Designing & Building: Rockhill and Associates
Rockhill and Associates, Brian Carter (Editor)
Publisher, April 2011 (Second Edition)
Paperback | 8-1/2 x 8-1/2 inches | 120 pages | 200 illustrations | English | ISBN: 978-0929112596 | $39.95 CAD
This substantially renewed second edition contains twelve projects from the Kansas architectural practice of Rockhill and Associates, spanning from their early design-build work to the recent completion of a 37-building affordable housing complex in New Mexico. The firm’s work exhibits a keen understanding of the house as an ecosystem, exploring building design that capitalizes on the features of the natural environment. Preface by Christine Macy, essays by Brian Carter and Juhani Pallasmaa, postscript by Tod Williams.
In my review of the new, long-overdue monograph on Studio 804 I mentioned the overlap between the work designed and built by the students at KU and that of the studio’s leader, Dan Rockhill. The shared concerns include sustainability (especially passive heating and cooling), recycling, prefabricated construction, and the fact the architect and the architects-in-training actually build their projects. Reading that monograph prompted me to look again at my copy of the monograph on Rockhill & Associates, which was released in 2005 and then expanded in 2011. About half of the latter’s twelve projects were completed since the publication of the first edition. Most of the newer buildings, like the older ones, are in Eastern Kansas (Rockhill and Studio 804 are based in Lawrence), but the most recent project, Lolomas, is way out in New Mexico and sees Rockhill extending his skills from single-family houses to multi-family housing and showing his ability to learn from vernacular building in different contexts.
Although far too many architectural monographs exist merely to promote an architect or firm, the best see the same using the medium to articulate their ideas, thoroughly document their work, and use the self-reflection to refine their design sense moving forward. I sense these idealized traits in the second edition of Designing & Building, which offers much more than is available on Rockhill’s website, both in words and in images (photos and drawings, the latter not found online) and includes essays by Brian Carter and Juhani Pallasmaa (his even updated for the 2011 edition) to further articulate the ideas embedded in Rockhill’s work. Eight years later, I can’t help but wonder if Dalhousie University will produce a third edition, allowing people outside of Eastern Kansas to see what Rockhill has been up to this decade beyond his more high-profile work with Studio 804.
Rockhill and Associates are architects, planners, developers, furniture makers, preservationists, modernists, teachers, old school master builders. We are interested in design at any scale and level of complexity. We work on anything we find interesting.
Makers of Modern Architecture, Volume III: From Antoni Gaudí to Maya Lin
New York Review Books, September 2018
Hardcover | 5-3/4 x 8-1/2 inches | 336 pages | 40 illustrations | English | ISBN: 978-1681373027 | $29.95
Martin Filler’s “contribution to both architecture criticism and general readers’ understanding is invaluable,” according to Publishers Weekly. This latest installment in his acclaimed Makers of Modern Architecture series again demonstrates his unparalleled skill in explaining the revolutionary changes that have reshaped the built environment over the past century and a half. These studies of more than two dozen master builders–women and men, celebrated and obscure, idealists and opportunists–range from the environmental pioneer Frederick Law Olmsted and the mystical eccentric Antoni Gaudí to the present-day visionaries Frank Gehry and Maya Lin.
Filler’s broad knowledge embraces everything from the glittering Viennese luxury of Josef Hoffmann to the heavy-duty construction of the New Brutalists, from the low-cost postwar suburbs of the Levitt Brothers to today’s super-tall condo towers on Manhattan’s Billionaire’s Row. Sometimes the interplay of social and political forces leads to dark results, as with Hitler’s favorite architect, Albert Speer, and interior designer, Gerdy Troost. More often, though, heroic figures including Frank Lloyd Wright, Louis Kahn, and Lina Bo Bardi offer uplifting inspiration for the future of the one art form we all live with—and in—every day.
