A Daily Dose of Architecture, 2004-2018

Yes, it’s time to pull the plug on A Daily Dose of Architecture, which I started back in 2004, five years after I started A Weekly Dose of Architecture (I ceased the weekly doses in 2014). More accurately, it’s time for A Daily Dose of Architecture to morph into something else — what that is will be announced on the first day of 2019.

Why stop A Daily Dose of Architecture? Because:

  • I’ve been preoccupied more and more with other tasks (World-Architects, writing books, walking tours, freelance writing, etc.), so I’ve had less time to devote to this “(almost) daily” blog;
  • Most of the content that would have ended up here now makes its way into the World-Architects Magazine, where I’m Editor in Chief;
  • Although there is still a core of great contributors and photos (around 100,000 of them!) on my archidose Flickr pool — from which I would grab photos now and then, to the tune of more than a fifth of my 5,000 posts — it has become overrun by irrelevant photos, watermarked photos, and photos with privacy settings that don’t allow me to embed them on this blog (furthermore, recent changes to Flickr have me considering canceling my pro account);
  • I want to change my blog into something that I will want to post about nearly every day.

With that explanation, thanks to everybody for reading and following this blog over the years. Don’t unsubscribe, unbookmark, or unfollow just yet though. This URL isn’t going anywhere and won’t become just a stale archive of old posts; it will continue in another form. Stay tuned.

Archidose 5000

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THANKS for READING!


Best Books I Read in 2018

The end of the calendar year means best-of lists, and for this blog that means architecture books. Unlike traditional publications that limit their lists to books, buildings, or some other output released or completed between January 1 and December 31, I lean toward the way film critic Jonathan Rosenbaum would include only movies he saw and reviewed during the year (so if a film opened in NYC around Xmas to be eligible for an Oscar but didn’t play in Chicago that year he didn’t consider it) and therefore have limited my list to books I reviewed on this blog at some point in 2018. In turn, half of these dozen books were published this year but the other half came out last year. Accordingly, the alphabetical list is split into two based on the years the books were released, with links to my reviews or “briefs.”

2018

Dimensions of Citizenship edited by Nick Axel, Nikolaus Hirsch, Ann Lui, Mimi Zeiger

The Divided City: Poverty and Prosperity in America by Alan Mallach

Letters to the Leaders of China: Kongjian Yu and the Future of the Chinese City edited by Terreform

The Man in the Glass House: Philip Johnson, Architect of the Modern Century by Mark Lamster

Manufacturing Architecture: An Architect’s Guide to Custom Processes, Materials, and Applications by Dana K. Gulling

Michigan Modern: An Architectural Legacy by Brian D. Conway with photographs by James Haefner

2017

The Arsenal of Exclusion & Inclusion by Interboro Partners (Tobias Armborst, Daniel D’Oca, Georgeen Theodore)

Cook’s Camden: The Making of Modern Housing by Mark Swenarton

John Vinci: Life and Landmarks by Robert Sharoff, William Zbaren

So You Want to Learn About: Roberto Burle Marx

The “So You Want to Learn About” series highlights books focused on a particular theme: think “socially responsible architecture” and “Le Corbusier,” rather than broad themes like “housing” or “modern architects.” Therefore the series aims to be a resource for finding decent reading materials on certain topics, born of a desire to further define noticeable areas of interest in the books I review. And while I haven’t reviewed every title, I am familiar with each one; these are not blind recommendations.

About one year ago my book 100 Years, 100 Landscape Designs came out. There were a number of landscape designers that just had to be in the book, one of them being Roberto Burle Marx (1909-1994), the great Brazilian landscape designer and artist who single-handedly defined landscape architecture in South America, not just Brazil. (A couple of his landscapes worked their way into my book, both carrying his influential name: Sitio Roberto Burle Marx, 1949, and Parque da Cidade Roberto Burle Marx, 1950.) The research for my book led me to obtain a few relevant old titles that I came across, some hard to find. But a couple books released this year, both compiling the landscape designer’s own words, prompted me to put together this SYW2 post about Burle Marx. These are not all of the books devoted to Burle Marx, but they’re more than I ever anticipated I’d have in my library, especially given how few English titles exist on the influential figure.

