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A very special figure in the architectural history of the Netherlands has finally a architectural monograph dedicated to his work in a new international edition: Hugh Maaskant. Architect of Progres.

It is not just the architect Maaskant himself, but especially also the context he was working in and his home city of Rotterdam that makes this a very interesting and insightful book. Rotterdam was the very logic or ‘functional’ city with its strong focus on the port and its logistics and with this was the ideal context for the rational and functionalist strategies of Hugh Maaskant.

The story is beautifully put together and researched in detail by author Michelle Provoost who spent almost a decade researching and tracing Maaskant’s work finally summarising it in her PhD thesis that was originally published in Dutch as Hugh Maaskant. Architect van de vooruitgang (Hugh Maaskant. Architect of Progress).

The new international version of the book is also publisher by nai010 publishers, designed by Simon Davies with Stephanie de Man and also features an essay by photographer Iwan Baan.

Groothandelsgebouw today
Image taken from baunetz / One of the court yards of the Groothandelsgebouw (1945-1953) today. Part of the photo essay by Iwan Baan.

Provoost makes it clear that Maarkant was a modern architect and clearly saw himself as a modernist architect. However she ale points out that Maaskant did not share the ideological background with the modernist movement. Provoost claims that in Masaskant’s work social criticism is absent and “that he was not a ‘critical’ architect but a ‘consensual one.” (p. 13).

Interestingly, it appears that Maaskant did exclusively focus on construction and realisation. He was not interested in theory and intellectual reflection on his own work. He was a businessman with a keen sense for strategy and opportunities without artistic leanings.

Image taken from fotorob on flickrFlu / Akragon (1955-1970) sports tower in Rotterdam by Hugh Maaskant.

Nevertheless his work is still inspiring today. The clarity of his functionalism approach, the rigour of his style and the dedication to detail and design in his works are part of what makes the fascination. And this fascination is bleed, not only for architecture students, architects or architecture historians. The interest group is much larger. Michelle Provoost’s original Dutch publication was sold out within the first year. The interest in this period and Maaskant’s work in particular is amazing, his work is still captivating today.

Scheveningse pier
Image taken from Wikipedia, article ‘Scheveningse pier’ / Scheveningse pier (1954-1961) in Scheveningse by Hugh Maaskant.

As Provoost points out in the preface, her work on Maaskant and the wider subject of urban planning in and around the city of Amsterdam has helped to shape a new approach to and appreciation of the past and lead to a number of MAAskant’s buildings being refurbished or reused, saving them from being replaced by a new wave of renewal. This kind of continuity might not be what Maaskant’s approach to architecture was in his time, but it is what we have learned from his work and what Provoost beautifully demonstrates in this book. It is not about critique but this lesson is about understanding the work in a wider context, commenting it to draw inspiration for the present.

Hugh Maaskant
Image taken from naibooksellers / Book cover.

Provoost, M., 2013. Hugh Maaskant – Architect of Progress nai010 publishers, Rotterdam.

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Is architecture real? At times the discussion seems to imply that there is a certain degree of disconnectedness between real live and the abstract concepts architecture is thought of. Does it still have anything to do with real live? The large scale landmark projects of star architects work more for the marketing of location than a real sense of place is often claimed. Glossy magazines and picture books often can’t help to shake off such impressions. But a story can.

The story about architecture comes with a lot of context and discussion worked into the narrative. It creates a sense of the current debate whilst not neglecting the plot, the everyday struggle to achieve a sustainable project especially in its social context.

The book is unusual in two points. It comes as a novel and there are only a hand full of illustrations. It sets out to follow two projects an the leading architect in the city of Deventer in the Netherlands telling the story of muddy fields and yellow large scale machinery in rainy weather, long arguments over the phone, the mine fields of different interests and visions for change. Its about everyday live, architecture as real as it gets. It still conveys a hint of glamor and the ghost of cleverness is present every now and then, so not all is lost.

Deventer was published in 2013 by Nai010 publishers and is the fourth novel by writer and editor Matthew Stadler. Stadler has written a lot about planning every since he lived in the Netherland to research for one of his early novels The Dissolution of Nicholas Dee. Later he wrote for the magazine Wiederhall and later New York Times and New York Times Magazine.

Image taken from Wikipedia.org / Nederlands: Topografische kaart van Deventer (woonplaats).

