City Unseen

City Unseen: New Visions of an Urban Planet
Karen C. Seto, Meredith Reba
Yale University Press, September 2018

Hardcover | 9 x 10 inches | 268 pages | 188 illustrations | English | ISBN: 978-0300221695 | $35.00

Publisher Description:

Seeing cities around the globe in their larger environmental contexts, we begin to understand how the world shapes urban landscapes and how urban landscapes shape the world. Authors Karen Seto and Meredith Reba provide these revealing views to enhance readers’ understanding of the shape, growth, and life of urban settlements of all sizes—from the remote town of Namche Bazaar in Nepal to the vast metropolitan prefecture of Tokyo, Japan.

Using satellite data, the authors show urban landscapes in new perspectives. The book’s beautiful and surprising images pull back the veil on familiar scenes to highlight the growth of cities over time, the symbiosis between urban form and natural landscapes, and the vulnerabilities of cities to the effects of climate change. We see the growth of Las Vegas and Lagos, the importance of rivers to both connecting and dividing cities like Seoul and London, and the vulnerability of Fukushima and San Juan to floods from tsunami or hurricanes. The result is a compelling book that shows cities’ relationships with geography, food, and society.

dDAB Commentary:

I remember the first time I saw the Keyhole technology, what eventually became Google Earth. A friend who got his hands on it showed it to me and I was blown away at being able to pan and zoom around the globe so effortlessly; I recall it being hard to pull me away from it. Now, roughly 20 years later, the ability to see satellite imagery of any spot on the globe at any time on any device is taken for granted, as if we all have the right to see the earth from space. But as Karen Seto and Meredith Reba put it in their introduction to City Unseen, “with access [to satellite imagery] comes responsibility – to make more informed decisions about how to design, plan, construct, and operate cities in better, healthier, more sustainable ways.” They have assembled satellite imagery of 100 places around the globe as an expression of that responsibility.

The 100 places are put into three chapters that focus on the landscapes around cities, more detailed views of urban agglomerations, and the way “demand for urban resources is changing landscapes.” But first is “views from space,” a chapter that explains why, for instance, the cover image (of Detroit, Michigan) looks the way it does. By combining visible and nonvisible wavelengths of light in various ways, Seto and Reba are able to emphasize certain characteristics, which they spell out in the text alongside the images. The choices of location, time, scale, and wavelengths of light combine to create an illuminating if often dour depiction of how we inhabit the earth. But it’s also powerful. Two nighttime satellite images one day apart draw attention to the island-wide power outages that plagued Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria – just one of many examples where satellite data holds deeper meanings.

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Author Bio:

Karen C. Seto is the Frederick C. Hixon Professor of Geography and Urbanization Science at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies and a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences. Meredith Reba is research associate at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies.

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Adapting Cities to Sea Level Rise

Adapting Cities to Sea Level Rise: Green and Gray Strategies
Stefan Al
Island Press, November 2018

Paperback | 8 x 9 inches | 160 pages | 150 illustrations | English | ISBN: 9781610919074 | $35.00

Publisher Description:

In 2012, Hurricane Sandy floods devastated coastal areas in New York and New Jersey. In 2017, Harvey flooded Houston. Today in Miami, even on sunny days, king tides bring fish swimming through the streets in low-lying areas. These types of events are typically called natural disasters. But overwhelming scientific consensus says they are actually the result of human-induced climate change and irresponsible construction inside floodplains.

As cities build more flood-management infrastructure to adapt to the effects of a changing climate, they must go beyond short-term flood protection and consider the long-term effects on the community, its environment, economy, and relationship with the water.

