October 3, 2017
25 Architecture and Design Books to Read This Fall
From Michael Bierut’s thoughts on the Oreo cookie to the best of Fritz Hansen and new insights into the Polar landscape, there’s something for everyone in our Fall books preview.
Just in time for fall, Metropolis editors have assembled a list of 25 essential additions to your bookshelf, reading list, or coffee table—from facsimile editions of icons such as Learning from Las Vegas to new perspectives on topics ranging from graphic design to cacti.
Written by Daniell Cornell and Zeuler R. Lima Prestel, 192 pp., $49.95
Architects Albert Frey and Lina Bo Bardi have more in common than you’d imagine—both were Europeans architects who moved to the Americas where they each created own regional adaptations of Modernist architecture. A Search for Living Architecture explores this interesting and shared dynamic. The book stems from a Palm Springs Art Museum exhibition of the same name (senior curator Daniell Cornell and Bo Bardi scholar Zeuler Lima put together the book) and features ample color photographs and drawings taken from a wide variety of sources, primarily historic magazines, books, and exhibitions. The images provide a rich visual archive while six essays delve deeper into these two Modernists’ oeuvres.
As its title suggests, A New History of Modern Architecture is an ambitious undertaking. Its author Colin Davies (an architecture professor at London Metropolitan University) aims to adjust the canon of architectural history by recognizing Modern architecture’s inherent Western bias and introducing new chapters—literal and figural—on topics like Art Deco, the Chinese National style, and other areas that will be new only to Modernism novitiates. (“This is not a guidebook for connoisseurs,” he aptly notes.) The chapters, which are filled with colorful images and accessible text, are variously organized around individual architects, typologies, regions, styles, and technologies.
Architecture exhibitions are tricky: rather than the buildings themselves, such shows are reliant upon drawings, texts, and models. Yet they also serve to crystallize ideas and define historical moments—both within the discipline and society at large. In her new book, Zoë Ryan, the curator of architecture and design at the Art Institute of Chicago, selects 11 group architecture exhibitions organized between 1956 and 2006 that challenged the status quo and continue to do so, long after the show closed. Building on a 2015 exhibition of the same name at The Art Institute of Chicago, this book—featuring essays by Paola Antonelli, Alice Rawsthorn, Jan Boelen, and others—examines watershed moments in exhibition history, including Memphis held at the Salone del Mobile in 1981, the Whitechapel Art Gallery’s This is Tomorrow in 1956, and the Metabolists’ showing at Expo ’70 in Osaka, Japan. This book—one of the first to scrutinize the legacy of architecture exhibitions—is an essential primer on seminal design exhibitions and a touchstone for the future of architecture shows.
If given the chance to pick the brains of numerous starchitects about the most important buildings of the 20th century, you’d doubtlessly get a broad—and contentious—spectrum of answers. Pritzker Prize–winner Thom Mayne took on this task after noticing, in the architect’s words, “a declining awareness of historical precedent among my students.” Together with UCLA’s Now Institute, Mayne polled 40 architects—including Tadao Ando, Peter Eisenman, Daniel Libeskind, Zaha Hadid, and others—to list the most influential buildings of the previous century. The results, to be released this fall, have been distilled in 100 Buildings, an essential guidebook for architecture students and design buffs alike, detailing the enduring influence of projects ranging from Villa Savoye to the Vanna Venturi House.
In Embodied Energy, based on a Columbia University GSAPP conference of the same name, a startling, if unsurprising, fact is tucked away in a small caption: “Buildings account for about one-third of the world’s energy consumption.” (The nugget is cited on the back cover.) The book’s editor, architect, and researcher David Benjamin, chooses instead to highlight metrics constantly left out of the discussion of energy tabulation, use, and expenditure—mainly embodied energy. A largely “invisible” feature of building materials and of the built environment in general (not unlike human labor, to which the concept is inextricably linked), embodied energy is the spur to rethinking architecture as a whole. If, as Benjamin writes, “designing embodied energy requires designing the whole system,” then architects necessarily have to begin reframing their work in terms of global flows of extraction, production, and waste.