There is nothing spectacular about the projects portrait in Deventer, in a design or art sense. They are as normal as could get. What is of interest and concern is the possibilities, the ideas and the process that need to be forged by all concerned parties in order to create something fitting for the community, the location and the owners. Stadler reports on what is happening and continues to weave in contextual information after every other sentence. He lets the protagonists talk about details and everyday worries as much as ideas and theories, thus creating a dense atmosphere where struggle and effort create a sense of suspension capturing the reader.

The book portraits a model of community development and reports on the mechanisms of collaboration, but it is not a guidebook for professionals. It is rather an inspirational tale that has the power to motivate initiatives for their independent struggles to create and strive to change in order to improve their community.

Stadler, M., 2013. Deventer, Rotterdam: Nai 010.

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Computers have changed the architectural process fundamentally. In most areas the practice has embraced the possibilities of the software tool and has alongside the technology transformed not just the way architecture is produced but foremost the way architecture is thought.

Whilst CAD offers flexibility and speed, 3D software visualises models and simulation tools are employed to help with strategic design decisions, its the algorithm used in parametric design where the computer code actually becomes part of the process of designing.

A new The MIT Press publication by Luciana Parisi. Parisi is senior lecturer at the centre for cultural studies at Goldsmith, University of London. She publishes a comprehensive and thought provoking discussion of the practice and the thinking of parametric design in the field of architecture. However in this text Parisi does not just simply present the software logic and practice. Instead, as she states right at the beginning:

“Algorithms do not simply govern the procedural logic of computers: more generally, they have become the objects of a new programming culture. The imperative of information processing has turned culture into a lab of generative forms that are driven by open-ended rules.”

A definition of Algorithms is provided in the notes of the book referring to David Berlinski, ” an algorithm is a finite procedure, written in a fixed symbolic vocabulary, governed by precise instructions, moving in discrete steps, 1, 2, 3, whose execution requires no insight, cleverness, intuition, intelligence, or perspicuity, and that sooner or later comes to an end.” (Berlinsky, D. (2000). The Advent of the Algorithm: The Ideas that Rule the World. New York: Harcourt.)

Whilst the book is heavy on theory a few examples are provided. All examples are carefully chosen and do not at all make up a showcase. They illustrate specific points of discussion in the text and at the same time serve are points of reference to push the thinking forward.

Image taken from archdaily.com / Kokkugia, Taipei Performing Arts Centre, 2008. Roland Snooks + Robert Stuart-Smith. The competition was won by OMA.

Image taken from corpora.hu / DoubleNegatives Architecture (dNA) Yamaguchi Centre for the Arts and Media, 2007. Sota Ichikawa.

Image taken from new-territories.com / R(&)Sie(n), Une Architecture des humeurs, 2010-2011.

What is most interesting about the concepts of algorithmic architecture discussed in this book is the fact that from the very beginning time and space are folded into one and remain present aspects of the process at any time. Whilst the use of digital tools in architecture has transformed the practice in many ways, the continuous presence of time and space as one in architectural theory is probably the most fundamental. This transforms the way architecture is thought of from a physical object to a transformative process.

This is a very specialist book and runs deep on the theory of parametric architecture and algorithm based design. It is however not just for architects and experts who work with algorithms themselves, but is definitely interesting experts from a range of fields including theoretical works. The way Parisi pushed the thinking ahead creates successfully a niche in timespace for parametric design to develop an identity.

Image taken from the MIT Press / Book cover.

Parisi, L., 2013. Contagious architecture: computation, aesthetics, and space, Cambridge MA: The MIT Press.

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Infrastructure projects have grown into an important role in the public realm taking more and more responsibility in a social context. Over the past arguably hundred years more and more emphasis has be put in to infrastructure, being it transport services and facilities.

As a modernists take on the city technology was to be placed as the driving force behind planning and this of course shall also include infrastructural project. In fact especially here technology could be implemented with the help of additional arguments. Today, infrastructure is running as flag ship projects in many cases being put forward as statements both public and design wise.

Infrastructure as architecture
Image taken from dpr-barcelona / Hans Hollein Aircraft carrier city in landscape, project. Aerial perspective.

The Jovis publication Infrastructure as Architecture: Designing Composite Networks, edited by Katrina Stoll and Scott Lloyd takes a detailed look at this position infrastructure has grown into and how architecture relates to it, thus implying that design has to learn from both in order to support a new take on projects.

The publication discusses the matter in essays organised in five topics. These are: Infrastructure Economy, Infrastructure Ecology, Infrastructure Culture, Infrastructure Politics and Infrastructure Space/Networks. Contributors include for example Dana Cuff from UCLA, LateralOffice, UrbanLAB, Alexander D’Hooghe and MVRDV.