Adapting Cities to Sea Level Rise, by infrastructure expert Stefan Al, introduces design responses to sea-level rise, drawing from examples around the globe. Going against standard engineering solutions, Al argues for approaches that are integrated with the public realm, nature-based, and sensitive to local conditions and the community. He features design responses to building resilience that creates new civic assets for cities. For the first time, the possible infrastructure solutions are brought together in a clear and easy-to-read format.

dDAB Commentary:

It seems like it wasn’t so long ago that architects, landscape architects, and urban designers were designing for sustainability in an effort to keep carbon emissions from increasing global temperatures to the generally agreed upon ceiling of 2 degrees Celsius. But this decade resiliency has usurped sustainability this decade, since at least Hurricane Sandy in 2012, the strong impacts of climate change being felt each year since, and the realization that the carbon already released into the atmosphere will move us past that 2-degree scenario anyways. Therefore designers of the built environment must deal with the impacts of climate change (rising waters, sever weather occurrences, water shortages, etc.), as well as designing energy-efficient buildings, landscapes that clean the air and water, and cities that prioritize walking over driving. With this in mind, it’s no surprise to see a book guiding designers and decision makers in one aspect of the crisis we find ourselves in: adapting cities to rising sea levels.

Pulling from a number of international case studies, Stefan Al’s abundantly illustrated book walks through the various strategies that designers and cities can consider now and in the coming years as rising sea levels pose a threat to waterfront developments. After an introduction that summarizes clearly how we got into this situation and broadly what can be done about it, Al hones in on four cities (Rotterdam, New York City, New Orleans, Ho Chi Minh City) and examines their strategies for dealing with storm surges, coastal flooding, and the like. (Recent news illustrates how implementing these strategies is both slow-moving, highly contested, and even politically vexing.) The second part of the book presents various “local strategies” of the four types outlined in the introduction: hard-protect strategies, soft-protect strategies, store strategies, and retreat strategies. No one strategy is universally ideal, and in many cases multiple strategies can be used in one place. Al’s clear, consistent diagrams mean that politicians and other decision makers — not just designers — can understand how the strategies work and what would be the best fit(s) for their situation.

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Author Bio:

Stefan Al, PHD, is an architect, urban designer, and infrastructure expert at global design firm Kohn Pedersen Fox in New York. He is a native of the Netherlands, a low-lying country that would not exist without flood protection.

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Ornament and Identity

Ornament & Identity: Neutelings Riedijk Architects
Neutelings Riedijk Architects
Hatje Cantz, March 2018

Hardcover | 9-3/4 x 11-1/2 inches | 336 pages | 260 illustrations | English | ISBN: 978-3775742153 | $85.00

Publisher Description:

Ornament and Identity is the successor of the well-received At Work, a publication by renowned Rotterdam based architecture firm Neutelings Riedijk. In their new publication they convincingly demonstrate that buildings with a powerful expression create new local identities in a globalized world.

In twelve themed chapters Moiré, Image, Seam, Emblem, Letter, Pattern, Cutout, Ridge, Grid, Lozenge, Relief and Filigree, readers are guided on the exploration of the connection between form, meaning and contemporary ornaments.

Images of realized buildings, intriguing scale models, material samples, and unique ornaments designed by Neutelings Riedijk Architects illustrate the craftsmanship and their search for expression and identity.

dDAB Commentary:

Neutelings Riedijk‘s buildings are easily recognizable: covered in dimples, ripples, and other surface textures, and with complex, sometimes Piranesi-like interiors that belie their relatively straightforward exteriors. The Dutch firm presents their palette of formal maneuvers in Ornament and Identity, a title that clearly expresses why they design buildings the way they do. To fully explain what drives their practice, partners Willem Jan Neutelings, Michiel Riedijk, and Carl Meeusen fill the book’s introduction with a series of paired terms (order and type, abstraction and figuration, whole and fragment, etc.) that argue for “fresh views” as a means of constructing local identities. Following are twelve chapters that “can be interpreted as the architectural representation of the binary terms” from the introduction.

The twelve chapters, with names like emblem, pattern, and lozenge, are used to structure 36 buildings and projects, three per chapter. The buildings are presented solely with full-color photographs (no plans or other drawings), while the projects are described with model photos rather than renderings or drawings. The former’s photos put the emphasis squarely on the various types of ornament — such as the hands on the facades of the City History Museum MAS — while the models convey the porosity and spatial ingenuity of their projects. Each chapter is prefaced by a grid of four detailed images, but those images do not necessarily refer to projects in the same chapter. Without an index or table of contents for the projects, the only way to find a particular building or project is to flip through the book, slowly absorbing the many ways Neutelings Riedijk use ornament to infuse their buildings with identity for its users and residents.