The most that anybody who write about books could ask for is that their review sparks the reader to go out (or click) and buy the book. In just about all cases the critic is unaware of such an outcome, but I’ll admit that Martin Filler’s piece on Lynne Sagalynn’s Power at Ground Zero prompted me to buy her weighty tome on the “Politics, Money, and the Remaking of Lower Manhattan.” His 2017 review of the book was combined with two other books on Ground Zero and the subsequent redevelopment of the World Trade Center site, but most of his words were devoted to Sagalyn’s thorough account rather than Judith Dupré’s biography of One World Trade Center or Jay D. Aronson’s Who Owns the Dead? The Science and Politics of Death at Ground Zero.
Filler’s WTC piece is one of 19 essays from the New York Review of Books that have been assembled into the third volume of his Makers of Modern Architecture series. Like the two predecessors, the essays take the name of the main personality — usually an architect — involved on the project rather than the book they were originally published about. (While I can’t say if this applies to all of the essays in the book, it is interesting to note that they are ordered by the subject’s date of birth rather then by their date of publication in NYRB.) Hence, the article with Sagalyn’s book is titled in Volume III as “David Childs / Santiago Calatrava,” they being the architects of One World Trade Center and the PATH Terminal, respectively, the most attention-getting aspects of WTC. This simple shift from book to architect would appear to elevate the myth of the lone genius but Filler tries to head us off at the pass, if you will, writing in the introduction: “However much a principal architect might drive the process, … it is hugely misleading to perpetuate persistent stereotypes of the individual genius.” While the Table of Contents implies such a stereotype, Filler’s criticism is more balanced, aware of the the intricate networks of people needed to design and construct a building, and astute at reassessing the careers of architects as he digests books about them.
Martin Filler was born in 1948 and received degrees in Art History from Columbia. Nearly 1,100 of his writings have been published in more than thirty-five journals, magazines, and newspapers in the US, Europe, and Japan during his five-decade career. Since 1985 his essays on modern architecture have appeared regularly in The New York Review of Books.
The ABC’s of Triangle, Square, Circle: Bauhaus and Design Theory
Ellen Lupton, J. Abbott Miller
Princeton Architectural Press, March 2019
Hardcover | 9 x 11 inches | 72 pages | English | ISBN: 978-1616897987 | $29.95
The Bauhaus, the legendary school in Dessau, Germany, transformed architecture and design around the world. This book broke new ground when first published in 1991 by introducing psychoanalysis, geometry, early childhood education, and popular culture into the standard political history of the Bauhaus. The ABC’s of The Bauhaus also introduced two young designers, Ellen Lupton and J. Abbott Miller, whose multidisciplinary approach changed the field of design writing and research. With a new preface by Lupton and Miller, this collection of visually and intellectually stimulating essays is a must-read for educators and students.
The Bauhaus existed for only 14 years (1919-1933), but the school’s influence on architecture and design over the last century is huge and lasting. I’m no expert on the Bauhaus, but it seems to be that much of this influence is merely attributed to the Bauhaus, as if the institution is a stand-in for all things Modern. Much of this has to do with the personalities that started, ran, and taught at the school: Walter Gropius, Mies van der Rohe, Johannes Itten, Paul Klee, and László Moholy-Nagy, to name a few. It also stems from Gropius’s Bauhaus complex in Dessau, which facilitated the move from Weimar in the mid-1920s, and other designs that came from the people involved with the school. Furthermore, the closure of the school under pressure of the Nazi regime and the ensuing diaspora of “Bauhauslers” spread the school’s “gospel” to North America and other parts of the globe. With the centenary falling this year (more precisely, on April 1), there’s plenty of attention being levied once again at the Bauhaus and its influence.
