July 16, 2019
19 New Architecture and Design Books For Summer 2019
With warmer weather comes a fresh batch of exciting texts on architecture and design, past and present.
Twice a year, the editors at Metropolis gather the most exciting books in one place for your convenience. And once again, our selection is a testament to the design world’s expansive purview and deep history: from Modernist tapestries and the architecture of trees to space-station design, there’s truly something for everyone here.
Imagining the Modern: Architecture and Urbanism of the Pittsburgh Renaissance
By Chris Grimley, Michael Kubo, and Rami el Samahy The Monacelli Press, 368 p.p., $31.45
In the middle of the last century, Pittsburgh found itself at a crossroads: The city had completely retooled itself as an industrial powerhouse to abet the war effort, but now Steel City had to re-imagine itself anew for the postwar period. Over the next two decades, its private and public sectors built new housing, offices, and public spaces. That Modernist boom—in all its glory, hubris, and conflict—is the focus of Imagining the Modern, an in-depth dive into that era and the buildings that defined it. Richly detailed and full of historic maps, drawings, and photography, it offers a wealth of information for any enthusiast of Modernist architecture or Pittsburgh itself. (It should also be noted that editors Chris Grimley and Michael Kubo helped write Heroic: Concrete Architecture and the New Boston.)
Claude Parent: Visionary Architect
Edited by Chloé Parent and Laszlo Parent Rizzoli, 224 pp., $40.41
This book is, in many ways, a touching elegy to Claude Parent, who passed away in 2016. Parent didn’t build many projects, but as this book’s contributors indicate, his influence was great: The likes of Frank Gehry, Jean Nouvel, and Odile Decq all pen essays on how the French architect, who was fond of oblique angles and inclined surfaces, shaped their ideas and practice. The book’s other great asset is its drawings, which range from Parent’s playful cartoons to his deft architectural delineations. “Through the act of drawing,” writes critic Donatien Grau in the introduction, “[Parent] could push his thoughts, his use of reason, as far as he humanely could.”
Weaving Modernism: Postwar Tapestry Between Paris and New York
By K.L.H. Wells Yale University Press, 280 pp., $52.23
The idea of weaving evokes craft, the Bauhaus, and modern design—but what about tapestry, that oh-so-medieval art form? It has its place in Modernism, argues K.L.H. Wells in her new volume Weaving Modernism, which investigates a particular chapter of that era, specifically from the end of WWII to the 1980s in the United States and France. Wells certainly had an academic audience in mind: She rigorously organizes the book around specific themes, such as critical responses to tapestries or the oft-used practice of reproducing modern paintings in tapestry form. Weaving Modernism is a thorough examination of its topic, though one squarely for the scholarly reader.
Living on Campus: An Architectural History of the American Dormitory
By Carla Yanni University of Minnesota Press, 304 pp., $31.32
Many Americans spend some of their most formative years in dormitories. Strange, then, that so few (if any) books can furnish an architectural history of the typology. Enter Living on Campus, which explores the American dorm from its mid-17th-century origins up to the early 1970s. Well-illustrated with plans and photographs, Living on Campus fleshes out the stories of the individuals—the deans, architects, and students—who engineered or experienced the dormitory’s evolution, providing a lively and accessible dimension to what could’ve been a dry topic.
The Architecture of Trees
By Cesare Leonardi and Franca Stagi Princeton Architectural Press, 424 pp., $82.98
Using nearly two decades’ worth of research, Italian architects Cesare Leonardi and Franca Stagi present a strong case for a built environment that celebrates the autonomy of trees—those silent forms of life that are all too often treated as passive backdrop. This English-language edition of the 1982 classic includes a new introduction by architects Andrea Cavani and Giulio Orsini in addition to original essays by Augusto Pirola and Stagi. The book takes up in the tradition of a large-format botanical reference work, featuring over 550 quill-pen illustrations (by Leonardi and Stagi) of 212 species of trees from across Europe, augmented with shade and color analyses that meticulously document their seasonal transformations. (More recently, Pirola and Stagi contributed to an exhibition on trees at the Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain in Paris.)
