Ehrlich Yanai Outside-In

Ehrlich Yanai Outside-In: New California Modernism
Steven Ehrlich and Takashi Yanai; Zahid Sardar (Introduction)
The Monacelli Press, April 2019

Hardcover | 9-1/2 x 11-3/4 inches | 240 pages | English | ISBN: 978-1580935029 | $60.00

Publisher Description:

Recipient of the 2015 Firm Award from the American Institute of Architects, EYRC Architects is internationally recognized for elegant design in a modernist spirit. Residential designs are at the heart of the practice, which now encompasses commercial and institutional projects. Sixteen houses are presented in the book, the majority in Southern California and others near San Francisco and Houston. These designs are characterized by the fusion of powerful, simple forms, with the cultural, climatic, and contextual particulars of place. Accompanying the drawings and luxurious color photography are sketches and source material that reveal the genesis of the design as well as the completed project. As Ehrlich says, “Blurring the boundaries between the built and natural environment, our designs merge California modernism with vernacular design elements. Through details and materials, we maximize the home owner’s connection with the site and natural surroundings.”

dDAB Commentary:

Although it’s been a few years since I’ve contributed articles — known as “Ideabooks” — for Houzz, when I think back to it, one of the architects I returned to numerous times was Steven Ehrlich, especially his 700 Palms. Perhaps this frequency stemmed from Houzz being based near San Francisco and therefore attracting many California architects to upload their projects to the site. Whatever the case, Ehrlich made it into my “Regional Modern: Los Angeles” post (part of a series that traversed the US), in which I said he was “clearly inspired by R.M. Schindler” and praised his “carefully composed volumes, surfaces, and openings.” The last — the large openings that connect inside and outside — are particularly important in the context of this monograph, which highlights ten completed and five in-progress single-family houses designed by Ehrlich and Takashi Yanai, who in 2004 joined Ehrlich Architects, now Ehrlich Yanai Rhee Chaney Architects (EYRC). Every house — be they on tight urban sites or on generous lots removed from the city — balances modern residential interiors and carefully controlled exterior spaces and vistas. Or as Zahid Sardar writes in his introductory essay, “rather than being mere ‘machines for living” [their houses] are hand-crafted instruments for living in harmony with nature.”

Two houses stand out from the ten finished ones in the book (I’m always drawn to completed work rather than in-progress projects): Ridge Mountain and Spectral Bridge House. Ridge Mountain is a simple bar building enlivened by its cladding of Cor-ten steel, one of my favorite materials (any maybe one of Ehrlich’s, given his use of it at 700 Palms). The house and smaller outbuilding sit in a stunning landscape near Palm Springs, and the design takes advantage of it through a glass wall that slides open to connect the living room with the deck and pool outside. Spectral Bridge House is located in Venice, California, and is therefore on the urban end of EYRC’s residential spectrum. Three volumes askew from each other form outdoor spaces on the long, narrow lot, while a second-floor bridge leading to the master suite turns the house into “an immersive art experience” (the client is an artist). These and the other completed houses are documented with beautiful photographs (any one of them could have graced the cover!) as well as consistently drawn plans, elevations and sections, and descriptive text; the handful of in-progress projects are given the same, with renderings in place of photos. The whole is a solid argument that EYRC is creating some of the best “new California modernism.”

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Author Bio:

Steven Ehrlich is the founding partner of EYRC Architects … His work has garnered many awards, including the AIA California Maybeck Award and the AIA Los Angeles Gold Medal for Lifetime Achievement. Takashi Yanai is a partner at EYRC and has been Residential Studio Director since 2004.

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Chicago on Foot

Chicago on Foot: An Architectural Walking Tour
Ira J. Bach
J. Philip O’Hara Inc., 1973 (Second Edition)

Hardcover | 8 x 10 inches | 370 pages | English | ISBN: 978-0879554026

Publisher Description:

Chicago is one of the great architectural meccas of the modern world. The names of its architects — Louis Sullivan, Frank Lloyd Wright, William Lebaron Jenney, Daniel Burnham, Mies van der Rohe, C. F. Murphy, Y. C. Wong, to mention just a few — are internationally famous. Their revolutionary concepts of design and construction continue to produce a host of “firsts” — the skyscraper, the iron skeleton, the floating foundation, the Prairie House, the “Chicago window,” the glass wall, the urban atrium house.