The essays cover a range of topics and reach from the presentation of practical projects, built and planned to theoretical essays of the discussion. Thus there is a wealth of different views that are, as the editors argue: ‘providing a framework for understanding the union of infrastructure and architecture’.

Of course it is on one hand a secret claim to but architects in the position to take on and reclaim design agency over infrastructure projects, but more importantly to discuss the dualities of presence and identity of building projects regardless of their function.

It is superbly interesting how this publication argues for a new take on infrastructure and how the argumentation might actually be point out what practice has already incorporated. Whilst the discussions around the relationships infrastructure is bedded into in the urban system is not new, there is a new approach being argued for. Modernists have taken it on at the beginning of the last century and in the 60s the Smithsons and Team X proposed a new take. More and more it grew into a systemic approach and whilst before it was always one or the other it is now being argued for as both, one and the other.

Appleyard and Lynch in A view from the Road already note that the road is producing scenery for the driver and the passengers it is at the same time dominating the landscape as a static bulky object. Alexander D’Hoogh is especially arguing for this in his essay contribution o the publication: The Objectification of Infrastructure: The cultural project of suburban infrastructure design.
This dualism of producing and being is the new aspect in this publication, but probably could in fact reach beyond. Testing this against current trends might revel a deeper interest of our times in this dualism and the fact that problems could have more than one state.

Infrastructure as architecture
Image taken from jonathandsolomon.com / Book cover. A preview of the publication is available from Jovis HERE. The Essay by Jonathan Solomon is available HERE.

Stoll, K. & Lloyd, S., 2010. Infrastructure as Architecture: Designing Composite Networks, Berlin: Jovis Verlag.

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Housing design is the one field of architecture arguably being the most accepted core activity of architects. Building houses is architecture as such. The recent NAi publisher book Housing Design: A Manual by Bernhard Leupen and Harald Mooij is published in a second English edition. It picks up on the is core and very traditional architecture activity of building a house and presents designs across a wide range of types in a cultural context.

Image by urbanTick / Book spread showing the chapter introductino nad a summary of the discussed elements.Housing Design – A Manual.

The new publication is a revised English-Language edition and is based on the first Dutch edition published as Het ontwerpen van woningen in 2008. The new edition is extended in its content and, being translated to English, definitely open up to a wider audience worldwide.

In a series of eight chapters the publication develops a clear presentation of housing projects, of both built and some unbuilt examples. The chapters organise the projects in several categories. Other than most books on the same subject however, Housing Design does not try to press the examples into descriptive categories. The authors have chosen to group them into programatic categories characterising the process and the context rather than the project itself.

Image by urbanTick / Book spread Housing Design – A Manual. The example here is by DKV Architects, Kop van Havendiep (Lelystad, 2004) with detailed sectional drawing.

With this the presentation is more relaxed and less arbitrary in a range of different contexts. Where the descriptive categories often seem out of place the here used programatic categories support the reading of each examples in a wider context.

This is at the same time where the specific strength of this publication lies. It is not just a design manual, but a design reader. The examples are not just standing on their own as a separate entity. Each project is set in a wider context linking it in with a theoretical and practical background.

The book is therefore also great reading material. It is by no means a picture book or a flip book, but presents a systematical approach to the presentation of a range of housing projects in the context of architecture history and practice. In this the publication goes into great detail with the presentation and answering of problems drawing from a great source of architectural history examples. Under the subtitle belly for examples, the problem of the underside of a house if rised on piloties or has an underpass is discussed using Le Corbusier’s Unité d’habitation and MVRDV’s WOZOCO as examples. Similar the topic scenery and the design of interior spaces draws on Haussmann and Adolf Loos’s Haus Moller and Das Prinzip der Bekleidung (The Principle of Cladding).

Image by urbanTick / Book spread Housing Design – A Manual. The example here is by Herzog de Meuron, Hebelstrasse 11 Housing (Basel 1988) as an example of a skeleton construction.

Each chapter starts with a theoretical introduction and presents a series of examples. Each with photo plans and drawings. Often this includes construction drawings such as sections. This allows the publication to go in to a lot of detail beyond just the floor layout, discussing construction problems in line with design and questions of aesthetics.

The book concludes in the chapter The Design Process in which three examples are presented as case studies. The discussed aspects are ‘applied’ or revisited as to how they accompany the different design stages of a project. With this the authors demonstrate that housing design is not simply about finding the right typology and developing a floor plan layout. They make the point very clear that architecture and specifically housing design is a contextual process.

