2015 Holiday Gift Books

Just in time for Cyber Monday, for 2015 I'm presenting a selection of 30 holiday gift books in 11 categories – with two to four books in each category. The books, which are either recently published or new to me, are given short descriptions based on my perusal or reading of them (no blind recommendations). Click on the covers to visit the respective book pages on Amazon. My eleven favorites are highlighted with green borders.


Those familiar with the books and magazines of a+t will know the qualities that bind them: a great selection of projects, exemplary drawings and graphics, lots of statistics, and a layout that enables the comparison of the various projects. Why Density? Debunking the myth of the cubic watermelon continues their exploration of density, here creating a guidebook to it by moving from the general to the specific and from the outside to the inside. The projects (mostly residential and mixed-use) won't be new to most architects, but the presentation and analysis makes it, once again, another valuable a+t title. ••• Kenneth Frampton is one of the few authors whose books I have to read or at least get my hands on (Juhani Pallasmaa, Michael Sorkin and Sharon Zukin are a few of the others). A Genealogy of Modern Architecture: Comparative Critical Analysis of Built Form (Lars Müller Publishers, edited by Ashley Simone) is an extension of classes he started at Princeton and has been teaching at Columbia GSAPP for decades, with the actual case studies culled from 2005 to 2008. The literal side-by-side comparisons of projects with similar typologies, sizes, forms and completion dates is valuable for students but also for architects open to looking at the history of a modern architecture in a different way.


The cover of the book Wiel Arets - Bas Princen (Hatje Cantz) gives very little indication to its contents – Is it a monograph? It is a photography book? Well, the answer is both, since the focus is clearly the building of Dutch architect Arets, but Princen's detail-oriented, full-page photos (many construction shots) are offered with little other information, except for some project descriptions tucked at the back and a short essay by Ludovic Balland on the back cover. Here, architecture and photography work together to explore how each is exhibited on the page. ••• I’ll admit I hadn’t heard of Clare Design – the Australian duo of Lindsay and Kerry Clare – when their eponymous book (ORO Editions) arrived in the mail, but I’m well familiar with Haig Beck and Jackie Cooper, editors of UME and authors of one of my favorite monographs, on Glenn Murcutt. This one is just as good, with 35 years of houses and other building types documented with their astute writing, great photographs, and lots of drawings. ••• Works is the third monograph that Tom Kundig, of Seattle’s Olson Kundig Architects, has put out with Princeton Architectural Press, and it’s by far the biggest, filled with nearly twenty recent buildings. It is also the first one not restricted to houses, but those are still his bread and butter, where he creates the most pleasing forms and incorporates the most stunning gizmos. ••• Weiss/Manfredi just published their third monograph with Princeton Architectural Press as well, and in Public Natures: Evolutionary Infrastructures they explore projects from roughly the last ten years with a little help from their friends. Inserted between the projects are discussions with Preston Scott Cohen, Keller Easterling, Kenneth Frampton, Nader Tehrani and others that deepen the projects and lend them some academic backbone.


Diller Scofidio + Renfro’s The Broad in Downtown Los Angeles was probably the most anticipated piece of architecture of 2015, at least in the all-too-important realm of cultural commissions. The eponymous book (Prestel) on the museum is a visual feast, packed with photos by Iwan Baan (both during and after construction) accompanied by essays and a discussion with Diller, client Eli Broad, the book’s editor Joanna Heyler and critic Paul Goldberger. ••• Amancio Williams’ house built over a river in Mar del Plata is a masterpiece of modern Argentinian architecture, but one that has not been treated so favorably in the last few decades, even though it is now open to the public. Daniel Merro Johnston’s La Casa Sobre el Arroyo (1:100 Ediciones) will hopefully remedy that through increased exposure and a solid architectural history (in Spanish).