In-print:

Depositions: Roberto Burle Marx and Public Landscapes under Dictatorship by Catherine Seavitt Nordenson | University of Texas Press | 2018 | Amazon / IndieBound
Depositions and Roberto Burle Marx Lectures, both published this year, indicate that Burle Marx was almost as prolific with his words as with his garden designs; the latter number in the hundreds and by some accounts around 2,000, though it wasn’t until this year that I noticed how much he wrote and lectured during his life. Depositions takes a precise sliver of time and venue, presenting English translations of eighteen “environmental position pieces” that Burle Marx wrote for the Cultura journal between 1967 and 1974. What makes this output unique is that he was writing for, and delivering the pieces to, the Brazilian Ministry of Education and Culture under the country’s military dictatorship. Yet he used the opportunity to argue for, among other things, the conservation of the Brazilian landscape. Burle Marx, it appears, was politically savvy as well as a talented designer.

Roberto Burle Marx: Brazilian Modernist by Jens Hoffmann, Claudia J. Nahson | The Jewish Museum / Yale University Press | 2016 | Amazon / IndieBound | Review
One of the best exhibitions of 2016 was Roberto Burle Marx: Brazilian Modernist at, of all places, the Jewish Museum. The venue was responding to the fact Burle Marx was born from a German Jewish father and a Brazilian Catholic mother, but the show most notably presented Burle Marx as a multifaceted creator of landscapes, paintings, pottery, sculptures, carpets, and other artworks clearly exhibiting his hand. Like most exhibition catalogs, Brazilian Modernist is full of images of works from the show, organized by theme/medium, but it also includes a section where contemporary artists examine the impact and legacy of Burle Marx.

Roberto Burle Marx Lectures: Landscape as Art and Urbanism edited by Gareth Doherty | Lars Müller Publishers | 2018 | Amazon / IndieBound
This book is more than 20 years in the making, going back to 1996, when Gareth Doherty spent the summer in Burle Marx’s Rio studio as a student and was given by Haruyoshi Ono, Burle Marx’s successor, photocopies of every English-language lecture Burle Marx ever delivered. Coming one year after Ono’s passing at the age of 73, Roberto Burle Marx Lectures presents a dozen lectures, some given in English and some given in Portuguese and translated into English; Doherty is clear about the circumstances of each lecture and how he lightly edited their contents for publication. The lectures, with titles like “The Garden as a Way of Life” and “The Function of the Garden,” follow a lengthy but helpful introduction by Doherty on Burle Marx’s career and his lecturing. All of these texts are bookended by dozens of full-color (they have to be with Burle Marx’s garden designs) photographs by Leonardo Finotti, some of them specially made for Doherty’s book.

Out-of-print:

The Gardens of Roberto Burle Marx by Sima Eliovson | Timber Press | 1991 | Amazon
Three years before Burle Marx died at the age of 84, The Garden of Roberto Burle Marx was released, calling itself “the only authorized study of the life and work of one of the world’s greatest living landscape architects.” It was also the last book by garden writer Sima Eliovson, who died in 1990. The book has a short foreword by Robert Burle Marx and is full of drawings and photographs he made available for the book. The format is pretty straightforward, with two parts: “The man and his background,” a good overview of his background and career; and “The gardens — in approximate chronological order,” presenting 25 of his hundreds of gardens, from the Sitio where he lived and worked to a garden on a farm for Clemente Gomes (a repeat client) in the late 1980s. Horticulturists will appreciate the first of two appendices, a list of plants mentioned in the text, while completists will like the second, a list of “significant landscape projects.”

Roberto Burle Marx: Landscapes Reflected edited by Rosssana Vaccarino | Princeton Architectural Press | 2000 | Amazon
Edited words about this book from my Unpacking blog back in 2016: “The third book in the ‘Landscape Views’ series from PAPress and Harvard GSD is, like the other two, a good, scholarly introduction to its subject. Unfortunately the duotone photographs do not do justice to Burle Marx’s colorful planting designs and paintings that illustrate the slim book. That leaves the essays, which focus on a park he designed in Caracas, two residential gardens in Brazil, his output as a painter and visual artist, and his ‘founding of modern Brazilian landscape architecture.’ It’s a good start, though those wishing for more visual stimulus should opt for the book the Jewish Museum published (see above) as a companion to their exhibition on Burle Marx.”

