Tag Archives: hatje cantz

Candide No. 6

Candide No. 6 edited by Susanne Schindler, Andres Lepik, Axel Sowa
Hatje Cantz, 2012
Paperback, 144 pages

Since its first issue in 2009, Candide - Journal for Architectural Knowledge has followed a format with five distinct sections: "'Analysis' investigates forms of the built environment, looking for the knowledge invested in them. 'Essay' offers space for a personal exploration of one of the grand themes of architecture. 'Project' serves as a forum for practicing architects and their works. 'Encounter' highlights the wealth of experience of famous or unjustly forgotten architects. 'Fiction' appeals to the power of the imagination, which occasionally transports more knowledge than does empirical research." Rather than asking authors to respond to a theme (as is the norm in a number of architectural publications these days), Candide uses the sections as means of exploring architectural knowledge through different means of expression and investigation; writing an analysis is much different than writing fiction, for example, so undertaking one or the other relative to a certain topic should yield unique results.

Issue no. 6 begins with the Essay on architectural acoustics in the first two decades of the 20th century. Sabine von Fischer discusses how Adolf Loos, Herman Sörgel and Siegfried Ebeling approached technology, aesthetics, and metaphysics through sound in architecture. It's the most academic of the five contributions in the issue, and the parallel struggles of architects 100 years later is obvious, though it's not clear if the three articles are offered up as examples of what not to do, or if they were the only voices tackling the issue at the time.

Tanja Herdt's Analysis of Cedric Price's McAppy Project follows. Like many people I am familiar with Price's Fun Palace and the Potteries Thinkbelt, but not his research and design for Robert Alistair McAlpine. Price looked at the social conditions of various job sites and made proposals aimed at improving working conditions. Herdt appropriately paints Price as an ahead-of-his-time designer that looked beyond formal solutions and incorporated a variety of inputs in his proposals. It is a thorough analysis and a very interesting overlooked project to learn about.

Of the remaining three contributions two are interviews—with artists Anne and Patrick Poirier, and with architect Anna Heringer—and they are excellent pieces focused on ruins and earth architecture, respectively. The fifth piece is a work of Fiction, a somewhat disjointed radio play that tackles the demolition of a public housing development outside Paris. It is probably much better as an actual performance, but as words on the page it fails to hold interest (as good fiction does) as it attempts to convey the voices of the different players in the demolition (residents, architects, workers).

It's worth noting that the five-section format also extends to the journal as an artifact. The design of the first five issues was consistent, and starting with issue six the journal has a new designer (Benjamin "E.P.i.M.H.i.P.F." Critton) and a new look, though one that maintains some details—paper size, exposed spine, a mix of papers. So Candide will change its design every five issues, but it remains to be seen how far it will take the number five: Will it have a planned shelf life of five times five issue, perhaps? The sixth issue shows that there is plenty of good topics to help inform readers' architectural knowledge.

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Terunobu Fujimori: Architect

Terunobu Fujimori: Architect edited by Michael Buhrs and Hannes Rössler
Hatje Cantz, 2012
Paperback, 240 pages

This book on Japanese architect Terunobu Fujimori was published on the occasion of a retrospective exhibition at Museum Villa Stuck in Munich. Fujimori, known for his quirky teahouse designs, contributed a "trojan pig" on wheels for Villa Stuck, though he changed it to a coffee house, since that drink is more popular in Germany than tea (but less so than beer, which he didn't think would work in a small space). The "walking cafe," as the architect calls it, is one of more than 20 projects collected in this very welcome book on the architect who practiced as an architectural historian for two decades before realizing his first building at age 42.

This now well-known past has led to designs that are highly idiosyncratic, neither repeating modernist tactics nor traditional ones. Fujimori actually spells this out as one of three principles ("my design should resemble neither the existing styles of any country nor the works of any modern architect") in his enlightening introductory essay (the other two principles are that "science and technology should ... be wrapped in nature" and "no boundaries between the site and surroundings).

In addition to the documentation of completed buildings and urban planning projects, and Fujimori's essay, the book consists of essays by Toyo Ito, editor Hannes Rössler, Dana Buntrock, and Thomas Daniell. The last focuses on ROJO (the Street Observation Society), which Fujimori started with artist Genpei Akasegawa and others in the mid-1980s to document the quirky and the everyday in Japanese cities. It's not hard to see the link between the humorous objects they have discovered and the buildings that Fujimori produces, yet the latter are hardly one-liners; there is a depth to his architecture.

