My recent posts at World-Architects


Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Book Review: Contemporary European Architecture ATLAS

Contemporary European Architecture ATLAS: European Union Prize for Contemporary Architecture Mies van der Rohe Award 1988-2015, edited by Celia Marín Vega, Marina Romero
Fundació Mies van der Rohe, 2016
Hardcover, 864 pages

[All photos © Adrian Pedrazas, courtesy of Fundació Mies van der Rohe]

In the course of the EU Mies Award's 27-year history – from 1988 to 2015 – 2,881 projects have been nominated from 38 countries. Juries of the biennial award have selected fourteen prize winners since its impetus shortly after Mies van der Rohe's Barcelona Pavilion was reconstructed in 1986, as well as selecting eight emerging architect prize winners since 2001. Catalogs have accompanied each of the fourteen cycles, highlighting the winner, the finalists, and shortlisted works, but nothing to date has attempted to tackle the whole archive – all 2,881 projects. Perhaps spurred by the 2013 book and 2014 exhibition that celebrated the EU Mies Award's 25th anniversary, the Fundació Mies van der Rohe has published Contemporary European Architecture ATLAS. The huge volume presents all of the projects, but it does it in a way that attempts to make sense of the geographies, typologies, and chronology of the prize.

[The 864-page book's colorful fore edge]

The task of organizing the thousands of projects into a coherent presentation (done by graphic designer Núria Saban Prat) is hinted at by the cover and the book's fore edge; the former is a rainbow of colors overlapping each other in apparently random curves, while the latter reveals stacked blocks of colors: green, red, orange, etc. Color is used to express a project's typology, which means that the book is arranged in terms of type: 22 building types (e.g. culture, health, mixed use, infrastructure, and office) grouped into four thematic sections: Housing, Society, Structure, and Production & Consumption.

["Order of things" spread showing the color-coded typologies at top grouped into the four thematic sections at bottom.]

The projects are then further defined in terms of keywords, such that the culture typology consists of cultural centers, museums, and so forth. These keywords combine with the chronology of the cycles to determine precisely where a project is located within the book. To distinguish between nominees, shortlisted works, finalists, and winners, the projects have a set amount of real estate: 1/8 page for nominees (1/4 page for featured nominees), 1/2 page for shortlisted works, single pages for finalists, and two-page spreads for winners. Only winners and finalists include descriptive text, such is the large number of projects and thrift of space even in a book this size.

[A project spread showing two shortlisted works on the left and the bookmark key on the right]

A few graphic elements layer some information over what's on the page: running across the top of each page are black bars that correspond with the years projects on that page were nominated; and running up and down the side of the pages with their colored edges are black bars that correspond to the country and white circles whose size relates to the quantity of projects per program per country. Large amounts of information like this would otherwise lead to a cluttered page, but to remove text from the page the book comes with large bookmark key, where one side is for the left page and the other side is for the right page. After figuring out where exactly to place the bookmark (about a 1/4 inch from the edge), it's easy enough to use though not always necessary – sometimes only to decipher the code of the ever-present black bars and white circles.

[Spread with 2015 winner of the EU Mies Prize: Barozzi / Veiga's Philharmonic Hall]

Accompanying the projects are a few essays, none more helpful than Dietmar Steiner's "My Barcelona and the EU Mies Award." Having served on the jury multiple times, the Austrian architect is in good position to give some personal insight into the prize. At one point he relates: "The best choice for 2001 would have undoubtedly been Tate Modern by Herzog & de Meuron, or the Lucern Cultural Centre by Jean Nouvel. But Switzerland prevented this." They prevented it by refusing to ratify a cultural agreement with the EU, a move that disqualified the country from participating after the 1998 cycle, when Swiss architect Peter Zumthor's Art Museum of Bregenz won. In 2001 the Mies van der Rohe Award became the official architecture prize of the European Union, locking in the cultural agreement that has meant no Zumthor or Herzog & de Meuron buildings (among others) have been in the running since. While this means the EU Mies Award is as much political as it is architectural, the creativity of the architects and the buildings they produced in the continent's cities is undeniable. The ATLAS provides a taste of this while piquing interest in the award's future cycles.

