Category Archives: library

New Book: Architects’ Homes

Patch, Bethany, editor. Architects’ Homes. Victoria, The Images Publishing Group, 2017.

Architects' Homes - Cover pageBethany Patch’s Architects’ Homes examines the homes architects build for themselves, arguing that “architects use the design of their own homes both as a design experiment and as a representation of their own beliefs and ideals” (pg. 7).  The book contains what Patch believes to be “a small segment of the designs that result from a successful collaboration between the architect as the designer and the architect as the owner” (pg. 9).

Architects’ Homes contains photographs and descriptions of the homes, including the materials used and the architects’ wants and needs.  The styles and locations of the home vary widely.  Many of the homes have distinctive tastes and serve as family homes while also being pieces of art, in a sense.  The architects have put themselves into these projects in a way they cannot in their work for clients.  As both architect and client, the owners of these homes have taken great care in the materials, layouts, and elements they include in their plans.  Most of the homes are also well-suited to their surroundings.  For example, the McKinley Resident in Southern California, owned and designed by David Hertz, fits nicely into its context.  It is at once modern and modular with elements of a traditional beach house.  There is an outdoor shower to use after going to the beach, as well as countless windows “to take advantage of the abundant Californian light and cool ocean breeze” (pg. 108). In keeping with California priorities, the house includes recycled woods and runs on solar energy for electricity, hot water, and heating (there is no air conditioning because of the cross-ventilation created by all the windows).  Many of the houses similarly fit into their environments and locations, while also being distinctive for the architect’s particular tastes.

Providing an in-depth look at the homes architects design for themselves, Architects’ Homes supplies insights into architects’ processes and personal tastes.  While the job of the architect is to serve the client, how does that change when the architect is the client?  Does it make the process more difficult or easier?  How do their priorities and styles differ when it comes to their own homes?  These are fascinating questions raised by Architects’ Homes which the book only begins to explore, but there can be little doubt as to the uniqueness of these buildings and the fact that, to the architects, they are much more than any other house they might design – they are home.

New Book: Building Histories

Rajagopalan, Mrinalini. Building Histories: The Archival and Affective Lives of Five Monuments in Modern Delhi. Chicago, The University of Chicago Press, 2016.

Mrinalini Rajagopalan’s 2016Rajagopalan - Cover book Building Histories: The Archival and Affective Lives of Five Monuments in Modern Delhi examines the “modern lives, from the mid-nineteenth century to the late twentieth century, of Islamic monuments of Delhi, originally built between the twelfth and seventeenth centuries”: the Red Fort, Rasul Numa Dargah, the Jama Masjid, the Purana Qila, and the Qutb Complex (pg. 2).  Rajagopalan’s main interest is in the state-led projects of preserving these monuments, so she explores the bias present in the selection of these monuments and the historical narratives they support, which is then reflected in the archival representation.  She seeks to complicate and challenge these narratives to develop “new conceptual histories of the Indian monument” (pg. 2).

For each of the five monuments, Rajagopalan explores the architectural history, preservation history, and the master narratives surrounding them.  In each chapter there is a discussion of these features, as well as the role of colonialism in shaping these sites and how they were used by the British to retain their power.  In the chapter on the Purana Qila, for example, reveals the combating narratives surrounding the ancient palace: in one the palace was built by the first Mughal emperor of Delhi (and added onto by later Suri rulers), while the other suggests that the palace was the capitol mentioned in a Hindu epic, Mahabharata.  Despite the truth of the first narrative, the preferred story in India is the second, an urban legend that Indraprastha, the capitol in the epic, lies beneath Purana Qila.  This story has gone “from myth to history,” as Rajagopalan writes (pg. 124).  How?  Why?  These are exactly the questions which fascinate the author.  She argues that this occurred because of the myth’s popularity among academics, who helped to make the story an important part of Delhi’s history and character, as well as the changing political and cultural landscape of India over the course of centuries.  It became more important in this time of cultural upheaval for Hindus to have an origin story for Delhi, rather than the reality that the site was founded by a Muslim Mughal emperor.  At a time when tensions between Muslims and Hindus reached a zenith, during the Partition of India into India and Pakistan, this myth became ever more embedded in popular conscious, eventually being accepted as history instead of legend.  All five monuments Rajagopalan discusses relate to a similar challenge to the current master narrative surrounding the sites.  In some way, each of the monuments, so carefully preserved, help to perpetuate a narrative which is, at best, misleading.

