Search results for "FRANCOIS PERRIN"

Francois Perrin
The house's stacked levels provide shade for one another.
Michael Wells

LA architect Francois Perrin grew up in France watching James Bond movies and dreaming of someday building one of the villains’ epic modernist houses. It would be perched on a mountaintop or in some other seemingly impossible-to-reach location.

His dream finally came true, minus the villain part, when Perrin was commissioned to build a 3,000-square-foot glass house on an extraordinarily steep site just around the corner from the Hollywood sign.

In fact, when you look at the precarious landscape around the house, it’s impossible not to wonder just how the architect was able to pull it off. Perrin said it was pretty simple and akin to building a gigantic staircase, actually a giant concrete retaining wall, and then stacking the house—a series of terraced glass boxes—on top of it.

 
Interior spaces are connected with outdoor spaces (left). The Hollywood sign looms in the background (right).
 

Perrin actually embedded the retaining wall and the floor-to-ceiling glass-clad boxes into the earth, keeping the house remarkably temperate. The dug-in aspect also helps block the harsh sunrays that a house perched on top of a cliff usually suffers from. In addition, the stacking of the cantilevered roofs creates shading for each successive level, like a pagoda.

Such delightfully low-tech sustainability also includes a great deal of cross ventilation, made possible through huge sliding glass doors on multiple frontages, and by smaller windows embedded into the glass panels that can be left open even after the sliders are closed. Stacked stairways create a chimney effect, forcing hot air up and out.

But the house is also quite high-tech. Louvers along the side are filled with rainwater—collected from the roof—which help warm the home’s water when heated by the sun. Water-filled tubes under the concrete floors and even under the cement patio keep surfaces cool while also heating the water in the pool. Many of these elements were produced by the home’s owner, Yves Lefay, owner of Eliosolar, which specializes in “architectural hybrid shades.”

The open staircase creates a chimney effect to draw heat out of the house.
 

On the construction side, building a behemoth staircase was not so easy. To support the perched home, 30 to 40 builders at a time dug 41 caissons; often the builders were supported as they worked only by ropes.

As a result, the house, with its bermed siting and three large glass boxes—a studio below; guest rooms, kids rooms, and an entrance above; and master bedroom and living room on top—feels like a cave that quickly opens up and extends outward. Large decks hanging off each box create more square footage and make the outdoor space almost as plentiful as the indoor.

From the outside, its dark steel frame and reflective glass give the house what Perrin describes as “a tendency to disappear” into the surrounding vegetation, a goal of the architect, who hopes to add still more vegetation and can’t wait for what is already there to eventually envelop the house. It’s a refreshingly sensitive approach in a landscape of often ego-driven hillside houses. Besides, if you’re going to defeat James Bond, you don’t want to stand out, do you?

Dance Dome

Performa brings Francois Dallegret’s iconic “Environment-Bubble” to life
In 1965, architect François Dallegret was commissioned by Art In America to write an article "A Home is Not a House," with his new acquaintance, English architectural historian Reyner Banham. The essay critiqued the American home’s lack of adequate protection from the elements and its antiquated “pipes based (on) a widespread use of heating pumps, a general waste of energy and the production of an 'environmental machinery,'" according to writer Fosco Lucarelli. Dallegret produced six “mechanical drawings” for the article that became one of the important sets of theoretical designs of the 1960s (along with David Greene's "Log and Rockplug"). The best–known of this set of images is his now iconic The Environment-Bubble that featured a domestic tableaux and Banham’s face on Dallegret’s naked body in a perfect, clean, cybernetic paradise. The Environment-Bubble remained simply a drawing until this year, when Francois Perrin joined together with Dallegret (and choreographer Dimitri Chamblas) to have it fabricated. Now Performa, the biennale performance festival in New York, has helped realize its installation for the first time at Brooklyn Bridge Park and at Central Park. Performa describes the clear plastic bubble as “an active site of intellectual and physical engagement” with free, daily dance workshops, open to the public. Today, on Thursday, November 9, one-hour performances will take place in the bubble in Central Park’s Mineral Springs Lawn (Entry on West 69th Street) at 12pm and 2 pm. If you cannot make it to the live performance, it is being live-streamed and posted here.

