Archives For Architecture


The Juncture of the Ordinary and the Extraordinary

A Review of 

Howard Mansfield

Photographs by Joanna Eldredge Morrissey
Paperback: Bauhan, 2016
Buy Now:  [ Amazon ]

Reviewed by Pam Kittredge

In his book, Sheds, author Howard Mansfield writes, sheds might be “the shortest line between need and shelter.” Mansfield’s book then expands on this conjecture, exploring sheds through the lenses of architecture, history and culture. He shows sheds in a variety of places, with a variety of purposes, across time.

Mansfield’s sheds form their own wildly diverse landscape of shapes and colors, of uses and purposes. Once we have observed this diversity through the author’s eyes, it seems to be everywhere. At least in New England where I live, and where Mansfield finds many of his examples, the shed is ubiquitous.

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James Howard Kunstler

Today is the birthday of social critic James Howard Kunstler (b. 1948).

Kunstler’s best known book is probably:

The Geography of Nowhere: The Rise and Decline of America’s Man-Made Landscape
James Howard Kunstler

Paperback: Free Press, 1994.
Buy now:   [ Amazon ]  [ Kindle ]

Here is his important 2004 TED Talk “How Bad Architecture Wrecked Cities”…

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Here are a few new book releases from this week that are worth checking out:

(Where possible, we have also tried to include a review/interview related to the book…)

See a book here that you’d like to review for us?
Contact us, and we’ll talk about the possibility of a review.

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Next Book

The Circle: A Novel
By Dave Eggers.

Read the LA TIMES review

*** Other Books by Dave Eggers

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Excerpt from the new book

Writing About Architecture: Mastering the Language of Buildings and Cities

Alexandra Lange

Paperback: Princeton Architectural Press, 2012.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]  [ Kindle ]

If, as Eric Jacobsen has argued in his recent book The Space Between, churches need to be reflecting on and engaging the built environment in their neighborhoods, then we are going to have to acquire the needed language for doing so.  This volume is a helpful guide that propels us forward in the journey of talking about and engaging the built environment in the places we inhabit.

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“Built-in Opportunities for
Human Relationships, Health, and Flourishing

A Review of
Cities for People.

Jan Gehl.

Reviewed by Brent Aldrich.

Cities for People.
Jan Gehl.
Hardback: Island Press, 2010.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

In a city like mine, a story which is typical of many US cities has happened: built over the last 200 years, emptied out since the 1960s, and now making a few steps to revitalize the health of what makes cities great; there are hopeful moves of homes rehabbed and occupied, small businesses open, narrow bike stripes painted. And like other cities, we’ve gotten on board with the ‘greening’ of the city – thousands of new trees, some green roofs and rainwater collectors, and small but productive gardens.

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A Review of

Function, Restraint, and Subversion in Typography.
J. Namdev Hardisty
Hardback: Princeton Architectural Press, New York, 2010.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

Reviewed by Will Fitzgerald

Many of us who love words love to gaze at their shape, and think on their shaping. Some of us learn the technical language of fonts, of ascenders and x-heights; ems and ens; serifs and leading (pronounced like the metal, not the action). Someone I knew cried out at the opening titles of the most recent version of True Grit: there should have been a ligature of the letters “f” and “l”, but that particular title did not have it. He cannot remember now what the title said.

Books such as Function, Restraint, and Subversion in Typography allure people who love the shape of words. Its black cover, with its title embossed in black; its author’s name in white. A table of contents dominated by images of pages of designed type. The introductory matter with its acres of whitespace—and starting on even page instead of the customary odd page.  And pages and pages of the products of design. This is, in the postmodern way of speaking, design porn.

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A Brief Review of Light, Color, Sound:
Sensory Effects in Contemporary Architecture.

Hardback: Norton, 2010.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

Reviewed by Brent Aldrich.