European Contemporary European ATLAS is available for purchase at

Monday, December 05, 2016

ACB and '100 Years, 100 Buildings'

I've been a fan of ACB's (Art & Culture Bureau) half-hour architecture documentaries ever since I discovered them back in 2006. The series, directed by Richard Copans and Stan Neumann (individual docs are directed by them but sometimes by others), does an excellent job at explaining important buildings through location shooting, architectural models, interviews with the architects, and thoughtful narration.

When it came time for me to research the projects in my recently published book 100 Years, 100 Buildings, I watched all of the relevant ACB documentaries. From the 100 in my book, there are (now) 14 buildings that overlap, each of which is embedded below. For more ACB architecture documentaries, visit their YouTube playlist, where 59 of them are found as of today.

1923 Notre Dame du Raincy | Auguste Perret | Raincy, France

1926 Bauhaus Dessau | Walter Gropius | Dessau, Germany

1929 Barcelona Pavilion | Ludwig Mies van der Rohe | Barcelona, Spain

1950 Johnson Wax Buildings | Frank Lloyd Wright | Racine, Wisconsin, United States

1952 Säynätsalo Town Hall | Alvar Aalto | Säynätsalo, Finland

1964 Yoyogi National Gymnasium | Kenzō Tange | Tokyo, Japan

1971 Phillips Exeter Academy Library | Louis I. Kahn | Exeter, New Hampshire, United States

1977 Centre Georges Pompidou | Renzo Piano and Richard Rogers | Paris, France

1982 SESC Pompeia | Lino Bo Bardi | São Paulo, Brazil

1996 Therme Vals | Peter Zumthor | Vals, Switzerland

1997 Guggenheim Museum Bilbao | Frank Gehry | Bilbao, Spain

1999 Jewish Museum Berlin | Daniel Libeskind | Berlin, Germany

2000 Sendai Mediatheque | Toyo Ito | Sendai, Japan

2013 Xiangshan Campus, China Academy of Art | Amateur Architecture Studio | Hangzhou, China

Friday, December 02, 2016

Book Review: Two WTC Books

9/11 Memorial Visions: Innovative Concepts from the 2003 World Trade Center Site Memorial Competition by Lester J. Levine
McFarland, 2016
Paperback, 248 pages

One World Trade Center: Biography of the Building by Judith Dupré
Little, Brown, 2016
Hardcover, 286 pages

At first blush it makes perfect sense to review these recently published books together. After all, each one addresses a major element – if not the two most important elements (or two of three if we consider Calatrava's Oculus) – of the sixteen-acre World Trade Center site. Further, it appears the publication of each book was timed to the annual anniversary of September 11th, in this case fifteen years after the terrorist attacks that destroyed the Twin Towers. A fair number of books on the original WTC came out in the years after 2001, followed by books addressing redevelopment and Daniel Libeskind's winning master plan. But these two books are the only recent ones I'm aware of on the architecture of the WTC site, so it makes sense to bundle them together.

That said, the differences between the two books – and their subjects – situate them as nearly polar opposites to each other. One is focused on the memorial, specifically the 5,200 memorial ideas that did not win the competition and therefore were not built; the other is about the realization of the site's most prominent tower, what has become the tallest building in the western hemisphere since its 2015 completion. Along these lines, one presents individual efforts to cope with a horrific act, while the other documents a design that results from collaboration: of architects, engineers, clients, and builders. And, of course, one is about making money while the other one is not. The content of each book reflects these differences.

[Spread from One World Trade Center, which was designed by DBOX]

Judith Dupré should be a familiar name to architects as well as laypeople who are fans of architecture, particularly tall buildings; her oversized book Skyscrapers: A History of the World's Most Extraordinary Buildings was first published in 1996 and was most recently revised and updated in 2013. (Fittingly, Dupré wrote Skyscrapers in the World Trade Center.) Although One World Trade Center does not approach the 18-inch-high paper size of Skyscrapers, it is nevertheless a big book – all the better to take in the large color photos but also the timelines and other parts of the book that pack lots of information onto the individual pages.

As the title makes clear, this is a book about One World Trade Center (1WTC). Nevertheless it contains chapters on the other parts of the WTC site: the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, 7WTC, towers 2-4WTC, the Transportation Hub, St. Nicholas, and Liberty Park, many of which the author discussed in her book talk at the Skyscraper Museum I attended back in June. With this extra content, the book is the most complete book on the rebuilding efforts to date, not just a biography of 1WTC. Regardless, people will buy this book because of its namesake subject – and they will not be disappointed.