Le Monde a l’Envers

Francois Dallegret’s retrospective goes to Hollywood
Legend of sixties-era utopianism, Francois Dallegret and Los Angeles-based French architect Francois Perrin have brought their traveling retrospective of Dallegret’s work to the Woodbury School of Architecture-operated WUHO Gallery in Hollywood. The exhibition, Le Monde a l’Envers / The World Upside Down, is funded by grants from The Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts, The Canadian Center for Architecture, The Conseil des Arts et des Lettres du Québec, and Dorothy Lichtenstein. It was first shown at the Architectural Association in London in 2011.    Using 1960s-era supergraphics and photographs, wall-hung furniture prototypes, and historical ephemera, the exhibition brings to light Dallegret’s ambitious and playful oeuvre, focusing extensively on his fascination with the handmade and the automated. Dallegret is most well-known for his monumentally complex and bubbly Graphos pen illustrations for Reyner Banham’s essay “A Home is Not a House,” a project whose popularity has seemingly eclipsed a much wider and considered body of work. But Dallegret has been consistently busy since the 1965 essay, having designed fluttering windmills for Montreal's Expo 67, modular park seating and light fixtures for the 1976 Olympic games, and various light installations throughout Canada and France in the decades since. Regarding the start of his career in France, New York, and ultimately Canada, Dallegret told AN, “I was totally on my own, I didn’t read anything. I still don’t read very much actually, and I was just doing my own thing. I was interested in automobiles and mechanical stuff, so it all became embedded in my drawings.” Dallegret’s ever-youthful, media-diverse, and experimental career benefits from the retrospective format. Perrin, curator and designer for the exhibition told AN, “There’s obviously way more materials we could be showing, but we made a careful selection [of Dallegret’s work]. It was difficult budget-wise to bring prototypes and original drawings, so the idea was to create a narrative through the images by blowing them up, so you are immersed in the work.” That experiential quality is picked up from Dallegret’s work, directly, as nearly all of the projects displayed relate to their use relative to the human body, from Banham’s bubble to a crucifix-shaped bed, to pack of cigarettes the designer was commissioned to do in his adopted homeland. When asked about the body-focused aspects of his work, Dallegret said “I was working alone, so the only guy I could use for my drawings was me. So, I used myself in most of the drawings and set ups showing the devices I invented and et voilà.” The exhibition points to tensions inherent in social and technological change via the sometimes sarcastic musings Dallegret imbues in his work. His use of then-new industrial materials—the bent sheets of aluminum for the multi-use Chaise Ressort chairs, the inflatable rubber inner tubes and brightly-colored anodized aluminum sections in his Automobile Immobile car prototype—point toward new aesthetic modes rooted in industrial production. In these works, Dallegret seems to poke fun at the inconsistencies of his era’s essential privileges, leisure and mobility, by designing a lounge chair that does the work of two and by crafting a car that can’t go anywhere without blowing a tire. King of the French curve, the Montreal-based designer’s works are also marked by the sinuousness inherent in the plastic materials of the Space Age. His design for a restaurant called Le Drug from 1967 uses molded wire mesh sprayed with concrete to create bulbous and continuous booths and tabletops while stylized air supply ducts hang down from the ceiling. Dallegret also makes extensive use of collage and relies on the inherent re-thinking of scale resulting from piecing together found images in a pre-Photoshop era to imbue his work with its characteristic insight and sass. His brand of analog, appropriative, scale-challenging aesthetics and conceptual approaches, like the Rape à Fromage tower, for example, which supposes a residential function for a super-scaled cheese grater, would certainly be at home in many of today’s graduate schools of architecture. For these reasons, there is an oddly contemporary quality to the work presented in the exhibition, a fact that is not lost on the still-active Dallegret himself. No word yet on where the exhibition heads after its L.A. run, but Dallegret has plans for a future furniture-related exhibition with new prototypes in the works. Dallegret’s retrospective is on view at WUHO Gallery in Hollywood through June 26, 2016.