Even if you can’t make it to this year’s edition of the Chicago Architecture Biennial, its accompanying exhibition catalogue offers a satisfactory glimpse of the breadth of work and ideas on display. This year’s theme “Make New History” was borrowed from a book by Ed Ruscha—a 600-page tome filled with blank pages. More than 100 international architecture practices, similarly, were given the open-ended task of situating their work within history. In addition to dozens of essays and project proposals by each of the participants, this volume features a foreword by Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and a conversation between Sarah Herda (the co-artistic director of the 2015 biennial) and 2017 directors, Sharon Johnston and Mark Lee. In the spirit of Ruscha’s book, writes associate curator Sarah Hearne in the introduction, this text “invites you to navigate the material in ways that recombine, sample, and generate new meanings.”
Written by Robert Venturi, Denise Scott Brown, and Steven Izenour New Foreword by Denise Scott Brown Designed by Muriel Cooper MIT Press, 216 pp., $100
Few architecture books of the last 50 years could claim to be as influential as Learning from Las Vegas. The 1972 opus from Robert Venturi, Denise Scott Brown, and Steven Izenour was an attempt to revitalize Modernism, but instead spawned a countermovement whose effects are still being felt strongly today. Many architecture students had to contend with smaller, less colorful reprints. The original design by Muriel Cooper, while not to the authors’ liking, is still a true marvel: a tour-de-force of rigorous, varied, Bauhaus-inspired graphic design contained within a gold-stamped exterior.
Written by Cassim Shepard Monacelli, 296 pp., $45
What is a “citymaker” and what credentials guarantee one the title? The answer, according to Cassim Shepard’s new book, is less specialist and top-down than you might think. The argument aims to gently demystify the sometimes messy, always pluralistic ways of shaping the conditions and fabric of urban life. In an interview with Metropolis, Shepard, who headed up the online publication Urban Omnibus for years, suggested that planners and politicians do not act unilaterally, but that “the people who are interpreting the city, whether they’re social scientists, writers, photographers, or artists” have a part to play are well.
In his latest book, New York magazine’s architecture critic Justin Davidson takes readers on a journey through seven New York neighborhoods, using the format of a walking tour as a way to discuss the ever-shifting nature of the city’s skyline. Davidson’s first-person account and deft storytelling are like taking a stroll with an old friend: with the aid of maps and photographs, he leads readers through the Financial District and winds his way northward to Sugar Hill and the South Bronx—with plenty of historic interludes along the way. Whether you’re in the middle of Columbus Avenue, or on the couch; a lifelong New Yorker, or a reader in the Midwest, Magnetic City is an entertaining and informative read—so much so, you might forget to look up.
Edited by Chris Reed Harvard University Graduate School of Design, 112 pp.
This compilation of research and studio work from the Harvard University Graduate School of Design investigates the fringe landscapes in and around Houston, up and down the Buffalo Bayou. The projects, which were conceived in late 2016, several months before Hurricane Harvey, take as their premise contemporary notions of ecology and nested concepts of adaptation. Designs for an urban wetland park, for example, co-opt Houston’s freeways, converting them into “hydrologic and ecological scaffolds, and as living and life-giving ruins.”
Written by Jana Scholze and Edward Barber Phaidon Press, 312 pp., $95
Vitra, Hermès, Knoll, Sony, the London 2012 Olympics (yes, they designed the torch)—these are just a few of London-based Barber Osgerby’s diverse clients and collaborators. The firm’s 25 years of work are displayed in this new coffee table book. It features six lengthy essays that each delve into a particular design or project, such as the Tip Ton chair (featured on the cover) and the firm’s Double Space installation at the V&A. Don’t expect messy in-process models or sketches, though—the book’s content and aesthetic stays true to Barber Osgerby’s restrained minimalism.
We may have reached peak hygge in 2016, but that doesn’t mean our appreciation for great Danish design has dwindled in the least. Case in point: this handsome new tome chronicling the work and legacy of the legendary Danish furniture manufacturer, Fritz Hansen. Featuring now ubiquitous designs from Arne Jacobsen, Hans Wegner, and others, this book traces the heritage of the brand, beginning with its founding in 1872 to contemporary collaborations with architects and designers such as Bjarke Ingels and Zaha Hadid. Accompanied by more than 150 photographs of furnishings ranging from icons like the Egg Chair to in-situ applications across the world, including the United Nations, the designs in this book will likely outshine that of your coffee table.
Written by Michael Bierut Princeton Architectural Press, 240 pp., $35
A leading graphic designer and head of Pentagram Design, Michael Bierut is also a sophisticated writer and opiner on all matters design. This dual activity confounds prioritization, as he himself speculates in the preface to this collection of essays, “I may have become a graphic designer because I was a frustrated writer.” Many of the entries here were originally published in Design Observer, the online publication Bierut cofounded in 2003 that helped critics such as Rob Walker and Alexandra Lange find their voice. The pieces are never haughty, only sharp, sometimes witty, and often personal, ranging from graphic design do’s-and-dont’s to keen observations about cultural artifacts (most memorably, the Oreo cookie).