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Author Bio:

Neutelings Riedijk Architects was established in Rotterdam in 1987. Its partners are Willem Jan Neutelings, Michiel Riedijk, and Carl Meeusen.

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Body, Memory, and Architecture

Body, Memory, and Architecture
Kent C. Bloomer, Charles W. Moore, with a contribution by Robert J. Yudell
Yale University Press, September 1977

Paperback | 10-1/4 x 8-1/4 inches | 148 pages | English | ISBN: 978-0300021424 | $X.00

Publisher Description:

As teachers of architectural design, Kent Bloomer and Charles Moore have attempted to introduce architecture from the standpoint of how buildings are experienced, how the affect individuals and communities emotionally and provide us with a sense of joy, identity, and place.

In giving priority to these issues and in questioning the professional reliance on abstract two-dimensional drawings, they often find themselves in conflict with a general and undebated assumption that architecture is a highly specialized system with a set of prescribed technical goals, rather than a sensual social art historically derived from experiences and memories of the human body. This book, an outgrowth of their joint teaching efforts, places the human body at the center of our understanding of architectural form.

Body, Memory, and Architecture traces the significance of the body from its place as the divine organizing principle in the earliest built forms to its near elimination from architectural thought in this century. The authors draw on contemporary models of spatial perception as well as on body-image theory in arguing for a return of the body to its proper place in the architectural equation.

dDAB Commentary:

Briefly mentioned in Avigail Sachs’s history of environmental design in architecture schools in the United States last century, Body, Memory, and Architecture summarizes how Kent Bloomer and Charles Moore taught fundamentals of architecture to students at Yale School of Architecture. Although I didn’t have it as a textbook in the Midwestern architecture school I went to (in one class we did read Chambers for a Memory Palace by Moore and Donlyn Lyndon), some of the ideas entered into my education: namely, to consider the experience of the body in space over the geometric, formal attributes of a building.

Published in 1977, and with the guiding hand of Moore, the book arrived on the hinge between Modernism and Postmodernism, obviously coming down for the latter rather than the former. After chapters that take a historical look at the book’s two broad approaches to architectural design — sensual, bodily experience vs. cerebral, formal geometry — and argue for considering the movements and feelings of bodies in space, the authors discuss Kresge College, which Moore designed with William Turnbull and is now in the process of renewal. The laid back plan in the midst of a redwood forest was a strong counterpart to strict Modernism. But with projects like the Portland Building (1982) by Michael Graves and Moore’s own Piazza d’Italia (1978) pushing Postmodernism into formal irony and two-dimensionality, the spatial interest of Kresge College, which embodied the lessons of Body, Memory, and Architecture, unfortunately got lost in the ensuing years.

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Author Bio:

Yadda…

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XPOSITIONS

XPOSITIONS: Pavilion Dialogues
Studio Link-Arc
Actar, June 2018

Paperback | 7-1/2 x 10-1/2 inches | 176 pages | English | ISBN: 978-1945150623 | $39.95

Publisher Description:

In May 2015, Studio Link-Arc completed its most prominent work to date, the China Pavilion for Expo Milano 2015. The project was China’s first free-standing Expo Pavilion outside of its own borders. XPOSITIONS is not conceived as a monograph that focuses on one project. Instead, it carefully examines the larger ideas woven into the design of the China Pavilion and explores their implications for design and global culture. In addition to presenting the story of the project—from conception through construction and occupancy—the book addresses the larger design forces at play via discussions with key figures in the architecture community: Stefano Boeri, Xiangning Li, and Daniel Libeskind.

dDAB Commentary:

One of the most photogenic pavilions at the Expo 2015 in Milan was the China Pavilion designed by the Academy of Art & Design, Tsinghua University and New York’s Studio Link-Arc. The team conceived of the pavilion as “a field of spaces located beneath a floating cloud.” The roof, serving as the cloud surrogate, was the most striking formal aspect of the pavilion, undulating gently toward the Expo’s main circulation spine and stepping sharply, like a city skyline, at the other end. Made of latticed bamboo panels above glulam beams and a translucent membrane, the roof filtered light to the spaces below, which consisted of cultural, dining, and other functions. The careful balance of complex formal geometries and more traditional materials (wood and bamboo), as well as the fact the pavilion was up for only six months, warrants a book-length case study to explain the design process to those who did and did not attend Expo 2015.

Edited by Original CopyXPOSITIONS is a two-part narrative told in four acts. One of the two intertwining parts is “Dialogues,” interviews with Studio Link-Arc as well Daniel Libeskind, who designed a pavilion for Vanke at the same Expo; Stefano Boeri, who worked on the masterplan for the Expo; and Xiangning Li, who curated the Chinese Pavilion at the 2018 Venice Architecture Biennale. These interviews — turned horizontally on the page, apparent in a spread below — are split into four themes: borders, digital, time, and place. Alternating with them is the second part: “Pavilion,” Link-Arc’s documentation and explanations of the competition-winning concept, the development of the design, the pavilion’s construction, and its final state. An appendix includes drawings, a timeline of the project, and data on the pavilion and its design team. The whole is thorough, insightful, and handsome, making me wish I would have experienced the pavilion during its all-too-brief run on the outskirts of Milan.

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Author Bio:

Studio Link-Arc is an international team of architects and designers based in New York, led by Yichen Lu, Principal and Associate Professor at Tsinghua University.

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Environmental Design

Environmental Design: Architecture, Politics, and Science in Postwar America
Avigail Sachs
University of Virginia Press, July 2018

Hardcover | 7 x 8 inches | 240 pages | | English | ISBN: 978-0813941271 | $39.50

Publisher Description:

Much of twentieth-century design was animated by the creative tension of its essential duality: is design an art or a science? In the postwar era, American architects sought to calibrate architectural practice to evolving scientific knowledge about humans and environments, thus elevating the discipline’s stature and enmeshing their work in a progressive restructuring of society. This political and scientific effort was called “environmental design,” a term expanded in the 1960s to include ecological and liberal ideas. In her expansive new study, Avigail Sachs examines the theoretical scaffolding and practical legacy of this professional effort.

Inspired by Lewis Mumford’s 1932 challenge enjoining architects to go beyond visual experimentation and create complete human environments, Environmental Design details the rise of modernist ideas in the architectural disciplines within the novel context of sociopolitical rather than aesthetic responsibilities. Unlike today’s “starchitects,” environmental designers saw themselves as orchestrators of decision making more than auteurs of form and style. Viewing architectural practice as rooted in Progressive Era politics and the democratic process rather than the European avant-garde, Sachs plots how these social concepts spread via influential architecture schools. This rich examination of pedagogy and practice is a map to both the history of environmental design and the contemporary consequences of architecture understood as a pressing social concern.

dDAB Commentary:

When I attended undergraduate architecture school at Kansas State University in the early 1990s, I thought the situation was unique: two years of environmental design followed by three years of architecture. The two years of environmental design consisted of design studios in architecture, interiors, and landscape architecture and history classes; at the same time we got science, math, writing, and public speaking out of the way to focus on the degree program we applied to (architecture, interiors, or landscape architecture) for the last three years. The 2/3 program, as we called it, changed one year after me to 1/4, meaning less environmental design and more specialized degree classes. Yet I appreciated the 2/3 model, as I liked being exposed to the various disciplines and in that time switched from landscape architecture to architecture as my degree program. Nevertheless, environmental design infused the whole degree program (and still does, per the current curriculum; PDF link), with classes on environmental systems and environment and behavior in the last three years – classes that emphasized a building’s role in nature and the experience of people within buildings.