Like International Architecture by Walter Gropius, The ABC’s of Triangle, Square, Circle has been reprinted to coincide with this 100th anniversary. While the former was published in 1925, the latter came out in 1991 as a companion to an exhibition at the Cooper Union in New York. This year’s reprint is the first hardcover edition. Even though I haven’t seen the 1991 edition, the hardcover is a thing of beauty. The book focuses on the Bauhaus’s graphic design, particularly the introductory class taught by Itten. Its production nearly 30 years ago was literal cut and paste, done by a young and unknown Ellen Lupton and J. Abbott Miller, both of whom trained at Cooper Union. They used a hybrid of digital and manual techniques, though the 2019 edition looks entirely digital. I’m not sure if it is or not, but it doesn’t really matter; the book is a visual feast that uses text and grids and lines and images to explain the revolutionary thinking born a century ago.
Ellen Lupton is the senior curator of contemporary design at Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum and founding director of the Graphic Design MFA program at Maryland Institute College of Art. J. Abbott Miller uses design to explore and interpret art, architecture, performance, fashion, and design. As a partner in the New York office of Pentagram, he combines the work of editor, writer, curator, and designer. Lupton and Miller are both recipients of the AIGA Medal for lifetime achievement.
Architectural Guide New York: Critic’s Guide to 100 Iconic Buildings in New York from 1999 to 2020
DOM Publishers, March 2019
Paperback | 5-1/2 x 9-1/2 inches | 256 pages | 270 illustrations | English | ISBN: 978-3869224312 | €38.00
This architectural guide brings together 100 of the most original structures built in New York City since 1999. Vladimir Belogolovsky pairs them with such nicknames as Guillotine, Peacock, Shark’s Fin, Turtle Shell, and Woodpecker. The New York-based author’s selection covers buildings realized by the world’s most renowned architects, in a period when their creations were celebrated as art, and personal styles were encouraged by the media, critics, and clients.
The featured time span begins with the rise of the starchitect in the late 1990s, and ends in the present day. But the mission of the book is not only to document; it is also to celebrate New York’s transformative energy. Many of the buildings were designed either by foreign architects or those who settled in the city and now call it home.
Through witty, incisive commentary, catchy nicknames, quotes from the author’s interviews with the architects, and detailed maps, this singular guide allows readers to see many of New York’s contemporary icons in a new way.
Having read and reviewed numerous architectural guides published by DOM (Berlin, Venice, Japan and Taiwan, even Pyongyang), I know what to expect when seeing a new one: great color photos, the occasional drawing, very well crafted maps, QR codes linked to Google Maps, easy-to-follow page layout that uses color to aid in navigation, a 5-1/2 x 9-1/2 inch trim size, and a simple cover with the DOM logo. The consistent format of the architectural guides is enlivened by one variable: the author. Not only do the authors inject their points of view, style, and knowledge into the guide, they direct the guide’s content. Therefore Clemens F. Kusch and Anabel Gelhaar’s Venice guide presents buildings and projects after 1950, for example, while Dominik Schendel’s Berlin guide is composed as four walks through about a century of the city’s architecture. Hence, the guides are as much about the author’s contribution as they are about DOM’s goal of creating “studious architectural reference books [and] expedition guides into the unknown.”
Vladimir Belogolovsky “Critic’s Guide to 100 Iconic Buildings in New York from 1999 to 2020” is the second NYC guide for DOM, but the first in English (it follows Bruno Flierl’s Architekturführer New York – Manhattan by five years). Belogolovsky and I are tackling similar ground, with our focus on contemporary architecture in NYC and the creation of guidebooks that were released within two weeks of each other (my NYC Walks came out on March 12, eleven days after his critic’s guide). But Belogolovsky, unlike myself, is very outgoing and therefore a voracious interviewer. He has actually published a couple books of interviews with DOM that I reviewed on this blog: the collection Conversations with Architects: In the Age of Celebrity and Conversations with Peter Eisenman. With so much time logged in conversation with architects, many of them based in NYC and with buildings here, it makes sense for Belogolovsky to include some snippets from them in this guide. And that’s what he does, with up to half the text for each of the 100 descriptions consisting of quotes, occasionally about the building at hand but more often generally about the architect’s own theories on design.
