A Weekly Dose of Architecture, 1999 – 2014

It was 15 years ago this month that I started the website A Weekly Dose of Architecture. On January 18, 1999, I posted a feature on Louis I. Kahn's Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas, the first of many weekly "doses." Actually, if I would have strictly kept to the weekly calendar this website would have 780 projects and about 500 book reviews (those didn't start until 2003), but given my sometimes sporadic posting the actual number is a bit less but still sizable considering it's just been me the whole time. So with the website turning 15 years old, it seems like a good time to retire the site. This may sound like the end of something, yet I'll still be posting at A Daily Dose of Architecture, including the occasional project and book review.

So why retire the weekly doses? Well:

  • Websites like ArchDaily cover projects at such a great (visual) depth and quantity to make this website superfluous, especially if I don't take the effort to write the commentary;
  • Even though the website started as a way to write about the "ideas embedded in architectural works," over the years I have come to believe strongly that place and experience are so integral to architecture that writing about a building without visiting it is a disservice;
  • The weekly schedule (posts typically went online on Mondays) conflicted with other deadlines, such that the weekly doses were becoming even more last-minute than usual;
  • I already have a daily blog where I can (and do) post projects and book reviews, so why maintain more than one website? (Along those lines, anybody want to take over The Archi-Tourist? If so, just email me; it's yours for free.);
  • I'd like to devote the time and effort in creating the weekly doses to other things, such as my work at World-Architects, teaching at NYIT, my writing at Houzz, the occasional architectural walking tours, and perhaps writing another book.

This isn't goodbye – find me at A Daily Dose of Architecture.

WMS Boathouse at Clark Park

WMS Boathouse at Clark Park in Chicago, Illinois, by Studio Gang Architects, 2013

Photo: Steve Hall © Hedrich Blessing, courtesy of Studio Gang Architects

Jeanne Gang and Studio Gang Architects (SGA) have been infatuated with water for some time now – metaphorically, in the rippling facade of the Aqua Tower; directly, in landscape projects like the Nature Boardwalk at Lincoln Park Zoo; or on the large scale, in projects like Reverse Effect, which proposes re-reversing the Chicago River, among other tactics, to improve the ecosystem of Lake Michigan. A recent addition to the above water-related projects in their hometown of Chicago is the WMS Boathouse at Clark Park, situated along the Chicago River about eight miles north and west of the Loop.

Photo: Steve Hall © Hedrich Blessing, courtesy of Studio Gang Architects

Like Reverse Effect, the boathouse is envisioned as a means of remediating one of Chicago's waterways. As SGA describes it: "By creating a key public access point along the river’s edge, it supports the larger movement toward an ecological and recreational revival of the Chicago River." This building and access point will hopefully "transform the long-polluted and neglected Chicago River into its next recreational frontier." Chicago – flat and gridded – has long oriented itself toward the lake, whose length in the city is public and almost entirely recreational, be it beaches, museums and parks (one of which is being designed by SGA for the old Miegs Field). So it's no wonder that the river – reversed in the early 1900s so that pollution wouldn't flow into the lake, the source of the city's drinking water – has been neglected.

Photo: Steve Hall © Hedrich Blessing, courtesy of Studio Gang Architects

SGA's design separates the project into two buildings: a two-story Field House on the south and a one-story Boat Storage on the south; in between is a courtyard that aligns with the access down to the water on the west. Each building has a distinctive serrated roofline that "translates the poetic motion and rhythm of rowing into an architectural roof form, providing visual interest while also offering spatial and environmental advantages that allow the boathouse to adapt to Chicago’s distinctive seasonal changes." The main driver of the form is sunlight, such that "the roof achieves a rhythmic modulation that lets in southern light through the building’s upper clerestory."

Photo: Steve Hall © Hedrich Blessing, courtesy of Studio Gang Architects

The reading of the forms is aided by the muted palette of exterior materials, notably zinc and slate, which give the building a sense of solidity while also accentuating the interior spaces when lights glow from the inside in the evening. The palette inside is just as spare, with plywood used for the walls and ceilings and exposed concrete on the floors. It all adds up to an inexpensive building ($8.8 million) that hardly looks cheap.