While I understood environmental design from my experience in school, I had no clue about its history: how did it come about and develop as a curriculum in architecture schools? That story is revealed by Avigail Sachs‘s great Environmental Design. She traces it back to Lewis Mumford’s essay, “Housing,” in the catalog to MoMA’s International Style show in 1932, when he “issued a challenge to architects in the United States, calling on them to use architecture to create complete environments for humans,” per Sachs’s introduction. What follows are the teachings and writings of architects heavily involved in academia, such as Catherine Bauer, William Wurster, Richard Neutra, James Marston Fitch, and Christopher Alexander. The book traces the rise and fall of environmental design, as degree programs were built around it but then pushed out of academia by figures who wanted to maintain the status of “architects” and not have them broaden their scope as “environmental designers.” By the time I started at KSU in 1991, environmental design was well on the way out, meaning the education I received was unique after all. That kind of education is as important now as then and before, with the crisis of climate change calling for designers skilled in creating “complete environments for humans.”

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Author Bio:

Avigail Sachs is Assistant Professor of Architecture and Landscape History and Theory in the College of Architecture and Design at the University of Tennessee.

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Designing the Modern City

Designing the Modern City: Urbanism Since 1850
Eric Mumford
Yale University Press, May 2018

Hardcover | 7 x 10 inches | 360 pages | 125 b/w illustrations | English | ISBN: 978-0300207729 | $40.00

Publisher Description:

Written with an international perspective that encourages cross-cultural comparisons, leading architectural and urban historian Eric Mumford presents a comprehensive survey of urbanism and urban design since the industrial revolution. Beginning in the second half of the 19th century, technical, social, and economic developments set cities and the world’s population on a course of massive expansion. Mumford recounts how key figures in design responded to these changing circumstances with both practicable proposals and theoretical frameworks, ultimately creating what are now mainstream ideas about how urban environments should be designed, as well as creating the field called “urbanism.” He then traces the complex outcomes of approaches that emerged in European, American, and Asian cities.

This erudite and insightful book addresses the modernization of the traditional city, including mass transit and sanitary sewer systems, building legislation, and model tenement and regional planning approaches. It also examines the urban design concepts of groups such as CIAM (International Congresses of Modern Architecture) and Team 10, and their adherents and critics, including those of the Congress for the New Urbanism, as well as efforts toward ecological urbanism. Highlighting built as well as unbuilt projects, Mumford offers a sweeping guide to the history of designers’ efforts to shape cities.

dDAB Commentary:

Eric Mumford’s bio at Washington University describes the Rebecca and John Voyles Professor of Architecture as “an expert on the history of modern architecture and urbanism” and a teacher of “courses in the history and theory of architecture.” With his expertise and constant exposing of students to the history of architecture, he probably could have written Designing the Modern City, a precise and thorough account of urbanism over the last century and a half, from memory. I’m thinking this because his scholarly text aimed at students of architecture and urban design doesn’t have a single footnote. There are plenty of facts in the book, and, sure, a good deal of them are common knowledge and therefore lacking the need for citations; but the inclusion of lists for “further reading” at the end of each of the eight chapters rather than footnotes or even a bibliography is an odd touch that had me wondering.

Seeing the lack of – and therefore need for – an “account of how key figures in design responded to changing social, technical, and economic circumstances with design proposals and built projects,” Mumford focuses on the architects, planners, and urban designers behind the urbanization of Barcelona and the influence of the City Beautiful movement, for example, as well as CIAM, Team 10, Japanese Metabolism, New Urbanism, and other movements taking hold at various times between 1850 and the present. The primarily Western history shifts, albeit briefly, to Africa, Asia, and South America in the last chapter, which focuses on globalization and urbanism over the last half-century. With 150+ years across 360 pages, many of the subjects in the book are only briefly discussed. Yet Mumford’s greatest skill is putting the many designers and projects together in a narrative that flows pretty well across time and place, leading to discoveries that even this reviewer with an urban design degree wasn’t expecting.

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Author Bio:

Eric Mumford is Rebecca and John Voyles Professor of Architecture at Washington University in St. Louis.