Light, Color, Sound: Sensory Effects in Contemporary Architecture, by Alejandro Bahamón and Ana Mária Alvarez, brings together recent architecture projects from around the world which feature intense artificial light on facades and glowing interiors, fluorescent colors on walls and windows, and structures built to generate or house sounds, and some projects which blur all of these distinctions together. As much as Bahamón’s last book Rematerial had an emphasis on the low-tech, Light, Color, Sound more often than not focuses on projects utilizing the latest in optic and lighting installation, and computer interfaces to control these surfaces. There are some striking examples of this – the Dexia Tower with its interactive touch screen on the street nearby – but I tend towards those projects that either stretch low-tech solutions a long way, or incorporate new energy technologies to achieve their high-tech ends.

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“Toward a Thriving Human Culture

A review of
A Lan
dscape Manifesto
by Diana Balmori.

Reviewed by Brent Aldrich.

A Landscape Manifesto
Diana Balmori.
Hardback: Yale UP, 2010.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

LANDSCAPE MANIFESTO - Diana BalmoriEcological sustainability needs cities. Not only that, it needs dense, well-designed, diversified cities where human intentionality can place itself within the functionality of the larger climate, watershed and ecosystem.

For many of us, this will require a fundamental paradigm shift about where and how we locate nature – and cities. First of all, human culture must enter the realm of ecology, keeping an eye toward the health of air, water, soils. Diana Balmori’s A Landscape Manifesto moves us in this direction in significant ways, locating cities (human culture) in nature, shifting representations of land to more accurately represent a new ecological conscience, and revisiting old landscape forms, equipping them with new functions. While all of this might sound like too huge of a task to find a place to begin, that is not the case, as Balmori introduces all of these basic ideas first through the lens of The Lawn.

In an earlier book, Redesigning the American Lawn, Balmori writes (along with her co-authors), “Understanding the dynamics of lawn ecology may bring to a human scale the meaning of ecological sustainability.” She picks up this theme in A Landscape Manifesto, reviewing characteristics of the old model, the Industrial Lawn: in the US, it covers 31 million acres, “the nation’s largest single crop;” it is dependent on fossil energy, water, and chemicals to survive; “yard waste is the second-largest component of the waste stream.” The familiarity of practices of maintaining a lawn situate it on a scale in which action is possible; in Redesigning the American Lawn, the authors introduce the Freedom Lawn, which keeps much of the lawn form, but introduces species diversity, composting in-place, using available water and solar resources; yet another approach is exemplified in Fritz Haeg’s Edible Estates project, replacing front lawns completely with edible landscapes.

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“Imagining Living Places
That Participate Within Their Contexts

A Review of
Natural Houses:
The Residential Architecture of Andersson-Wise
Rematerial: From Waste to Architecture.

Reviewed by Brent Aldrich.

Natural HousesNatural Houses:
The Residential Architecture
of Andersson-Wise

Hardback: Princeton Architectural Press, 2010.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

From Waste to Architecture.

Alejandro Bahamón and Maria Camila Sanjinés
Paperback: W.W. Norton, 2010.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

REMATERIALThe city of Indianapolis – where I live – like many American cities has experienced huge amounts of suburban and exurban sprawl in the last decade. Within the last two years, it has been reported that for the first time in human history, more people live in cities than in rural places, although those numbers owe much to these sprawling, never-ending bedroom cities, so far removed from the city core, and hardly fair to be categorized as ‘urban’ at all. Many of us have watched the cycle of a farm stripped of all features, leveled, pipes buried, roads and curbs laid, and anonymous, windowless, porchless beige boxes spring up in record time. This widespread, wasteful suburbanization is completely oblivious to the place where it exists, what has been displaced for it to be there, how the place might inform how it is developed, and on and on. Fortunately, there is an alternative, and two new architecture books that both take place, site-specificity and local resources as their starting place and help us to imagine living places that acknowledge and participate within their context are Natural Houses: The Residential Architecture of Andersson-Wise and Rematerial: From Waste to Architecture.

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