Photo: Steve Hall © Hedrich Blessing, courtesy of Studio Gang Architects

Photo: Steve Hall © Hedrich Blessing, courtesy of Studio Gang Architects

Photo: Steve Hall © Hedrich Blessing, courtesy of Studio Gang Architects

Photo: Steve Hall © Hedrich Blessing, courtesy of Studio Gang Architects

Photo: Steve Hall © Hedrich Blessing, courtesy of Studio Gang Architects

Photo: Steve Hall © Hedrich Blessing, courtesy of Studio Gang Architects

Site Plan/First Floor Plan

Longitudinal Section

New Museums in China

New Museums in China by Clare Jacobson
Princeton Architectural Press, 2013
Hardcover, 241 pages

As of 2013 there are supposedly 3,500 museums in China. This is about 1,000 more than two years before that, but still only roughly 20% of the number of museums in the United States. Of course, quantity is not the same as quality (both in terms of architecture and exhibitions), but Clare Jacobson's book on new museums in China shows that the country can boast of some of the best new architecture for museums anywhere on the planet. Jacobson highlights 51 museums in 31 cities, a smattering relative to the thousand museums supposedly completed in just the last two years, but enough to illustrate the variety of approaches to museum commissions in China, from quasi-vernacular designs to alien forms that call attention to the buildings more than their contents.

Jacobson, an architecture and design writer based in Shanghai, discusses the view from her windows of the construction of the Shanghai Nature Museum, acknowledging that elsewhere the museum's sheer size and architectural ambition would be news, but in Shanghai it's just one of many museums underway, a blip on the radar. Elsewhere in the introduction she lays out why so many museums are being built in China (investments in art, a rising interest in philanthropy, etc.) as well as the fact many of them are private collections and what all this means for the architecture created to house art. Like the descriptions of the 51 buildings, the introduction says a lot in a few words, giving the book a focus on providing context and telling stories.

Each building is presented with color photographs and drawings. Such is the norm these days, but the descriptions benefit from featuring quotes from the architects, revealing how Jacobson searched for stories (as well as her reporting for Architectural Record) by talking with architects rather than relying on press releases and information available online. Nevertheless, it would have been beneficial (if difficult or unrealistic) to also include snippets from the clients that are exhibiting the art and commissioning architects to make strong statements. Regardless, Jacobson's book is an important and essential one covering an aspect of China's building boom this century. The country may be criticized for the unsubtle ways of demolishing traditional architecture in favor of predominantly ugly, large-scale housing (something of a cliche now), but the museums collected in the book show there is still room for well considered architecture in China by foreign and local architects alike.

US: Buy from Amazon.com CA: Buy from Amazon.ca UK: Buy from Amazon.co.uk


Höhenrausch.3 in Linz, Austria, by Various Architects and Artists, 2013

Photographs by Otto Saxinger and Andreas Kepplinger; courtesy of Im OÖ Kulturquartier

The first time I heard about some of the rooftop structures atop the Im OÖ Kulturquartier (Im OÖ) in Linz, Austria, was in reading a monograph on Japanese architects Atelier Bow-Wow. The Linz Super Branch allowed visitors to traverse the rooftops of the buildings and gain a unique perspective on the city. Turns out that the rooftop has been updated annually since Atelier Bow-Wow's 2009 installation, per its inclusion in the catalog S AM 11 / Lookout, which accompanies an exhibition at Swiss Architecture Museum in Basel, Switzerland. The catalog attributes the concept to Raoul Bunschoten, while Im OÖ attributes the urban/artistic consultancy to him and his firm CHORA. Whatever the case, the most recent additions go vertical, adding a contemporary twist to the historical skyline.

