New books this week: rebuilding, reuse, and preservation

My favorites this week from the new books table at the Architecture & Planning Library address issues of the modern urban environment: rebuilding after disaster, repurposing vacant structures, and preserving heritage as an important part of inner-city development.

New Orleans Under Reconstruction: The Crisis of Planning edited by Carol McMichael Reese, Michael Sorkin, and Anthony Fontenot gathers a wide array  of work addressing the devastation of New Orleans from Hurricane Katrina and the subsequet debates over planning and design to rebuild the city. The writers, architects, planners, historians, and activists who contributed to this project are searching for ways to create environmentally sustainable, economically robust, and socially equitable urban environments for the future. This book includes materials on planning, reconstruction of private and public housing and the cultural landscape, urban analysis, and flood mitigation.

Vacancy Studies: Experiments & Strategic Interventions in Architecture with Editors-in-Chief  Ronald Rietveld and Erik Rietveld presents the “strategic Interventions” design approach in the newly established field of vacancy studies, which grew out of the “Vacant NL” exhibition for the Dutch pavilion at the 2010 Venice Architecture Bienale.  This approach focusing on creative temporary use of existing structures addresses the relatively new dynamic created by massive scale vacancy of structures in the Netherlands. The book also covers the  Studio Vacant NL program at the Sandberg Instituut designed to train specialists in the temporay use of vacant buildings and sites.

Heritage as an Asset for Inner-City Development: An Urban Manager’s Guide Book edited by Jen-Paul Corten, Ellen Guerts, Paul Meurs, and Remco Vermeulen is a product of the Course on Urban Heritage Strategies organized by the Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands and the Institute for Housing and Urban Development Studies of Erasmus University Rotterdam.  This book examines the challenges of cultural heritage preservation in urban environments and presents case studies of six cities: Recife, Paramaribo, Pretoria, Accra, Moscow, Pulicat, Jaffna, and Surabaya.

*Clicking the title of any book in this post will link you directly to the library catalog.

Suggestions for the Architectural Improvement of the Western Part of London

Sydney Smirke. Suggestions for the Architectural Improvement of the Western Part of London. London: Priestley and Weale, 1834.

In his treatise, Sydney Smirke (1798-1877) argues that the West End of London would benefit from redevelopment as the area was failing to met the needs of the residents of a modern city.  The houses in this area were old and constructed of timber, while the roads could did not adequately serve the population , now three times that of the 17th-century. He writes:

Since that period, how immeasurable has the traffic in our streets increased! Not only have our numbers, and consequently, the demand for all the necessaries of life increased three-fold, but a thousand new sources of activity have been opened; new trades and manufactures have been introduced; new wants created; new luxuries invented. The habits of the people have undergone the most striking changes. A private carriage was, in those days, a luxury very limited in its use; stage-coaches and hackney-coaches were scarcely known; and the river Thames, which at the period under review must be looked upon as having been a leading avenue to connect Westminster and its inhabitants with the city, has for various reasons, ceased to be entitled to the preference, in this respect, which it formally enjoyed.

It is therefore, palpably fallacious to conclude that the town is now suited to our bulk, because two centuries ago it appeared to fit us tolerably well. (pgs. 5-6)

Constructing larger avenues and building houses with modern materials and updated drainage would benefit communication across the city, increase the value of the property, and the health of the city residents. (pgs. 1-16).

Smirke also argues that the redevelopment scheme would increase the beauty of the city. According to Smirke:

The inferiority of London in point of architectural merit to many of the continental capitals, must have forced itself on the conviction of every traveller who has quitted the shores of his country; and our neighbours are ready enough to draw from thence very plausible inferences in disparagement of our taste and genius. (pgs. 17-18)

He proposes to build cultural institutions and establish a regulation board of architecture and planning in the city to help solve this problem. (pgs. 17-30)

Smirke concludes with his proposal for the West End, which includes the demolition of buildings, the widening and straightening of streets into avenues, establishing piazzas, national galleries & a site to commemorate “our heroes and statesmen”, preserving/restoring Westminster Abbey, and constructing a new Parliamentary building.  (pgs. 46-117)

How Should We Rebuild London?