But this guide is not really about the ideas of Norman Foster or Rafael Viñoly or Steven Holl; it’s about Belogolovsky’s take on the 100 icons he assembled. Focusing on the “eccentric structures [that] popped up in [the city’s] most unexpected and far-reaching corners” over the last 20 years, the guide asks us to consider what makes a building iconic. For Belogolovsky it is legibility: “a memorable image… representative of its time and place.” Beyond image he tacks on a nickname to each project, examples of which can be seen in the spreads below; these examples signal that the last two decades have seen a blossoming of sculptural and structurally daring buildings in the city as well as the transformation of once-industrial artifacts for the development of such icons.
Belogolovsky’s nicknames accentuate the iconic nature of the buildings, though I think they work only about half of the time. “Jenga Tower” for 56 Leonard Street makes sense, since that’s a name that has been given it, much like every tower in London has been dubbed something like the “Cheesegrater” or the “Gherkin.” But most new construction in NYC doesn’t garner such nicknames, leaving Belogolovsky to use the architect’s name (“Gehry” for 8 Spruce Street or “Zaha” for 520 West 28th Street), reiterate the architect’s label (“Stealth” for WORKac’s Stealth Building or “Blue” for Bernard Tschumi’s Blue Building), or find it somewhere in a building’s form (“Bird’s-mouths” for Foster’s Hearst Tower or “Guillotine” for Raimund Abraham’s ACFNY). Much of the time he ignores the architects’ inspirations and intentions, such that the Spring Street Salt Shed is “Crown” rather than “Crystal” and SANAA’s New Museum is “Stack” not “Bento Boxes.” While I don’t see many of these nicknames sticking, I don’t think that’s the point. Rather than defining the next hashtag around a building, Architectural Guide New York sees Belogolovsky doing something deeper: discovering and documenting how the phenomenon of iconic architecture — often associated with China and the Middle East — took hold in New York City as well, in turn redefining the cityscape for this century.
Vladimir Belogolovsky is the founder of the New York-based Intercontinental Curatorial Project, which focuses on organizing, curating, and designing architectural exhibitions worldwide. Trained as an architect at Cooper Union in New York, he has written over two hundred articles, as well as five books.
Architecture Inside-Out: Understanding How Buildings Work
Written by John Zukowsky, Illustrated by Robbie Polley
Rizzoli, February 2018
Hardcover | 10 x 10 inches | 304 pages | English | ISBN: 978-0847861804 | $35.00
Taking readers behind architecture’s facades and finishes, this charmingly illustrated book explores how some of the most important buildings in the world were constructed. Specially commissioned isometric drawings present the essential structural elements of the world’s masterpiece buildings that are not visible to the naked eye. These illustrations are displayed alongside plans, details, and photographs, all of which are clear and accessible, yet accurate and elegant enough to satisfy the most discerning eye.
This fascinating book explores the thinking and expertise behind architects’ designs and offers a means by which to better understand buildings already visited as well as those on the must-see list. Selections range from domestic structures such as Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater and skyscrapers such as the Chrysler Building, to iconic classics such as the Louvre and Barcelona’s famed Sagrada Familia Cathedral. The buildings have been chosen for their importance and interest, their role in the development of architectural thinking, and the structural secrets that intricate 3-D drawings can reveal.
When I was child, some of my favorite books were ones that explained “how things work” through words and illustrations. A few of the titles I grew up with were put out by Reader’s Digest, a couple of which I still own. The best parts of these types of books are the cutaway illustrations of buildings and other constructions that enabled modern people to see, for instance, inside the Great Pyramid of Giza. These childhood books with x-ray-like illustrations come to mind when reading Architecture Inside-Out, which uses cutaway illustrations to explain fifty buildings, ranging from the Parthenon in Athens and the Colosseum in Rome to numerous structures this century, including the Reichstag in Berlin and the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC. Most of the buildings are iconic and have been written about in plenty of books already, but the combination of John Zukowsky’s words and Robbie Polley’s illustrations make this book different and especially helpful for architecture students or high school students thinking about going to architecture school.