In the past I've been drawn in particular to the "green roofs" that the architect has created, ones that entail lots more maintenance than extensive and intensive roofs popular today, but their reconsideration of what a green roof can be is paramount. The same can certainly be said about his teahouses, which maintain the detailed focus on the ceremony but question the location and the act of getting to them; many are perched atop tree trunks, and one is even suspended by wires. They are simultaneously alien yet familiar, handmade constructions that are hard to dislike. It's great to have the teahouses and other projects in one place for more people to appreciate.

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Three Photography Books

Architecture of Authority by Richard Ross
Aperture, 2007
Hardcover, 144 pages

The Raw and the Cooked by Peter Bialobrzeski
Hatje Cantz, 2012
Hardcover, 160 pages

Structures of Utility by David Stark Wilson
Heyday Books, 2003
Hardcover, 144 pages

While most architectural photography would not be considered fine art, buildings and cities are a popular subject by photographers. Documenting an individual building is the typical purview of architectural photography, yet these three books exhibit a tendency to explore particular facets of the man-made environment: Spaces of all sorts of authority (Richard Ross), Asian cities (Peter Bialobrzeski), the derelict industrial structures of the American West (David Stark Wilson). These subjects, outside of their focus on the built environment, could not be any different from each other in terms of subject, yet they all exude an appreciation of their subject that is influenced by the photographers' means of execution.

The cover of Richard Ross's Architecture of Authority makes clear that the book is powerful for what it lacks: people. Here are the segregation cells at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, yet without any prisoners or guards; the reader is left to his or her own imagination to picture what happened inside or around the cells. The same can be said about the other spaces, be they a Montessori school, a mental institution, the United Nations, or one of the many prisons. These are empty spaces, where authority is in their existence, the leering technology (security cameras are evident in many shots), and whatever lies outside the photo's frame.

Ross finds authority in just about any imposition of obedience on individuals (even in a crosswalk), and his frontal and often symmetrical compositions also tie the pieces together. Symmetry can be seen as the imposition of order, be it in the creation of architectural space or the forced perspective Ross portrays (not all symmetrical spaces need to be photographed in such a manner). Many of the spaces are bare -- distancing the people requiring authority from external influences, especially in prisons -- so any objects or fixtures become something to zero in on and see in a new way. It would be hard to call Ross's book, or its photos, beautiful, but as an artistic statement it is an important book that critiques growing authority and our submission to it.

Architecture of Authority:
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In The Raw and the Cooked Peter Bialobrzeski takes the reader on a journey through the megacities of Asia. It is a voyage the works from the periphery to the center, from the informal to the formal, from the slums spread across the ground to the apartments stacked in the sky. Each city is real, but the lack of names alongside the photos (they are collected at the back of the book) makes it seem like a trip through one single metropolis. Peter Lindhorst, in his introduction, asserts that the book turns the reader into a 21st-century flaneur, akin to one in Baudelaire's time but removed from physically traversing the city. Bialobrzeski enables our flaneur-like stroll through real places that congeal into a fictional city.

Bialobrzeski takes long exposure shots, many of them when the sun is low or gone, and many from high vantage points. These characteristics result in expansive photos where the lights are on but it's always daytime. The night sky becomes bright, lights are ablaze, and people and cars are blurs. Unlike Ross's spaces, these cities are full of people and things, and the detail in Bialobrzeski's can be overwhelming; the only recourse is to tune out the details, mentally turning them into a blur like the people and cars moving on the streets. Yet it's voyage that makes the book special. The difference between the first photo and the last is undeniable, but a good deal of overlap occurs between these two realms; a temporary situation until total modernization, or an indefinite condition exacerbated by rapid urbanization? Bialobrzeski's photos are beautiful, but ultimately they provoke and complicate things, rather than providing easy answers.

The Raw and the Cooked:

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Unlike Richard Ross and Peter Bialobrzeski, David Stark Wilson also happens to be a designer; his firm WA Design is a design/build firm in Berkeley, California. Snapping photos before he started designing houses, Stark has long trained his large-format camera on the landscapes of his home state. Inspired by Bernd and Hilla Becher's documentation of cooling towers, blast furnaces, and the like, Wilson started shooting grain elevators, mine heads, and other forgotten industrial structures in the Sierra foothills and the Central Vally. His photos serve as a record of these structures in various states of ruin, but they also serve to inform Wilson's designs; industrial forms find their way into his architecture.