Image by urbanTick / Book endsheet showing the different elements and parts of a house that are discussed in details. There are storys, core space, gallery, staircase, street infill and diagonal stacking amongst many others. The pictograms summarise the characteristics of each element very neatly and allow for quick reference and finding.Housing Design – A Manual.

It is a very beautiful publications. It feels good to touch and it is in its design quite complexe without overloading. Actually it looks plain, but with its use of metallic colours and specific fonts for different types of text it is rather playful in a supporting kind of way. The photographs are all black and white and so are the plans and drawings. Despite this no information the information is very clear and readable.

To summ up, this is definitely one of the great publications on housing design and worth having, not only if you are a first year undergrad architecture student. In fact it might be even too complicated for beginners. It might be even more insightful and interesting if you already know about architecture. With its many references and examples across architecture history it is a great reference as well as reading book.

Image by urbanTick / Book cover Housing Design – A Manual.

Mooij, H. & Leupen, B., 2011. Housing Design – A Manual, Rotterdam: NAI Publishers.

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The Cold War years are usually presented in terms of the military force and an ever expanding resource of military equipment. This of course includes foremost the nuclear weapons both sides the West lead by the U.S. and the NATO and the Communist East lead by Russia.

Architecture however, played an important role in cicvil defence and the preparation for a potential third world war. There was far less attention payed to the fact that all nations had programs running to prepare their societies for the case of escalation. Tensions there were enough.

Nuclear war was the ultimate danger and with images and evidence form Hiroshima and Nagasaki preparation was part of civil defence programs also in the U.S. In a new book Fallout Shelter: Designing for Civil Defence in the Cold War published by University of Minnesota Press, David Monteyne presents these U.S. programs from an architectural perspective. This detailed investigation ranges from the propaganda to built examples and examines closely the role of the architect as the middle man between government and civil society implementing a plan that is further reaching than simply the provision of shelter. Find Fallout Shelter: Designing for Civil Defence in the Cold War for great prices with these Amazon Promo Codes.

DIY shelter
Image taken from etsy / DIY fallout shelter for your back garden.

As Monteyne points out in his introduction it effectively is a contract between citizens and government exchanging provision for shelter and quality of live for cooperative behaviour. He refers to Foucaults biopower as a political relationship. Essentially building shelters was and in some cases still is, as we’ll discuss further on, the physical implementation of goals and powers of the welfare state.

The book explores in seven chapters the background, the planning, the implementation and the potential influence of shelter provision programs in the U.S. The programs were mostly about information and education but of course also aiming to build shelter provision. For this the architects were a key alley and the American Institute of Architects (AIA) launched a series of design competitions together with the Office for Civil Defense (OCD). The aim was to promote good planning and preparation for shelter provision. A series of designs were presented as winners, both built and as projects.

In the last chapter Monteyner goes a step further and applies his observations and investigations as an interpretation of an architectural style. He goes as far as arguing that this focus on shelter and bunker design has effectively led to an specific style, not a new one, but Brutalism?! Well thats something new and of course he has some evidence, the famous Boston City Hall. The basic argument is that Brutalist architecture looks a bit like bunk architecture so the origin of Brutalism is to be found in these government programs during the early Cold War times having shaped a whole generations concusses.

Boston City Hall
Image taken from Wikipedia / The Boston City Hall that serves as an example as to how bunker design has lead to the Brutalism movement.

Boston City Hall is at this point is the famous and widely debated example in the U.S. and serves well since it has implemented to some extend the requirements for fallout shelter. Interestingly the term Burtalism however is claimed to be coined by the Smithsons from the United Kingdom based on Le Corbusier in the context of CIAM. So not really an American connection there and all in all a bit too early for these programs that were run in the fifties and sixties mainly.

Reading the shelter guides these cold war programs produced and the resulting designs one can not help but smile. It amazing how naive the designs are and how improvised. For example there are guides on how to build a wooden shelter in your backyard and even the Boston City Hall project, the famous bunker style building has implemented shelter space on the eights floor?

It seemed to work and to some degree the American officials seemed to gain some sense of preparednes from these exercises. To everyone else these plans must immediately seem strange. If all you need to withstand a nuclear war is to build the entrance of a house not in line with the corridor to prevent fallout from penetrating deep into the house we ar all save.

American architecture is not generally well known for going deep underground and if possible basements are avoided at any cost. Very much so in terms of shelter and fall protection provision. Not even these programs have seriously considered building bunker underground, as the Boston City Hall projects demonstrates. Shelter can happily be provided on the eighth floor?!