The fifty buildings are separated into five chapters based on typology: Public Life, Monuments, Arts and Education, Living, and Worship. Each building gets two or three spreads, with photographs accompanying the words and drawings. Depending on the number of pages, the buildings have either one or two large illustrations by Polley, sometimes with details extracted from them to hone in on particular details and explain them further with captions. The cutaway isometrics and occasional perspective sections or exploded axonometric have the advantage of revealing a building’s structure, which is particularly helpful when it is hidden behind a ceiling or some other surface, as in Zaha Hadid’s London Aquatics Centre and Le Corbusier’s Notre-Dame-du-Haut Chapel. Polley, who draws by hand over base drawings from a computer (using a light box), admits that “sketching … any object makes you focus, look harder, and therefore better understand it.” For just that reason, I’d recommend that young readers do what I did with my childhood illustrations: trace Polley’s drawings with pencil or ink on trace paper. Looking at them is one thing, but drawing them — even as a copy — is to understand the meaning and representation of each line.
John Zukowsky is an architectural and design historian with more than four decades of experience. While curator of architecture for the Art Institute of Chicago from 1978 to 2004, he organized a number of award-winning exhibitions accompanied by major books. Robbie Polley is an architectural illustrator with more than twenty-five years of experience. His drawings have been featured in thirty books.
Studio 804: Design Build. Expanding the Pedagogy of Architectural Education
Dan Rockhill with David Sain
Oscar Riera Ojeda Publishers, October 2018
Hardcover w/slipcase | 8-1/2 x 11 inches | 416 pages | 645 illustrations | English | ISBN: 978-1946226211 | $65.00
Founded in 1995 by Dan Rockhill, Studio 804 is a non-profit organization and a full-year design studio for graduates that finds its momentum at the intersection of contemporary architecture’s most topical concerns: sustainability, affordability and education. The studio has produced 23 projects to date, including 10 LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Platinum level buildings and 3 Passive House certified projects. These projects support a rich mix of uses: spaces for both private and communal use and engagement; spaces for leisure and for learning.
At some point during undergraduate architecture school at Kansas State University, a professor took our from Manhattan (yes, the Little Apple) to Lawrence to see some projects by architect Dan Rockhill, a professor at the University of Kansas (KU). The house that made the strongest impression on me was the Shimomura/Davidson-Hues House, which had a butterfly roof and a huge scupper feeding water into a large steel funnel in the middle of the driveway. It was the opposite of traditional suburban curb appeal: it was industrious, idiosyncratic, and unselfconscious. Beyond its appearance, we learned that Rockhill and Associates also built the house, combining prefab, off-the-shelf, salvaged, and custom components throughout. It was my introduction to Rockhill, though little did I know, around that time (ca. 1995) Rockhill was developing what would become one of the most famous and influential design-build programs in the United States: Studio 804. In it, students in the last year of the Master of Architecture program at KU spend one year designing and building a house or some other structure in or near Lawrence. Like Rockhill’s own practice, the students incorporate prefab, sustainability, and custom construction.
Studio 804: Design Build tells the story of the Rockhill-led program from the mid-1990s to 2018, from a modest corrugated roof over a stone ruin to a sexy glass-box house that would be at home in an issue of Dwell magazine. In between are around 20 projects grouped into a half-dozen chapters that capture the thematic strands occupying Studio 804 at various times, such as the modular homes spanning 2004 to 2007, the ambitious educational facilities built in the first half of our current decade, and the net-zero houses occupying them in recent years. A couple special chapters focus on how Studio 804 operates and the “pivotal” 547 Arts Center in Greensburg, the small Kansas town nearly entirely destroyed by a tornado in 2007. The LEED Platinum building, the first built as part of the recovery efforts in Greensburg, shifted Studio 804 to building types beyond single-family houses and made their sustainable goals more ambitious.