Most visible from the surrounding streets, especially at night when it's awash in color, is Wen-Chih Wang's "Bamboo Cupola." Im OÖ describes it as such: "Transformations of space are at the heart of the installations by the Taiwanese artist Wen-Chih Wang. He expands given architectural structures with fantastic constructions of bamboo and rattan. Thus a 15-meter-high tower made of woven bamboo grows out of the Höhenrausch.3 rooftop walkways, so that a light-flooded space emerges that invites lingering. The bamboo tower is illuminated from the inside at night, thus becoming an unusual object in urban space in the dark, too."

A bit less artistic, but a construction that can be climbed to gain even higher views of Linz, is the "Upper Austria Tower." Im OÖ describes this addition as such: "The Upper Austrian Tower rises 31 meters into the sky on the highest point of the parking garage building. The local tower of the Höhenrausch.3 tower quartet is a copy of the lookout tower Alpenblick along the Czech border in Ulrichsberg. The functional architecture of the "rural" lookout tower made of fir wood becomes a new, temporary landmark of the city of Linz. In contrast to these urban surroundings, it displays the material of wood.Through the climb up over seven levels, the urban space opens up like a theatrical staging."

One last rooftop element worth mentioning is a slender white piece that looks like an antenna but is Lang/Baumann's "Diving Platform." Again, Im OÖ's statement: "An about 13-meter-high Diving Platform rises up from the central platform of the Höhenrausch.3 rooftop landscape, but no one can dive from here. Intermediated between a functional object and a sculpture, this work involves a kind of mental acrobatics, the idea of what it could be like to climb up and enjoy the view. Lang/Baumann refer often in their works to functionality, design or architecture and enrich existing situations or spaces by the dimension of poetry and imagination."

S AM 11 / Lookout

S AM 11 / Lookout. Architecture with a View by Hubertus Adam
Christoph Merian Verlag, 2013
Paperback, 120 pages

A lookout, as defined in the 2013 exhibition and catalog of the same name at the Swiss Architecture Museum in Basel, is a particular archetype that provides a "purpose-free view of the surroundings." Thereby not associated with military or other functions, lookouts didn't really come about until the late 18th century, undergoing something of a boom as towers in the following century, at least per the introductory and historical essay by Hubertus Adam. Lookouts in the 21st century are booming as well, often giving views of particular landscapes or urban sections, rather than of one's property as was the case over 100 years ago. Of course, there are precedents for today's predilection for embracing a natural or urban view, most notably the Eiffel Tower. But the 34 projects (32 of them built) assembled in these pages are not nearly as grand, selected for their architectural merits and how they are inserted into their respective landscapes.

Mill Race Park Observation Tower (1990) in Columbus, Indiana, by Stanley Saitowitz

Mill Race Park Observation Tower (1990) in Columbus, Indiana, by Stanley Saitowitz

Of the 32 projects completed, I've been up in zilch of them. Regardless, I can attest to the power of lookouts, both in the views they give of the surroundings and the journey that it takes to reach them. One such lookout that springs to mind is the tower that is part of Mill Race Park in Columbus, Indiana. Designed by Stanley Saitowitz above a landscape by Michael van Valkenburgh, the tower is quite inelegant, resembling a structure a local fire department would use for training rather than something at home in the one of the most notable places in America for the quality of its modern architecture. Situated just west of downtown, the tower is on axis with 5th Street, giving a view of Eliel Saarinen's First Christian Church (1942) and other town structures dotting the flat Midwestern landscape. The journey to the top is either via a hoistway-like external elevator or a stair that gives screened views at each landing; an unencumbered view is not gained until reaching the cantilevered top platform.