Five of the book's twelve chapters are devoted to 1WTC. From these handful my favorites are "Evolution of the Tower's Design: 2003-2005," "Into the Blue: Designing One World Trade Center," and "Construction Timeline: One World Trade Center." The first and third are particularly helpful in our amnesiac age, since they remind us how the tower design changed from a Libeskind to an SOM, and how the nearly ten-year construction unfolded. Throughout, Dupré is very positive about the building (she likes it much more than I do), but that does not mean she isn't critical when warranted. A sidebar on the value engineering that stripped the spire of its cladding is a good case. Nevertheless, this is a biography that celebrates a building, one whose 2015 completion made it feel like the WTC site was finally closer to completion rather than closer to the destruction that warranted the project to begin with.

["Twin Piers" memorial entry by Charles Upchurch and Fred Bernstein | Image via]

While Dupré contends she was "the only writer given unfettered access to the Port Authority’s site and archives" for creating her book, Lester J. Levine, a management consultant and poet who lives in North Carolina, was at the mercy of an outdated website and many hours spent tracking down the authors of notable memorial submissions when it came time to collect a small fraction of the 5,201 entries to the 2003 World Trade Center Site Memorial Competition for his book. The winning memorial, "Reflecting Absence" by Michael Arad with Peter Walker, was completed on the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, so Levine's book doesn't exist to proffer a preferred alternative – a what should have been – for the site. Rather it tells the stories of the people who submitted designs that share some innovative ways of approaching memorials.

If a book can be judged by it cover, I was not optimistic about 9/11 Memorial Visions. It's hard to imagine the cover scheme, with glass panes suspended from two St. Louis Arch-esque structures, existing on the WTC site. Further, the quality of the renderings shows just how far we've come in the last dozen years when it comes to computer graphics. That said, I was amazed to find myself liking the book a lot – though not necessarily liking many of the 180-plus schemes that Levine chose to focus on. But there is something to be said for highlighting designs that are a strong departure from the minimalist, Maya Lin-inspired visions that now predominate when it comes to memorials. Like others, I'm drawn to abstraction over figuration in memorials, but who's to say I wouldn't like a memorial with lots of color, or one that was all about sound, or one based highly on technology if it were given the chance?

With Levine's focus on the stories behind the entries, it's the words in his book that take priority over the images. His laid back, conversational style makes the stories accessible, and it allows entry after entry to be read easily in order; it's like they are pearls on a string and he pulls the reader along one after the other. He groups similar approaches (color, sound, and technology, as mentioned, among others) into a dozen chapters, but all entries are unique. Yet what stands out above the variety of designs is the diversity of voices: architects and artists are represented but so are musicians, students, scientists, even a truck driver. The World Trade Center Site Memorial Competition was open to all, and with a major event so fresh in people's minds at the time, it became a means for all sorts of people to cope with the loss and its repercussions. So kudos to Levine for digging through the entries, discovering the voices behind a sampling of them, and prompting us to reconsider what memorials mean to people in the 21st century.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Today's archidose #932

Some more photos from my recent trip to Berlin, this time two housing projects by Bruno Taut that are part of UNESCO's "Berlin Modernism Housing Estates" listing. The photos were taken during an architectural tour, "Bruno Taut's Colorful Modernism," given by Carsten Sauerbrei of Berlin's architekTour B.

Falkenberg Garden City (1913-1916):
Bruno Taut's Colorful Modernism
Bruno Taut's Colorful Modernism
Bruno Taut's Colorful Modernism
Bruno Taut's Colorful Modernism

Hufeisensiedlung (1925-1930):
Bruno Taut's Colorful Modernism
Bruno Taut's Colorful Modernism
Bruno Taut's Colorful Modernism
Bruno Taut's Colorful Modernism
Bruno Taut's Colorful Modernism
Bruno Taut's Colorful Modernism
Bruno Taut's Colorful Modernism
Bruno Taut's Colorful Modernism

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, November 29, 2016

Today's archidose #931

Here are a few photos of the Staatsgalerie Stuttgart (1984) by James Stirling Michael Wilford and Associates, taken by me (on my smartphone) on a recent trip to Stuttgart, Germany. See more photos in my Flickr set on the building.

