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)


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.



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,