Shooting the Moon
Alessandro Poli, Paesaggio lunareeLuna Park (Lunar landscapeeLuna Park) (1973).
Antonio Quattrone/Archivio Alessandro Poli

Other Space Odysseys: Greg Lynn, Michael Maltzan, Alessandro Poli
Canadian Centre for Architecture
1920 rue Baile, Montreal
Through September 6

 
Alessandro Poli, Trasporto dei pianeti per ingrandimento della Terra (Moving the planets for the enlargement of the terrestrial surface) (1973).
Antonio Quattrone/Archivio Alessandro Poli

In Other Space Odysseys, the Canadian Centre for Architecture (CCA) presents three responses to an adventurous journey begun after the 1969 moon landing. Featuring the work of architects Greg Lynn, Michael Maltzan, and Alessandro Poli, the exhibition comes at a time when space exploration is the subject of renewed debate. Scientific expeditions, satellite launches, and the emergence of space tourism are pushing us to reconsider our relationship with our planet. For the architects in this show, space provides not only a rich context for experimentation, but also an extreme condition in which to test new ideas for life on earth.

Curated by CCA contemporary architecture curator Giovanna Borasi and director Mirko Zardini, the exhibit draws thematically on 2001: A Space Odyssey, Stanley Kubrick’s 1968 science-fiction film notable for its scientific realism, pioneering special effects, and ambiguous imagery so open-ended it approaches surrealism.

This connection is evident in the first gallery dedicated to Alessandro Poli, a former member of the Italian architecture group Superstudio. The gallery presents the film Interplanetary Architecture (1972), which imagined structures such as a highway from the earth to the moon. In addition to the film, preparatory sketches, collages, and storyboards are also on view. Superstudio’s films are hidden gems of 20th-century architecture, and their original collages, made from the first magazine accounts of space travel, are refreshing in a world now saturated with digital architectural renderings.

Models of Michael Maltzan's Jet Propulsion Laboratory for Nasa.
Courtesy Michael Maltzan Architecture

Maltzan presents his proposed new building for the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), a NASA operation in Pasadena, California. JPL scientists have been involved in many of the most important chapters in the history of space exploration. Maltzan, currently one of the most prolific LA architects, is interested in what he calls “the radically different scale between the space the scientists inhabit in their minds and their day to day experience.” Various models of the JPL building are displayed throughout the two galleries without much explanation.

Lastly, Lynn exhibits three projects introducing new architectural directions, technologies, and form. These include renderings of a concept model for a virtual world, as well as a series of four planets developed for the science-fiction film Divide. Explaining his goal for the exhibition, Lynn remarked: “I want the things in the show to seem like they’re chunks of something from another place that happened to find their way into the CCA.” In this, Lynn is successful, even if, as in Maltzan’s case, we lack details about his process.

Greg Lynn's models for planets for the film Divide (top) and renderings of a "conceptual world" (bottom).
Courtesy CCA; Greg Lynn, Peter Frankfurt & Alex McDowell

The ambition of the curators was to produce a conversation between the architects’ work. But three is a crowd, and perhaps a single confrontation between Lynn and Poli would have been more effective, or even a selection of radical architects from the ’60s against a selection of the current digital avant-garde. Such a show would have perfectly illustrated Zardini’s aim for Other Space Odysseys to propose “a letting go of architecture understood as the production of material goods in favor of architecture as the production of ideas.”

Xavier Veilhan’s “Architectones” Transforms Lautner’s Sheats-Goldstein House
Yesterday, AN reported on the incredible new entertainment complex that millionaire James Goldstein is building next to John Lautner's Sheats Goldstein Residence in Beverly Hills. But even without an adjacent nightclub, the house often hosts splashy events, the most recent of which was the latest art/architecture installation that's part of artist Xavier Veilhan's Architectones series. As he did at Richard Neutra's VDL House and Pierre Koenig's Case Study House 21, Veilhan created several site specific installations for the site, ranging from a life size statue of John Lautner to a series of cords stretching over the home's pool. The project was curated by architect Francois Perrin and organized by Galerie Perrotin.