The 547 Arts Center and the other projects in Studio 804: Design Build are described in the first person by Rockhill, based on interviews with David Sain, a longtime colleague at Rockhill and Associates and KU. The narrative texts are conversational yet highly detailed, touching on, among many other things, how each project was designed and built. These don’t leave out the numerous stumbles encountered along the way, be it students having to go to city hall to obtain a PO number for every item purchased when building a house for the Lawrence Housing Authority to the perils of building in Greensburg, where constant winds blew sand and debris and a concrete truck tipped into an unseen hole in the ground. But in the end it’s the many positives of Studio 804 that come to the fore in the pages of this long-overdue book.
Dan Rockhill is the J L Constant Distinguished Professor of Architecture at the University of Kansas. In addition to the varied work of Rockhill and Associates he directs the KU graduate school program Studio 804. David Sain has worked with Dan since 1988, [he] teaches Building Technology at the University of Kansas and helps with Studio 804 when needed.
Space, Time and Architecture: The Growth of a New Tradition
Harvard University Press, February 2009
Paperback | 7 x 9-1/2 inches | 960 pages | 550 illustrations | English | ISBN: 978-0674030473 | $53.50
A milestone in modern thought, Space, Time and Architecture has been reissued many times since its first publication in 1941 and translated into half a dozen languages. In this revised edition of Sigfried Giedion’s classic work, major sections have been added and there are 81 new illustrations.
The chapters on leading contemporary architects have been greatly expanded. There is new material on the later development of Frank Lloyd Wright and the more recent buildings of Walter Gropius, particularly his American Embassy in Athens. In his discussion of Le Corbusier, Mr. Giedion provides detailed analyses of the Carpenter Center at Harvard University, Le Corbusier’s only building in the United States, and his Priory of La Tourette near Lyons. There is a section on his relations with his clients and an assessment of his influence on contemporary architecture, including a description of the Le Corbusier Center in Zurich (designed just before his death), which houses his works of art. The chapters on Mies van der Rohe and Alvar Aalto have been brought up to date with examples of their buildings in the sixties. There is an entirely new chapter on the Danish architect Jørn Utzon, whose work, as exemplified in his design for the Sydney Opera House, Mr. Giedion considers representative of post–World War II architectural concepts.
A new essay, “Changing Notions of the City,” traces the evolution of the structure of the city throughout history and examines current attempts to deal with urban growth, as shown in the work of such architects as José Luis Sert, Kenzo Tange, and Fumihiko Maki. Mr. Sert’s Peabody Terrace is discussed as an example of the interlocking of the collective and individual spheres. Finally, the conclusion has been enlarged to include a survey of the limits of the organic in architecture.
Recently reading Reto Geiser’s excellent Giedion and America prompted me not only to pull down my copy of Sigfried Giedion’s Space, Time and Architecture from my shelf, but also to swap my musty fourth edition from 1962 for a cleaner copy of the revised and enlarged fifth edition, which was released in 1967 (one year before Giedion’s death) and was printed most recently by Harvard University Press in 2009, in paperback form. Originally published in 1941, Space, Time and Architecture came out of a series of lectures the Swiss art historian delivered at Harvard in 1938 and 1939. The Charles Eliot Norton Lectures enabled Giedion to explore the contemporary architecture of (primarily) Europe through an examination of historical precedents. Giedion saw history as “not a compilation of facts, but an insight into a moving process of life.” By “examining certain specific events intensively…in the manner of a close-up,” he honed in on a “space-time” conception of architecture that had Walter Gropius, Le Corbusier, Alvar Aalto, and (by the fifth edition) Jørn Utzon as its poster boys. CIAM (the International Congress for Modern Architecture) was also an important player, though in regards to city planning, of which Giedion devotes three chapters, or about 170 pages of his nearly 900-page tome. Giedion was good friends with Gropius and served, with his longtime colleague Jaqueline Tyrwhitt, who was integral to the production of Space, Time and Architecture, as CIAM secretary; meaning his classic book was influenced by, and an extension of, the network he maintained before and after World War II, both in Europe and the United States.