Jan Tschichold and the New Typography: Graphic Design Between the World Wars
By Paul Stirton Bard Graduate Center in association with Yale University Press, 256 pp., $30.55
During the 1920s and ’30s, graphic design in central Europe underwent a radical transformation brought about by newly forged ties to a flourishing avant-garde, namely Russian Constructivism and the Bauhaus. Those styles and principles associated with Modernism became known as “the New Typography,” named after graphic designer Jan Tschichold’s landmark text from 1928. Operating at the heart and center of this creative milieu, Tschichold amassed an unparalleled repository of graphic design ephemera. This richly illustrated book examines works from Tschihold’s private collection alongside texts by well-known figures including Kurt Schwitters, El Lissitzky, Aleksandr Rodchenko, and László Moholy-Nagy.
By Beatriz Colomina Lars Müller, 200 pp., $26.43
Beatriz Colomina’s latest book to investigate the relationship between architecture and media broaches the subject through the lens—or screen—of the X-ray. This new form of medical imaging technology was introduced in the first decades of the 20th century, around the same time that Modern architecture emerged. “Modernity was driven by illness,” writes Colomina, who explores the extent to which key Modernists—such as Le Corbusier and Alvar and Aino Aalto—were obsessed with medical discourse and notions of public health. Colomina’s argument is helpfully guided by the inclusion of over 260 images that serve to both illuminate the impact of the clinic on modern design and blur easy distinctions between the interior and exterior of bodies and buildings alike.
The Revolution Will Be Stopped Halfway: Oscar Niemeyer in Algeria
By Jason Oddy Columbia Books on Architecture and the City, 208 pp., $35.00
In 1965, Houari Boumédiène seized power over a newly independent Algeria through a bloodless coup d’état. As part of his modernizing mission and new regime of socialist management, Boumédiène commissioned Oscar Niemeyer to design a series of large-scale civic and cultural complexes. While a handful of these projects came to fruition, many of the Brazilian architect’s designs were ultimately rejected for being “too revolutionary.” One year after Niemeyer’s death in 2012, artist and writer Jason Oddy visited the nearly forgotten concrete masterpieces, compiling his photographic and archival findings into a well-composed and beautifully sequenced book.
The Central Park: Original Designs for New York’s Greatest Treasure
By Cynthia S. Brenwall Abrams Books, 230 pp., $32.48
Facing unregulated urban growth and public health epidemics, city officials in 19th-century Manhattan sought a green solution: to create an 843-acre park in the heart of the metropolis. The endeavor turned out to be one of the most successful feats of urban planning in American history. Through an impressive selection of original drawings, lithographs, and photographs, The Central Park relays a visual history of the extensive planning process behind the massive public work, from its conception in the 1850s to Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux’s visionary Greensward plan, and finally to its completion in 1876.
By Gianni Pettena MIT Press copublished with Galleria Giovanni Bonelli, 236 pp., $21.18
Disruption, discomfort, temporality—these are the hallmark motifs of the Italian Radical Architecture movement. Expanding on a 2017 exhibition put on by the Milan Galleria Giovanni Bonelli, Non-Conscious Architecture focuses on the work of one of the movement’s key members, Florence-based Italian architect, critic, and visual artist Gianni Pettena. Beginning in the mid-1960s and continuing for nearly a decade, Pettena experimented with various genres of design, including art and criticism. This softcover includes a republished conversation between Pettena and the artist Robert Smithson, 47 black-and-white photos, and an index of 33 color illustrations of the designer’s extensive contributions to the discipline.