Ira Bach, architect, city planner, and ardent walker, has developed 32 tours which provide rich and detailed walks showing Chicago’s most outstanding buildings and its famous neighborhoods — Michigan Avenue, State Street, LaSalle Street, Wacker Drive, the “Gold Coast,” Hyde park, and many others. Included in this edition are Northwestern University campus in Evanston and the town of Riverside, designed by Olmstead [sic] and Vaux who designed among other outstanding parks, Central Park in New York City.

dDAB Commentary:

Chicago on Foot by Ira J. Bach (1906-1985) is one of “101 Publications That Shaped the City and Its Image” included in the recently published Chicago by the Book. I happened to come across and buy Bach’s book at a used bookstore in Chicago when I was there for the 2017 Chicago Architecture Biennial. At the time I was planning what would become NYC Walks, so I was open to books of walking tours — even one that came out the year I was born. From the outside, the most interesting thing about Chicago on Foot (besides the humorous photomontage on its cover) is its size: not quite a coffee table book but hardly a compact size intended to carry with on one of the 32 walks inside. The size, and the fact my copy is a hardcover, make for some good armchair walks, aided by the maps, photographs, and descriptions that are the norm for this type of book. (A word on the maps: in my copy of the second edition some of the maps are numbered, like the first spread below, while some are just streets and walking routes, without any numbers or a list of buildings; I’m guessing this was remedied in future editions.)

In Chicago by the Book, Jay Pridmore, author of numerous books on Chicago architecture, praises Bach’s Chicago on Foot, first published in 1969, as “by genre a guidebook … by its nature a portrait of a moment” and “an endlessly interesting snapshot.” For Pridmore, Bach’s background as a Chicago planning commissioner gave him a unique perspective on the city; that he was also a voracious walker (he has a walkway along the Chicago River named after him!) combined to give him the right credentials to write such a guide. With 32 walks in the second edition, the routes can be short (“terse” to Pridmore), much shorter than the 2-plus-mile tours I tend to give. But that’s understandable, given that Bach talked about every building of interest in an area (not just new buildings) and traversed most of the Loop and Near North Side as well as other parts north, south, and in the suburbs. Bach wrote other Chicago guides, including A Guide to Chicago’s Public Sculpture with Mary Lackritz Gray and A Guide to Chicago’s Historic Suburbs on Wheels & on Foot with Susan Wolfson (she updated later editions of Chicago on Foot), but it’s Chicago on Foot that remains his most cherished — up there with Carl Condit’s The Chicago School of Architecture and 99 other publications that shaped Chicago and its image.

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Author Bio:

As the Executive Director of the Chicago Dwellings Association, Ira Bach reorganized that agency to develop and expand middle income housing in Chicago. Earlier he served the city as Commissioner of City Planning and Secretary of the Chicago Plan Commission, and before that as Executive Director of the Chicago Land Clearance Commission, in which capacity he was in charge of the slum clearance and redevelopment programs that resulted in Lake Meadows, Michael Reese, Prairie Shores, and Hyde Park-Kenwood.

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Chicago by the Book

Chicago by the Book: 101 Publications That Shaped the City and Its Image
The Caxton Club (Editor)
University of Chicago Press, November 2018

Hardcover | 8-1/2 x 9-1/2 inches | 336 pages | 101+ illustrations | English | ISBN: 978-0226468501 | $35.00

Publisher Description:

Despite its rough-and-tumble image, Chicago has long been identified as a city where books take center stage. In fact, a volume by A. J. Liebling gave the Second City its nickname. Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle arose from the midwestern capital’s most infamous industry. The great Chicago Fire led to the founding of the Chicago Public Library. The city has fostered writers such as Nelson Algren, Saul Bellow, and Gwendolyn Brooks. Chicago’s literary magazines The Little Review and Poetry introduced the world to Eliot, Hemingway, Joyce, and Pound. The city’s robust commercial printing industry supported a flourishing culture of the book. With this beautifully produced collection, Chicago’s rich literary tradition finally gets its due.

Chicago by the Book profiles 101 landmark publications about Chicago from the past 170 years that have helped define the city and its image. Each title—carefully selected by the Caxton Club, a venerable Chicago bibliophilic organization—is the focus of an illustrated essay by a leading scholar, writer, or bibliophile.

dDAB Commentary:

The description of this beautifully made and carefully edited book boasts that Chicago is a literary city “despite its rough-and-tumble image.” Ask any architect and they’ll probably agree that Chicago is rough and tumble, but they’ll also say it’s one of the most important cities around the world — if not the most important — when it comes to architecture over the last 150 years. Therefore, how do books and architecture overlap in the Windy City? If we take the Claxton Club’s selection of 101 books from 1844 to 2015 as the best indication, there’s a good deal of architecture/literature overlap. A quick count from the table of contents yields at least 20 books directly or marginally related to architecture. So at least one-fifth of Chicago by the Book deals with the design and construction of the city’s buildings and landscapes. This percentage describes the importance people in Chicago have given to the shaping of their built environment since the Great Fire of 1871, but it also points to the significant role of books and other texts in that process.