Yet for the reader the book exists outside of the influences the structures and their form have on the photographer/designer. Instead the black-and-white shots tend to highlight the interaction between building and landscape. Form, material, and the way the buildings sit on the ground reference another time and another way of interacting with the earth's resources. There is more evidence of submission than exploitation. Buildings are inserted into the landscape, rather than the latter being cleared to make way for the former. It's a somewhat romantic notion, but one's interpretation of these structures, like Wilson's, can take their good qualities to heart when considering how to act today.

Structures of Utility:
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Raimund Abraham & the ACFNY and Flow

Raimund Abraham & the Austrian Cultural Forum New York edited by Andres Lepik and Andreas Stadler
Hatje Cantz, 2011
Hardcover, 128 pages

Flow: The Making of the Omega Center for Sustainable Living by Bob Berkebile, Stephen McDowell, Laura Lesniewski
ORO Editions, 2010
Paperback, 120 pages

As professed in an earlier review, I'm a big fan of books about individual buildings. Compared with magazines and blogs, books about specific buildings allow more study, attention, and visuals towards worthy designs, be they contemporary or historical. These two recent books on single buildings focus on Raimund Abraham's Austrian Cultural Forum New York (ACFNY) and BNIM's Omega Center for Sustainable Living (OCSL) in Rhinebeck, New York. The former was completed in 2002, and the latter was completed last year for the Omega Institute for Holistic Studies. Each building is being celebrated in book form for different reasons: the ACFNY is being appreciated after Abraham's death in a car accident last year, and the OCSL is being lauded as the first to earn both LEED Platinum and "Living" Status from the Living Building Challenge.

Even though the ACFNY's completion dates to 2002 -- making it the first post-9/11 skyscraper in Manhattan -- the competition for the narrow lot in Midtown was held in 1992. (In 1999 Architekturzentrum Wien published a now hard-to-find book on the competition, complete with illustrations of all the entries.) Those ten years illustrate how the future of the institution's new home was uncertain, even though Abraham's striking design was heralded immediately after completion, in the press and even with an exhibition at MoMA in 1993. Appreciation for the design then and now is rooted in the strong image of the facade, alluding to a mask (what Abraham actually called this part of the design) or a totem or even a guillotine, the last in reference to the way Abraham addressed New York City's well known zoning setback requirements. Combined with the narrow lot on which the building stands, Austria's presence in the U.S. and New York City is of its place (the design responds to zoning, instead of seeking a variance to do something different) yet is so far removed from any predecessors to be a complete anomaly. Aggressive to be sure, the building is a masterpiece, one that Manhattan has had a hard time topping in the nearly decade since.

So the reasons for this book are clear, given the building's innate qualities and the almost twenty years transpiring since the initial competition, as well as the unfortunate loss of its designer in 2010. The book is a celebration of the architecture, its architect, and the institution that commissioned such an extraordinary building. Alongside the numerous photographs and drawings are essays by the editors, an interview with Abraham and Gerald Matt in 2009, essays by Peter Engelmann and Peter Marboe, a remembrance by Lebbeus Woods, and an interview between the editors and Kenneth Frampton (who also headed the jury for the 1992 competition).

In the realm of green building, OCSL is in a position where the building can be an extreme version of sustainability because it acts as a demonstration tool for its enlightened client, similar to William McDonough's Lewis Center for Environmental Studies at Oberlin College. Buildings like these that raise the bar for sustainable architecture, tend to exist to further their cause, not as results of, say, a private development, commercial building, or residence. At any rate, a book on OCSL exists mainly because of the Living Building Challenge, a certification program for green building that is more holistic than LEED and abandons that more popular rating's point system with its trade-offs. Even the name "Living Building" sets up way of thinking about architecture as it intersects with the greater landscape and the lives (human and otherwise) that inhabit them.

The book on BNIM's design is really two books in one: "the making of the Omega Center for Sustainable Living" and "in pursuit of a living building." The first is a case study of the design, from site analysis and early sketches to detailed aspects of the building and how it treats water. This last element is easily the most important consideration in the architecture, and the book too, given the name Flow; at the core of the building is the "Eco Machine," a system for naturally treating wastewater. The second half of the book lays out the sixteen prerequisites for the Living Building Challenge and how the designers addressed each. For architects interested in tackling the Challenge in one of their projects, this part of the book is most valuable. In concert with the first half, the book is a fitting document of an important building marking a potential paradigm shift in sustainable architecture, from a business-as-usual approach to something more holistic and responsible. Even the book itself -- literally two halves where each "book" is flipped relative to the other -- reinforces the importance of water as well as the building itself.

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