The Ledge at Skydeck Chicago (2009) by SOM

The Ledge at Skydeck Chicago (2009) by SOM

Saitowitz's tower, at nearly 25 years old, is not recent enough for consideration in S AM 11, but one project that is missing is The Ledge at Skydeck Chicago, which SOM added to its own Sears Tower (now Willis Tower) in 2009. Its omission is most likely due to the fact the retractable ledges are appended to a 110-story office tower, adding that layer of purpose that the other lookouts are free of. Nevertheless, the vertiginous view through the shallow glazed floor excels in providing a novel view of the city, one that is being repeated more in more, from the Grand Canyon to China. But the admittedly Euro-centric (24 of 34 projects) collection is also about what a lookout looks like as well as what it looks at. So the selection is solid, if at times predictable. The Norway Tourist Routes and Ruta del Peregrino projects, which comprise one-third of the book, are flatter than most lookouts but understandably included for being parts of a chain of lookouts traversing their respective landscapes. Some of the surprises include the latest addition to the Höhenrausch in Linz, Austria, and Kirchspitz's treetop research tower in Germany's Palatinate Forest. More surprises would have made the book even more of a treat, but as is the book is still a good survey of a small subset of architecture that can experiment without worrying about function.

Vaulted Cork Pavilion

Vaulted Cork Pavilion in Porto, Portugal, by Pedro de Azambuja Varela, Maria João de Oliveira and Emmanuel Novo, 2013

The following text and images are courtesy of Joao Morgado and the architects.

Photo: Joao Morgado – Architecture Photography

The Vaulted Cork Pavilion was built for Amorim Isolamentos Lda., to demonstrate its cork building materials at Concreta 2013, a biennial building fair held at Exponor, Porto.

Photo: Joao Morgado – Architecture Photography

This architecture and research project was developed by Pedro de Azambuja Varela, Maria João de Oliveira and Emmanuel Novo, while studying in the Digital Architecture Advanced Studies Course (CEAAD), a joint venture between ISCTE-IULisboa and FAUPorto. All the fabrication was carried out at VFABLAB-IUL, and the coordination was carried out by Professors Alexandra Paio and José Pedro Sousa.

Photo: Joao Morgado – Architecture Photography

This construction started out as challenge to materialize concepts and investigation developed within CEAAD during 2012 and 2013, all related with expanded cork agglomerate. These concepts are: the possibility to span vaults with cork alone; a compound translucent cork material; and a system for radiation and acoustic optimization. All these concepts ought to be shown within the pavilion in a symbiotic relation formalized by the continuous and metamorphic shape.

Photo: Joao Morgado – Architecture Photography

Architectonic space lies within an interrelationship between inner and outer space, promoting dynamic fluxes and circulation all around the construction. The outside provides circulation and rest areas, where people can relax in benches or wavy forms. The inside is a tunnel like space that has a continuous bench and an exhibition space, where people can find shelter from the trade fair's harsh noise and lights. All this was formalized as a shape that grows from the floor creating a smooth transition between the floor and vaulted roof.

Photo: Joao Morgado – Architecture Photography

Cork characteristics were a main driving force in the space's conception. The floor and walls are smooth and soft, and the smell is very particular. Inside the space, one has the feeling of being inside another environment, such is the effect of changing light, sound, smell and touch. The grass on the exterior - showing the possibility of using cork on living roofs - creates a symbiosis of living plants and cork bark while responding to the client's wish of showing a construction system of cork insulated green roof.

Photo: Joao Morgado – Architecture Photography

The construction approach for this project dealt mainly with time constraints. Following the research developed the year before the pavilion construction system would be that of a compression only vault. This means the supporting structure would be built out of blocks that should efficiently transmit the load forces downwards through a stereotomic fit. The apex of stereotomic thinking created such complex polysurfaced blocks that even a new science was born with it: Descriptive Geometry. These kinds of blocks were carved with a CNC milling machine, but their 3D nature makes the process very slow as it needs many passes. Straight down 2D cutting, creating silhouette type shapes, is much faster, as the drill may plunge down and carve most of the material in a few passes. This led to rethinking of the structure as a 2D process, leading to the design of arches that would be fixed together as in a barrel vault.

