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Best Architecture Books of 2010
Ten books pointing the way to larger professional horizons
By Norman Weinstein
December 3, 2010
Eric J. Cesal, Down Detour Road: An Architect in Search of Practice (The MIT Press, $21.95). This coming-of-age memoir of a young architect should prove equally illuminating to oldsters because of Casel’s witty and penetrating analysis of the need to align professional shibboleths with real-world economic realities. Where else in architectural literature can you heed a voice laced with the deadpan worldly humor of a Huck Finn, the commonsense of a Stoic, and the idealism of a 20-something who finds himself in post-Katrina New Orleans suffering, but smiling. One generation’s odyssey, post-graduation, learning architecture in the studio disasters mercilessly built.
Thomas Fisher, Ethics for Architects: 50 Dilemmas of Professional Practice (Princeton Architectural Press, $24.95). Professional Codes of Ethics are often boringly scribed “ought to” wish lists. Ethics in architecture might best be learned through penetrating case studies, through untying knotty dilemmas. Written with disarming directness and simplicity, Fisher offers sage ethical guidance through re-purposing the idea of “lifecycle costing” (for us mystics “karma?”) when deciding whether you’ve acted ethically in your practice, with particularly invaluable examples for the U.S. design juggernaut working in China and the Middle East. His postscript could have been preface: “In a depressed economy, ethics may seem extraneous: something nice to do once we pay the bills. But the opposite is true.”
Mark Garcia, The Diagrams of Architecture (AD/Wiley, $85). If you value the drawings and doodles starachitects leave on cocktail napkins as manna-droppings, Garcia’s gallery of original drawings by the obscure as well as Fountainheads you’ll find even more entertaining. As 21st-century designers increasingly work with “flow” in the forefront of their thinking, diagrammatic thinking evolves from simple shorthand to complex mapping of multi-dimensional territories. The scholarly text can be rough going, but the wild diagrams absolutely justify the price of admission.
Philip Jodidio, Shigeru Ban: Complete Works 1985 -2010 (Taschen, $150). This weighty and slick and pricey coffee table book of Japan’s greatest “Nordic” architect – dare you to leaf through 10 pages without thinking of Aalto Orientalized – puts photographically in your face why Ban might just be Japan’s most profoundly versatile architect of our time – period. There’s the obvious irony of making emergency shelters with enough sexiness to end up in a high-end eye-candy volume like this. Then there’s the additional irony of paper structures heralded in this deluxe book, one aimed at those with deep pockets who might marvel at a paper shelter – but NIMBY. Lightweight text, but the photography is as graceful as Ban’s way with the lightest of materials made monumentally memorable.
Charles Jencks and Edwin Heathcote, The Architecture of Hope: Maggie’s Cancer Caring Centres (Frances Lincoln, $60). Not all healthcare facilities present similar design challenges, and the hybrid form of Maggie’s Centres offers cancer patients a unique blend of meditational, educational, and therapeutic spaces for rest and reflection. Despite much of the accumulated and often justified boredom surrounding starchitect self-aggrandizement, here are exquisite healing spaces by Frank Gehry, Zaha Hadid, and Richard Rogers. Celebrity architects as occasional secular saints? Rare is that architecture that can instruct us about how to live and how to die. This book makes the Stars just like us in their quest for the imaginatively caressing spaces cushioning crucially painful life passages.
Giovanni Curatola, Turkish Art and Architecture: From the Seljuks to the Ottomans (Abbeville, $95). There is a trick in finding an erudite, but not academic tone, in introducing the majesty of Islamic classical architecture to a wide audience of Western readers. Curatola looks lovingly at Turkish art and architecture from a span across the 10th to 19th centuries, matching intricately detailed descriptions with 250 striking photographs, with images of some of the most devoutly illuminating Mosque architecture ever seen between book covers. And who would have guessed the impact Ming Dynasty porcelain plate design would have on the tiles of the Ottoman Empire, and how inspiring these motifs look through 21st-century vision?