A trend in historical scholarship in recent years has been to challenge “the master narrative.”  Building Histories is an excellent example of this scholarship.  Rajagopalan carefully examines and researches the narratives of these five monuments, crafting a compelling argument that the master narratives behind the sites served a purpose for someone or some group, whether it be a politician or Hindus.  The title itself reveals a great deal: histories are built.  History is written by the winners, the wealthy, and the powerful.  They are allowed to shape the narrative that is passed on to future generations and mold it to their purposes.  The truth is malleable until historians like Rajagopalan begin to challenge the accepted narrative. Only then can the true history become clear. People think of historians as stuffy old men in bowties lecturing about the ancient world. Truly though, history is one of the most dynamic disciplines to study. The field is constantly changing, with new sources and evidence coming to light, ripe for interpretation and incorporation into the narrative.  In this sense, too, history is built.  But, hopefully, this time it is built to give a voice to those who had previously been silenced, and to provide a more complete story of the past than that told before.  History may have been written by the winners, but it can be rewritten by the newest generation of dynamic, perhaps even bowtie-wearing, historians.

New Book: Counterpreservation

Sandler, Daniela. Counterpreservation: Architectural Decay in Berlin                Since 1989. Ithaca, Cornell University Press, 2016.

In her book Counterpreservation: Architectural Decay in Berlin Since 1989, Daniela Sandler explores the “lively pockets of decay” in Berlin, “teeming with social and cultural activities” (pg. 1).  The Sandler - Counterpreservationbuildings promote “cooperative living initiatives, public interest projects, and thoughtful engagements with history,” and have become an essential element of Berlin (pg. 1).  Sandler argues that counterpreservation is “a distinct phenomenon…not about ruins…[but] rather about ruination, about the state of decay, the process of becoming decrepit” with a fate yet unknown, unlike other ruins of Europe (pg. 4).

Sandler explores these buildings as living projects, cultural centers, sites of memory, and ruins in East Germany.  For example, Sandler discusses how “these cultural centers…represent the vibrant alternative culture and bohemian life that have made the city famous since the postwar era and even before,” especially since the Berlin Wall fell and all that space “appeared to be up for grabs” (pg. 91).  She uses the Haus Schwarzenberg as the main focus of the chapter, showing it to be representative of “this moment of experimentation and spontaneous appropriation of architectural and urban spaces”in the district of Mitte from the 1990s to the present.  Sandler examines the neighborhood of Mitte at large, providing better context to understand Haus Schwarzenberg and its place in Mitte and Berlin.  After being threatened with eviction and with privatization, public intervention and external financial support allowed Haus Schwarzenberg, allowing the coffee shop to promote “a mire diverse, inclusive, and experimental city” (pg. 131).  Following a discussion on the destruction of older buildings and sites, including the Berlin Wall, in contemporary times, Sandler concludes the book with a look backwards at some of Berlin’s most traumatic moments.  The two World Wars and the division of Berlin had lasting effects on the city.  Sandler writes, “historic preservation and restoration, museums, archives, and research are to a certain extent a retrogressive attempt to reverse death and recover what has already passed” (pg. 242).  Instead, Sandler suggests, that even though these buildings may one day fall, they have still made their mark on the city and had a lasting impact on the space and people around them.  Though they may not exist anymore, they will have been, in a way, just the beginning of the story.

