Tag Archives: princeton architectural press

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.

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Two Guidebooks

Art Parks: A Tour of America's Sculpture Parks and Gardens by Francesca Cigola
Princeton Architectural Press, 2013
Paperback, 224 pages

Guide to New York City Urban Landscapes by Robin Lynn and Francis Morrone, with photography by Edward A. Toran
W. W. Norton, 2013
Paperback, 288 pages

As I write this, summer—at least the months between the end of one school year and the beginning of another—is winding down. But it's not too late to get out and enjoy the outdoors in warm weather. These two guides, both focused on landscapes in different ways, are invitations to do just that.

Art Parks calls itself "the first comprehensive guide to America's outdoor art spaces," and that seems long overdue. In a way, sculpture parks can be called the museums of the 21st century; they are art spaces that were prefigured by artists like Robert Smithson who transformed landscapes through large-scale earthworks. This guide is not limited to such types of art (the cover makes that known), but sculpture parks and gardens offer the potential to experience art through its juxtaposition with nature, and many artworks turn out to be site-specific pieces that heighten that relationship.

Think of a sculpture park or garden in the United States and most likely it's in this guide. That goes for my favorites: Laumeier Sculpture Park in St. Louis, the Nasher Sculpture Garden in Dallas, and the Socrates Sculpture Park and the Noguchi Museum in Long Island City, Queens. The entries are organized into three sections—leisure spaces, learning spaces, and collectors' spaces—and then geographically within each section. While a strictly geographical presentation would have emphasized the similarity of landscapes within a region, as well as potentially providing suggested routes for driving around different parts of the country, the thematic sections emphasize the relationships between host institutions, arguably not as important. Nevertheless one can easily use the guide to plan a trip in any part of the country, though it should be noted that the majority fall in the northeast.

Guide to New York City Urban Landscapes presents over 40 open spaces—most outdoors, but some indoors—in all five boroughs. Given the Bloomberg administration's continued and expanded transformation of formerly industrial waterfront into public parks, and the pedestrianization of streets like Broadway in Times Square, now is a perfect time to present a guide to these and other landscapes, new and old alike. Fittingly, given these transformations, the book is split into two halves: along the water's edge and inland. Eighteen entries are included in the first half and twenty make up the second half; each entry has a thorough description by either Lynn or Morrone, photographs by Toran, and directions on how to get there (many of the entries have maps, which—full disclosure—I made for the book). Helpfully, a "sampling of places to eat and drink where the space is right" rounds out the book.

Beyond the timely nature on the part of Lynn, who formerly organized walking tours for the Municipal Art Society (for which Toran often accompanied as a photographer), and Morrone, an architectural historian with many books to his name, the book's value lies in how the authors use each entry as a means of discussing issues larger than the geography of each place. It's not uncommon for an entry to receive X amount of words, with half of those about the specific place and the rest on issues spurred by it. For example, the first page of the two-page entry on the Brooklyn Grange discusses the popularity and benefits of green roofs in various applications, while the second page is about how it particularly uses a formerly industrial building in Long Island City as an urban farm.

Adorning the cover of the guide is a shot of Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn. This is an important choice for two reasons: Green-Wood predated and influenced the design of Manhattan's Central Park, meaning it indirectly influenced just about every park in the ensuing 150+ years; and given that the cemetery is running at capacity and therefore reorienting itself as a cultural amenity, it is symbolic of the changes that happen within a city, even as its evolution is hardly typical. Just as the High Line points to one way the city evolves, so does Green-Wood. What these landscapes, and the rest in the book, are about in the hands of Lynn and Morrone is use, not just design. Yes, the design of the urban landscapes is discussed greatly (as are history, the environment and other areas), but the focus is on how people use the places, and the book is an invitation to use them even more.

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Le Corbusier Redrawn: The Houses

Le Corbusier Redrawn: the Houses by Steven Park
Princeton Architectural Press, 2012
Paperback, 240 pages

The value of precedents in architectural education is undeniable. Even as innovation in form-making is still championed by the press and many architects, most of what is designed today is based on what has been done in the past. It could even be argued that it is impossible to create something new, that everything is only a synthesis of past buildings. Whatever the case, one of the mainstays of architectural education is the precedent study, often involving the redrawing of a design through orthogonal drawings (plan, elevation, section) and three-dimensional representations (perspective, axonometrics). Teaching a first-year drawing class about a year ago reminded me of the importance of redrawing a building by hand, an action that allows the design to be more readily understood by the student drawing it. As walls, doors, windows, patterns, and other lines are traced, their meaning should follow.