Written by Fortunato Depero Designers & Books, 240 pp., $149
As part of a 1915 manifesto, Italian painter, graphic designer, and writer Fortunato Depero called for a “futurist reconstruction of the universe.” More than a century later, readers are able to experience a reconstruction of Depero’s own universe: following a successful Kickstarter campaign last year, the artist’s iconic 1927 portfolio and monograph, Depero Futurista, has been reprinted as an exact facsimile. The 240-page book features untouched images scanned from an original copy and also includes its signature industrial bolt binding. This idiosyncratic book–as the artist (somewhat narcissistically) wrote himself wrote more than nine decades ago–truly “has nothing in common with other books. It is an artistic object in itself.”
Written and designed by Douglas Thomas Princeton Architectural Press, 208 pp., $25
Futura is everywhere. You can’t escape it even if you tried. It’s not just Wes Anderson, Barbara Kruger, Nike, and Vampire Weekend we have to thank for Futura’s ubiquity. Designed in the 1920s, the typeface has become ingrained in our cultural sense of modernity—or modernism, as author Douglas Thomas argues—from overuse by just about every industry. As curator Ellen Lupton writes in the preface, “Futura seeped into every corner of modern life by exploiting the forces of technology and commerce, taste and convenience, meaning and metaphor.” Thomas’s wonderful book charts that history in an inviting, digestible way.
Written by Lola Sheppard and Mason White Actar, 472 pp., $30
The Canadian Arctic’s salient features are familiar by themselves (indigenous populations, extreme weather, vernacular architecture, climate change, resource extraction, rapid development, and geopolitical jockeying) but when combined, they create a unique landscape. Many Norths’ authors, the architects who helm Toronto-based Lateral Office, draw heavily from other fields (anthropology, sociology, glaciology, even hunting) to chart a regional past, present, and near-future. Equipped with ample images (photos, maps, drawings, diagrams) this book delves into a rapidly evolving region.
Written by John Hill Prestel, 224 pp., $45
Architecture writer John Hill (of A Daily Dose of Architecture fame) assembles 100 landscapes built from 1917 to 2016 for this new book; each project gets about three paragraphs of description joined by one or two images (this amounts to an extremely short overview). The global collection of works ranges from solemn (UNESCO Garden of Peace) to exuberant (Il Giardino dei Tarocchi), urban (Millennium Park) to remote (Spiral Jetty). Along the way, the book features some lesser-known projects and touches on a wide variety of related disciplines, from preservation to urban planning.
Edited by Daniel Ibanez, Clare Lyster, Charles Waldheim, and Mason White Actar, 352 pp., $75
Third Coast Atlas is a weighty tome, the product of years of research on the Great Lakes region. Its four editors—all architects and urbanists—and numerous contributors explore the deep connections between the region’s geography, ecology, economy, infrastructure, and urbanism, all to produce a foundation for later planning efforts. The book is primarily divided into two different types of chapters: “Potentials” (which are topical and cover subjects like political borders, hydrology, and trash disposal) and “Prospects” (which focus on specific cities like Chicago, Buffalo, and Montreal). Laden with diagrams, maps, and photos, Atlas skews toward an academic audience even as its sprawling essays dissect an entire region’s complex past, present, and potential near-future.
Written by Sophie Walker Phaidon Press, 304 pp., $70
London-based garden designer Sophie Walker packs visual beauty and multifaceted substance into The Japanese Garden. Walker, who studied art history and horticulture, has penned 11 chapters that are lengthy meditations on the Japanese garden design (with titles such as “Beauty, Terror and Power,” “Duality and Reflection,” and “Inner Space: The Courtyard Garden”) accompanied by other essays from a diverse cast of authors, including Malaysian novelist Tan Twan Eng, Japanese architect Tadao Ando, and artist Anish Kapoor.