Photo: Joao Morgado – Architecture Photography

Although the parametric nature of this built form hints at its digital genesis, the first approaches were sketch driven. The project was developed with its group members separated by distance, relying in the digitized hand drawn sketches, online meetings and many different proposals. This is how the main hypotheses were laid out, which were to be translated into pure geometry language so that the computer would be able to calculate a final shape. The variables were created so that the various aspects of the pavilion would take shape: the sinuous curve which defines one arm of the catenary arches, the bulging longitudinal shape, the height of the exterior bench and its conformity with the sweeping vault curve. All these variables were put together as parameters of a complex algorithm that resolved all the geometry needed to draw the 120 individual cross-sections.

Photo: Joao Morgado – Architecture Photography

Once the shape was agreed upon, another algorithm was crafted to automatically create the geometry of the hundreds of unique blocks that were to be CNC cut at the VFABLAB. All the blocks were labeled with a meaningful system, easing the work of the Amorim team while assembling the various pieces. These were pre-mounted in chunks of three arches, so that final assembly in the trade fair would be easier and error-free. Its final assembly was a success; the cork blocks were very efficient as a stereotomic system. The acoustic cork was key in decorating the interior and translucent cork provided light in the interior and a glimpse of mystery from the outside, effectively working as stained glass windows.

Photo: Joao Morgado – Architecture Photography

Drawing courtesy of the architects

Drawing courtesy of the architects

Lettering Large

Lettering Large: Art and Design of Monumental Typography by Steven Heller and Mirko Ilić
The Monacelli Press, 2013
Hardcover, 224 pages

What happens to letters, words and phrases when they are blown up from their usual place on the pages of a book to occupying space within the public realm? The most obvious answer is that they become advertising, gracing the sides of buildings or billboards to entice consumers toward a certain product or brand. But as co-author Steven Heller asserts in a piece at Designers & Books, Lettering Large "is not about advertising—it’s about how the language of advertising is applied to architecture and art and identity."

Most of the examples of monumental typography collected in the book are fairly recent, but Heller and Ilić do acknowledge the history of large letters on buildings and in space, be it inscriptions on the buildings of ancient Rome or early modern attempts to synthesize architecture and graphic design. If one thing comes across while imbibing the many examples in the book's 240 pages, it is the blurring of the boundaries between art, architecture, typography, graphic design, and even landscape in many contemporary settings.

The authors compiled what seems like hundreds of examples of monumental typography into four chapters: Monumental Outdoor Type, Typo-Hypnotic Messages, Big and Better: Type as Object, A-R-T in T-Y-P-E. Generally, the venues for the first and last chapters are landscapes, while building facades and spaces are the canvases for the examples in the middle chapters, though this is hardly a rule. The book starts with the most monumental letters of all, those that are ideally read from above, via airplanes and even satellites. The North Carolina Museum of Art, with "PICTURE THIS" set into the landscape by Barbara Kruger, is actually one of the smaller such examples. For this and other large-scale messages to stay intact, the landscape will need to be maintained, but some of the more appealing examples are temporary formations of people (echoing the way Coca-Cola used birdseed in Piazza San Marco to entice pigeons to unknowingly spell out the company's name over 50 years ago) that are used for a variety of purposes, be it political, civic pride, or humor.


Not surprisingly, most of my favorites fall in the middle two chapters, where architecture takes on a more prominent role than in the chapters bookending them. The "typo-hypnotic messages" in the second chapter adorn building facades and line their insides, often conveying a message. Simplicity of the message is penultimate, even though in cases like the temporary MOMA QNS it took some effort, or being in the right place at the right time, to understand it. When used as an object in the following chapter, type becomes a pattern or just another texture or surface decoration. Words and phrases overlap and collide, symptomatic of our time when there is too much information to convey meaning adequately.

