Projects and Their Consequences: Reiser + Umemoto
Jesse Reiser, Nanako Umemoto
Princeton Architectural Press, May 2019
Flexicover | 9 x 12 inches | 320 pages | 400 illustrations | English | ISBN: 978-1616897192 | $60.00
Projects and Their Consequences presents fifteen key projects from leading architectural thinkers Reiser + Umemoto. Projects and Their Consequences traces thirty years of innovative, multidisciplinary investigations of form, structure, technique, and planning. Projects include large-scale studies of infrastructure for the East River Corridor and Hudson Yards areas in Manhattan and the Alishan Railway in Taiwan, as well as schemes for cultural institutions including the New Museum, Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh, and University of Applied Arts Vienna. Also included are thought-provoking “textual projects”: narrative works that blur the boundaries of art and architecture. Projects and Their Consequences balances incisive interviews and essays with more than 400 strikingly original drawings, collages, and paintings. Large-format and beautifully designed, it is a necessary volume for architects and those interested in the intersection of architecture, art, and culture.
My first thought upon opening Projects and Their Consequences and scanning its table of contents was, “Where’s O-14?” I wrote about the concrete diagrid tower in How to Build a Skyscraper and before that reviewed the book-length case study put out by the Architectural Association on this blog. It seemed odd that such an important project, as well as and other recent buildings or projects under construction, are not found in the pages of this new monograph on RUR Architecture, the studio of Jesse Reiser and Nanako Umemoto. But the first paragraph of the Preface immediately explains the omission: the book “will be the first of three volumes.” As such the four thematic sections (Textural Projects – Narrative, Material Diagram – Scapes, Infrastructure – Territories, and Cultural Institutions – Environments) that present nearly twenty projects in roughly chronological order, from 1984 to 2012, function like an archive, a glimpse at the origin and evolution of Reiser and Umemoto’s New York studio. The lengthy Introduction, titled “It Could Always Be Otherwise,” accentuates this function, with stories of the partners’ (in work and life) upbringings and influences and numerous theoretical statements that are aligned with their footholds in academia, most notably at Columbia and Princeton.
What stands out from the many projects is not one or the other project, but the fact RUR was a consistent presence in high-profile competitions in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Here those include the Yokohama Port Terminal (1995, won by FOA) and Kansai National Diet Library (1996, finalist), both in Japan; the IIT Student Center (1997, won by OMA) in Chicago; and the Eyebeam Atelier (2001, won by Diller Scofidio + Renfro), the New Museum of Contemporary Art (2003, won by SANAA), and the ideas competition for the West Side Yards (1999, won by Peter Eisenman), all in New York City. Though not victorious in these competitions, the designs were influential through their publication in Assemblage, AD, and elsewhere. That their descriptions in Projects and Their Consequences are in the present rather than past tense makes them new again — or at least new to people only familiar with O-14 and other recent projects. With those still to come, I’m eagerly looking forward to the next two volumes of RUR’s three-part monograph.
Jesse Reiser and Nanako Umemoto are the founders and principals of RUR Architecture DPC, an internationally recognized design firm based in New York City.