Heroic: Concrete Architecture and the New Boston (The Monacelli Press) is easily the most anticipated architecture book of 2015, coming about five years after the Heroic exhibition at pinkcomma gallery and following this year's highly successful ~$22k Kickstarter campaign. More importantly, Brutalism – or whatever one wants to call the concrete buildings of the 1960s in Boston or any city – is threatened but also back in stylistic favor, and Boston is probably the best place to focus on it. Editors Mark Pasnik, Michael Kubo and Chris Grimley (all curators at pinkcomma) have assembled a visually stunning history and case studies of the city's unparalleled density of concrete architecture. ••• Just about every other U.S. film and television show is set and/or shot in New York City, aided by the "Made in NY" media center and the city's iconic urban landscape. The start of today's set-in-NY can be traced to the Lindsay administration's efforts in the 1960s and 70s to study and promote the city through the medium of film. This is the obscure yet interesting history that McLain Clutter studies in Imaginary Apparatus: New York City and Its Mediated Representation (Princeton Architectural Press), a thoroughly scholarly yet rewarding read. ••• Part oversized (not portable) guidebook, part urban history, Paul L. Knox's London: Architecture, Building and Social Change adds to the growing literature on the global city. What the book lacks on the visual side (the photos could be lots better) it makes up for in breadth of the buildings featured and the neighborhood structure that makes digesting the city more manageable. ••• If size is any indication, Princeton University has a lot more guide-worthy architecture – contemporary and historical – than other campuses in Princeton Architectural Press's series of campus guides. Princeton University and Neighboring Institutions by Robert Spencer Barnett is the second edition of its campus guide (the first was published in 2000), and at 352 pages it's a hefty guide. For those unwilling to lug the book around, it comes with a separate fold-out map with 144 buildings labelled (unfortunately the walks that the book is geared around are not drawn on the map).


In October 2013, the Yale School of Architecture held the symposium Exhibiting Architecture: A Paradox?, which asked "how to exhibit something so large and complex as a building or a city or how to represent something as elusive as an architectural experience that unfolds in space and time?" Editor Eeva-Liisa Pelkonen assembled the proceedings into a handsome volume (YSOA) where the academic takes tend to focus on the sixties and seventies, apparently an adventurous time for architecture exhibitions. ••• Architect and Harvard GSD professor Farshid Moussavi's third "Function of" book, The Function of Style (Actar), is the beefiest of the three books and one of the most rewarding. Where the first looked at facades and the second at structure, this one goes inside buildings to look at plans and space to compare how the two are articulated in buildings of similar typologies. ••• Architect and Cooper Union professor Diane Lewis has been leading the fourth-year "Architecture of the City" studio at the New York school for ages, much longer than the thirteen years (2001-2014) assembled in this atlas-sized book. The great assemblage of projects in Open City: Existential Urbanity (Charta) is a fitting follow up to the two Education of an Architect books from Cooper Union, as well as a strong argument for drawing and building models by hand.


I'd heard of the "paper architecture " of Alexander Brodsky and Ilya Utkin before the third edition of Brodsky & Utkin (Princeton Architectural Press) arrived in the mail, but I'd yet to take in their dark, richly saturated etchings. Even though larger-format pages would have been better, this book captures the qualities of what were primarily competition entries from the 1980s, images that could be pored over for hours. Commentary is minimal, letting the drawings speak for themselves.  ••• From 2007 until near his death in 2012, Lebbeus Woods maintained a blog that was part archive of his own work, part commentary on issues his work addressed, and part appreciation of works by other architects and designers. It was a joy to read, particularly since the comments section was thoughtful and Woods responded timely and intelligently to them; this appendage raised the bar of the blog even as generally comments have moved from blogs to primarily social media. While the comments are missing from Slow Manifesto: Lebbeus Woods Blog (Princeton Architectural Press), edited by Clare Jacobsen, the selection of posts captures the spirit of one of the best architectural versions of the online format.


Robert McCarter has had a busy year, with three lavish monographs released this year, first on Herman Hertzberger, followed by one Aldo van Eyck and one just published on Steven Holl. Books on the second have been lacking, so I was looking forward to Aldo van Eyck (Yale University Press), which covers his famous orphanage and work on playgrounds as well as his ideas as part of Team X, some lesser known buildings, and a number of unbuilt designs.  ••• The latest book by Richard Weston, author of numerous books on 20th century architecture, rounds up about eighty Architecture Visionaries (Laurence King). Although the book does not deflate the long-held notion of the singular architectural genius in favor of collaboration and other realities of practice, it does a good job of highlighting the most important buildings of the last century or so. Timelines for each architect serve the biographical aspect of the book, just as loads of photos give plenty to appreciate visually. ••• Partners in Design: Alfred H. Barr, Jr., and Philip Johnson is a book (The Monacelli Press) and exhibition that documents how the duo brought modern design and architecture to an American audience in the early 1930s, Johnson most famously with the International Style exhibition of 1932.