Roberto Burle Marx: The Unnatural Art of the Garden by William Howard Adams | The Museum of Modern Art | 1991 | Amazon
More edited words from my Unpacking blog from 2016: “When the Jewish Museum held its 2016 exhibition on Roberto Burle Marx, it boasted of being the first exhibition on the famous Brazilian landscape architect since a 1991 show at MoMA, The Unnatural Art of the Garden, which obviously focused on his gardens. As much as I appreciate the diversity in the Jewish Museum exhibition, I find his gardens the most interesting, not just for the way they appear in photos (I’ve yet to see one in person) but also in the way he designed them; his colorful plans have a beauty that was matched by the plantings that followed from them. This slim catalog to the MoMA show has plenty of those drawings as well as even more color photographs by Michael Moran. Half the book is devoted to a dozen projects documented as such, while the other half is comprised of a two-part essay by the exhibition’s guest curator, William Howard Adams.”

The Tropical Gardens of Burle Marx by P.M. Bardi | Reinhold Publishing Corporation | 1964 | Amazon
This book was published the same year that the military junta took control in Brazil, but per the inside flap, “this book would have been published some years ago [but Burle Marx] was anxious to include the most interesting part of his work, the gardens of Caracas and the Beira Mar of Rio de Janeiro.” Billed as the “only [book] devoted to a tropical landscape gardener and his work,” The Tropical Gardens of Burle Marx is loaded with photos and other illustrations of Burle Marx’s gardens, many focused on the plants themselves, complete with Latin names. The book, free of a table of contents, has an odd structure, with an English introduction and English-German-Italian text throughout the rest of the book, mainly as captions to the images. There is no index so no way to find particular projects. In effect the book is made for browsing: a voyage through the gardens of Burle Marx — on the cusp of dramatic changes in his home country.

Old+New Book Review: Kongjian Yu

Designed Ecologies: The Landscape Architecture of Kongjian Yu edited by William S. Saunders
Birkhäuser, 2012
Hardcover, 256 pages

Letters to the Leaders of China: Kongjian Yu and the Future of the Chinese City edited by Terreform
UR Books, 2018
Paperback, 300 pages

One of the most memorable crits I attended during the World Architecture Festival a couple weeks ago was Turenscape’s presentation of Puyangjiang River Corridor, which involved the demolition of the channelized river’s concrete embankments and subsequent “softening and remediating” of the 10-mile-long river corridor. Even though the concrete-lined river sprouted industrial uses along its banks, Turenscape convinced the city’s mayor to remove the concrete and the industry in order to bring the river back to life. How, the jury asked the designer from Turenscape, did they manage to do that? “Six months of drinking with the mayor!” It seemed like a joke and elicited laughter from the jury and audience, but it was true. And it captured something unique about Turenscape beyond its distinctive, influential “sponge city” landscapes full of winding colorful walkways and pavilions: founder Kongjian Yu and his other partners engage with mayors to transform sizable chunks of urban China into productive cultural landscapes.

Yu’s political engagement is the theme of Letters to the Leaders of China, the eighth book from Terreform’s UR Books. It collects almost ten of his letters to mayors and includes excerpts from his books, essays, and lectures; much of his words here have been translated into English for the first time. Following them are essays by such academics as Thomas J. Campanella, Zhongjie Lin, and Peter G. Rowe. Concluding the book are an interview with Ai Weiwei and maps that show the remarkable extent of Turenscape’s projects for Chinese cities — 48 in Qinhuangdao alone (!), the city where the famous Red Ribbon Park is located. I started with the Ai Weiwei interview. Although they clearly know each other and appreciate each other’s work, the informal interview the artist and landscape architect probing each other to learn about the other person and provoke him about certain questionable traits. The candor and conversational tone make it a great start to the core features of Yu’s career, from his agricultural upbringing and training at Harvard University, to his teaching at Peking University and work at Turenscape, which he founded in 1988 and has seen expand to hundreds of employees in three offices.

