design studio and then an exhibition curated by Nina Rappaport in 2011. What was as an ambitious show presenting innovative modern and contemporary urban factories grew in ambition over time as the exhibition traveled to Toronto, Detroit, London, and Lausanne, Switzerland, and then was put into book form five years later. With histories of urban factories, considerations of the economic and social aspects of industry, and speculations on the future of vertical urban factories, among numerous other things, Rappaport's book is much more than a documentation of the exhibition and its projects. It is as thorough a document on the phenomenon she discerned and independently researched as could be expected.

[Section of flower mill planned by Thomas Ellicott in the late 1700s | Found in Vertical Urban Factory]

At nearly 500 pages, Vertical Urban Factory is a hefty book that, even with loads of illustrations (historical photos, case studies, diagrams, etc.), is primarily text. To combat the daunting task of reading it cover to cover, the book is organized in three main sections (Modern Factory, Contemporary Factory, Future Factory) and further subsections that invite digesting the book in smaller chunks. Additionally, case studies on historical and modern factories are set off from the rest of the text through light-gray pages; people who want to look at factories with capital-A architecture can jump to these sections. A couple portions also exist to present some information in the form of diagrams: a 22-page timeline at the beginning of the book puts the factory in context by presenting buildings but also relevant technologies, cultural events, and even management strategies; near the end are ten pages of process diagrams that illustrate the global flows of production, be it with iPhones or even Steinway pianos.

[Some capital-A factory architecture: tecARCHITECTURE's Inotera Headquarters and Factory in Taipei | Photo: Hsiao Suzuki]

What might be the most important part of the book is the smallest: Factory Futures. Rappaport did not research and exhibit vertical urban factories in a purely historical manner; these places exist. Still, something needs to be done to ensure the integration of industry in cities. Should all neighborhoods, through gentrification, eject factories to he suburbs and hinterlands? Not all factories are the same (heavy vs. light being the most obvious), but it's all too common that a typology with origins in the city is unable to survive there anymore. Economics is surely a factor, as is NIMBYism; but would the latter be an issue if urban factories looked like Inotera's factory in Taipei, above? Or if all places took pride in what they produced, such as with Steinway pianos in Long Island City, Queens? This is just one way of looking at the things, but it's clear from this ambitious book that Rappaport sees social and cultural value in vertical urban factories. Perhaps those with the fortitude to read Vertical Urban Factory will come over to her way of thinking.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

A Visit to Philip Johnson's Studio

Last week when I visited the Glass House in New Canaan to see Yayoi Kusama's red polka dots on Philip Johnson's iconic building from 1949, I was also able to get my first peek inside his Studio. For a bibliophile like me, it was a real treat.

The Studio was completed in 1980 and therefore exhibits some postmodern tendencies that are at odds with the Glass House proper: brick instead of glass; a jumble of forms instead of one Platonic form; and references to old buildings in the cone and chimney. Here is the approach to the Studio from the direction of the Glass House:
Philip Johnson's Studio

Up the hill from the Studio is "Da Monsta," the last building that Johnson completed on the property (1995). Each building Johnson peppered across his land follows from some stylistic preoccupation at the time. In this case, it's Deconstructivism, which makes sense considering he co-curated an exhibition on the "movement" at MoMA in 1988.
Philip Johnson's Da Monsta

The narrow window in "Da Monsta" appears to exist just to frame the Studio:
Philip Johnson's Studio

Getting closer to going inside:
Philip Johnson's Studio

On first stepping into the Studio, there's a view of the fireplace and a window – the only one in the structure that otherwise uses skylights to bring in natural light.
Philip Johnson's Studio

A turn to the left reveals what is happening below the truncated cone: here is Johnson's table that was positioned so he could look out the window.
Philip Johnson's Studio

It's easy to see why Johnson put his desk here, particularly in regards to the great natural light for reading. At the same time, there is something uneasy about it, as if he was putting himself below an almost religious halo, which in turn elevated the importance of his presence in the room over that of the books.
Philip Johnson's Studio

Here is a glance up at the "halo":
Philip Johnson's Studio

And here is what Johnson would have seen when looking up from what he was reading (barely visible beyond the tree limbs is his Ghost House, a chain-link homage to Frank Gehry completed in 1984):
Philip Johnson's Studio

Even with that halo talk, he did not forsake the books. Each of the three bookshelves has a small rectangular skylight. Here one shoots light down onto the fireplace:
Philip Johnson's Studio

And here is a detail of that skylight, revealing how lightbulbs would have created lit up the books after the sun went down (note that there are not other lights in the room, be they in the ceiling or on his desk):
Philip Johnson's Studio

What about the books? Well, according to our group's tour guide, the table is maintained in the manner Johnson left it shortly before he did in January 2005. Old books and recent books (among those, one on a 2002 MoMA exhibition and a monograph on Peter Eisenman) sit neatly aligned besides drafting implements, pencils, a pencil sharpener, and a roll of trace paper. This setup says a lot about Johnson personality and his attitude toward book – OCD and respectful, respectively.
Philip Johnson's Studio

I snapped only a couple detail photos of the bookshelves, this one because it includes a GA Document I had just written about on my Unpacking blog:

And this one because of the way the young face of Zaha Hadid was looking at me and must have looked at Johnson when he went in and out of his remarkable little Studio.

Monday, September 12, 2016

More New Metaphor Books

At the end of last year I posted a bunch of holiday gift books found at the then-new site New Metaphor Books, which specializes in rare art and design books. Recently I combed through their Architecture section to highlight ten more rare books that some of my readers might desire.

Architektur der Dogon: Traditioneller Lehmbau und Kunst in Mali

Although the text is only in German, this book has some great drawings and photos on the traditional Dogon dwellings in Mali.

Atlas of Shrinking Cities

Literally the size of an atlas, this book illustrates beautifully data on forty cities around the world that are shrinking even as more and more people migrate to urban areas.

Ben van Berkel: Mobile Forces/Mobile Kräfte

The first monograph on the work of Ben van Berkel – "less a conventional architectural monograph than a theoretical statement about finding novel forms for architecture outside of the profession."


Artist Michael Rakowitz is the author of one of the most unique architectural installations: paraSITE, an inflatable shelter for homeless people that attaches to building exhaust vents. The book documenting the project is as modest as the installation itself.

Construction and Design Manual: Architectural and Program Diagrams 1

This first edition "Construction and Design Manual" features 48 projects by 10 architects documented through diagrams – from simple arrow diagrams to sober graphs, surreal collages, and computer animations.

Formal Structure in Indian Architecture

Eight historical buildings and structures – reservoirs, step-wells, religious complexes, a palace, and even a small city – are thoroughly documented in this large-format book.

Michael Wolf: The Transparent City

Photographer Michael Wolf took to the rooftops of Chicago to document the Loop's changing skyline, peering into the transparent curtain walls of the city's modern high rises in the process.

Quiet Light: An Installation of Isamu Noguchi's Akari Light Sculptures

Catalog for an exhibition of Noguchi lamps at Takashimaya in New York City. Layout was designed by Tod Williams and Billie Tsien and their contribution is documented with a floor plan and essay.

Steven Holl: Idea and Phenomena

A large-format book from Lars Müller focuses on six of Steven Holl's projects, documented with plenty of watercolors and other process imagery.

Ten Canonical Buildings: 1950-2000

This hard-to-find book analyzes a number of projects through lots of drawings that layer b/w plans, sections, and axons with red markups that highlight their unique formal aspects.