Chicago by the Book presents its selection of 101 books in chronological order. Even if one just reads about the 20 architecture-related titles in order, the selection hits upon most of the important moments in the city’s physical evolution, from the Great Chicago Lake Tunnel in the 1860s and Bennett and Burnham’s 1909 Plan of Chicago, to Mies van der Rohe’s towers at 860 and 880 Lake Shore Drive and Carl Condit’s definition of “The Chicago School of Architecture.” Given the fact that Mies’s towers are included as a sales brochure from 860 Lake Shore Drive Trust — much less read and available than Condit’s book or any other book collected here — it does seem that the Claxton Club used any available means (even a questionable one) to touch upon some of the most important Chicago voices and milestones. Each of the 101 publications is documented with one or two photos (usually of the book, but in the case of Mies’s towers, visible in the bottom spread, of them under construction) and a description by a prominent contemporary Chicagoan. The selection of the writers is excellent, with Robert Bruegmann describing Condit’s book, for instance, and architect John Ronan discussing Mies. For ages I disliked books about books, but titles such as Chicago by the Book are making me more and more a fan of them.

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Author Bio:

The Caxton Club was founded in Chicago in January 1895 by fifteen ardent bibliophiles. … Today, the Caxton Club numbers over 300 resident and non-resident members of all ages—authors, binders, book artists, collectors, conservators, dealers, designers, editors, librarians, publishers, and scholars—who still share the love of books.

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Metropolitan Dreams

Metropolitan Dreams: The Scandalous Rise and Stunning Fall of a Minneapolis Masterpiece
Larry Millett
University of Minnesota Press, November 2018

Hardcover | 7 x 9 inches | 248 pages | 140 illustrations | English | ISBN: 978-1517904166 | $29.95

Publisher Description:

When it opened in 1890, the twelve-story Northwestern Guaranty Loan Building was the tallest, largest, and most splendid commercial structure in Minneapolis—a mighty stone skyscraper built for the ages. How this grand Richardsonian Romanesque edifice, which later came to be called the Metropolitan Building, rose with the growth of Minneapolis only to fall in the throes of the city’s postwar renewal, is revealed in Metropolitan Dreams in all its scandalous intrigue. It is a tale of urban growing pains and architectural ghosts and of colorful, sometimes criminal characters amid the grandeur and squalor of building and rebuilding a city’s skyline.

Against the thrumming backdrop of turn-of-the-century Minneapolis, architectural critic and historian Larry Millett recreates the impressive rise of the massive office building, its walls of green New Hampshire granite and red Lake Superior sandstone surrounding its true architectural wonder, a dazzling twelve-story iron and glass light court. The drama, however, was far from confined to the building itself. A consummate storyteller, Millett summons the frenetic atmosphere in Gilded Age Minneapolis that encouraged the likes of Northwestern Guaranty’s founder, real estate speculator Louis Menage, whose shady deals financed this Minneapolis masterpiece—and then forced him to flee both prosecution and the country a mere three years later.

Dubious as its financial beginnings might have been, the economic circumstances of the Metropolitan’s demise were at least as questionable. Anchoring Minneapolis’s historic Gateway District in its heyday, the building’s fortunes shifted with the city’s demographics and finally it fell victim to the fervor of one of the largest downtown urban renewal projects ever undertaken in the United States. Though the long and furious battle to save the Metropolitan ultimately failed in 1962, its ghost persists in the passion for historic preservation stirred by its demise—and in Metropolitan Dreams, whose photographs, architectural drawings, and absorbing narrative bring the building and its story to vibrant, enduring life.

dDAB Commentary:

New York City had Penn Station. Chicago had the Old Chicago Stock Exchange. Every U.S. city of a reasonable size had a pre-WWII building that was demolished but whose presence lingers. I mention Penn Station and the Stock Exchange because they were located in the cities I’m most familiar with and because each had a lasting significance: the demolition of McKim, Mead & White’s Penn Station in the mid-1960s led to the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission; and the demolition of Adler & Sullivan’s Stock Exchange building in the 1970s led to the death of preservationist Richard Nickel and parts of the building being reconstructed at the Art Institute of Chicago. While the unfortunate histories of these two buildings is known to me and many others, I’m guessing the similar fate accorded to the Metropolitan Building isn’t familiar to those at a remove from Minneapolis. This new book from local architectural historian Larry Millett should help fuse the gap between it and the more famous victims of demolition in other American cities.