Staatsgalerie Stuttgart
Staatsgalerie Stuttgart
Staatsgalerie Stuttgart
Staatsgalerie Stuttgart
Staatsgalerie Stuttgart
Staatsgalerie Stuttgart
Staatsgalerie Stuttgart
Staatsgalerie Stuttgart
Staatsgalerie Stuttgart
Staatsgalerie Stuttgart
Staatsgalerie Stuttgart

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, November 25, 2016

2016 Holiday Gift Books

This year I'm highlighting 32 books by the same number of publishers, arranged alphabetically by publisher – from Actar to Yale University Press. Titles and covers link to Amazon for easy gift-buying.

MCHAP Book One: The Americas
Edited by Fabrizio Gallanti

Artifice Books on Architecture
A Guide to the Dirty South—Atlanta
By Jennifer Bonner

Bella Figura Publications
Dream of Venice Architecture
Edited by JoAnn Locktov, photographs by Riccardo De Cal

Experimenting Landscapes: Testing the Limits of the Garden
Edited by Métis International Garden Festival, Emily Waugh

Architectural Guide Berlin
By Dominik Schendel

eVolo Skyscrapers 3: Visionary Architecture and Urban Design
Edited by Carlo Aiello

The Hinterland: Cabins, Love Shacks and Other Hide-Outs
Edited by Gestalten

gta publishers
Residential Towers
Edited by Annette Gigon, Mike Guyer, Felix Jerusalem

Harper Wave
The Well-Tempered City: What Modern Science, Ancient Civilizations, and Human Nature Teach Us About the Future of Urban Life
By Jonathan F. P. Rose

Hatje Catz
Kunstmuseum Basel, New Building
Edited by Kunstmuseum Basel, Bernhard Mendes Bürgi

Images Publishing
Interior Landscapes: A Visual Atlas
By Stefano Corbo

Island Press
People Cities: The Life and Legacy of Jan Gehl
By Annie Matan, Peter Newman

Lars Müller
The Building
Edited by José Aragüez

Laurence King
100 Years of Architecture
Alan Powers

Little, Brown and Company
One World Trade Center: Biography of the Building
By Judith Dupré

Metropolis Books
Never Built New York
By Greg Holding, Sam Lubell

The MIT Press
Thirtyfour Campgrounds
By Martin Hogue

The Monacelli Press
Toward an Urban Ecology: SCAPE / Landscape Architecture
By Kate Orff

ORO Editions
A New Look at Humanism: In Architecture, Landscapes, and Urban Design
By Robert Lamb Hart, with drawings by Albrecht Pichier

Oscar Riera Ojeda Publishers
The Legacy Project: New Housing New York. Best Practices in Affordable, Sustainable, Replicable Housing Design
Edited by Nathan Jerry Maltz, Oscar Riera Ojeda

Park Books
The Difficult Whole: A Reference Book on Robert Venturi, John Rauch and Denise Scott Brown
Edited by Kersten Geers, Jelena Pančevac, Andrea Zanderigo

Mid-Century Modern Architecture Travel Guide
By Sam Lubell, with photographs by Darren Bradley

100 Years, 100 Buildings
By John Hill (yes, me)

Princeton Architectural Press
Manual of Section
By Paul Lewis, Marc Tsurumaki, and David J. Lewis

Building Chicago: The Architectural Masterworks
By John Zukowsky

The Future Architect's Tool Kit
by Barbara Beck

Lightfall: Genealogy of a Museum: Paul and Herta Amir Building, Tel Aviv Museum of Art
By Preston Scott Cohen, Eran Neuman

Julius Shulman: Modernism Rediscovered
By Hunter Drohojowska-Philp, Owen Edwards, Philip J. Ethington, Peter Loughrey

Thames and Hudson
The Experience of Architecture
By Henry Plummer

University of Minnesota Press
The Rule of Logistics: Walmart and the Architecture of Fulfillment
By Jesse LeCavalier

Designing the Rural: A Global Countryside in Flux
Edited by Joshua Bolchover, John Lin, Christiane Lange

Yale University Press
Centre Pompidou: Renzo Piano, Richard Rogers, and the Making of a Modern Monument
By Francesco Dal Co