The Natural Forces Laboratory: Ralph Knowles and the Instrumentalized Studio
By Andrew Witt Harvard University Graduate School of Design and CCA, 68 pp., free
Copublished with the Canadian Centre for Architecture (CCA), this title marks the first in a series of three electronic publications studying the intersection of design and science—ecology, in particular. The Natural Forces Laboratory explores the new approach to urban design that appeared in the 1960s and ’70s based on the movement of the sun. Working from his lab at the University of Southern California, the architect Ralph Knowles critiqued traditional architectural practice and methods, seeking to reposition the discipline as a science concerned with performance- and solar-oriented design. This ebook features interviews with Knowles, detailed imagery, and in-depth analysis of the work, creating a fully immersive experience.
Ruin and Redemption in Architecture
By Dan Barasch Phaidon, 240 pp., $37.39
Consumerism and throwaway culture have always plagued Modern architecture, causing the destruction and dilapidation of significant works. That fact is highlighted by Ruin and Redemption in Architecture, a global survey of 66 structures at various stages of neglect. The book is organized into four categories: Lost, Forgotten, Reimagined, and Transformed, with entries accompanied by informative briefs, photographs, and in some cases drawings, diagrams, and renderings. But taken as a whole, this book is more than a documentation of a bygone era. It’s a plea to realize the power and potential of architectural ruin in enriching the present-day and future process of place-making.
Baku: Oil and Urbanism
By Eve Blau with Ivan Rupnik (photo essay by Iwan Baan) Park Books, 320 pp., $44.10
Modernity came into the world slicked head to toe in oil. Fluidity is the core condition of both: just as the metropolis cleaved space and time, producing a kind of all-over disorientation, so, too, did oil breach the limits of distance and proximity, with its “sites of its extraction [tending] to be far removed from its principal markets and consumers.” So writes Eve Blau, a professor of history at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, in the introduction to her new book about Baku, Azerbaijan, which she dubs “the original oil town.” Best known for her monograph on the architecture of interwar Red Vienna, Blau turns her focus to this West Asian city to trace the history of urbanism (and urbanization). She and her colleague Ivan Rupnik focus on three distinct phases of Baku’s development, from its “oil baron” origins to its transformation as a socialist capital (Azerbaijan being a former Soviet republic) to its current, acidly capitalist formation with pretensions of “post-oil” futures.
Aldo Rossi and the Spirit of Architecture
By Diane Y. F. Ghirardo Yale University Press, 285 pp. $61.30
The Italian neo-Rationalist architect Aldo Rossi was a lover of many things: movies, drawing, literature, poetry, espresso, his 1977 Buick Century Limited, which he nicknamed “Christine.” Neither dry theoretician (his most famous book, The Architecture of the City analyzed the urban form of cities through the ages) nor eccentric formalist (he was a habitual doodler, envisioning cities of coffee pots and tea kettles), Ghirardo’s Rossi is a complex creature, a Catholic who embraced Communism and a critic of Modernism who still ardently defended the proto-Modernist Adolf Loos. In her lovingly researched overview of his building designs, Ghirardo takes her cues from Rossi himself, “the best guide to his work.” She investigates motifs and images that carry over from one Rossi project to another, illuminating how, say, impressions from childhood found their way into designs decades later.
NYC Walks: Guide to New Architecture
By John Hill Prestel, 224 pp., $13.36
There is no shortage of architectural guidebooks on New York City, but the bulk of these are confined to historic buildings. John Hill’s new volume is among the few that looks to the present, charting a panorama of 150 contemporary buildings that span nearly every typology, from office skyscraper to municipal salt shed. Hill is a veteran tour guide, having led groups of tourists and architects up, down, and across Manhattan (and the riverside parts of Brooklyn and Queens) for over a decade. In his introduction and laconic project descriptions, he relays the architectural consequences of urban policies installed by former mayor Michael Bloomberg and observes how public anxiety over security has produced urban spaces both hostile and pedestrian-friendly. In this latter sense, Hill finds glimpses of a “car-free” Manhattan, wending a four-mile-long route through the Financial District and along the East River and Battery Park waterfronts. It constitutes, he writes, “a public realm between the buildings as much as the buildings themselves.”