The main argument that permeates the interview as well as his letters to Chinese mayors is “little feet” versus “big feet” values. The first refers to the tradition no longer practiced of binding the feet of girls in the name of beauty, while the second refers to the strong women that work the land but are not seen as traditional beauties. Yu extends the analogy to landscape design and inverts the two, finding value in the productive over formal beauty. In turn, even though his landscapes are punctuated by formally striking features like the red ribbon (visible on the cover of the Birkhäuser book as well as via the link above), they address a number of functions: industrial remediation, cleaning water, habitat restoration, growing crops, etc. By integrating productive landscapes into urban situations (many Turenscape parks are located alongside the cookie cutter housing developments outsiders see as synonymous with Chinese urbanism), Yu and his team remind city dwellers of China’s agricultural roots and reveal how rice paddies, for instance, can co-exist with housing, universities, and other urban uses.

Letters to the Leaders of China has some photographs, but they are all monochrome and serve to elucidate points in the writings rather than to illustrate Turenscape’s colorful projects. A more traditional full-color monograph, though a fairly academic one, was put out by Birkhäuser back in 2012. The book alternates documentation of built and unbuilt Turenscape projects with scholarly essays, many of the latter coming from professors at Yu’s Cambridge alma mater. The maps at the back of Letters illustrate the country-wide ambition of Turenscape, something that comes across more explicitly in Designed Ecologies. In addition to projects like the Red Ribbon Park, the monograph includes large-scale planning and research projects for Beijing and all of China. With color-coded maps reminiscent of the great Ian McHarg, these large-scale projects convey how Yu has brought ideas from his education in the United States to bear on his home country, in turn influencing the field of landscape architecture well beyond China.

Book Briefs #40

“Book Briefs” are an ongoing series of posts with short first-hand descriptions of some of the numerous books that make their way into my library. These briefs are not full-blown reviews (though some might go on to get that treatment), but they are a way to share more books worthy of attention than find their way into reviews on this blog. This installment features four titles — two from Laurence King and two from Thames & Hudson – that are oriented to design and materials in education and practice.

The Architecture Concept Book by James Tait | Thames & Hudson | 2018 | Amazon / IndieBound
The title page of The Architecture Concept Book includes title, author, and publisher but also one important number: 565 illustrations. Yes, that’s a lot of illustrations. I’d say as many of them are sketches by James Tait as they are photographs by others. In turn, the book explains architectural concepts primarily through the author’s words and illustrations. Even when the images are not his own, they are composed in a way that tells a story or explains a point. This is, I think, how illustrated books should be, taking advantage of their page-format and the relationship between words and images. Although Tait’s four-A (Assess, Analyze, Assemble, Augment) argument is about 30 years too late for this architect/writer, I appreciate his references and at-times opinionated writing, as well as his approach to composing a helpful book for architecture students and young architects.

Design Process in Architecture: From Concept to Completion by Geoffrey Makstutis | Laurence King Publishing | 2018 | Amazon / IndieBound
The cover of this book hints at part of its contents: bubble diagrams and flow charts that explain the architectural design process. Given that the design process is broadly similar in the architecture profession — moving from relatively vague concepts based on research and other factors to precise, detailed designs born from numerous revisions — but highly varied from one architect to another, teaching the design process through a book, rather than a class, is no easy task. Makstutis covers every aspect of the design process but does it in a way that is cognizant of these inherent variations; the latter is covered through many miniature case studies: two-page spreads that explain the approach in a single building. Geared to people considering an architectural education or architecture students in their early years of architecture school, the book is full of illustrations (350 of them, most not bubble diagrams and flow charts) and compact for easy transport between dorm and studio.