Heller and Ilić's helpful but basically uncritical text clearly places the emphasis on the great number of examples of monumental typography that exist, particularly from the last 10-15 years, and the even greater variety of applications. There is the feeling that letters, words, and phrases blown up to life-size and larger are a really good thing, even if the results are questionable at times – Mitsutomo Matsunami's Number House comes to mind. And it's easy to get swept along with them, taking in the ping-ponging fun, serious, and often colorful projects all over the world. Each page brings to mind a building or landscape with letters or words, making me see if the authors included it in the book; these searches make it clear the book really should have an index. But that is a small fault in an enjoyable book that is also a great reference of how type surrounds us even more than we could have imagined.

US: Buy from Amazon.com CA: Buy from Amazon.ca UK: Buy from Amazon.co.uk

A House for Pink Floyd

A House for Pink Floyd by arqbauraum, 2013

The following text and images are courtesy of Susana dos Santos, José Pedro Azevedo and Nuno Cabanal (arqbauraum) for  their entry in the ICARCH Competition "A House for Pink Floyd."

Exterior view. Image courtesy of arqbauraum

“How would the painter or poet express anything other than his encounter with the world” - Maurice Merleau Ponty

“Much of the modern movement has drawn the intellect and the sight, but left aside the human body and its sensations […] – but also left the memories and the dreams dislodged.” - Juhani Pallasmaa

The work is based on Man meeting with himself and does so through the senses.

Exterior detail. Image courtesy arqbauraum

Actual architecture has the ease of technological advances that everyday flood the offices with new materials. However all these amenities have achieved are for buildings to be deprived of presence, making them the fruit of unbridled consumption, of the ostentation and many times from the creator's Ego. Today architecture is endowed with a star system that dictates the trends as the world finds itself grappling with political crises and austerity. All these components have assembled an explosive cocktail when we look at the landscape of cities only to realize that the concept of "inhabit" is degraded.

Concept. Image courtesy arqbauraum

With this work we aim to give back to Man, in any place of the World – squares, gardens, glades, parking lots from big malls, etc. – the right to inhabit the planet without stratifications of any kind.

We have done it by going back to the children's imaginary to the age of dreams and curiosity, and in a simple and pure way we have created a multitude of spaces that enable each one, in a singular way, to be and to think.

Program. Image courtesy arqbauraum

To the image of the ordinary house we subtract its mass as an allegory to the present and to the reality we now live in; because both rely on the way we gaze and feel them. It's also a symbol of change because the absence of mass gives it a building-site character and also a lightness that emerges to oppose the image of concrete boxes.

Initiation Room. Image courtesy arqbauraum

Within the space of the house we've laid out five boxes made of white concrete in the exterior and black in the interior to keep the game of oppositions.

We wander through a synesthetic route that begins from north and ends at Nascent. Through it we primarily find the purification volume that intends to raise our vision and auditory senses.

Revelation Room. Image courtesy arqbauraum

In the following box we find the shadows that symbolize the air. Its aim is for the individual to question the visually perceptible truth and also for the visual experience to assume tactile characteristics – feeling with the hand the form is "observed."

Purification Room. Image courtesy arqbauraum

Through the pathways between the boxes we are in the constant presence of the soil, the nature, the use of the sense of smell that refers to memories and the quest of Man through glades that were created from the subtraction of the total volume.

In a third moment the visitor is confronted with the light that symbolizes fire and the sense of feeling through the skin.

Knowledge Room. Image courtesy arqbauraum

After reestablishing the equilibrium of the senses and the opening of the soul and the mind, we find the last two spaces. One is a space with books and the other with dialog, music and exchange for the house of Pink Floyd is what each and every one of us wants it to be.

With this project we wish to return to Man a place for him to pulse with the World, a space that appealed to solidarity and to the strength of the use of words.