What Sandler has done in Counterpreservation is turn historians’ and architects’ pleas for preservation on their heads.  In the United States, there are few old buildings because Americans are always wanting to build something new.  This is not the case in much of Europe, though Berlin stands out from many other historic cities. Because of the damage suffered during World War II bombings, much of Berlin had to be rebuilt from the wreckage.  Many lament this fact, and wish that buildings could be better preserved.  Sandler argues that instead of trying to preserve these buildings forever, we should protect them while we can, appreciate them, incorporate them into our lives, but not work so hard to protect them.  Part of what makes human life so precious is that humans are not immortal, so it is best to live fully.  The same can be said for buildings, per Sandler.  Nothing can be built to last forever – buildings have a lifespan too; much like humans, they have a small, temporary, yet important part to play in a much longer story.

We have this book and so many more new books available this week!  Come enjoy!

New Books: The Fire Station Charleroi

Charleroi Fire Station - CoverSamyn, Philippe, Alain Sabbe, and Hugues Wilquinn. The Fire Station Charleroi. Tielt: Lannoo, 2016. Print.

Philippe Samyn, the architect behind the Charleroi Fire Station in Charleroi, Belgium, partnered with Alain Sabbe and Hugues Wilquinn to write The Fire Station Charleroi.  The book explores the life led by firemen, the design competition for the building, the plans, the design versus the reality, and the sustainability and artistic nature of the project.

The authors begin by describing the life and work of firefighters – the long hours, the dangers they face, and the different rooms in firehouses.  This builds context for the design of the firehouse and the inspiration behind designing such a grand, beautiful space for these hard-working individuals.  With commentary from the architect throughout, the process of designing the firehouse for the competition is described, as well as the changes made during construction.  The firehouse is unique in its shape – the building is circular.  The selection committee “complained of the maneuvering difficulties fire engines and other emergency vehicles would have due to…insufficient space” (pg. 39).  So, Samyn and his colleagues recommended the circular form, with folding doors to allow easy, quick access in and out of the fire station.  Everything about the station, from its location to its shape to the colors selected are meant to provide comfort and easy accessibility.  Throughout the book are photos and drawings which demonstrate the look, functionality, and details of the Charleroi Fire Station.

Oftentimes, fire stations are small buildings, leading to cramped conditions and difficulty in maneuvering firetrucks in and out of the station.  The Charleroi Fire Station presents an alternative to this: a massive, open facility meant to service firefighters’ needs.  These individuals put their lives on the line every day they go to the station – do they not deserve the very best spaces?  Additionally, the circular garage allows for faster departure times for trucks, and the location of Charleroi on a hill provides easy access to roads, leading to a faster response.  In other words, this beautiful space actually produces improvements in job performance, cutting down on time, which can literally be the difference between life and death for an individual.  While projects like Charleroi are expensive and time-consuming, the impact of the project proves that building high quality, functional, beautiful fire stations improves the experience of firefighters and helps them to save lives – is that not worth every penny?

New Book: Architecture and Justice

Simon, Jonathan, et al., editors. Architecture and Justice: Judicial Meanings in the Public Realm. 2013. New York, Routledge, 2016.

Architecture and Justice - CoverSimon and his co-editors explore the architecture related to the judicial system and the connection between justice and architecture to “examine the effects that architecture has on both the place of justice and on individual and collective experiences of judicial processes” (pg. 1).  The book is organized to transition from individual, intimate stories, to more broad commentary.

The first part discusses prisons and prison cells, including their design and the experience of living in prison.  The authors note that the simple lines, the utilitarian austerity give prisons a contemporary feel.  Prisons are naturally boxy places, due to the presence of square cells, and the architecture often reflects the seriousness of the place, adding to the sensation of being trapped. Next, the courthouse and courtroom are explored, including an essay on a “Virtual Court Pilot” in the United Kingdom, which would allow cases to be heard quickly and efficiently.  Courtrooms, like prisons, are meant to convey a sense of seriousness, but without the austerity of prisons; instead they strive to also demonstrate the importance and morality of the judicial system.  The two remaining parts of the book cover more general topics and explorations of justice and architecture, including articles on the spatial aspects of justice and the role of architects and justice in Athenian dramas. This section examines theoretical and big-picture subjects, ending the book on universal themes connecting architecture and justice.