Built in the 1890s as Northwestern Guaranty Loan Building, the Metropolitan Building took on its lasting name in 1905, when it was bought by the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company of New York. The building designed by E. Townsend Mix stood until the early 1960s, when it was a victim of geography: it sat within a 22-block area in downtown Minneapolis pegged for the Gateway Center urban renewal area. The plan passed unanimously in 1958 and the Metropolitan Building came down a few years later. Instead of being replaced by a modern edifice, the site was used as a parking lot for nearly 20 years, until the horrendous 330 Second Avenue South went up in 1980. Millett, who wrote a lot about the Metropolitan Building before the publication of Metropolitan Dreams, has written that the loss of the old Gateway area is not worth lamenting — but the plan should have spared the Metropolitan Building, which was fully occupied when it was targeted for demolition and was built so strongly it took eight months to pull down. In Metropolitan Dreams Millett dives deeply into the building’s design and realization, the Midwest city’s decisions to develop and demolish, and even how parts of the building live on elsewhere in the city: a great read for Minnesotans but also preservationists in any state.

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Author Bio:

Larry Millett is the author of many notable books on regional architecture, including Once There Were Castles, Minnesota Modern: Architecture and Life at Midcentury, Heart of St. Paul: A History of the Pioneer and Endicott Buildings … and several AIA Guides to the architecture of the Twin Cities. He has also written eight historical novels involving Sherlock Holmes set in turn-of-the-century Minnesota.

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Seeking Chicago

Seeking Chicago: The Stories Behind the Architecture of the Windy City-One Building at a Time
Tom Miller
Universe, March 2019

Paperback | 5-1/2 x 7-3/4 inches | 256 pages | # illustrations | English | ISBN: | $19.95

Publisher Description:

Meticulously researched, engagingly presented, and richly detailed, Seeking Chicago is truly a must-read for anyone interested in the story of the Windy City and how it got that way. Unlike other books about local history, here Tom Miller reveals the stories of many smaller, more modest buildings that are off the beaten track – the very structures that most guide books overlook – along with the iconic landmarks.

Chicago is possibly the most important American city for experiencing important architectural masterpieces. There are numerous ways to learn about its architectural heritage, from museums to curated walking and driving tours and even a boat tour. While the basic factual histories of Chicago’s landmarks are fairly well known, there are additional layers of history – often with dramatic human interest angles – that don’t always get included in the “official” tours. Tom Miller tells the story of Chicago’s rich architectural and social history building by building. The stories behind the city’s buildings is an impressive architectural history reading and a dramatic sampling of American social history–family feuds, scandals, and mob hits. He excels at uncovering the dramas that have unfolded within the architecture and detailing them to tell an engaging and largely unknown side of Chicago’s history.

dDAB Commentary:

Since at least college I’ve been a voracious reader of history; before that, history was just too dry, too full of dates and military conquests. Yet the more I read history books, the more I find myself drawn to certain types — architectural, obviously, yet also urban, geographical, bibliographical, and occasionally science — but turned off by one major strain: social. By “social history,” I don’t mean the “people’s history of X” type books, which give voice to unrepresented people; I’m referring to the histories of people in the upper stratum of society, the rich and powerful that draw people’s attention through their displays of wealth and their actions. In architecture this dislike creates a conundrum, since the rich and powerful are the people that tend to commission architects and build the most attention-getting structures — throughout history and today. That is especially pronounced in New York City (another quandary for me), yet also in other big cities, such as Chicago. With histories that bridge the architectural and the social, Tom Miller’s Seeking Chicago (previously he wrote Seeking New York and he maintains a blog focused on Manhattan) is for me very much a love-hate kind of book.

In Seeking Chicago Miller presents nearly 50 works of architecture: 38 buildings, five monuments, a couple fountains, and a lily pool. Like most guides to the Windy City, the book is heavy in and north of the Loop. Here, in the city’s commercial core, is where its iconic buildings — old and new — can be found: the Louis Sullivan’s Auditorium Building, SOM’s Sears Tower (yes, I know, Willis Tower), and Frank Gehry’s Jay Pritzker Pavilion. And just north of the city, in the Gold Coast, is where the rich lived. Miller’s essays on famous and not-so-famous buildings in and beyond the Loop trace their histories, but from a perspective that values lesser known anecdotes. Sometimes we learn why a building looks the way it does, be it through its design or its evolution over time, but more often we learn stories about the people behind the designs: sometimes the architect but more often the client. Although I read Seeking Chicago with my dislike for social history unconsciously rattling around in my head, many times in the book I found myself getting pulled along by Miller’s prose, digesting all of the various histories. He is very good at gracefully telling decades of architectural/social history on familiar and overlooked gems, each in just a handful of pages.

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Author Bio:

Tom Miller moved to New York City in 1979 from Dayton, Ohio. The transplanted “Buckeye” … currently holds the rank of Deputy Inspector within the NYPD’s Auxiliary Police Force. In 2009 he started his blog, “Daytonian in Manhattan” which has now reviewed over a thousand buildings, statues and other points of interest. He is the author of Seeking New York published by Universe in 2015.

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Cultivating Compassion

Cultivating Compassion: Humanistic Architecture as Practiced by JJP Architects and Planners
Joshua J. Pan
Tongji University Press, November 2018

Paperback | 9-1/2 x 9-1/2 inches | 268 pages | 475 illustrations | English/Chinese | ISBN: 978-7560879048 | $59.95

Publisher Description:

This book is a monograph of J.J. Pan and Partners. Mr. Joshua Pan, one of the few western educated Taiwanese elite architects, returned to Taiwan from the U.S. in 1976 and started J.J. Pan and Partner. Their success is originated from their maturity and confidence on their professionalism, sense of identity towards the local culture and a strong sense of social responsibility. The basic belief behind Mr. Pan’s pursuit of excellence falls on his value of harmony with nature, proper use of technologies and materials, and people–orientation. These principles not only guided JJP Architects over the past four decades but will continue to lead JJP’s future generations despite various challenges.

dDAB Commentary:

Cultivating Compassion is the fourth monograph on the firm of Taiwanese architect J.J. Pan, but it is the first retrospective one, covering four decades of JJP Architects’ output rather than just the previous ten years, as was done in the others. Before encountering the first projects bearing his name in the pages of Cultivating Compassion, we learn about J.J Pan’s architectural education, which started in Taiwan but then moved to the United States for degrees from Rice University and Columbia University; the latter’s focus on urban design prepared him for the large-scale projects he would eventually tackle after returning to Taiwan. Before moving back to Taiwan with his wife in 1976, J.J. Pan worked for a trio of firms in New York. A promising early project, one he designed while employed at Davis Brody and Associates, was SUNY Buffalo’s Joseph P. Ellicott Complex. His design, a modern interpretation of a medieval European city, broke down the scale of the large buildings and eventually landed on the cover of Progressive Architecture. The design prefigures the capable handling of massing visible in the large projects he would design in Taiwan.

Yet if J.J. Pan is known to people outside of Taiwan it is for a small project, not a large one: the Ring of Celestial Bliss. One of many projects the firm has designed for Delta Electronics, the project was the recipient of a 2015 A+ Award from Architizer and has therefore been seen by an international audience. Appropriately, the temporary structure graces the book’s cover. Inside it is documented, like other projects in the book, with finished photographs, construction photos, drawings, and diagrams that clearly convey the most important design features; in the case of the Ring of Celestial Bliss, the diagrams focus on the temporary structure’s cradle-to-cradle design. It and the couple-dozen other projects are presented in three chapters (Vision, Social Impact, and Sustainability), each of which is prefaced by a “Discourse” or “Dialogue”: a long essay and interviews that reflect upon the work of J.J. Pan Architects and Planners — and look forward to the firm’s lasting future.

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Author Bio:

Joshua J. Pan received his Master of Science degree in Architecture/Urban Design from Columbia University. He worked with firms such as Philip Johnson; Davis, Brody & Associates; and Collins Uhl Hoisington Anderson in the U.S. for nearly 10 years before returning to Taiwan in 1976. Founded in 1981, J. J. Pan and Partners has now grown into a multi-disciplinary group with offices in Taipei, Shanghai, Xiamen and Beijing.

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100 Years, 100 Artworks

100 Years, 100 Artworks: A History of Modern and Contemporary Art
Ágnes Berecz
Prestel, April 2019

Hardcover | 8-1/2 x 10-3/4 inches | 216 pages | 100 illustrations | English | ISBN: 978-3791384849 | $34.95

Publisher Description:

Starting with Marcel Duchamp’s 1919 whimsical, brilliant L.H.O.O.Q., this compendium offers a year-by-year tour of iconic paintings, photographs, sculptures, installations, and performance pieces from all over the world. The works are carefully selected to showcase a diverse range of artists. Read from cover to cover, this volume offers an evocative summary of stylistic trends, historic events, and technological innovations that changed art over the past 100 years. Opening the book to any random page will illuminate a singular perspective and aesthetic delight. Each work is impeccably reproduced and presented in double-page spreads alongside informative and engaging texts. From Georgia O’Keeffe and Man Ray to Kara Walker and Ai Weiwei, this unique survey will both satisfy and surprise art lovers everywhere.

dDAB Commentary:

I can’t think of anything more flattering than having a format I developed be appealing enough to have a life beyond my own contributions. Such is the case with 100 Years, 100 Artworks, which follows from my 100 Years, 100 Buildings and 100 Years, 100 Landscape Designs. (Prestel, which published my two books, asked for my permission, something I was glad to give.) While I’ll admit I didn’t invent or beat others to the punch in the one-project-per-year format (C20 has published a few of them, though I didn’t discover them until after pitching my first 100 Years book to Prestel in 2015), I’ll also admit the approach isn’t easy, especially when it comes to curating the selection. Although the format allows for a chronological unfolding of a century — its best trait — it also forces the omission of many projects and requires extensive research, at least with buildings and landscape designs, to nail down sometimes elusive dates. With this in mind, I’m excited to see another author tackle another theme using the 100 Years structure.

Flipping through 100 Years, 100 Artworks by art historian Ágnes Berecz, my first thought is that the format is more suited to art than buildings and landscapes. Most art takes a lot less time to produce than architecture; and given that paintings, sculptures, and other artworks are typically displayed in exhibitions, dates are easier to establish. Although the media of art can vary from two-dimensional canvases to three-dimensional sculptures and fleeting performances, seeing 100 years of art unfold year by year really provides a strong indication of how art has changed in that time and how artists have responded to the world around them. Curiously, 100 Years, 100 Artworks is bookended by a couple readymades: Duchamp’s mustached Mona Lisa and Karin Schneider’s piece that consists of an iPad displaying “SHE” in front of a black canvas, both tucked into a custom sleeve. The former is famous but the latter is unknown to me. This reflects the book as a whole: familiar works by famous artists are loaded at the front, while the years closer to the present are more obscure. In turn, I enjoyed discovering artworks this century, when I’ve spent less time looking at art and more time writing about buildings. Nevertheless, every now and then I came across an artwork I’ve seen in person, such as Christian Marclay’s The Clock. Berecz calls it “a broken monument to the history of cinema” and “a riddle that enchants and frustrates its viewers” — revealing takes on just one of a hundred artworks worth knowing about.

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Author Bio:

Ágnes Berecz is an art historian who has taught courses at Christie’s New York, the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York, and the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. She completed her Ph.D. at Panthéone–Sorbonne University in Paris.

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Life Takes Place

Life Takes Place: Phenomenology, Lifeworlds, and Place Making
David Seamon
Routledge, May 2018

Paperback | 6 x 9 inches | 230 pages | English | ISBN: 9780815380719 | $47.95

Publisher Description:

Life Takes Place argues that, even in our mobile, hypermodern world, human life is impossible without place. Seamon asks the question: why does life take place? He draws on examples of specific places and place experiences to understand place more broadly. Advocating for a holistic way of understanding that he calls “synergistic relationality,” Seamon defines places as spatial fields that gather, activate, sustain, identify, and interconnect things, human beings, experiences, meanings, and events.

Throughout his phenomenological explication, Seamon recognizes that places are multivalent in their constitution and sophisticated in their dynamics. Drawing on British philosopher J. G. Bennett’s method of progressive approximation, he considers place and place experience in terms of their holistic, dialectical, and processual dimensions. Recognizing that places always change over time, Seamon examines their processual dimension by identifying six generative processes that he labels interaction, identity, release, realization, intensification, and creation.