Reflection Room. Image courtesy arqbauraum

Plan. Image courtesy arqbauraum

Section A. Image courtesy arqbauraum

Section B. Image courtesy arqbauraum

New SubUrbanisms

New SubUrbanisms by Judith K. De Jong
Routledge, 2013
Paperback, 256 pages

Back in August I attended a book talk by Vishaan Chakrabarti on his book A Country of Cities. In both the talk and book the former NYC planner and current SHoP partner spells out his argument for density, envisioning for the United States what the title clearly states. Implicit within this hypothetical yet potentially great migration from rural and suburban areas to cities is the distinction between the former and the latter. For Chakrabarti cities are defined as places with a high enough population density for subways, something not many U.S. cities can boast of, much less their suburbs. A different tack is taken by Chicago-based architect and UIC assistant professor Judith De Jong in New SubUrbanisms, where she sees a "flattening" of the long-held distinctions between cities and suburbs, and she calls for creative responses to this condition. Compared to Chakrabarti's book, De Jong's approach is certainly more practical, even as it calls for a move away from "business as usual" approaches in metropolitan areas.

What De Jong calls flattening and defines as "suburbs becoming more similar to their central cities, and cities more similar to their suburbs," is investigated through a mix of firsthand accounts in primarily two cities (Houston and Chicago, where she has spent a good chunk of her career) and loads of demographic data; some of the latter is illustrated but most of it is found within the text to convey the extent of flattening while arguing for architects and urban designers to address it accordingly. The firsthand accounts consist of buildings and public spaces that serve as examples of the urban infiltrating the suburban, and vice-versa. These examples fall into five categories, each given a chapter: car space, domestic space, public space, retail space, and mix and match.

A couple projects, in the domestic space chapter, should serve to elucidate De Jong's stance. She discusses the ongoing Lakeshore East development in Chicago as "reflective of the ongoing hybridization between urban and suburban in contemporary inner city developments," while Optima Old Orchard Woods in Skokie, about 20 miles north of Chicago, is indicative of "suburban municipalities with urbanizing characteristics," namely proximity to transportation and retail developments. Lakeshore East is primarily residential towers around a park (the most notable tower is Studio Gang's Aqua hotel/residential high-rise), but its more traditionally suburban aspects include large unit sizes (preferring families over singles and couples) and townhouses that directly front the park and shield parking on the rear. Similarly, Old Orchard Woods provides plenty of parking below the mid-rise buildings with fairly large apartments.

So both Lakeshore East and Old Orchard Woods exhibits traits of their context but also the other – they are urban and suburban at the same time: sub/urban. But De Jong does not see this as a brand new, contemporary condition; the histories she provides as a framework for her argument in the first chapter, and in places throughout the other chapters, are some of the strongest parts of the book. In the case of these domestic spaces, and Lakeshore East in particular, she sees Bertrand Goldberg's Marina City as a precedent for adding residential density to the city while providing something required in the suburbs: a place for the car. Ironically, the mix of residential, commercial, retail and entertainment in Marina City meant residents could live day to day without ever leaving their city block. But the parking podium that raised those same units higher into the sky meant they could come and go (to the suburbs, if they liked and now might in the case of reverse commuting) via car just as easily.

Those following urban studies and urban design will not be surprised by the effects of flattening, which are apparent in the form of buildings in cities and suburbs but also in the codes that dictate, for examples, a certain number of parking spaces per residential unit in inner cities (an impediment to truly walkable/bikeable cities). But De Jong's embrace of flattening through creative architecture ekes out a unique spot in the myriad of literature on urbanism – sitting somewhere between Chakrabarti's siren song for the city and the call of June Williamson and Ellen Dunham-Jones to retrofit suburbia.

De Jong gives people a vocabulary for the conditions of sub/urban flattening (such as the four types of parking: surface, layer, lift and mix, and fill) while spurring them to think beyond those for new ways of intervening. And while the author's entry (with David Ruffing) for the Build a Better Burb competition (selected as a "noteworthy scheme" and part of the book Designing Suburban Futures) is included at the end of the book as an example of hybridizing the sub/urban context, New SubUrbanisms could have used more projects that illustrate the creative potential for responding to flattening. Yet this is only one flaw in a well researched and highly readable book on one part of the American condition today.