Produced by the Cactus Store Designed by Help Ltd. Hat & Beard Press, 352 pp., $65
In 2014, three friends in Los Angeles banded together to establish a store that would sell solely cacti and succulents. The shop (aptly named the Cactus Store) is now a cultish retail fixture in L.A.’s Echo Park. Equally esoteric are the owners’ own intellectual sojourns into the beautiful yet alien world of cactus connoisseurship. Xerophile: Cactus Photographs from Expeditions of the Obsessed documents the far-flung (and often fanatical) collecting expeditions of 22 amatuer botanists, spanning more than eight decades. The tome, by Hat & Beard Press, features hundreds of amatuer photographs of ultra-rare species, in their strange, nearly extraterrestrial contexts–from the fuzz-covered Austrocylindropuntia floccosa in the nose-bleed altitudes of the Peruvian Andes, to the human-sized Ferocactus diguetii in the Baja California peninsula.
Written by Ian Volner Princeton Architectural Press, 304 pp., $30
The dedication of Ian Volner’s new “critical biography” reads, poignantly, “For Michael.” It’s a personal touch, backed by real feeling: Volner, a writer and journalist, had recorded hours of conversation with Michael Graves, with the intention of fashioning a memoir out of these dialogues. Graves suddenly died in 2015, however, and Volner changed tack and expanded the project’s scope. Over the subsequent year he interviewed former students and colleagues, conducted archival research, and visited several of the architect’s buildings including the Portland Building (1982), which Volner describes as Postmodernism’s Seagram Building. The text itself is as much about Graves’s person—his Midwestern mien, his tastes (Armani jackets and silk scarves), his general vitality (“always finicky”)—as much as his work.
Edited by Mohsen Mostafavi with new photographs by Iwan Baan Harvard GSD and Lars Müller Publishers, 356 pp., $35
It’s been half a century since John Portman’s Hyatt Regency Atlanta opened. It’s the kind of building that gives rise to prefixes: there was architecture before the Hyatt Regency and there was architecture after it. Portman’s America explores the architect-developer’s enormous influence, which, editor Mohsen Mostafavi argues, extends beyond the hospitality industry. One of the book’s discoveries is Mostafavi’s exploration of two of Portman’s domestic projects, where building becomes environment and architecture and landscape fully merge. Featuring additional commentary from K. Michael Hays and Portman himself, the text is engaging on its own, yet it yields ground to stunning photography by Andreas Gursky, Jordi Bernadó, and Iwan Baan. The book is rounded out by Harvard University Graduate School of Design student work in which Portman’s delirious atria are subjected to all sorts of transformations.
Written by Amale Andraos and Dan Wood Designed by Neil Donnelly Monacelli, 360 pp., $50
“We’ve been working on this book forever,” write WORKac partners Amale Andraos and Dan Wood in the preface to their new monograph. Forever, being something like seven years–a note in the acknowledgments sets the starting point to 2010–or 15, if you go way back to the firm’s founding in 2002. The book unfolds according to “five-year plans” and corresponding points of interest that Andraos and Wood set up for themselves along the way; moving from interiors to urban planning, followed by “a return to architecture” and “a renewed intensification of a building’s boundary.” The duo establishes an engaging and refreshingly off-the-cuff repartee while discussing wide-ranging projects such their passive Arizona House. “I grew up in a rural place in a house that was heated by fireplace,” Wood offers prompting a groan from Andraos, who responds, “Here we go again.” See? Refreshing.
Atelier Bow-Wow with K. Michael Hays Designed by Abake Harvard GSD and Sternberg Press, 80 pp., $14
The fourth volume in the Harvard University Graduate School of Design (GSD) publication’s dialogue series, The Incidents investigates the practice of Tokyo-based Atelier Bow Wow—in particular, the firm’s concept of an “architectural ethnography.” The conversation, held to coincide with a Spring 2017 exhibition on the firm at the GSD, revolves around two key themes: construction and occupation. According to cofounder Yoshi Tsukamoto, “both are parts of spatial practice for the ecology of livelihood,” which encompasses all environmental, hence “non-architectural” factors (e.g. sunlight, noise, social interactions). Says Tsukamoto, “We listen to people and observe their behaviors—with a lot of passion—to understand what is really happening in each context.”
Written by David Reinfurt and Robert Wiesenberger MIT Press, 240 pp., $60
While you might not know her name, if you work in graphic design, you’ve likely felt her influence. Muriel Cooper (1925–1994) worked at MIT for more than forty years as a graphic designer and educator, teaching within the Visual Language Workshop and MIT Media Lab (she was a founding faculty member of the latter) and designing many MIT Press books (including the MIT Press logo). With decades of work to unpack, this sumptuous purple tome starts with two essays from the book’s editors then features more than 100 pages of Cooper’s designs and research.