Or at least such learning by drawing is the ideal. But my teaching experience made me realize that it is increasingly difficult to  maintain a student's interest in hand drawing today. This is not a universal statement, but the impact of technology on architectural production and education (and student's brains) is hard to deny. Drawing by hand is still important for being a good architect (see Juhani Pallasmaa's The Thinking Hand for a good argument of such), but it is not the only way to understand buildings; it is not the only way to redraw a precedent.

The first of what I'm guessing is a series of books of Le Corbusier buildings "redrawn" by Steven Park (the Houses subtitle implies as much) raises this question, for the plans, sections, elevations, perspectives, and so forth look like they are generated by 3-D models instead of being drafted, by hand or CAD. Park does not indicate exactly how he has done the drawings, but the book nevertheless makes me wonder if modeling buildings as precedents instills the same (or more) understanding as drawing by hand. Students would be forced to construct and experience the building as a three-dimensional entity, rather than as 2-D projections and 3-D representations, and that seems valuable as a means of learning computer modeling while absorbing architectural precedents.

Park's book focuses on sectional perspectives as a means of aiding the understanding of Le Corbusier's residential commissions. As Park describes it, "By depicting in a single view multiple spaces within the building envelope, sectional perspectives create a sense of movement through a sequence of spaces and reveal their interrelationships within the overall spatial hierarchy." This is especially true of Corbu's designs, where the promendade architecturale was paramount. The sectional perspective through Villa Savoye's ramp, which graces the cover, is a great example, as it shows the ribbon windows, curving glass wall on the ground floor, and the way the enclosure shapes the rooftop space. These and other aspects of the design can be grasped with a 2-D building section, just not as readily as in a sectional perspective.

Beyond the notions of what the drawings may point to relative to architectural education, or their value as tools for understanding Corbusier's buildings, Park's book is extremely valuable for collecting 26 of the architect's houses in one place, with orthographic drawings all to the same scale. The sectional perspectives are extremely well done, but they would be incomplete without these 2-D drawings, especially the floor plans. Of course, as Park points out in his preface, the drawings cannot be a substitute for "walking through a building, measuring its dimensions with hands and arms ... [grasping] the relationship between the representation and reality." Yes, such is the case with all architecture, but even for moments after one has been able to visit one of Corbusier's houses, this book is a great collection of his great houses.

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Citizens of No Place

Citizens of No Place: An Architectural Graphic Novel by Jimenez Lai
Princeton Architectural Press, 2012
Paperback, 144 pages

Increasingly, buildings are not the sole medium by which architects are defined. Many architects, for various reasons, gravitate toward installations, tactical urbanism, and even words and/or images on paper. The last has helped make Architectural League prize-winner Jimenez Lai a common name in architectural circles, particularly from being published in just about every archizine that hits the street. It's not hard to find the appeal in Lai's archi-comics, which manage to do something most architects fail to accomplish: insert fiction into architecture. I'm drawn to the lines that preface the first chapter, "Conversations with a Developer" in his Citizens of No Place: "Fiction is an impetus to architecture. Imagination is an upstream process toward making the fake become real. The fiction that architects write...forecasts the fabrication of cities..."

I'm also drawn to the idea of architectural narrative, architectural fiction, whatever one calls it. But I feel like much of it is too heavy on architecture and devoid of fiction (such was the problem with Journeys). Lai exploits the format of the comic or graphic novel to let the images straddle the line between architecture and fiction, filling in much of the latter without necessarily making it serve as dialogue. Nevertheless there is always some form of narrative movement in the ten vignettes collected here, each of which can be read separately, but each of which adds to Lai's critique of architectural form-making. And while much of his commentary is inside enough that only other architects will fully get it, the best comics appeal to a wider audience, especially "Babel" and "The Obsession Accelerator". Each of these deal with sci-fi scenarios painted with the most minimal of architectural spaces. Yet the sense of place is so strong, much more tangible than even the flashiest architectural rendering. Such is the power of fiction and the graphic novel in the hands of somebody with Lai's talents.