US: Buy from Amazon.com CA: Buy from Amazon.ca UK: Buy from Amazon.co.uk

V’ House

V' House in Maastricht, Netherlands, by Wiel Arets Architects, 2013

The following text and images are courtesy of Wiel Arets Architects (WAA).

Photograph by Jan Bitter, courtesy of WAA

V’ House was constructed for a couple that collects vintage cars, and is stitched within the medieval tapestry of Maastricht. The city dictates all new structures remain within the envelope of pre-existing buildings, and so a cut was created in the house’s front façade to generate a triangulated surface, which leads from one neighbor’s sloped roof to the opposite neighbor’s vertical bearing wall. As the house’s site is long and narrow, voids were cut into the maximum permitted volume to ensure that natural light spills throughout the interior. The ground floor is both open to the exterior elements and sunken to the rear of the site, which makes possible the maximum two-story height allowance. A covered portion of this exterior space serves as an outdoor parking garage for the owners’ collection of Aston Martins.

Photograph by Jan Bitter, courtesy of WAA

As the house finds refuge between two historical buildings, it is a burst of modernity within this currently gentrifying neighborhood of Maastricht. The house is enormous, totaling 530 m2, and is entered through two oversized sliding glass doors that perforate its front façade. These doors serve as the house’s main entry and open to either their left or right for entry by foot, and both simultaneously retract to allow the entry of automobiles. Due to safety and privacy concerns, these glass entry doors have no handles or keyholes and are instead are remotely opened from any iPhone, from anywhere in the world. For further privacy the house’s front façade was fritted with a gradient pattern of dots, which disperse in placement as the house rises towards the sky and focus at a distance to compose an image of curtains fluttering in the wind. Actual curtains align the interior of the front façade to afford additional privacy.

Photograph by Jan Bitter, courtesy of WAA

Circulation throughout the house occurs via two paths. A 'slow' stair leads from the ground floor to the expansive living room, which is connected to the partially raised kitchen and dining areas by a small ramp. A 'fast' stairwell traverses the entire height of the house and, together with the platform elevator, allows for direct vertical shortcuts to all levels of living. Thus this house, with its multiple circulation interventions, such as its living room ramp and ‘fast’ and ‘slow’ paths, is organized not around the traditional notion of stacked floors and is instead organized around its circulatory section. At the apex of this 'fast' route is the entrance to an expansive roof terrace that’s also the most public space of the house, as it offers panoramic views over the spired roofline of Maastricht.

Photograph by Jan Bitter, courtesy of WAA

The living room has been suspended from two I-beams that span two masonry bearing walls that surround the rear of the site. Steel tension rods measuring 5x10 cm extend from these I-beams into the almost fully glazed façade of the living room, which allows its volume to float above the Aston Martins below. For privacy reasons, this glazing was treated with a highly reflective coating that casts a hue of chartreuse or amber depending on the season and angle of the sun. Only when inhabiting the master bedroom is this hanging of the living room apparent, as the I-beams are visible from the master bedroom, which opens onto the living room's roof, which functions as a private terrace for the owners.

Photograph by Jan Bitter, courtesy of WAA

Heating and cooling is provided via a concrete core activation system concealed within the floors and ceilings of the house, while all storage is built into the circulatory areas in order to divide spaces and define rooms. These custom designed storage units also outfit the office space, where they conceal a bed that can be lowered to accommodate temporary visitors, such as the owners' now grown children. All storage areas recede in prominence due to their fluid integration, which allows the house's interior to remain flexible and open for ephemeral definition. The one-piece custom designed kitchen was constructed in stainless steel, and the dining table, which is connected to it, cantilevers 3.5 m toward the front façade. The custom furnishings and storage spaces, together with the in-situ concrete and multiple roof terraces, make the V’ house an expression of free space in a regulated heritage context.

Photograph by Jan Bitter, courtesy of WAA

Photograph by Jan Bitter, courtesy of WAA

Photograph by Jan Bitter, courtesy of WAA

Floor plans courtesy of WAA

Floor plans courtesy of WAA

Building sections courtesy of WAA