George Ranalli, Research & Design: Faculty Work, The City College of New York – Bernard and Anne Spitzer School of Architecture (Oscar Riera Ojeda Publishers, $25). From the over-the-top Hotel Jellyfish for Tianjin, China, by Michael Sorkin that straddles a line between zoomorphic and dadamorphic design, all to way to the dignified apollonian civility of Ranalli’s Saratoga Community Center in Brooklyn, NY, the architecture students at CCNY luck out by having a teaching faculty practicing with so much visionary panache.
Jane Alison, editor, The Surreal House (Yale University Press, $70). Archigram’s merry pranksters gave legs to future British cities, but back in Paris between the wars, the surrealists gave urban housing erotic breasts, vertiginous stairways to nowhere, and fireplaces serving as toy train stations. Framed by a variety of informative (but unfortunately humorless) scholarly essays that offer a single epiphany – the deepest gift surrealism gave to modern architecture was the rebirth of the Gothic – the hundreds of color illustrations offer a remarkably discerning catalogue of bizarre architectural dreams that could ricochet into whimsically engaging follies for our time.
James P. Cramer and Jane Paradise Wolford, editors, Almanac of Architecture & Design 2010 (Ostberg/Greenway Communications, $149). Let’s get the nasty fact of the price tag for this 578-page paperback out of the way. If the reason for the inexcusable price point is attributed to this being the first full-color edition of this essential reference, how about publishing a special “recession” edition in black and white? That said, this encyclopedic yearbook ranks the top 333 largest architecture firms, lists damn near every architectural organization worth knowing in North American, and has comprehensive awards lists. You could save a bundle by researching all of this on the Internet for a year, so maybe the price is almost right?
Ruth Barnes and Mary Hunt Kahlenberg, Five Centuries of Indonesian Textiles (Prestel USA, $95). Simply the most spectacularly radiant book on textiles from any locale I’ve seen in years. But after a second look at nearly two dozen ikat patterns based on architectural motifs, the deep value of this art book for architects snapped into sharp focus. As building facades (through high-tech light show capacities) increasingly offer ever-changing, environmentally responsive, design possibilities, these traditional Indonesian textiles based on island architecture have astonishing lessons to teach. Even those textiles free of architectural designs tell stories about layering flashing colors and dramatically composing biomorphic motifs. And while the astute authors refrain largely from linking this priceless collection of fabrics to buildings, their obvious adoration and understanding of these textiles invite you to link them to every imaginable art, including the art of living well.
Norman Weinstein writes about architecture and design for Architectural Record, and is the author of “Words That Build” – an exclusive 21-part series published by ArchNewsNow.com – that focuses on the overlooked foundations of architecture: oral and written communication. He consults with architects and engineers interested in communicating more profitably; his webinars are available from ExecSense. He can be reached at email@example.com.
More by Weinstein:
Hadid’s design issues a challenge: define beauty by lyrically playing with illusion.
Why “Greatest Hits” Lists by Architecture’s Stars Should Be Mocked
Transferring the musical or cinematic “greatest hits” list mind-set to architecture is deleterious, and here’s why.
Op-Ed: Life After Ada: Reassessing the Utility of Architectural Criticism
Ada Louise Huxtable deserves mucho thanks and praise – but other questions moving us to a new flavor of criticism have to be asked.
Book Review: “Architecture and Beauty: Conversations with Architects about a Troubled Relationship”: Yael Reisner exuberantly interviews architects about beauty
Any of you architects seen Mr. Keats Lately?
Book Review: Shedding Light on Concrete: Tadao Ando: Complete Works 1975-2010 by Philip Jodidio
Photographic presentation of a poet of light and concrete triumphs over lackluster commentary.
Book Review: Sage Architectural Reflections from Architecture’s “Athena”: Denise Scott Brown’s “Having Words” distills a lifetime of theorizing and practice into practical and succinct guidance for thriving through difficult times
Brown’s occasional papers trace a trenchant trajectory of learning from Las Vegas to learning from everything.
Book Review: Keeping the Architectural Profession Professional: “Architecture from the Outside In: Selected Essays by Robert Gutman” celebrates Gutman’s legacy as invaluable outsider
Selected essays by a penetrating sociologist of architecture pose the kinds of tough-minded questions needed now to keep architectural professional on-track.
Book Review: “Design through Dialogue: A Guide for Clients and Architects,” by Karen A. Franck and Teresa von Sommaruga Howard
A helpful communications primer offers case studies of winning collaborations between clients and architects, but as useful as this book proves, it leaves some uncomfortable questions about communication unaddressed.