The way this infrastructure of bunkers and shelters is described in the publication does echo practices for example in Switzerland. The small country in the heart of Europe is well known for its specific bunker infrastructure. On the military end this infrastructure was designed to guarantee the independence creating a réduit in the alps. On the civil side planning for large scale shelter infrastructure started a early as the 1930s. These efforts were geared towards the provision of shelter everyone in the country. Doring the 1980s this was achieved, making Switzerland arguably the leading provider of shelters.

It is a general requirement in Switzerland to built a shelter as part of every housing project ranging from a single family house to an entire block. Depending on the size of the project and number of inhabitants the shelter has to provide a certain capacity. Currently there are, according to the Swiss Federal Office for Civil Protection FOCP, about 360’000 individual shelters built as part of buildings and in addition some 2300 communal shelters. Hereby a shelter in general is a sort of mini bunker in the basement of every building constructed after 1963.

shelter details section
Image taken from Kanton Schwyz / Detailed section drawing showing the emergency exit from a standard single family house shelter space. Requirements including distances and dimensioning are based on standards applicable through out Switzerland. Note also the shown solution in case of high ground water.

There are clear guide lines for the construction of the shelter, the provisions and the equipment necessary. Every opening has to have a massive concrete door to completely seal the space. There is ventilation equipment required, designed to withstand gas and fall out. In addition there are simple bunk bed constructions and basic facilities such as dry toilets required.

Larger buildings such as community centres provide shelter for a larger number of people ranging from 30 to a few hundred. All are real bunkers constructed in full concrete, at least 25 cm in thickness with completely sealable openings, basic infrastructure equipment, toilets, beds and cooking facilities.

In addition infrastructure projects sometimes have been used to extend capacity of shelter place capacity. For examples the highway tunnel ‘Sonnenbergtunnel‘ in Luzern was build with the capacity to transform into a massive bunker if required. It would have provided places for about 20’000 people. This includes sanitary facilities including a small hospital unit, large kitchens, ventilation infrastructure and bunk beds and so on. In case of emergency each tunnel entrance would be closed with a specially designed massive concrete gates to seal the entrance. The entire length of the tunnel be used for cubicles with bunk beds. It was calculated for 1m2 of floorspace per person.

Sonnenberg tunnel gates
Image taken from Luzernerzeitung / The large gates of the Sonnenbergtunnel shelter in Switzerland were last closed in 1987. The gate is constructed on sight and is curved to withstand great pressure.

Sonnenberg tunnel is since 2005 no longer in operation as a shelter unit. It can still be visited with a guided tour though. The city of Luzern has in connection to the complete renovation of the highway A2 developed a new Civil Defence concept and provides the capacity in shelter places elsewhere. However, through out switzerland a number of other such invisible underground civi defence infrastructure buildings are still being maintained in order to provide shelter in case of war or nuclear fall out.

Switzerland has in many ways optimised and multiplied the implementation of shelter provision for the civil population. Reading it under the aspects David Monteyne presents in the introduction to his publication the outreach of the state to discipline the population to good behaviour in exchange for welfare did work and still works very well. It can be argued that the Swiss population and the architects as the implementers of these outreach programs cooperate well. However, the implementation of the shelter infrastructure is taken much more serious in its mechanics in Switzerland than according to Monteyne it was in the US. And from a Swiss perspective to speak of a specific bunker style (believed to be brutalism) to emerge from the state requirements for shelter seems absurd. This is mainly dueto the fact that Swiss planners have always decided that shelter or bunker facilities only really make sense if they are implemented in the basement and never tried to somehow fit it in above ground. As such the shelter has never been visible and therefore did not influence the ascetics of the aboveground appearance necessarily.

Die Zivilschutzanlage Sonnenbergtunnel in Luzern
Details taken from: Heierli, W., Jundt, L. & Kessler, E., 1976. Die Zivilschutzanlage Sonnenbergtunnel in Luzern. Schweizerische Bauzeitung, 94(46), pp.689-699.
/ Map of the Sonnenberg highway tunnel near Luzern in Switzerland showing the location of the built shelter. The bunke was designed to provided space for 20’000 civilians in the case of war. Constructed between 1971 and 1976. The shelter was finally closed in 2005.
Details taken from: Heierli, W., Jundt, L. & Kessler, E., 1976. Die Zivilschutzanlage Sonnenbergtunnel in Luzern. Schweizerische Bauzeitung, 94(46), pp.689-699.

Building shelters underground could be an explanation why the required provision of shelter had and still has a much higher acceptance through out the civil population. Without it being constantly present in the everyday environment it is much more a background infrastructure than an style and other functions are not overloaded by the required provision of shelter but extended.