One aspect of Giedion’s dated yet long-influential masterpiece that Geiser delves into at length in his book is its layout. Before Space, Time and Architecture‘s initial publication on the leading edge of WWII, architecture and other illustrated books separated text and illustrations, often the first coming before and referencing the latter. (This was also the case after the war, if a book such as Henry LaFarge’s Lost Treasures of Europe from 1946 is any indication; it has 30 pages of text that function as captions to the 427 photographs that follow.) Giedion’s integration of text (including footnotes and marginalia) and images in a seamless flow throughout his book would go on to become the norm in architecture books, displacing the traditional separation of words and images that was done as much out of habit as out of the limitations of editors and printers. In this regard, Space, Time and Architecture, though not the only book taking this approach, must have been shocking at the time both for its content and its appearance. Giedion’s book also incorporates the juxtaposition of seemingly disparate images side by side, something he did in his lectures — something he used to further elucidate his “space-time” arguments.
Sigfried Giedion was the first secretary-general of the International Congress of Modern Architecture. He taught at the University of Zurich, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Harvard University, where he became chairman of the Graduate School of Design.
Platform 11: Setting the Table
Esther Mira Bang, Lane Raffaldini Rubin, Enrique Aureng Silva (Editors)
Harvard University GSD & Actar, November 2018
Paperback | 7-1/2 x 10-1/2 inches | 363 pages | English | ISBN: 978-1948765107 | $34.95
Platform represents a year in the life of the Harvard University Graduate School of Design. Produced annually, this compendium highlights a selection of work from the disciplines of architecture, landscape architecture, urban planning and design, and design engineering. It exposes a rich and varied pedagogical culture committed to shaping the future of design. Documenting projects, research, events, exhibitions, and more, Platform offers a curated view into the emerging topics, techniques, and dispositions within and beyond the Harvard GSD.
In Setting the Table, the first student-led installment of the series, editors Esther Mira Bang, Lane Raffaldini Rubin, and Enrique Aureng Silva assemble a diverse body of work and cut it up—reinterpreting, rearranging, and ultimately composing a poetry revealed in each retelling.
Traditionally, the end-of-year journals that come out of architecture schools – be it Harvard GSD or some other university, Ivy League or otherwise – partition the various projects, lectures, publications, and other output produced by students, professors, and visiting academics. So thesis projects by Master of Architecture students, for instance, are in one place, while third-year landscape architecture projects are in another place. Lectures and other events are often stuffed into the back matter, so as not to distract from the student work. This sort of thing is the norm, allowing certain types of projects to be found easily and enabling outsiders to see a school’s output as a gradient: from first to last year, from introductory to mastery. But architecture school isn’t so well ordered. Classes may move in such a direction, but the activities taking place within them can border on the chaotic, no matter how much order takes place behind the scenes or how much structure is instilled in students so they get their work done on time.
Collage is one way to capture the lovely chaos of architecture school, and that is the approach Esther Mira Bang, Lane Raffaldini Rubin, and Enrique Aureng Silva take in the latest year-end Platform for Harvard GSD. The book starts with aerial photographs of architectural models assembled on tables: Projects with no relationship to other sit side by side, juxtaposed in a manner that reflects the structure of the book and the mixing of students within the famous “trays” of GSD’s Gund Hall. Studio projects, lectures, exhibitions, and publications are given one or two pages, following one after the other in apparently random order. There are chapters – sixteen of them – but they exist to break down the book’s nearly 400 pages, serve as canvases for collaged poems drawn from student projects, and allow for some variety, such as with the inverted pages in the “Turntable” chapter (what I thought was a printing error at first glance). The models, drawings, and renderings throughout are very much of their moment, with a liberal use of color, a heavy reliance on Photoshop, and an embrace of Postmodernism. Ultimately the imagery expresses the always high design quality that comes out of Harvard GSD.