Almost every city in the United States has a local courthouse or city hall, some place where civic duties take place.  It is a place some people hope to never enter.  Beautiful, imposing buildings that remind us of the laws we abide by.  Or in the case of prisons, boxy, modern buildings that warn us against breaking the code.  The architecture itself is meant to express the grandiosity of the justice system, creating an indelible if subtle connection between justice and the architecture representing it.

New Book: World of Malls

Lepik, Andres, and Vera Simone Bader, eds. World of Malls: Architectures of Consumption. Berlin: Hatje Cantz, 2016. Print.

World of MallsAndres Lepik and Vera Simone Bader’s World of Malls: Architectures of Consumption explores the relatively recent development of shopping malls.  With other contributing authors, Lepik and Bader examine examples of malls around the United States, with a focus on their architecture, the connection to consumerism, and the future development of malls.

Bader notes that “as an independent building typology, the shopping mall has not yet gained entry into the history of architecture…[despite] shap[ing] cities worldwide” (pg. 12).  The shopping mall appeared a mere 60 years ago, making it a recent archetype, but one which has spread quickly.  The authors note that malls typically are within an urban area, or just outside the limits, bringing people in to participate in a particular consumer experience.  But do all malls feel and look the same on the inside?  What about the outside?  These are the kinds of issues which World of Malls explores, becoming the first study on malls from an architectural perspective.  One author even makes the argument that “in our increasingly fragmented culture, shopping, which consists of strolling through zones of consumption dotted by occasional purchases, is one of the last conventions we experience as a community” (pg. 237).  Scattered throughout are profiles of malls, featuring photos and descriptions. The book concludes with a piece on the future of malls, advocating for the repurposing of malls which are abandoned, as the buildings are often large and adaptable.

Most people have been to a mall at some point.  They have become central aspects of every day life, serving as a means of consumerism and a form of exercise or entertainment.  Featuring stores for shopping and restaurants for eating, the mall is a social place as much as it is consumerist.  Yet little attention is paid to the buildings and design of these places, as well as how common they have become.  With the advent of online shopping, are malls becoming irrelevant?  What will happen to the buildings if, or when, malls become obsolete?  World of Malls begins exploring such important questions.  But, for now, throngs of people will continue their weekly pilgrimage to their local mall to participate in what has become an American pastime.

 

New Book: On Stage!

Zibell, Barbara, et al., editors. On Stage!: Women in Landscape, Architecture, and Planning. Berlin, Jovis, 2016.

Barbara Zibell, Doris On Stage!Damyanovic, and Eva Alvares present a series of portraits of architects from around the world based on exhibitions on the subject in Hanover, Valencia, and  Vienna.  According to the editors, “On Stage! is an international women’s and gender studies project which aims at making female architects and planning experts visible” (pg. 9).  Architecture as a profession has long been dominated by men, so the project aims to give these women a platform from which to promote themselves, their work, and bring more women into the field.

The authors interviewed numerous women who participated in the three exhibitions, asking them about their personal lives, their perspectives on architecture before and after studying it, and about the experience of being a woman in the field.  For example, Agata Dzianach from Poland explained that “‘the most stressful for me was when I had to control the construction works, as the workers treated me like “the young girl who doesn’t know anything”‘” (pg. 79).  In comparison, her superior also had children and so allowed her to work from home and split her time between home and the office following the birth of Dzianach’s daughter.  Dzianach argues that “architecture is not just a building…architects should spend more time with the people, integrated to the society…with a goal to serve the people,” while also bettering the quality of their buildings by considering both women’s and men’s needs (pg. 81).