Building Together gathers together seven “case studies in participatory planning and community building,” ranging from France and Burkina Faso to Colombia. Originally written in the 1980s by Roger Katan as Bâtir Ensemble, the translated and expanded version (New Village Press) adds contributions by Pratt’s Ronald Shiffman (esp. on NYC) to flesh out how planners and designers are enabling underserved people to house themselves and affect their surroundings. ••• German editor and historian Niklas Maak is not happy with the state of housing in cities. Focusing on the individual dwelling unit in the problem of how to accommodate at least a billion more people in the next twenty years, Living Complex: From Zombie City to the New Communal (Hirmer) pulls from a number of historical and contemporary precedents to find some room for optimism in an apparently insurmountable problem.


Two years are important in the history of landmark protection in New York City: 1963 and 1965; the latter was the creation of the New York City Landmarks Law and the former was the destruction of Penn Station, which led to the law's formation. The celebration of the law's impact on the city in the last five decades is found in Saving Place: 50 Years of New York City Landmarks (MCNY / The Monacelli Press), the companion to an exhibition at the Museum of the City of New York (MCNY) in mid-2015. I missed that exhibition, though the book's thoughtful collection of essays by various architects and scholars and new photos by Iwan Baan makes me wish I hadn't. ••• Apparently fifty was the lucky number for preservation in 2015, as the WMF (World Monuments Fund) also was founded in 1965. World Monuments Fund: 50 Irreplaceable Sites to Discover, Explore and Champion (Rizzoli) highlights a fraction of the 600 projects carried out in 90 countries in this time. The book ends on a prescient note, with Joel Sternfeld's photographs of the pre-renovation High Line; FHL co-founder Joshua David was named WMF's third president, a position that took effect November 2, 2015.

African Modernism: The Architecture of Independence. Ghana, Senegal, Côte d'Ivoire, Kenya, Zambia, (Park Books) edited by Manuel Herz, documents around 80 buildings in countries that underwent independence in the 1950s and 60s, focusing on the public buildings as expressions of national identity. Accompanying the building descriptions and essays are numerous photographs by Alexia Webster and the go-to photographer of buildings and the people that use them, Iwan Baan. ••• When I returned from a trip to Zurich recently, a few review books were waiting for me at home, including New Swiss Architecture (Thames & Hudson), edited by Nathalie Herschdorfer. Although I was already familiar with many of the projects in the book, if I had received it before my trip I might have adjusted some of my plans accordingly, to take in one or two of the new discoveries. The format is visually rich, with photos and subtle for the bulk of the book, followed by a documentation section with projects descriptions and drawings in blue ink on light-blue pages. ••• Luis E. Carranza and Fernando Luiz Lara adopt a strict chronological format for telling the story of architecture and urbanism in Latin America from 1903 to 2002 in Modern Architecture in Latin America: Art, Technology, and Utopia (University of Texas Press). Important buildings, landscapes and events are highlighted by year, keyed to the relevant countries. Everything is thoroughly researched, but for those wishing to know more, each entry includes references for further reading.

Billed as "the first book to map the political implications of energy management in architecture," The Underdome Guide to Energy Reform (Princeton Architectural Press) is a complex yet visually rich guide to tactics that can and are making buildings and cities more sustainable. Diagrams and drawings by authors Janette Kim and Erik Carver make everything easier to grasp, while conversations with academics and practitioners deepen the ambitious project. ••• Colorado-baed, off-the-grid architect Andrew Michler's Hyperlocalization of Architecture: Contemporary Sustainable Archetypes (eVolo Press) presents thirty buildings in seven countries (USA, Japan, Germany, Denmark, Spain, Mexico, Australia), with the bulk in Japan, Spain and Australia. The projects that "embrace the complex intertwining of the site, people and environment" are presented through photographs and Studs Terkel-esque conversations with the architects. ••• Part ARUP promotion, part recipe book for sustainable architecture and urbanism in the 21st century, 50 City Stories Explored is a buoyant read that looks forward optimistically. It also makes clear that ARUP is involved in just about every important urban building and development taking place around the globe. (In addition to purchasing online via the cover link, the book can be read online via ARUP.)

(Please email me if you're a publisher or author and interested in a review or mention of your book on this blog.)