EVENT> Exploring The Connection Between Paris and Los Angeles
Starting Wednesday, January 30, LA's MAK Center and arts promoter ForYourArt will begin hosting Dialogues: Art/Architecture, Paris/Los Angeles, a series of events bringing together architects and artists from those two cities. Events include four discussions at the Schindler House in West Hollywood, an exhibition of drawings and models at ForYourArt in Miracle Mile, and the launch of a  publication compiling participants' work and discussion. In addition to AN West Coast editor Sam Lubell, participants include (take a deep breath): Doug Aitken, Berdaguer/Pejus, Barbara Bestor, Claude Collins-Stracensky, Dahlqvist/Hommert, Escher/Gunewardena, Didier Faustino, Yona Friedman, Cyprien Gaillard, Fritz Haeg, Piero Golia, Ibai Hernandorena, Marie Jager, Alice Konitz, Vincent Lamouroux, Won Ju Lim, Tom Marble, Jorge Pardo, Claude Parent, Francois Perrin, Ivette Soler, Linda Taalman, Oscar Tuazon, Xavier Veilhan, Eric Wesley, Pae White and Peter Zellner. The impressive program is part of  part of “Ceci n’est pas…Art between France and Los Angeles," a five month art and cultural exchange put together by the French Embassy of the United States, the French Institute, and the Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs. See the full schedule and a slideshow of participants' work below: WEDNESDAY JANUARY 30, 2013, 6-8 PM, SCHINDLER HOUSE Program launch reception and panel discussion with Fritz Haeg, Marie Jager, Alice Konitz, Ivette Soler, and Oscar Tuazon, moderated by Jan Tumlir. WEDNESDAY FEBRUARY 27, 2013, 6-8 PM, SCHINDLER HOUSE Panel discussion with Joakim Dahlqvist, Didier Faustino, Jens Hommert, Piero Golia, Jorge Pardo, Linda Taalman, and Peter Zellner, moderated by Sam Lubell. WEDNESDAY MARCH 27, 2013, 6-8 PM, SCHINDLER HOUSE Panel discussion with Frank Escher, Won Ju Lim, Tom Marble, Xavier Veilhan, and Pae White, moderated by Danielle Rago. TUESDAY APRIL 2, 2013, 6-8 PM, FORYOURART Opening reception of drawings and models by the participants. TUESDAY APRIL 16, 2013, 6-8 PM, FORYOURART Closing reception and presentation of the publication and panel discussion with Barbara Bestor, Claude Collins-Stracensky, Cyprien Gaillard, Vincent Lamouroux, and Marie Pejus moderated by Andrew Berardini.

Slideshow> Hollywood Hills Construction Defies Gravity
On Friday we revealed Francois Perrin's precariously-situated house, a sleek stack of glass boxes embedded into the Hollywood Hills on a concrete base. Terrain aside, the project is stunning for its views of the city, for its glassy connection between indoor and outdoor space, and for its minimal lines. Perhaps even more amazing, though, is how the house was built in the first place, requiring crews to literally move mountains and dangle from cables off the side of a ravine. To reveal the process beneath the building, AN compiled a slideshow of the work in action.

Dude! Behold The Skate House
Skateboarders, commence drooling. Behold this prototype for the PAS House, a Malibu home in which every surface will be skate-able. The secret? There will be no corners. From the living room to the kitchen to the bedroom the ground becomes the wall and then the ceiling in a continuous surface forming a tube with a 10 foot radius. The furniture is also curved for skating, including some groovy looking tables and beds. The project, located at the top of Las Flores Canyon in Malibu, will by sometime next year be the home of skateboarder Pierre Andre Senizergues (hence the name PAS), a former world champion skater, and owner of skateboard company Sole Technology. It’s being created by designer Gil Lebon Delapointe and LA architect Francois Perrin, who for the prototype of the living area bent plywood, previously soaked in water, using a traditional skateboard ramp fabrication technique. The prototype was recently presented in Paris for the exhibition Public Domaine/Skateboard Culture at La Gaite Lyrique, a new museum directed by the City of Paris. There's a great video of some skaters testing it out here.  