Nevertheless the book presents a very distinct characteristic of the last century and the period between 1950 and 1980. Whether it lead to a distinct architectural style can be debated. What is of specific interest is to compare the different approaches to the provision of shelter as well as what these approaches tell about how the civil society deals with chaos and order, the manipulation of the collective and the individual and the role of planning and architecture in a wider society context.

Fallout shelter design Book cover
Image taken from amazon / Book cover.

Monteyne, D., 2011. Fallout Shelter: Designing for Civil Defense in the Cold War, University of Minnesota Press.

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From sustainability to the new beauty in the following four books are put forward to start into 2012. The topics all address some of the concerns raised about cities in the past year or so and all contribute to the current discussion around changes in social and spatial organisation at large. With globalisation and technology social structures are changing requiring urban environments to be adapted. This will not happen tomorrow, nor is it a case of restarting in building it new from scratch. The only option is to keep transforming and by testing and engaging with the presented new thoughts and aspects we might take a step into this direction.

Not all cities are mega cities. In fact most of the cities are small to mid sized. According to the work Mike Batty had done together with Martin Austwick and Oliver O’Brian on Rank Clocks plotting city sizes in the US, only about 10% of the cities are mega or large. The rest of the cities are under 1 million in population size.

In terms of sustainability potential these large numbers of smaller cities could actually play a major role and this is what Catherine Tumber put forward in her publication Small, Gritty, and Green: The Promise of America’s Smaller Industrial Cities in a Low-Carbon World published by MIT Press.

There are so many problems the smaller cities face. From long terms decline due to the faltering of industries, massive transport infrastructures slicing them into non workable urban islands and social struggles related to working poor and general poverty reminiscent of postcolonial squalor. The biggest struggle however is the fact that they are excluded from the general debate of urban planning and theoretical thinking. They all practice urban planning and development, but with only little recognition and background.

Tumber argues that due to the smaller sized, shorter distances and proximity to farmland and recreation these smaller cities have a lot of potential to implement sustainable concepts and start integrating those in everyday urban practice. Tumber especially points to renewable energies, such a wind, food production and local agriculture as well as manufacturing skills. Its all about producing and consuming locally.

These ideas are not new and sort of resonate with early garden cities ideas, especially in the praise of size and population density. This is not at all a negative association, but more a practical application. Since here it is not about setting up a new place to live, which can in itself not be sustainable, but about reprogramming an existing one sustainability is given an additional dimension.

Small, Gritty, and Green Book cover
Image taken from archpaper / Small, Gritty, and Green, book cover, part.

Does a city posses its very own spirit and identity? Daniel A. Bell and Avner de-Shalit argue in their new book The Spirit of Cities: Why the Identity of a City Matters in a Global Age published by Princeton University Press that actually they do. The authors draw on the ancient Greek concept of city spirit and argue for the rediscovery of the local urban spirits around the world especially in connection to todays globalisation.

Earlier publications have picked up on this topic and characterised cities in such a manner as to work out distinct identities. Saskia Sassen in Cities in a World Economy and more recently Martina Löw in Soziologie der Städte
(sociology of cities). THe concept of the citiy spirit is, as Löw points out, closely entangled with the city marketing that has been very popular in the past fifteen years as a tool to distinguish, present and attract.

Bell and de-Shalit look specifically at nine modern cities: Jerusalem (religion), Montreal (language), Singapore (nation building), Hong Kong (materialism), Beijing (political power), Oxford (learning), Berlin (tolerance and intolerance), Paris (romance) and New York (ambition). Of course soe of them sound like external concepts. Especially Paris and the age old topic of romance, hey but never mind it shapes the place in a certain way and this identity hold the potential to develop something specific and relevant.

Each city is portrait in a lot of detail making good use of story telling as well as combining theoretical aspects with practical experience. A good read for travellers of thought.

The Spirit of Cities Book cover
Image taken from the Atlantic / The Spirit of Cities, book cover.

“We have to find our way back to beauty!” Lars Spuybroek argues in his new book The Sympathy of Things: Ruskin and the Ecology of Design, published by V2_publishing, for a revised approach to design culture moving away from the technological practice of modernism towards a more romantic notion of art in the sense that beauty always combines variations, imperfection and fragility. Spuybroek bases his arguments on John Ruskin‘s aesthetics. Overall the book is a project to wrest these topics out of the Victorian era into the present. This is achieved by combining the five central themes of Ruskin: the Gothic and work, ornament and matter, sympathy and abstraction, the picturesque and time and ecology and design in combination with more recent thoughts on aesthetics by philosophers such as William James and Bruno Latour.