Spreads (via Issuu):
Esther Mira Bang, Lane Raffaldini Rubin, and Enrique Aureng Silva are the first students to direct the editorial work for an issue of Harvard GSD’s annual Platform series.
Giedion and America: Repositioning the History of Modern Architecture
gta Verlag, October 2018
Hardcover | 7 x 9-3/4 inches | 400 pages | 200 illustrations | English | ISBN: 978-3856763770 | $85.00
Paradoxically, Swiss art historian and architecture critic Sigfried Giedion (1888–1968) would only consolidate his reputation as one of the most influential architectural historians of the twentieth century far from his homeland, in America. In his study of Giedion’s life and work Reto Geiser foregrounds the formative character of Giedion’s extended stays in the United States and their role as an inspiring laboratory to propel his scholarship. By challenging the presentation of a continuous line of developments, and revealing the ruptures and contradictions within Giedion’s work, Geiser questions a heroic account of modern architecture, turning instead to the less ideological and frequently overlooked facets of Giedion’s oeuvre. The book argues that, although Giedion’s position in between two cultural spheres created discontinuities in his work, it also facilitated a mutual exchange between the architectural impresario and his North American peers and thereby helped to shape the development and reception of the modern project on either side of the Atlantic.
Sigfried Giedion is best known to architects for Space, Time and Architecture, which was first published in 1941 and revised as late as 1967, one year before the Swiss historian died. The book, still in print, sees Giedion tracing historical developments in architecture, technology, science and planning toward a new “space-time” conception of then-contemporary architecture. It was a book I read in college in the mid-1990s for a modern architectural history class, but by then the book was, not surprisingly, a dated, historical artifact rather than a text of ongoing relevance. Regardless, I really enjoyed reading it and still have a copy of the fourth edition, from 1962. The first page inside the book, even before the title page, simply says, “The Charles Eliot Norton Lectures for 1938-1939.” As part of the Charles Eliot Norton Professorship in Poetry, the Swiss art historian gave six lectures on architecture at Harvard University. A couple curious things arise from this simple fact: Giedion crafted the book in the United States and he did it outside of a school of architecture. Reto Geiser, an associate professor at Rice University, hones in on Giedion’s years in America to examine how his work was influenced by the place but also had an impact on educators there and back home.
As a fan of Giedion’s class and of architectural history in general, I find Geiser’s book fascinating — and beautiful: it is carefully designed, illustrated, and bound, and is printed on a really nice lightweight paper. It is an extremely deep dive into a person and time (1930s to 1960s) courtesy of what must have been years spent by the author in the archives of Harvard GSD, ETH Zurich, and other institutions with materials related to Giedion. Geiser’s accounts of the Swiss historian’s trips to and from America (he did not stay permanently in the US, unlike Walter Gropius and others at the time) vividly capture the relationships and events that led to Space, Time and Architecture, as well as the later Mechanization Takes Command and The Eternal Present. He presents the bad with the good: the friction and the uneasy academic relationships alongside the trips and other experiences that were integral parts of Giedion’s output. Geiser acknowledges the importance roles of the women in Giedion’s life, particularly Jaqueline Tyrwhitt, who worked with Giedion for twenty years, and his wife, Carola Giedion-Welcker, a capable art historian in her own right. Ultimately Geiser finds the secret to Giedion in “in between” conditions that structure the book — In Between Languages, In Between Approaches, In Between Academies, In Between Disciplines — situations that were born from his trans-Atlantic trips before and after World War II.
Reto Geiser is a designer and scholar of modern architecture with a focus on the intersections between architecture, pedagogy, and media. He is the Gus Wortham Assistant Professor at the Rice University School of Architecture where he teaches history, theory, and design.