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Writing About Architecture

Writing About Architecture: Mastering the Language of Buildings and Cities by Alexandra Lange
Princeton Architectural Press, 2012
Paperback, 160 pages

A couple weeks ago the New York chapter of the American Institute of Architects assembled five architecture critics from prominent publications to investigate the role of architectural criticism today. Justin Davidson (New York Magazine), Paul Goldberger (The New Yorker), Cathleen McGuigan (Architectural Record), James Russell (Bloomberg), and moderator Julie Iovine (The Architect's Newspaper) spoke for nearly two hours to a sold-out Center for Architecture audience. Absent of course was Michael Kimmelman, the current architecture critic for the New York Times. As these edited highlights at archpaper.com attest (I was not able to attend the panel discussion), that absence did not mean Kimmelman's few pieces for the paper since taking over Nicolai Ouroussoff's position did not impact the proceedings. He has reoriented the Times's architectural criticism away from buildings as standalone objects by well-known architects and towards buildings as parts of the urban fabric that have impact on people's lives. The panelists basically concurred that starchitects had their moment, but now "a higher degree of broader urbanistic consciousness [exists] today," according to Goldberger.

That evening's discussion also makes it clear that the need for architectural criticism is strong. So many people have forecast the end of architectural criticism (the late critic Martin Pawley's collected writings are even titled The Strange Death of Architectural Criticism), but the opposite might actually be the case, especially if we take the broader context enabled by the internet into account, not just newspapers and magazines that have cut the position of architecture critic to single-digit numbers in the United States. Cities are more popular -- and populous -- than ever, and therefore it's extremely important to have educated and informed observation and criticism about buildings, developments, landscapes, and urban plans. This book by critic Alexandra Lange, spurred by her teaching in the D-Crit program at the School of Visual Arts, is a well-timed call for just that, aiming to turn even those with rudimentary architectural knowledge, but with a strong interest in architecture and the built environment, into architecture critics.

Lange tackles this goal in six chapters that each present a piece of architectural writing by a well-known writer (Lewis Mumford, Herbert Muschamp, Michael Sorkin, Charles Moore, Frederick Law Olmsted, Jane Jacobs), followed by Lange's discussion of it. Basically following her D-Crit structure of learning from others, the six are further split in half, in that the first three address buildings and the remainder target cities. But Lange uses each chapter and its critic to talk about broader pertinent issues, such as preservation, landscapes, and ground-up criticism. So, for example, her discussion around Michael Sorkin's "Save the Whitney" essay from 1985 looks at his theme, approach, and organization -- the tripartite template of criticism that Lange explicates and reiterates throughout the book -- but it also addresses historic preservation, activist criticism, and the role critics play in influencing what buildings are saved or demolished. Within the discussion of this and the other chapters Lange inserts more snippets from other essays by critics like Ada Louise Huxtable, Paul Goldberger, Justin Davidson, Karrie Jacobs, and Mike Davis. All tolled the book is a fount of admirable architectural criticism beyond the six primary-source essays that hold the book together.

To gain the most from Lange's book, to ideally evolve into a skilled critic, the reader is given a checklist at the end of each chapter with questions to consider. These checklists do a few things: They create some bullet points, which are helpful for many people in structuring information; they help the reader determine what to observe and research in regards to their own subject, be it a building, landscape, or neighborhood; and they let the reader insert his or her own voice and further absorb the ideas via writing. Because it's not enough to read, a critic must write. While I've done my fair share of writing, and have sometimes considered myself a wannabee critic, I've pursued this interest in a fairly haphazard manner on this and other web pages. I'll admit frequent writing helps to flesh out ideas and develop a voice, but it's necessary to step back and take the time and effort to look at the structure of criticism. For me this book will be helpful in these broader strokes, aided by the organization of the book into its six digestible chapters. For others the book will be helpful in different ways. Whatever the case, Lange has crafted a book that is to the benefit of anybody interested in architectural criticism.

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The Wayfinding Handbook

The Wayfinding Handbook: Information Design for Public Spaces by David Gibson
Princeton Architectural Press, 2009
Paperback, 152 pages

In graduate school I analyzed Martha Schwartz's design for Jacob Javits Plaza in Lower Manhattan, a public space defined by curling, bright green benches. Part of the analysis involved observing and mapping how people moved across the plaza. On a number of occasions I witnessed people walk towards a building entry, only to find themselves caught up in the maze of benches and then backtrack; one disgruntled person even climbed over the benches upon realizing his path was supposed to meander. Schwartz's design does have two wide paths that run perpendicular to each other, but one conclusion I made from my observations was that the overall design is poor in terms of wayfinding -- the mental process of orientation in space. The design tries to balance two users -- people from the surrounding buildings eating lunch, people visiting the Federal building that abuts the plaza -- but it's clear the former prevails.