On Stage! discusses many of the main issues facing modern women in architecture.  The interviews often broach the topic of balancing work with family, a dilemma with which many women around the world are familiar and which is an ongoing political debate, as well. The jobs of architects can be demanding – even more so when construction workers, landscape architects, or designers question the capability or authority of female architects.  So how does one combat these attitudes?  On Stage! and its interviewees suggest one thing: produce work of such high quality that you cannot be ignored by your peers or history.

On Stage! is just one of the fascinating books we received this week – Come by to check out this one or anything else – we are at your service!

New Books: Colonial Delhi

Jain, A.K. Colonial Delhi: Imperial and Indigenous. New Delhi: Kaveri Books, 2015. Print.

Colonial Delhi: Imperial and Indigenous by A.K. Jain delves into the history of Delhi, paying particular attention to the work of the Delhi Improvement Trust (DIT) to improve the city.  Jain writes that “whereas Imperial Delhi was for the ruling class and the Britishers, the schemes of DIT were mainly concerned with the improvement of Jain - Coverthe indigenous city…[and] acted as the bridge between New and Old Delhi” (pg. 6).  Within Delhi, Jain argues, there are two cities: one British and one Indian.  They “had an altogether different perspective, politics, purpose, paradigm, and planning approach” (pg. 8).  It is these two cities Jain focuses on, shedding light on the physical and cultural divides between colonizer and colonized.

Jain goes into great detail on Delhi’s past, covering the city’s founding as Shahjahanabad before splitting the remainder of the book into two parts, one on imperial Delhi and one on indigenous Delhi.  He makes use of primary sources, including numerous images and transcripts of reports and other documents.  He analyzes some of the most significant and notable British buildings and explores how they reinforce British superiority and imperialism.  The section on DIT is much longer, and discusses the major population growth of Delhi and the extensive efforts of the DIT to improve Delhi.  Citizens applied for improvements to an area or building, so long as “it was ‘too badly arranged’ or [had] ‘any other sanitary defects'” (pg. 219). Different commissions would then work on the projects. Occasionally the DIT would seek out improvement projects in the city, depending on the approval of occupants.

Jain provides fascinating primary sources which demonstrate the different ways of thinking between the British and the DIT, as well as the differences and changes in Delhi’s planning.  Adding his own interpretation and analysis, Colonial Delhi: Imperial and Indigenous presents a case study which reveals the complicated dichotomy between an empire and the people and places it colonizes.

New Book: Unfinished Places

Selim - Cover 1Selim, Gehan. Unfinished Places: The Politics of (Re)Making Cairo’s Old Quarters. New York: Routledge, 2017. Print.

Gehan Selim’s Unfinished Places: The Politics of (Re)Making Cairo’s Old Quarters explores efforts throughout the 20th century to rebuild Baluq Abul Ela, a 16th-century Ottoman quarter in Cairo.  Selim examines these efforts through a political and historical lens, studying state policies towards the reshaping of Baluq Abul Ela and the impact of the changes on everyday citizens of Cairo.

Selim writes that “the urban landscape of historic Cairo significantly shaped its inhabited core and characterized the city’s principal identity and popular traditional urban patters” (pg. 2).  Baluq Abul Ela “was not an extension of Cairo’s urban growth or even a suburb; it was an independent spatial entity with its own configuration and patters, which may or may not have matched those of Cairo” (pg. 6). Bulaq underwent major transformation in the 20th century as the district became more modern, with high-rise buildings and hotels, and more heavily populated, leading to deterioration.  Selim examines the changes across Cairo as a whole, and the effects of globalization on the city.  She questions how well urban spaces are being preserved, as well as the effectiveness of the Egyptian government’s efforts in Cairo.  Selim argues that architects and preservationists must be attuned to Cairo’s history and culture, as well as the history of particular districts, to successfully remake the historic districts.