Twilight Visions: Vintage Surrealist Photography Sheds New Light on Architecture
An exhibition and book of photographs of Paris between the wars might just be the necessary correctives to the virtual sterility of digital imagery
Best Architecture Books of 2009
10 crucial volumes from the classic to the iconoclastic
A major architect in the history of Modernism finally receives recognition – and sundry asides about why Modernism never exited.
Book Review: “Urban Design for an Urban Century: Placemaking for People,” by Lance Jay Brown, David Dixon, and Oliver Gillham
To the credit of the erudite authors, their sketch of urban design brings levels of political, sociological, and architectural analysis together in a readable synthesis.
Book Review: “Everything Must Move: 15 Years at Rice School of Architecture 1994-2009”
There’s a Texas flood of architectural ideas that gives ample evidence of an architecture school that unsettles pat assumptions. Who could ask for anything more?
Book Review: A Subversive Book Every Architect Needs: “Architect’s Essentials of Negotiation” by Ava J. Abramowitz
Supposedly architects don’t need negotiating skills along with other communication skills because great design “sells itself.” How lovely that an AIA legal counsel created this definitive book to shatter that thin myth.
Gehry’s conversations offer portraits of an astute listener as well as talker, an architect as aware of his flaws and limitations as of his virtues.
Best Architecture Books of 2008
10 tomes from the superior to the indispensable
A review of Drafting Culture: a Social History of Architectural Graphic Standards by George Barnett Johnston
Sharpen your pencils – and get ready to do a NeoHooDoo shimmy.
사놓고 안읽은 책이 이렇게 많다니…
1. 철학과 굴뚝청소부.
2. 과학이 나를 부른다.
3. 행복은 혼자오지 않는다.
4. 진보의 재탄생.
5. 현대건축의 철학적 모험.
6. 프로페셔널의 조건.
7. 앨러건트 유니버스.
8. 육식의 종말.
9. 죽음의 수용소.
10. 내 젊은날의 숲.
12. 이기적 유전자.
14. 존재와 시간.
15. 열린사회와 그 적들.
17. 유럽의 발견.
18. 상저받지 않을 권리.
19. 그들이 말하지 안는 23가지
20. 붓다 브레인.
23. 건축텍토닉과 기술니할리즘.
24. 역사의 연구.
25. 료마가 간다.
26. 천개의 고원.
28. 정의란 무엇인가.
30. 1960년 이후의 건축이론.
32. 박애 자본주의.
33. 공지영의 지리산행복학교.
hassell: ANZ centre – best interiors and fit out project at WAF 2010
묵은 상처의 영향에서 벗어나기 위한
내 나름의 방법은 ‘따지지 않는다’이다.
우리가 만든 공동의 상처라고 생각하면,
내가 입은 상처가 덜 원통하고 내가 입힌
상처가 덜 부끄럽다. 그렇다고 자꾸 들여다보고
가끔씩 건드려보는 것은 백해무익하다.
생채기는 잘 아물면 단단한 굳은살로 남아
보호막의 구실을 하지만, 자꾸 건드려 덧나면
암세포로 발전할 수도 있다.
– 임혜지의《고등어를 금하노라》중에서 –
* 정말 아끼고 사랑하는
사람에겐 따지지 않습니다.
도리어 안아주고 감싸주고 지켜줍니다.
진심으로 존경하는 스승에겐 따지지 않습니다.
무조건 따르고 섬기고 배웁니다. 따지려 들기 위해
한 걸음 다가서면 상처가 덧나 불행으로 자랍니다.
고맙고 따뜻한 시선으로 한 걸음 물러나면
‘공동의 상처’마저도 행복의
2010.12.10 고도원의 아침편지
왜 정직하라고 하고,
왜 착하게 살라고 하고,
왜 법을 지키라하고,
왜 성실하라고 하고,
왜 노력하라고 하는가.
왜 비례를 가르키고,
왜 역사를 가르키고,
왜 공간을 가르키고,
왜 아름다움을 가르키고,
왜 프로세스를 가르키는가.
결국 돈이면 다 될것을.