Roche Unleashes On SCI-Arc
Architect-researcher-conceptual designer-provocateur Francois Roche was recently invited to give a lecture and exhibition at SCI-Arc relating to the work of his firm R&Sie(n). However he canceled both, revealing the reasons in an open letter, after the jump. Much of it is in self-described  "Frenchglish," but you get the idea. He's not so happy with what he characterizes as the school's arrogance, its narrow focus on design, and its "lack of interest for politics and attitude."  Them's fightin' words... Meanwhile SCI-Arc spokesperson Georgiana Ceausu tells AN that Roche's summer exhibit didn't work out because he wanted to display something he had already shown, which is against school policy. Dear Sci-Arc Staff, "I have no other way than to cancel the Sci-Arc exhibition in the Gallery (scheduled in May 25) and the lecture (scheduled the April 6-2011). The gap of point of view, and the lack of interest for politics and attitude, reducing the architecture process to a unique design agenda cannot fit with our scenario of production and scenario of speeches. Our works and attitudes are toxic, animal, dangerous, regressive, politic and computational. Architecture is mainly an affair of resistance and self-defense, against hypocrisies and “in”voluntary servitude, to quote La Boetie. It cannot be reduced to a design goal, exclusively dedicated and trapped by tooling. I disagree on the way the knowledge is framed by and for predictable professional, without any potential to corrupt and desalienate through educational procedures the “coming out” of neoplagiarism and neocopism, which remind me the Beaux Art symptom and syndrome. I ‘m French and know perfectly the stickiness of this sliperring addiction. I just want to precise that this voluntary abandon, cannot be understood as a “tantrum or capriccio” against the Sci-arc students pool, but it is at the level of Sci-Arc staff arrogances and ignorances, which seems to shrink architecture purpose to a simple affair of design agenda." My best F Roche /   PS Speaking and writing are done, here, in my Frenchglish dialect / I let you the opportunity to translate it in the Shakespeare  “mayonnaise”.

Season’s Readings

Architectural publishers are a hyperactive bunchha reflection of the audience they serve, no question. with mountains of books signaling the arrival of a new season, we decided it was time to sort out the best.

The Pan Am Building and the Shattering of the Modernist Dream
Meredith L. Clausen,
MIT Press, $45.00 (hard)


The turmoil surrounding the redevelopment of the World Trade Center might seem unprecedented but Meredith Clausen reminds us that we've been here before. The history of the Pan Am Building at Park Avenue and 45th Street is as contentious as that of any building in Manhattan, involving celebrity architects, power-brokering, even death at the blade of a helicopter. This biography of a landmark proves to be a cautionary tale.

 

BBK
Various authors, BBkAmerica,
$1.49 each (paper)


Each book in this brand new collection of pocket-sized pamphlets is meant to be read in the time it takes to drink your morning coffee. At $1.49 each, they also cost less than the average lattt. But the content of the miniature volumes is weightier than might be expected: Each BBK contains an essay, short story, picture portfolio, or biography, some old and some new. Texts range from Jonathan Swift's 18th-century satire A Modest Proposal to Los Angeles Times critic Christopher Knight's essay on the planningof the Washington mall, The Mall in Peril.

 

The Modern Procession
Francis Alls
Public Art Fund, dist. by D.A.P., $24.95 (hard, including DVD)



The Museum of Modern Art's return to Manhattan left its temporary quarters in Queens nearly forgotten. This book recalls the journey organized in June 2002 by Belgian-born, Mexico-based artist Francis Alls designed to commemorate the original move to the outer borough. The procession, in which 200 participants shouldering replicas of some of MoMA's best known workssand artist Kiki Smithhmarched from West 53rd Street to Long Island City, is documented in images, text, and film.

 

  Nothing Less Than Literal
Mark Linder,
MIT Press, $40.00 (hard)


Mark Linder looks at the cross-pollination of ideas between minimalist artists and architects in the late 1960s. Examining writing by figures like Colin Rowe and Robert Smithson as well as the work of more recent architects like John Hejduk and Frank Gehry, Linder claims that, contrary to conventional wisdom, architecture preceded art in the development of the formal language of minimalism.