True to the Egyptian joke of “Cairo Time” (where time moves quickly and slowly at the same time – buses do not stop to pick up people, but instead simply slow down, because they must keep moving in order to sit for hours in the Cairo traffic) city and national officials have attempted to move quickly to revitalize historic areas yet these projects have floundered or even hastened deterioration.  Cairo is itself a megacity, but within it are diverse and divided cultures.  This diversity and history is exactly what gives Cairo its identity.

Over one thousand years old, Cairo is one of the largest and most historically and culturally rich cities in the world.  I have been privileged enough to visit Cairo.  A haze forever hangs over the city, hiding the hustle and bustle from those outside. At the Pyramids of Giza, a mere 14 miles from Cairo, the haze provides the illusion of complete isolation.  The sounds of traffic and life never cease, no matter the hour of day or night, except for when the call to prayer (Adhan) rings out five times a day – it is the only time when Cairo actually stops.  The buildings are mostly unfinished (as property is not taxed until construction is complete) and many are in poor condition. People fill the streets: shouting, talking, smoking.  Many would call Cairo dilapidated compared to the grandiosity of European cities.  But it is in this that Cairo’s iconic status lies – its history and culture is written on its buildings, and there is no illusion of perfection.  The new high rises, as Selim says herself, look modern and impressive, but do not blend with the rest of Cairo.  No one who visits Cairo remembers the high rises, instead they feel out of place, like the city is trying to hide its gritty reality.  But it is that grit that demonstrates Cairo’s true greatness.  The rebar sticking up from roofs, crumbling ancient buildings, the constant haze hanging above, and the crowds of people are what I remember most about Cairo; it was those features that convinced me that Cairo remains one of the greatest and most beautiful cities in the world.

New Books: Place

Harney, Marion. Place-Making for the Imagination: Horace Walpole and Strawberry Hill. Burlington: Ashgate Limited, 2013. Print.

Pasic, Amir, Borut Juvanec, and Jose Luis Moro, eds. The Importance of Place: Values and Building Practices in the Historic Urban Landscape. Newcastle Upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars, 2016. Print.

Among the new books this week, there were several focusing on the theme of “place.”  Notably, Marion Harney’s Place-Making for the Imagination and The Importance of Place, edited by Amir Pasic, Borut Juvanec, and Jose Luis Moro.

In Place-Making for the Imagination, Harney CoverHarney explores the history, landscape, architecture, and intellectual background of Horace Walpole’s villa, Strawberry Hill.  She evaluates “the villa and the landscape…as an entity” and argues that “Strawberry Hill embodies an entirely different set of ideas [from nineteenth-century Gothic Revival] to which the key lies in the cultural pursuits and theories of imaginative pleasure that Walpole engaged with” (pg. xiv).  Harney makes use of Walpole’s writing and the historical context to alter conceptions of Walpole’s inspiration for Strawberry Hill, as well as to consider the setting of the villa as a crucial component of its architecture and identity.

The Importance of Place features articles presented at the fifth International Conference on Hazards and Modern Heritage held in Sarajevo, called “The Importance of Place.”  The conference Importance of Place Coverdiscussed “the relationship of places to each other, their architecture, and their experience with memory” and “the position of contemporary architecture in the historic urban landscape” (pg. ix).  The articles themselves cover a wide array of subjects, including management strategies for urban areas, innovation in Italian architecture in the twentieth-century, conservation, and case studies.  Almost all directly discuss Sarajevo or Bosnia and Herzegovina, creating an ideal environment for the attendees to discuss and consider the challenges of Sarajevo in particular: a fifteenth-century city ravaged by war from 1992-1995, now adapting and seeking to blend its history with modern needs.

Both Place-Making for the Imagination and The Importance of Place contemplate the history and settings of architectural features. The interaction between setting and architecture is a crucial component of what makes a place.  Architecture is influenced by the setting, and the setting is forever changed by the architecture.  The landscape is a place in its own right, as is the building, but only when taken together can the totality of the place become clear.