In the case of Jacob Javits Plaza, a different layout of the benches would have contributed to better wayfinding for people not familiar with the place, but in larger urban spaces by multiple actors or in highly complex buildings other means are needed. This book by David Gibson of Two Twelve -- a title in Princeton Architectural Press's Design Briefs series -- is a thorough yet easy to digest overview of wayfinding design, a specialized discipline that deals with scales from the very large (urban quarters, landscapes) to the very small (fonts, symbols). For the most part wayfinding design is the placement and articulation of signage and other visuals in the environment to help people orient themselves. Our reliance upon signs is strong, particularly in buildings like hospitals and transit hubs, where an influx of visitors is common, layouts are maze-like, and people can be in a hurry. Good wayfinding design therefore means legibility is almost immediate; it does not require one to stop and look closely at a sign in order to decipher where one is going.

Gibson's book is a great primer for learning about wayfinding design and what to take into consideration in order to make it work well. Not surprisingly the book itself is its best advocate; its design makes the structure of the book clear and finding parts within it easy. The content is spread across four numbered chapters (1-The Discipline, 2-Planning Wayfinding Systems, 3-Wayfinding Design, 4-Practical Considerations) that are then broken down into detailed subsections. After the book gives an overview of the discipline it walks the reader through a project, a process that basically parallels that of an architecture project. Next it delves into the colors, fonts, symbols, and other pieces that comprise signage, and then the book concludes by talking about things like writing proposals, working with code requirements, and documenting signage for fabrication. Green design is only touched upon in terms of what materials signs are made of, and the relationship between wayfinding design and the quality of constructed places is not discussed at any length (as an architect I can't help think a plan can do as much to aid in wayfinding as signage), but these deficits don't really detract from a solid and well-illustrated overview of one aspect of environmental design that deserves more attention.

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The Architectural Detail

The Architectural Detail by Edward R. Ford
Princeton Architectural Press, 2011
Paperback, 336 pages

Following 2009's Five Houses, Ten Details, architect/educator Edward R. Ford broadens his scope of investigation on his favorite topic: the architectural detail. The earlier book looked at five iterations of his own house, while the latest book presents five types of details in the work of 20th century masters and contemporary architects of note. These five types of detail -- as abstraction, as a fragment in which the whole building is represented, as the articulation of structure, as the articulation of construction, as autonomous design -- move from his least to most favored, making the book an unfolding of the critical wisdom that Ford imparts upon the reader. Except for the autonomous detail -- his preferred mode -- there is a great deal of overlap between the different types, particularly when he uses the buildings of, for example, Rem Koolhaas, an architect who doesn't really believe in detailing and therefore uses various approaches towards them in a single design.

The roll call of architects besides Koolhaas is impressive, be it the modern masters rooted in the two-volume Details of Modern Architecture (Peter Behrens, Frank Lloyd Wright, Mies van der Rohe, Le Corbusier) or contemporary architects (Steven Holl, Peter Zumthor, Herzog & de Meuron, UNStudio). Many more accompany these big names, but the overall effect is that this study is focused on the modern masterpieces and 21st century icons. Where does this leave the majority of architects practicing today, the ones who might read Ford's book? Must they refer to his previous book for discussions relevant to more modest commissions? And does The Architectural Detail's choice of projects and architects mean that the types of details Ford explores are limited to big-budget projects by big names? I'd argue that Ford's five types of architectural details, while grounded in real-world construction, are abstract, so they can be applied to various situations. That is, except for off-the-shelf solutions; bespoke is the name of the game, and as such details are an expression of the architect, hence the reliance on recognizable names and buildings for the most part.

Across the five types Ford presents his argument with his critical/theoretical text, photographs, and construction details. The last -- originals made for the book -- are mostly axonometrics that mix line drawings with digital patterns used to describe materials. They are very appealing drawings. The details, not surprisingly, serve to reveal what is not shown, and for most of the types that is as important as what is visible. The details therefore provide visual continuity across the types and give the reader a means for comparing them beyond form and appearance (photography). Unfortunately Ford does not provide as many autonomous details as he does for the others, even though the chapter is the longest and it is the type he promotes.