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Historic Preservation, Third Edition

Historic Preservation, Third Edition: An Introduction to Its History, Principles, and Practice
Norman Tyler, Ilene R. Tyler, Ted J. Ligibel
W. W. Norton, October 2018

Paperback | 7-1/4 x 9-1/4 inches | 384 pages | 192 illustrations | English | ISBN: 978-0393712971 | $39.95

Publisher Description:

Historic preservation, which started as a grassroots movement, now represents the cutting edge in a cultural revolution focused on “green” architecture and sustainability. This book provides comprehensive coverage of the many facets of historic preservation: the philosophy and history of the movement, the role of government, the documentation and designation of historic properties, sensitive architectural designs and planning, preservation technology, and heritage tourism, plus a survey of architectural styles.

An ideal introduction to the field for students, historians, preservationists, property owners, local officials, and community leaders, this thoroughly revised edition addresses new subjects, including heritage tourism and partnering with the environmental community. It also includes updated case studies to reflect the most important historic preservation issues of today; and brings the conversation into the twenty-first century.

dDAB Commentary:

Twenty-five years ago, in 1994, the first edition of Historic Preservation: An Introduction to Its History, Principles, and Practices was published, more than 25 years after the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966. Just as a lot changed between the passage of the Act and the book’s first edition, a lot has changed in the realm of historic preservation between 1994 and the book’s third edition last year. Most notably, buildings from the Modern and Postmodern movements are now facing needs for preservation; with their sometimes innovative (in the realm of Modernism) or sub-par (re: PoMo) construction, the preservation of notable buildings in these styles faces tricky technical challenges. Additionally, preservation has become cool, addressed by Rem Koolhaas in an exhibition and publication; and older buildings have increasingly becoming the settings for important cultural institutions and other projects.

I’m not familiar with the 1994 and 2009 editions of Historic Preservation, but the third edition is an thorough overview of the field, from philosophies of preservation down to even some technical details. The introduction to preservation in the United States spans a dozen chapters that, among other things, present a timeline of important events in its history (such as the Act of 1966), provide an overview of architectural styles, and run through the legal and economic aspects of the field. Although too basic for preservation architects who may be looking for detailed information on the “practice” aspect of the title, the introduction is ideal for students and young professionals interested in the conservation of old buildings and landscapes; with preservation seen as an important aspect of sustainability and a means of addressing climate change, all architects should be interested.

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Author Bio:

Norman Tyler is emeritus faculty of the Urban and Regional Planning Program at Eastern Michigan University. Ilene R. Tyle built her career as a preservationist through years of advocacy, writing, teaching, and leadership. She currently lives in Ann Arbor with her husband, co-author Norman Tyler. Ted J. Ligibel has been employed in the historic preservation field for over forty years as an activist, educator, and author. [He is] director of the Historic Preservation Program at Eastern Michigan University.

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McKim Mead & White

McKim Mead & White: Selected Works 1879-1915
Charles Follen McKim, William Rutherford Mead, Stanford White, Richard Guy Wilson
Princeton Architectural Press in association with the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art, October 2018

Hardcover | 9 x 12 inches | 428 Pages | English | ISBN: 978-1616897574 | $100.00

Publisher Description:

McKim, Mead & White is the best-known architecture firm of America’s Gilded Age, and designed many of the most iconic buildings including the Boston Public Library, Washington Square Arch, and the campuses of Columbia and New York Universities. The firm built opulent residences and private clubs for the nation’s wealthiest and most powerful, buildings that are now well-loved cultural institutions. McKim, Mead & White: Selected Works 1879-1915 collects the work of these influential architects and their successors. Compiling the original four volumes into one, this magnificent edition is supplemented with an introduction from Richard Guy Wilson and an essay by Leland Roth. Published in association with the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art.

dDAB Commentary:

“Princeton Architectural Press’s Reprint Series was established in 1981,” per the PAPress website, “to make rare volumes on architecture available to a wider audience.” Recognizable by their large size, simple black covers with gold letters, and heavyweight paper, the series reproduces Classical treatises and other titles more than 100 years old, such as Daniel Burnham and Edward Bennett’s Plan of Chicago from 1909. McKim Mead & White: Selected Works 1879-1915 compiles the firm’s four-volume monograph made up of 400 plates. The faithful reproduction, though on a smaller page size than the original, includes an introduction by Richard Guy Wilson and an essay by Leland Roth, who has penned an excellent history to MM&W.