By Fred Scharmen Columbia Books on Architecture and the City, 424 pp., $24.03
The paintings of delineators Rick Guidice and Don Davis rank near the top of the list of speculative visions for human settlement. Drafted in the mid-1970s as part of Princeton physicist Gerard O’Neill’s Summer Studies program, the tableaux depict terrestrial life displaced to outer space. All the features of Earth—lolling valleys, bluer-than-blue lakes, trails of clouds—were to be incubated and sustained within megastructural gyropic tubes, moving among the stars and planets. Writer Fred Scharmen contextualizes the Guidice and Davis renderings in their time and place, drawing links not just to 20th-century architectural projects—from Le Corbusier’s various urban schemes to Moshe Safdie’s recombinant residential complexes—but also to the history and philosophy of science. In the process, he expands the term “design” to encompass “everything that constitutes a world, in both time and space.”
Gerrit Rietveld: Wealth of Sobriety
By Arjan Bronkhorst LecturaCultura, 528 pp., $79.00
Despite our best efforts, fate wins out. How else to explain the untiring production of Gerrit Rietveld? The Dutch architect’s place in history largely hangs on the success of one single dwelling, the Rietveld Schröder House of 1924, to the neglect of nearly 100 others he designed. Of these, 20 feature in Wealth of Sobriety, including the aforementioned De Stijl avatar; the experimental (and partially rebuilt) Utrecht hutch for a chauffeur (1928) and the outlier Parkhurst House (1961) in Ohio—Rietveld’s only built work outside of the Netherlands. Photographer Arjan Bronkhorst, whose last release documented the domestic spaces of Amsterdam’s famed canal houses, displays an equal-opportunity approach to Rietveld’s handiwork, imbuing each case study with the same ghostly aura. Where possible, he shoots homeowners in living rooms, kitchens, and offices. At the Bouhuijs House near the village of Ransdorp, Bronkhorst even finds Rietveld’s granddaughter, who planted a birch tree to assuage the intense sunlight that entered in through the oversize living-room window.
Projects and Their Consequences: Reiser+Umemoto
By Jesse Reiser Princeton Architectural Press, 351 p.p., $35.68
Architects who came of age in the mid-aughts have surely thumbed through, if not scrupulously underlined and dog-eared, the pages of Jesse Reiser and Nanako Umemoto’s 2006 Atlas of Novel Tectonics. The architects’ follow-up work, Projects and Their Consequences, is a different animal. Spanning 30 years of practice, the book is far less portable and more ambitious (this is the first in a planned three-volume set) than its predecessor, yet it has all the same magic. Snippets of biography intermingle with essays, interviews, and projects. The studio’s many projects—which range from competition entries to narrative-based works that betray the influence of John Hejduk—reveal how, time and time again, Reiser and Umemoto very nearly broke into the architectural mainstream. That moment finally came in 2010, with the completion of their 0-14 Tower in Dubai, the details of which are not disclosed here and will have to wait for a subsequent volume.
Robert Venturi’s Complexity and Contradiction at Fifty
Edited by Martino Stierli and David Brownlee The Museum of Modern Art, 296 p.p., $29.53
This is not the 50th anniversary edition of Robert Venturi’s classic, Complexity and Contradiction. Not exactly, anyway. The handsome two-volume set reproduces C&C in facsimile (complete with Vincent Scully’s glowing, and correct, introduction) and tacks on a supplement of essays, testimonials, and “interpretations,” many of which had their basis in a 2016 conference staged at the Museum of Modern Art. (Talk about timing: The event was held one week after the presidential election, as co-editor David Brownlee notes in his preface.) Yet the arithmetic underpinning that commemorative event doesn’t add up, either, as the first copies of C&C were held up in shipping and weren’t technically released until 1967. Anniversaries, compulsive as they are, only purport to exert a hold on historical exigency. “A gap remains,” writes the Italian architect Pier Paolo Tamburelli in the supplement. “[A]n in-between.”
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