Ford ends the book by asking, "What is detailing?" He may not give a clear answer that can be applied to all buildings, but what is clear is why the book arrives now (his first book was published in 1990): the book responds to the desire of architects embracing digital technology, who speculate on a future of seamless buildings without joints and therefore without details. What happens to architecture if this composite method prevails? Of relevance here is the loss of autonomous details, those that are "inconsistent, imperfect, or exceptional part" and, as the author asserts, mediate between what we see and what we feel. Handrails, door knobs, and other elements, when treated as designs in and of themselves on their own terms, serve such a mediation, and their loss at the expense of a seamless building would be a shame. A longshot but a shame.

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Matter in the Floating World

Matter in the Floating World: Conversations with Leading Japanese Architects and Designers by Blaine Brownell
Princeton Architectural Press, 2011
Paperback, 256 pages

The arrival of this book in the mail happened not long before a 9.0-magnitude earthquake hit off the coast of Japan, sending a wall of water six miles inland on the eastern coast near Sendai. Fairly widespread thoughts of sympathy and calls for donations for residents of the area -- still dealing with the uncertainty of the nuclear reactors affected by the two natural disasters -- were followed in architectural circles by appreciation of the building culture in Japan, especially in terms of how earthquakes are addressed by new buildings. The oft-repeated video of a swaying skyscraper in Tokyo certainly looks scary, but that was what the building was designed to do; it moves with the horizontal forces instead of trying to resist them. This approach, admittedly in use in other parts of the world, gives a hint of the way designers of various ilk in Japan think, the way they problem solve and design for various factors. By the same token, Blaine Brownell's interviews with some of the most popular and prolific architects and designers from Japan illuminates the way they design, their unique blends of individuality and culture.

Brownell is known widely for Transmaterial, the online and print catalog of "materials that redefine our physical environment." His focus on material innovation, application, and sustainability informs much of the questions he levies at architects, such as Tadao Ando, Toyo Ito, Shigeru Ban, Kengo Kuma, and Kazuyo Sejima. There is a marked attempt at getting at how these and other architects articulate their intentions through their choices of materials and systems, how they innovate to achieve spaces and objects that, like the title attests, float between matter and idea. No better example can be found than the project on the cover, Kengo Kuma's Oribe Teahouse. Constructed from parallel ribs of white polycarbonate, the walls seem to dematerialize, giving a sense of space but not one that is tangible or well-defined. Not all examples in the book are so ethereal, yet it's hard to deny the ability of Japanese architects to pull off such amazing feats, what practitioners elsewhere yearn to accomplish.

The interviews are split into four sections: lightness, atmosphere, flow, and emergence. Brownell asserts that these "embody various approaches to materiality and evanescence in Japanese architecture and design," but in the case of the architects (I'll admit I skipped most of the designers in my review of the book, but it's clear from the illustrations that a variety of output and effects -- materials, clothing, lighting, products, etc. -- is explored in these) it's obvious that they could fit in other categories just as easily. Kuma is located in lightness, but the teahouse alone could move him to atmosphere. This is just one example, yet it starts to illustrate that these categories are not overbearing; they structure the book, but they don't impact how one reads it, at least not in my case. The interviews are full of personal and professional insight, carefully framed by Brownell's attentive questions. Highlights include Shigeru Ban, Terunobu Fujimori, Jun Aoki, and Toyo Ito.

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Micro Green and Narrow Houses

Micro Green: Tiny Houses in Nature by Mimi Zeiger
Rizzoli, 2011
Hardcover, 224 pages

Narrow Houses: New Directions in Efficient Design by Avi Friedman
Princeton Architectural Press, 2010
Hardcover, 240 pages

A common way to collect and present designs of contemporary architecture in book form is by building type. And easily the most popular type is residential architecture, particularly single-family houses. A search on Amazon for "architecture houses" yields over 14,000 book results, but "architecture office buildings" only 716, and "architecture stadiums" only 132. For those who digest these sorts of contemporary collections, these results are hardly a surprise, but they go to show how pervasive and important considerations of houses are (I'm guessing the minority of those 14,000-odd titles are geared towards architecture) and how diverse the subject is. My point here is that one needs a particular hook when adding to the literature on residential architecture. These two books stake out precise areas that then dictate the types of houses that fit in their pages.