C. B. Purdom. How Should We Rebuild London? London: J. M. Dent & Sons Ltd, 1946 (rev).

C. B. Purdom considered the destruction of London during World War II as an opportunity to rebuild with intention. The book is dedicated to the citizens of London, and Purdom writes for them:

I have had in mind that while the task of planning and building is for technical men, architects, engineers, surveyors, town-planners, and builders, together with municipal authorities, the decision as to what kind of city the new London should be should not be theirs alone. (Preface to the First Edition)

Purdom addresses the rebuilding from various aspects of town planning; however, I found the chapters on housing and architecture particularly interesting. In his chapter, “London as Home”, Purdom argues that the plan must address the housing and population crisis in London. While many homes were destroyed, those that remain were either inadequate & substandard or out-dated. One of his solutions was to remove the distinction of working class housing and build rather for different stages of life. Families with children should never live in flats while those without young children or singles should. As the family unit changes, so should where they live. He writes:

The privates garden, even though small, is of more value to the family with small children than a large common garden or playground. It should be accepted as a social principle that families ought not to live in central areas, for they require space, and children require contact with Nature…

The truth is that flats make convenient homes for people without children who wish to live near the centre of the city, single persons, business and professional men and women, and others. (pg. 25)

In “Architecture and Building”, Purdom argues that the architecture of London has been a disappointment. He writes, “No one has been able to write about London’s architecture without apology.” (pg. 109) The war was thus a chance to rectify London’s deficiency regarding its architectural heritage. Purdom proposes that the city should be entrusted to a city architect in partnership with engineers, artists, and social scientists. Under the leadership of the architects, a new national style may develop. (pg. 115-116, 120) He writes:

I confess that I want to see a London that has style in every part of it. Not a single style, any more than a single architect, and not only in the show parts, but equally in houses, shops, and factories. Style will look after itself if architects work not for themselves, but for the unity of the city and for the function of which they build. (pg. 120)

To Better Know a Building Exhibit Opening: This Monday!

The Architecture & Planning Library and the Alexander Architectural Archive are pleased to announce a new series of exhibits in the Battle Hall Reading room starting this October! Join us this upcoming Monday, October 13th at 6:00pm for our opening reception.

The “To Better Know a Building” series seeks to explore buildings through the drawings and other visual items found in the archive and library with focus on working drawings. Plans, elevations, and sections usually communicate the realization of design intent and can be used as a vehicle in teaching through example.

The first in the series will feature the Kimbell Art Museum by Louis Kahn. The Alexander Architectural Archive has the original construction drawings in the Preston Geren collection. Preston Geren was the associate architect for the Kimbell Museum. These pencil on paper drawings are a fine example of the art of construction drawings.

The next building featured will be chosen by a vote by students, faculty, and staff in the UT Austin School of Architecture from a list provided by the Alexander Architectural Archive.

Exhibit Opening & Remarks by Larry Speck – Monday, October 13, 6:00 p.m.
October 13 – January 30
To Better Know a Building: Kimbell Art Museum
Architecture & Planning Library
Battle Hall Reading Room

Austin’s Pizza will be provided while it lasts.

See below for the official exhibition flier. We can’t wait to see you there!

To Better Know a Building

New Books at the Architecture and Planning Library 9/23/14

We’ve got so many great new books this week, it was hard to choose! Here are three I didn’t want to put down:

The Air From Other Planets: A Brief History of Architecture to Come by Sean Lally is an intriguing discussion of the future of architecture as the design of energy. In the introduction Lally asks “Instead of thinking of architecture as a mass of inert and ossified energy–even stone and steel were not always solid masses–standing as walls in opposition to their surroundings and carving out interior space, why not look to intensify those very energy systems we know are capable of creating microclimates and distinct ecosystems so as to make them architectural materials in themselves?” (p14).  This book is a great read for anybody interested in interactive design.

Superkilen: A Project by Big, Topotek 1, Superflex edited by Barbara Steiner takes the reader through the design and construction of the multi award winning one kilometer long urban space located in an ethnically diverse neighborhood of Denmark. This book includes interviews with architects and residents, plans, maps, drawings, photographs, and an index of objects used in the project. Superkilin is sure expand your perception of the possibilities of public spaces.

Spa-De: Space and Design 19 published by Artpower is a fun source of inspiration for your next design project.  This book covers design projects from Europe, North America, and Australia completed in 2011 and 2012. Projects are presented in three sections: “Lighting Graphics,”  “Elaborately Designed Food Shops,”  and “World Spatial Design.” The beautiful large color photographs, site plans and elevations are described in Japanese and English.  Some of my favorite projects from the book are pictured below.