3D Thinking in Design and Architecture: From Antiquity to the Future by Roger Burrows | Thames & Hudson | 2018 | Amazon / IndieBound

I thought 565 illustrations was a lot (see The Architecture Concept Book above), but this one boasts of 800 illustrations, with more than 600 of them in color. What are all these illustrations? The book starts with photographs in its journey from historical epochs to the present and the future, but it quickly shifts to diagrams by Roger Burrows, who works in the fields of “geometry, design, architectural form and interactive learning,” per the back cover. The diagrams, hinted at by the cover, explain geometries in architecture and design, moving from an explanation of the Chartres labyrinth at the beginning of the book to “Dynamic Close-Packing Circle Geometry” in the last chapter. The first indicates how Burrows embraces geometries throughout nature and time, while the second points to the mathematics underlying much of the book. Thankfully, for un-math-minded folks like myself, the author’s diagram are very clear in explaining how 2D (many of the geometries in the book are 2D patterns) and 3D thinking has evolved over time.

Manufacturing Architecture: An Architect’s Guide to Custom Processes, Materials, and Applications by Dana K. Gulling | Laurence King Publishing | 2018 | Amazon / IndieBound
Reminiscent of the materials books by Victoria Ballard Bell and Patrick Rand, Dana Gulling’s Manufacturing Architecture explains the use of various materials through many contemporary case studies. But with Gulling the focus is on material processes, particularly “repetitive manufacturing processes for architectural application.” In turn there are as many photos of factory floors as completed buildings; many architects will love this book for the former alone. The main chapters look broadly at processes (manipulating sheet, continuous shaping, making thin or hollow, and forming solid) with subchapters focused on particular processes. The second chapter, Continuous Shaping, for instance, is broken down to Extrusion and Pultrusion through a handful of materials: clay, stiff mud, metal, plastic, and fiber-reinforced plastic. With more than 1,100 illustrations (we have a winner!) and a thorough, practical take on material processes with great case studies, Gulling’s book is one every practicing architect should have in their library.

Triple Dutch

The lack of posts between my roundup of Holiday Gift Books on Thanksgiving and now was due to a trip to Amsterdam to cover the World Architecture Festival for World-Architects. Thankfully I was able to do some sightseeing on what was my first trip to the Netherlands, zipping around Amsterdam and taking day trips to Delft and Rotterdam. Below are photos of some highlights in these three Dutch cities, presented in the order I visited them.

AMSTERDAM

The bathtub-like addition to the Stedelijk Museum (2012) by Benthem Crouwel Architects:

Superlofts Houthaven (2016) by Marc Koehler Architects, which won at WAF in 2017 and was open for tours this year:

Het Schip, the Amsterdam School masterpiece from 1920 by Michel de Klerk:

ARCAM (Architecture Centre Amsterdam), housed in a shapely building designed by René van Zuuk (2003):

DELFT

Delft City Hall and Train Station (2017) by Mecanoo:

BK City (Faculty of Architecture and the Built Environment) at TU Delft with glasshouses designed by Octatube, Fokkema & Partners, and MVRDV:

Library at TU Delft (1998) by Mecanoo, my favorite building of the whole trip:

Student Housing DUWO (2009) by Mecanoo:

Delft likes stilts, if these two buildings I have no details on are any indication:

The hodgepodge of townhouse architecture in Nieuw Delft, a residential area being developed south of the new train station and city hall…:

…including House CB005 (2018) by GAAGA:

ROTTERDAM

Rotterdam Central Station (2014) by Team CS, the collaboration of Benthem Crouwel Architects, MVSA Meyer en Van Schooten Architecten and West 8:

Shouwburgplein (“Theater Square,” 1996) by West8:

Netherlands Architecture Institute (1993) by Jo Coenen, renovated by the architect in 2011 for Het Nieuwe Instituut (sculpture in top photo is The Hermitage, 1999, by Lebbeus Woods):

Next to Het Nieuwe Instituut is the construction site for the spaceship-like public art depot for the Museum Boijmans van Beuningen designed by MVRDV and set to be completed next year:

Kunsthal, designed by OMA in 1991 and then renovated by OMA in 2013:

Markthal (2015) by MVRDV:

Timmerhuis (2015) by OMA: