Amale Andraos, Shannon Werle (Editors)
Columbia GSAPP/Actar, April 2019
Spira-bound paperback | 8 x 11 inches | 372 pages | English | ISBN: 978-1941332511 | $35.00
Abstract is the yearly publication of work and research from the Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation (GSAPP). Produced through the Office of the Dean Amale Andraos, the archive of student work contains documentation of exceptional projects, selected by faculty at the conclusion of each semester.
If any architecture school gives an excessive amount of attention to its year-end presentation of student work and the goings-on of the school, it’s Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, best known as GSAPP (“Gee sap”). Long called Abstract, the publications this century are bold in format and design, each one different, or slightly different, from its predecessor (those from the 1990s, which I’m also familiar with, are relatively straightforward). For the years under dean Mark Wigley, graphic designer Stefan Sagmeister was responsible for the design of the books, which had holes cut into them, featured a movable magnet on its cover, or even ditched the print format altogether (that didn’t go over well, as students tossed the plastic non-books in the trash and used them as ashtrays). Each one was a standalone thesis on graphic design. Since Amale Andraos took over as dean in 2014, the design has been more consistent. Designed by Common Name, the sizable volumes are marked by large wire bindings and a clear organization of GSAPP’s many offerings: studios; events, exhibitions, and publications; and research.
Abstract 2018 starts with the studios — seven of them, from Advanced Architecture Studio VI down to Core Architecture Studio I — that are explained briefly in words and then followed by numerous pages of images keyed to those descriptions (first two spreads below). With a few images/projects per studio, we’re seeing juts a small fraction of the projects produced by the students at GSAPP, but since Abstract is one way Columbia recruits prospective students (at least, I’m guessing it is) we’re seeing the best of the best; later in the book is a presentation of “award-winning portfolios.” What I noticed perusing this first section was how much the projects are aligned to their professors; a project in Tatiana Bilbao’s “The Mexican Dream” studio looks much like one of Bilbao’s own projects, while those in Jing Liu’s “The House Today” studio can’t help but remind me of SO-IL. This student/professor alignment is hardly unique to GSAPP, but I couldn’t help noticing it in this issue of Abstract. I also liked looking at the many pages of jury photos, seeing what social media imagery made the cut and was presented on the narrow yellow pages between chapters (third spread), and turning the book 90 degrees to read the brief descriptions of lectures and other events I missed (bottom spread). All in all the book just scratches the surface on what transpires at GSAPP over the course of a year, but it’s enough to grasp the quality of what’s produced by the students with their professors.