*Clicking the title of any book in this post will link you directly to the library catalog.

Scottish Architecture

Charles Jencks. The Scottish Parliament. London: Scala, 2005. Christopher Hussey. The Work of Sir Robert Lorimer, K.B.E., R.S.A. London: Country Life Limited, 1931.  Peter Savage. Lorimer and the Edinburgh Craft Designers.  Edinburgh: Paul Harris Publishing, 1980.

I do not pretend to know enough about modern politics in the UK to have an opinion about the vote today in Scotland. I can though chat forever about 12th century politics and its effect on the architecture and landscapes of David I. However it should go, today’s post is for Scotland.

Of the modern Scottish architects, my heart belongs to Charles Rennie Mackintosh and his Glaswegian cohort. Having written previously about Mackintosh, I thought I would introduce two favorite places in Edinburgh: The Thistle Chapel by Sir Robert Lorimer and The Scottish Parliament by Enric Miralles.

I discovered Sir Robert Lorimer not in Scotland but rather in a class on the Arts and Crafts Movement. Charles Hussey writes of the chapel and Lorimer:

It is a remarkable, and was at the time a unique, example of a true revival of the medieval crafts- traditional yet spontaneous; instinct with the Gothic spirit yet unaffected and of its own age. Its triumphant success was owing primarily to Lorimer’s approach to architecture being essentially that of the medieval craftsman-architect… But that would not have sufficed had he not been in the fullest sense of the term an artist. (pg. 80)

Chapel

While my studies had prepared me to anticipate what I would see in the chapel, I was overwhelmed by the space. I remember transitioning from the darkened cathedral to the brilliantly carved and light-filled chapel.

Unlike The Thistle Chapel, I actually knew nothing of The Scottish Parliament. I happened upon it on my trip to Holyrood Palace to see Holyrood Abbey, a David I foundation. I was surprised by the building as I walked along Canongate, a striking contrast to the street and Holyrood; however, it is nestled rather well into the landscape. I had no idea what would be in store when I decided to take the tour of the building. I remember feeling surprised at every turn. And I enjoyed walking the exterior whenever I happened to be nearby; there was always a new discovery to make.

Parliment

Parliment

New Books This Week at the Architecture and Planning Library

When you visit the Architecture & Planning Library be sure to check out the New Books table immediately to the right of the circulation desk.  There is always an interesting mix of books guaranteed to provide  inspiration and information for your next project.  Here are some of my favorites this week:

R. Buckminster Fuller: World Man edited by Daniel Lopez-Perez contains the original typescript of “World Man,” the Princeton University School of Architecture Kassler Lecture Series Inaugural Address delivered in 1966 by R. Buckminster Fuller, accompanied by photos, notes, clippings, and blueprints. Fuller was arguably one of one of the most prescient and influential architectural theorists of the twentieth century and this book  documents some of his creative output at a very interesting point in his career. (Extra points to the editors for use of a nice variety of archival materials!)

Culture, Architecture and Nature: An Ecological Design Retrospective by Sim Van der Ryn is a collection of Van der Ryn’s essays and addresses from the last fifty years arranged by decade, which  allows the reader to understand the progression of his design philosophies as well as key concepts in the field of ecological design. The book is also beautifully illustrated with a selection of Van der Ryn’s paintings.

Kinetic Architecture: Designs for Active Envelopes by Russell Fortmeyer examines new developments in architectural facades that respond to the flow of energy that affects the comfort of people within a building. Dynamic facades from twenty-four recent projects in North America, Europe, Asia, and Australia are beautifully documented with photographs, site plans, elevations and sections.

Florence Lost

Giovanni Fanelli. Florence Lost: As Seen in the 120 Paintings by Fabio Bortottoni. Translated by Forrest Selvig. Introduction by Italo Calvino, translated by William Weaver. Milan: Franco Maria Ricci, 1985.

The silence entered the city in the early afternoon. It slipped through the turreted, battlemented gates, occupied the loggias arch by arch, flowed along the streets grazing the walls, huddled against the embankments, filled the ramparts.