Drawing on practical examples from architecture, planning, and urban design, he argues that an understanding of these six place processes might contribute to a more rigorous place making that produces robust places and propels vibrant environmental experiences. This book is a significant contribution to the growing research literature in “place and place making studies.”

dDAB Commentary:

The phrase “life takes place” hints at the fact that all of our lives happen…somewhere. Even when we browse in the supposedly placeless world of the internet and partake in other acts across virtual networks, we are doing those things in a place: in an office, in bed, in a cafe, even on the toilet. That “life takes place” is just obvious. But like many things that are obvious it ends up not being explored as much as it should. When it is, at least in the realm of architecture and the built environment, place is something to be created, designed for people in a way that enables for different actions to take place. People sleep at home, work at the office, relax in the park, dance in the nightclub, and so forth. Of course, reality is a lot more complex and a lot less regimented. But how do we portray the interactions of people and places? This is an important question, especially if we want to move beyond any direct causal connections between the designed environment and people’s actions and well-being. David Seamon, a professor at Kansas State University (where I attended architecture school a couple decades ago), tackles this provocative topic in his latest book of architectural phenomenology.

First off, I’ll admit this is not an easy book to get into and then tackle. Its language and point of view are specialized, making it more suited to academics interested in philosophy and phenomenology rather than architects concerned with place making. Regardless, Seamon walks the reader step-by-step through his almost mathematical definitions of understanding place, making complex concepts understandable. He starts with “analytic relationality” vs. “synergistic relationality,” in which the first “is understood conceptually as a collection of parts which are arbitrarily identified as a series of linkages then measured and correlated to demonstrate stronger and weaker connections and relationships” and the second “assumes a phenomenological perspective and works to interpret place conceptually as an integrated, generative field that shapes and is shaped by parts integrally interconnected in a physical and experiential whole.” (See what I mean by specialized?) He then moves on to monads, dyads, and triads of place: The monad simply defines a place as a thing, such as a school, while a dyad sets up a place as consisting of opposites (e.g. within and without), and triads see affirming (active) and receptive (passive) impulses interacting with a third, reconciling impulse.

Basing much of his thesis on the philosophical texts of J.G. Bennett, Seamon defines each of the triads’ impulses as 1 (affirming), 2 (receptive) and 3 (receptive) and breaks down their interactions in six ways: 1-3-2, 2-3-1, 3-2-1, 3-1-2, 2-1-3, and 1-2-3. Furthermore, he links these numbered impulses more directly to place, making them sequentially People-in-Place (PP), Environmental Ensemble (EE), and Common Presence (CP), in turn yielding: PP-CP-EE, EE-CP-PP, CP-EE-PP, CP-PP-EE, EE-PP-CP, and PP-EE-CP. Trust me, this makes a bit more sense reading the book than seeing it here, but Seamon does simplify these six triads even more as, respectively, Place Interaction, Place Identity, Place Release, Place Realization, Place Intensification, and Place Creation. More difficult than following the logic in these interactions is seeing them in the world around us; so Seamon uses stories from newspapers and short examples to create narrative linkages between the triads and our understanding of them. It takes some effort, but I think Seamon’s book is an important addition to the libraries of people who are versed in space syntax and who, more importantly, care deeply about how places are shaped and lived in.

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Author Bio:

David Seamon is a Professor of Architecture at Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kansas, USA. Trained in geography and environment-behavior research, he is interested in a phenomenological approach to place, architecture, and environmental design as place making.

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General Theory of Urbanization 1867

General Theory of Urbanization 1867
Ildefons Cerdà
Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia (IAAC) & Actar, March 2018

Hardcover | 7-3/4 x 10-1/2 inches | 720 pages | English | ISBN: 978-1945150906 | $49.95

Publisher Description:

First translation into English on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the publication of the General Theory of Urbanization by Ildefons Cerdà, an essential work on urban development.

In 1867 Ildefons Cerdà published his “Teoria general de la urbanització.” In this text, the “science of building cities”, understood as a phenomenon, became a new discipline with a broad economic, social and cultural impact on the life of the people of the city. Coinciding with 150 years since its publication, its first translation into English is being presented along with the publishing online urbanization.org with the statistics transformed into interactive graphics and open data, with the aim of expanding the knowledge of Cerdà’s work and encouraging debate on the process of “urbanization” in the future.

dDAB Commentary:

Don’t let the spreads below fool you. This book has very few illustrations (less than 10), and they are ancillary to the main 700-page text, the first English translation of Ildefons Cerdà’s General Theory of Urbanization, which recently celebrated its 150th anniversary. This isn’t to say the project of translating and celebrating Cerdà’s influential publication on the “science of making cities” did not yield visual materials: these are collected at urbanization.org, which is “publishing [the Theory‘s] statistical and analyses in graphs and interactive maps as an open data platform.” Produced by IAAC, the online platform also includes the translation of the second volume of Cerdà’s Theory, with the first volume printed and bound in book form by Actar and IAAC. Yet without illustrations, and being full of anachronistic writing*, this book by the planner of Barcelona’s Eixample is a historical artifact for planning scholars and others strongly interested in 19th century urbanism, not for the general reader.