It becomes a projection of a world of feeling and beauty in such a way as it completely does a way with the fundamentalism and absolutism of modernist conception of design.

The Sympathy of Things Book cover
Image taken from il giornale dell architettura / The Sympathy of Things, book cover.

Graphical representation of information are in every case an abstract representation. Often to represent a point of view or a standpoint is required and depending on this the representation is biased. In Picturing the Uncertain World: How to Understand, Communicate, and Control Uncertainty through Graphical Display published by Princeton University Press, Howard Wainer is looking at the phenomenon of information display of statistical data and the possible complications.

The book is less about graphics than numbers, although graphics do play an important role. Similar to Dona M. Wong’s Guide to Information Graphics and also like Tufte’s Books The Visual Display of Information and Envisioning Information the correct representation is at the heart of the text. However, Wainer focuses more on the conditions and the explanations than the design.

Wainer is a longtime expert in statistical graphics who works as a research scientist for the National Board of Medical Examiners and as an adjunct professor of statistics at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

The examples are discussed in detail in order to really get the reader to understand the points Wainer is to make. This has the advantage that for a number of the examples the reader also comes to finally understand the actual meaning of the graph probably well known to him. The book draws from a great range of examples including Charls Joseph Minard’s plot of Napoleons Russian Campaign, Florence Nightingale’s Diagram of Mortality and William Playfair’s Wheat Prices graph to name a few.

The book is written in a very accessble language and takes time to explain the details as well as linking it with current facts and events that enlighten the presented problem further. Definitely a great read for data enthusiasts.

Picturing the Uncertain World Book cover
Image taken from Borders / Picturing the Uncertain World, book cover.

Wainer, H., 2009. Picturing the Uncertain World: How to Understand, Communicate, and Control Uncertainty through Graphical Display, Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.

Bell, D.A. & de-Shalit, A., 2011. The Spirit of Cities: Why the Identity of a City Matters in a Global Age, Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.

Spuybroek, L., 2011. The Sympathy of Things: Ruskin and the Ecology of Design, Rotterdam: V2_Publishing.

Tumber, C., 2011. Small, Gritty, and Green: The Promise of America’s Smaller Industrial Cities in a Low-Carbon World, Boston, MA: MIT Press.

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The daily cycles of day and night influence the experience in a number of ways. The main visual information is, beside the amount of light, the quality of the light. There are very different temperatures from morning to midday to evening.

Generally from the light quality the time of day can be guessed quite accurately. These shades are of course heavily influenced by weather and time of year. This can lead to a confusion with heavy dark clouds pulling up in the afternoon and it can give a sense that time has jumped and it might at two o’clock like it is half five. On the other hand if spent a few hours indoors, in a dark corner of your house, and as you step out into the sunlight the quality of light can be confusing in terms of time of day.

split time cafésplit time café
Image taken from philipperahm.com / A rendering of the interior, above the night zone in blue and below the day zone in yellow.

The light is identified by scientists as an important factor to set the body clock or circadian rhythm. This has been tested in experiments where participants spent weeks in caves with no daylight. The human body is able to maintain the cycles without the daylight reference for a long period. It does not depend on it as essential, but it provides a guidance to keep on track.

With this background, the architect Philippe Rahm has proposed a café that mimics the light quality of different times of the day. In essence Split Times Cafe proposes a 24 hour coffee place where you can have day or night at any time of day. The different areas recreate daytime light and night time light quality.

split time café
Image taken from philipperahm.com / A rendering showing the cafe in context.

It is possible to dring the morning coffee in the night light condition area and have a beer in the bright daylight zone. The day light zone is showing the characteristic yellow light indicating bright sunshine. The night zone on the other hand is fulled with blue tone light referencing the blue dark moon light. The cafe also offers a third place that is proposed in clear glass and therefore being filled with the actual quality of the light at that very moment.

The light quality is achieved through the use of coloured glass. Yellow glass for the day and blue glass for the night. To support the atmosphere the furniture is distinct in the are the architects make use of the furniture. The day zone is organised horizontally where as the night zone’s furniture is oriented vertically.

split time café
Image taken from philipperahm.com / The plan showing the three different zones.

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Space for place defined by practice, where people live and breath is always contested. It is not just, it is to be made, remodelled and reshaped constantly through negotiation. The result is a mix of interests, desires and statements.