Italo Calvino’s short essay, “Silence and the City”, is included in the work on the paintings of Fabio Bortottoni (1820-1901). The sentence quoted above opens both the essay and the larger work. After a passage describing the fall of silence across the city, Calvino describes the material of silence.  He writes:

Silence is made of stone; it is something that is inside walls, in building materials. It is the living of a masonry world, all facades, rough and smooth, rusticated, stuccoed. Silence is a solid: it speaks through volumes, edges, outcrops, and niches in the surfaces, through tympana and apses. It expresses itself in the multiple facets of those opaque crystals, the concretions of buildings in the taciturn cities. Those who attempt to make walls talk by sticking written words onto them have missed the whole point of walls: walls express themselves in the long silences of light and shadow that fall on their uniform surfaces, in the blind stare of rows of windows. (pg 14-15)

Through the lens of Calvino, the reader comes to the paintings of Borbottoni. One cannot help but feel that Calvino’s silence has befallen the city of Florence. Borbottoni included figures in many of his paintings; however, it is the mass of the buildings, the light and shadow that dominate the paintings. Even in the busy markets, there is a quietness among the people.

According to Fanelli, Borbottoni hoped to document the lost and changing fabric of the city of Florence with his 120 paintings. Fanelli argues, however, that these images are not accurate representations of the city. Borbottoni used various documents to create paintings for the no longer extant structures. Even with those buildings or parts of the city that he would have known first hand, Borbottoni used artistic license. Fanelli concludes, “Together the pictures in the collection constitute a long tale of lights and shadows.” (pg 19-26)

For those interested in the architecture and the city fabric of Florence, the two volume set would be most useful so long as one follows Fanelli’s cautionary remarks. And for those that are not, Borbottoni’s works are beautiful studies of light, shadow, and silence.

Arnold Lyongrün

Arnold Lyongrün. Neue Ideen für Dekorative Kunst und das KunstgewerbeBerlin: Kanter & Mohr, [n.d.].

Neue Ideen für Dekorative Kunst und das Kunstgewerbe is part of the Martin S. Kermacy Collection. Martin Kermacy was a  professor at the Architecture School at UT from 1947-1983. The collection reflects an interest in the Vienna Secession and Jugendstil. According to Oxford Art, Arnold Ernest Lyongrün falls into the latter art movement.

Lyongrün created of a series of twenty-four monochromatic plates of blues, greens, and browns.  Each plate mixes natural motifs of various species of plants and animals, whether real or fantastic, with human figures and stylized decorative patterns. The layout of the plates appears symmetrical; however, upon closer observation the decorative patterns are in conflict with the perceived symmetry.  Lyongrün invites careful study of his motifs. What the eye initially takes in as pattern yields many delights and surprises. Looking upon the plates reminds me of the Book of Kells or other similar medieval manuscripts, though the style and intent are different. It will be quite difficult to choose which plates to share!

“LYONGRÜN, Arnold Ernest.” Benezit Dictionary of ArtistsOxford Art Online. Oxford University Press, accessed September 4, 2014,http://www.oxfordartonline.com/subscriber/article/benezit/B00113028.

Shades and Shadows

William R. Ware. Shades and shadows, with applications to architectural details, and exercises in drawing them with the brush and penScranton: International textbook company, [c1912-c1913].

Whenever I select a book to share from Special Collections, I tend to keep my focus rather narrow to reflect my research interests in either Medieval Architecture or more broadly British Architecture. Today, however, I am breaking with tradition because I made a delightful find- a piece of architectural history- in Special Collections. The library’s copy of Shades and Shadows was the personal copy of Goldwin Goldsmith (1871-1962), who was a member of the Department of Architecture at UT between 1928-1955. He presented his copy to the library.

According to the note pasted inside the cover and dated March 18, 1914, William Ware (1832-1915) sent Goldsmith copies of Perspective, American Vignola, and Shades and Shadows. Ware writes:

This I have done, not only to testify my personal confidence and regard, but to make sure that your new undertakings have the benefit of whatever there is in these books of interest and novelty. But the only thing that will be new to you is what was new to me. I was surprised to find in writing out the Shades and Shadows that the phenomena attending Concave Surfaces and [Re-centering?] Angles had escaped the vigilance of pervious writers.

Ware concludes his brief letter with a personal note:

Some time when you are at leisure I shall be glad to know how you find things where you are.

I keep pretty well, though I have no longer any fist for penmanship, and find my legs quite untrustworthy. So I hardly walk at all, though I drive about, an hour or so, two or three times a week. 

Yours most sincerely, 

William R. Ware.