*One example, from §-VII The Laws of Urban Function / 2A On urban function, from the standpoint of roads / B On urban functions and roads in the longitudinal sense / C On the function in the longitudinal sense of the road on the part of pedestrians: “The extraordinary volume of petticoats that fashion has imposed on ladies in our times greatly increases the difficulties of walking on our sidewalks – all the more so because certain considerations involving the weaker sex impose certain sacrifices on the stronger that not everyone performs with spontaneous generosity.”

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Author Bio:

Ildefons Cerdà was the progressive Catalan Spanish urban planner who designed the 19th-century “extension” of Barcelona called the Eixample.

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Labics – Structures

Labics – Structures
Maria Claudia Clemente, Francesco Isidori
Park Books, March 2019

Hardcover | 9 x 12 inches | 420 pages | 660 illustrations | English | ISBN: 978-3038601289 | $69.00

Publisher Description:

Labics is a rising Rome-based architectural firm that has gained great international acclaim in recent years for both its projects and its submissions to major competitions. Its guiding principle is the idea of “structure.” Each of the firm’s projects—which range from housing and office buildings to museums, cultural centers, schools, subway stations, and public spaces—is intended to exemplify the importance of the respective type of structure.

Labics—Structures is the first book on Labics’s remarkable and rapidly growing body of work. It is arranged in four chapters that explore the idea of structure in different contexts: Geometric, Bearing, Circulation, and Public Space Structures. Alongside topical essays, it features twenty projects selected by the firm’s founding directors, Maria Claudia Clemente and Francesco Isidori, to represent the diversity of the firm’s work, as well as its wide geographic reach—with buildings in Italy, Finland, Switzerland, England, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Saudi Arabia, and Iran. Each project is documented with atmospheric photographs and a wealth of plans and diagrams to illustrate concepts and details.

dDAB Commentary:

The most high-profile commission for Labics, the Italian architecture and planning firm founded in 2002, is Citta’ del Sole. The mixed-use project in Rome squeezes office, retail, and residential uses on to an irregular site it shares with older buildings. A dramatic cantilever expresses how some of the functions are lifted high into the air, a decision that preserves existing buildings but also creates a zone between the base buildings and the raised buildings: an interstitial public space the complex “gives back” to the public equivalent to the area it “takes away” at grade. The project, completed in 2016 following a 2007 competition, makes it clear that Labics — the practice of Maria Claudia Clemente and Francesco Isidori — concerns itself with the city and its occupants as well as individual buildings and their own occupants. Clemente actually spells out in “Public Space,” one of four essays inserted between 22 Labics projects, how the duo sees architecture and the city as “no longer separate and often opposing entities, each defending their own position, but both parts of a wider, common system.” Fittingly, Citta’ del Sole follows immediately after this essay, occupying a prominent place in the middle of the book, and is given 30 pages, more than most projects in the book. (It also graces the book’s cover.)

Labics – Structures carefully presents Citta’ del Sole and the other 21 projects through drawings and photographs; the former are consistently drawn (though unfortunately not keyed) and the latter alternate between photos of completed buildings and photos of models, both for buildings and projects. All of the photos are done with the washed-out look that is so popular these days. Although I’m not a huge fan of this style of photography that don’t embrace shadows, it’s great to see so many model shots, especially given how well-crafted their models are. It’s apparent they take pride in them too: the table of contents and first images for each project feature photos of models in Labics’ studio space. If this monograph were only the 22 projects as documented, I would like it but not love it. But with the addition of the four essays (“Geometry,” “Tectonic,” and “Circulation” accompanying “Public Space”) the book is that much better. The essays amplify the considerations that drive Labics and show how their designs reach back into history (esp. in Italy, from Ancient Rome and the Renaissance to Aldo Rossi and Giancarlo de Carlo last century) to acknowledge the past while always looking forward.

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Author Bio:

Maria Claudia Clemente and Francesco Isidori are founding directors of Labics and served as visiting critics at Cornell University’s Department of Architecture in Rome and Ithaca, NY.

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