Flipping through page after page of drawings and b/w photographs of the firm’s voluminous output, a few things come to mind. First, MM&W was more than prolific, defining American architecture in the decades after the 1893 Columbian Exposition, the event that brought Neoclassical architecture and planning to the country. Second, the book’s historical photos make changes to the places they created — in their demolition or the growth of the cities around them — explicit; this is particularly true in New York, where their work is in abundance and is the context I’m most familiar with. Third, the original layout of the images often requires going back and forth between vertical and horizontal, something I find annoying. Regardless, the book is a must for fans of McKim, Mead & White and of Classical architecture and urbanism. 

Author Bio:

Richard Guy Wilson holds the Commonwealth Professor’s Chair in Architectural History at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. He has authored, co-authored, or edited over a dozen books.

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Grand Panorama of the Kowloon Walled City

Grand Panorama of the Kowloon Walled City
Kowloon City Expedition (photos and statements), Terasawa Kazumi (drawing), Hiroaki Kani (supervision)
Iwanami Shoten, July 1997

Hardcover | 10-1/4 x 14-1/4 inches | 40 pages | # illustrations | Japanese | ISBN: 4000080709 | ¥3,300

Publisher Description:

Kowloon Walled City in Hong Kong, known as the “Toyo Daimon”, was dismantled in the schedule of return from the UK to China, but in the building which grew like a maze, 50 thousand people lived there. Based on the materials of the group of architects who entered the survey before dismantling, it is the first large picture book to reproduce the ultra high density space with a large section panorama and to clarify the whole picture. (via Google Translate)

dDAB Commentary:

Early among the hundreds of drawings in Drawing Architecture is a fragment of a large, complex section of Kowloon Walled City (KWC), the ad hoc, lawless, dense agglomeration of up to 50,000 people that was demolished by the Hong Kong government in 1993. I was glad to see the drawing facing Mies van der Rohe’s famous Friedrichstrasse Skyscraper Project and among other iconic and more familiar architectural drawings. Like others, I went through a KWC phase and in the process created a web page (since removed from my website but visible on the Internet Archive) about its history and “architecture” and bought nearly a handful of books on the place. One of them is Grand Panorama of the Kowloon Walled City (often called, incorrectly, Kowloon large illustrated online), which I was fortunate to find at Kinokuniya in Tokyo during a trip to Japan 15 years ago. (The book is rare, but these days it’s easy to find online.) Although the text is entirely in Japanese, the photos and drawings make it understandable to just about anybody.

The book is a documentation of KWC by Japanese students shortly before its demolition. The book starts with an aerial view (first spread below) of it in 1992 and then shows the wrecking balls in action on the following spread. A smaller aerial view from 1973 reveals how KWC was a cluster of buildings that eventually congealed together, as if the buildings and its residents were striving for maximum density. Next is the section, covering eight pages on four gatefolds. Although the eight pages cannot be viewed all together, the middle two gatefolds open into a 40-inch-long fragment. (A hi-res snippet can be found here.) With a page size of more than 14 inches tall, each floor is just under an inch tall and people are about a half-inch tall. Even though the students visited KWC when it was abandoned (a photomontage section after the drawing reveals the empty, brightly painted rooms), the section is full of life, packed with belongings and with people depicted having sex (KWC was known as a place of prostitution), cooking, cutting hair — even a child standing on a table to urinate off a balcony. The section is about a real and imagined KWC, but it’s also a summation of cities in general: people living their lives in close proximity yet unaware (for the most part) of what’s happening on the other side of their walls.

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Author Bio:

N/A

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