Micro Green is Brooklyn-based freelancer Mimi Zeiger's follow-up to Tiny Houses from 2009. In the earlier book the houses range in area from two digits to four, and roughly the same applies in the new title, which starts with a 43-sf (4 sm) "Mobile Eco Second Home" and ends with a 1,722-sf (160 sm) villa in Vals, Switzerland. In between the 34 other projects are arranged accordingly, from micro to tiny to small to not-so-big. Yet as the full title of Zeiger's latest makes clear, the focus of the collection is not just size but eco-conscious living and a Thoreau-esque retreat into nature. (One must turn to Tiny Houses for city living.)

The collection is quite diverse in terms of design and geography, but most are quite photogenic, the hand of talented architects. A couple houses have been featured on my web pages previously (Rolling Huts, Chen House), and Zeiger's book influenced me with three projects creatively incorporating logs. Yet two projects, Michael Janzen's Tiny Free House and Derek and Dustin Diedrickson's Backwoods Skyscraper, stand out from the rest because they are not self consciously architecture with a capital A. They are respectively built from shipping palettes and salvaged doors, windows, and plywood, and they exhibit more than just a DIY aesthetic; they are DIY living, off the grid, for oneself and one's family. While they look like they might not support day-to-day living, they do just that. Ironically many of the other projects are not houses per se; they are cabins or other shelters for short-term living, not contemporary examples of Thoreau's move to the woods.

Narrow Houses by McGill University Professor Avi Friedman also looks at small houses (not nearly as small as Micro Green), "ecologically sensitive homes ... no more than 25 feet (7.6 meters) in width." Infill lots in cities come to mind, but townhouses comprise only nine of the 28 projects collected here. The rest are detached dwellings, some in urban conditions but most removed from the confines that reduce the benefits of building a narrow house, mainly the cross-ventilation on the long sides that is almost impossible to achieve with infill houses. That the majority of the projects are small houses (most are under 1,500 sf / 140 sm) on large plots of land points to a responsibility on the part of clients and architects towards reducing house sizes and increasing performance in terms of sun and wind. This also points to a reconsideration of the suburban ideal, the large energy-hungry home surrounded by lawn. Lessons towards this shift can be gleaned from these project, just as lessons towards dealing with tight urban lots (especially in terms of natural light) can be found in the townhouse chapter.

Following the presentation of the 28 projects are four thorough essays by Friedman: design principles, site and plan considerations, interiors, and a historical chronology of narrow-front homes. While this last section is geared at a lay audience more than architects, the latter benefit from their inclusion in the book, as various considerations towards dealing with narrow lots and designing narrow houses are collected in one place. These essays can be seen as an outcome of the efforts of McGill's Affordable Homes program, which Friedman heads; all then informs the selection of the preceding projects. Together the writing and case studies offer valuable information and precedents for architects and clients aiming to build a narrow house either out of circumstance or responsibility.

Micro Green:
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Narrow Houses:
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The Liberal Monument

The Liberal Monument: Urban Design and the Late Modern Project by Alexander D'Hooghe
Princeton Architectural Press and the Berlage Institute, 2010
Hardcover, 112 pages

At the end of Alexander D'Hooghe's 100-page manifesto-like book "that challenges all of the accepted truths of urban design" is an imaginary conversation between Ernst Cassirer, Sigfried Giedion, Louis I. Kahn, Fumihiko Maki, and Josep Lluis Sert, the book's protagonists. The format of this section lends itself to explaining the main ideas of the book, and doing it in an accessible way. That said, I'm surprised it did not come at the beginning of the book. (I may not be the only one, the conversation's footnotes are #1-8, while the book begins with footnote #9, an error I'm guessing was created by the book's potential last-minute reorganization.) At the beginning of the book, the conversation would have given the reader most of the ideas, allowing the short chapters that comprise the book to be more easily digestible but also with a clearer purpose. As is, the conversation helps make sense of the preceding, the at-times dense and abstract ideas about urban design, monumentality, sprawl, myths, utopia, abstraction, "group form," and the avant-garde.

D'Hooghe's book, culled from his 450-page dissertation at the Berlage Institute and Delft University of Technology, asks what urban design can do to deal with sprawl, something it does not seem capable of addressing in any meaningful or successful way. Given the conversation, the canvas for the ideas is the middle of the 20th century, when urban design was first articulated as a unique discipline and modernism was tested on a large scale. Yet in the years since suburban sprawl has rose to the fore, hence the author's and protagonists' focus on large civic projects, nodes of concentration among the suburban canvas. It's an intriguing if incomplete idea that runs counter to projects that "retrofit suburbia," tackling sprawl via infill strategies. D'Hooghe sees a future for the monumental in urban design, whatever that form may be.

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