Aspects of violence as part of the social structure becomes an element of the process. With its imposing and shattering presence violence marks the territory, cutting lines and burning patches. It eats into the construction of place imposing its own kingdoms of subcultures.

Architecture as a form of spacial geometrification with functional provisions can be a driving ground for violence. Often architecture is the stage for violence, but it can also be a driving force in that it can be violent in itself. Violence might be part of architecture since it is always set in a cultural context which in turn is based on the same negotiation process.

Image taken from enroute / B 018, a bunker or bomb shelter night club at the fringe of the city of Beirut in the Quarantine district. The project is discussed in the book by Elie Haddad on page 93.

Bechir Kenzari has edited a new book Architecture and Violence with a selection of texts by a range of architectural theorists. It is published by ACTAR with contributions by Libero Andreotti , Annette Fierro , Elie Haddad , Dorita Hannah , Sarah Treadwell , Andrew Herscher , Bechir Kenzari , Donald Kunze , Nadir Lahiji , William B. Millard.

From the back of the book: From propaganda exhibitions to suburban residential complexes, from slaughterhouses to jails, from illegal settlements to governmental palaces, from separation walls to concentration camps, and finally, from actual, material environments to image-architecture performing through flickering media screens, not only is architecture able to sanction and legitimize violence, but also to give it a spatial ground to thrive.

Have a preview here at issuu:

Kenzari, B. ed., 2011. Architecture and Violence, Barcelona: Actar.

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Housing projects are an architects everyday business. Housing is one of the really big architectural challenges as it more than many other tasks directly represents an idea of being and enabling to unfold and arrange. The society and social implication of architecture is the most direct while designing how the individuals life their everyday lives.

Nevertheless, or especially so, housing is heavily influenced by trends and norms. It has been over the last century and continues to be a play ball of the latest fashion. It does however, also reflect as much as any other fashion niche represent retrospectively the believes and values of each area.

For those and many other reasons this is a great topic for a publication. How to organise an house is still the chalenge mainly because it is so deeply embedded in culture and trends. There is never the final solution to be found it always has to be a tailored proposal, in the wider sense.

Image taken from Floor Plan Manual Housing / Page 203, Torre Blancas, Sáenz de Oiza, 1969.

The 2011 Birkhauser Floor Plan Manual Housing is the 4th revised and expanded edition of the publication that has already quite some tradition. The first edition was published back in 1994. For the fourth edition the editor Friederike Schneider is joined by Oliver Heckmann as additional editor.

The publication is organised as an atlas of housing floor plans drawn from a pool of amazing projects. The content is organised in categories roughly describing the type of buildings they serve. THese include Block Edge, Urban Infill, Corner Building, Firewall Building, Solitair, Linear Block / Superblock, Apartment Tower, Terraced Complex, Space-Enclosing Structure, Residential Complex / Housing Estate, Detached House, Duplex, Row House.

Even though I am not suer what exactly a Space-Enclosing Structure is the topics seem to have some practical meaning and can be seen as helpful guiding system.

Image taken from Floor Plan Manual Housing / Page 129, House Kauf, Peter Markli, 1989.

Each example is documented over a spread with a short descriptive text introduced and documented with one or two outside photographs. There is a whole building section, a plan of the situation the building is situated in, a icon serving as an diagram of the plan of a single housing unit and a table summarising the key characteristics such a number of units, area per user, building dimensions and details such a parking solution and so on. The main element of course are the floor plans which are shown as floor plans of the building as well as often in detail per unit.

The editors have put in a lot of effort to accomodate for each example the building specific characteristics. For this each representation is slightly different and the elements might be more prominent or an additional section is presented to clearly communicate how this particular example is organised across different levels.

Image taken from Floor Plan Manual Housing / Book cover.

THe publication is very similar to the Typology+, reviewed HERE on urbanTick, by the same publisher. However the Manual is more the technical publication entirely (beside the bright orange) in black and white focusing on the organisation and the actual floor plan, where Typology+ presents the housing project as a building and in colour. They serve different purposes and therefore can happily, with overlaps, coexist.

The manual is something for everyone. As indicated in the introduction floor plans and housing organisation are more than only an architecture task, this is architecture it self and tell the story of a social context they are built for as well as out of. As such the book can be read in many different way under different viewpoints and lights. In this context the proposed organisation is only one of many possibilities and clearly supports the atlas aspect of the publication, but you might find your own way through the 335 pages strong oversize book and it will definitely give joy on that quest.

Schneider, F. & Heckmann, O., 2011. Floor Plan Manual Housing 4th ed., Basel: Birkhäuser.

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