 

Brooklyn: New Style
Liz Farrelly
Booth-Clibborn Editions, $45.00(paper)


Brooklynites can be noisy in their preference for their borough, but this compendium of work by resident artists and designers of every stripe shows that there is plenty to boast about. The Architect's Newspaper's own art director Martin Perrin imposes order on the diverse and unruly nature of the work by organizing it by zip code, and intersperses descriptions of each artist and his or her work with photographs of the rooftops, streetscapes, train tracks, and waterfront that inspire it.

 

  Record Pictures: Photographs From the
Archives of the Institution of Civil Engineers
Michael Collins
Steidl/MACK, $50.00 (hard)


>Record picturess was the name given to the photographic accounts of civil engineering projects in the 19th century, and artist Michael Collins has gathered a series of these extraordinary images into a book of the same name. While the photographs of railways, bridges, and power stations have specific documentary concerns, one can see them as precursors to the precise typological studies of Bernd and Hilla Becher and the many students who emerged from their influential Dusseldorf school.

 

Cruelty & Utopia: Cities and Landscapes of Latin America
Eduardo Baez, Jean-Francois Lejeune
Princeton Architectural Press, $45.00 (paper)


This catalogue for an exhibition of the same name, held in 2003 at the International Center for Urbansim, Architecture, and Landscape in Brussels and organized by Jean-Francois Lejeune, tries to get at the contradictions in Latin American cities like Quito, Lima, and Mexico City by looking to their roots. From the overlay of the 1573 Law of the Indies on ancient Aztec cities to Le Corbusier's pleasure in Brazil's vibrant public sphere, the essays included in this book immerse readers in the complex development of urbanism in Latin America.

 

  Ornaments of the Metropolis:
Siegfried Kracauer and Modern Urban Culture
Henrik Reeh
MIT Press, $39.95 (hard)


Sigfried Kracauer's writings on cities have never been as well known as his film work, but reward a look. In this slim but dense book, Henrik Freeh analyzes the early essays and autobiographical novel of the architect turned social theorist and critic. He shows that, for Kracauer, ornament was not merely a pleasantly decorative addition to buildings and streets but central to the way each of us understands cities. Freeh's own photographs illustrate his text.

 

  Pioneers of Modern Design, From William
Morris to Walter Gropius
Nikolaus Pevsner; revised and expanded by Richard Weston
Yale University Press, $40.00 (hard)


If you only know Nikolaus Pevsner's 1936 book from one of its later black-and-white paperback Penguin editions, this new larger format book will come as a revelation. Pevsner was an early champion of modernism and contended that it was the only true and appropriate style for contemporary architecture. While theorists like Manfredo Tafuri and others have shown his argument to be oversimplified and limited, this new Yale edition supports Pevsner's stance with luscious color photography that makes it easy to understand why he believed a new world order was on the horizon.

Compiled by Deborah Grossberg, Anne Guiney, Philip Tidwell, and William Menking

 

The New International Style

Modern House Three
Raul Barreneche
Phaidon, $69.95 (hard)

The New Modern House
Will Jones
Princeton Architectural Press, $35.00 (paper)

Housey Housey: A Pattern Book
of Ideal Homes
Claire Melhuish and Pierre d'Avoine Architects
Black Dog Press, $39.95 (hard)

Call it the triumph of hope over experience. Architectural publishers continue to put out glossy modern house books promoting better, smarter ways of living, even as McMansion subdivisions metastasize the world's remaining open spaces. Yes, it's true: American-style tract houses are being as enthusiastically consumed by the rest of the world as Kentucky Fried Chicken and Britney Spears.

If there is good news, it's that the modern housee has also gone global. Modern House Three by New York writer Raul A. Barreneche and The New Modern House by London-based Will Jones show us residential architecture that's stylishly international in its concerns and referencesssomething Philip Johnson could never have imagined. Tellingly, two of the most intriguing examples featured in Modern House Three are in China. In the misty foothills of Qinlin, the Shanghai architect Ma Qing Yun has built a stately modernist box of concrete masonry and wood that reverently recalls Louis Kahn. Yet details like the local river stones set into the exterior walls and the interior of woven bamboo sheeting make this an architecture entirely of its place.

Bloembollenhof, a housing subdivision
in Vijfhuisen, Netherlands, designed by S333, brings together clean modern forms, simple materials (like wood panels and corrugated steel), and innovative planning.
Courtesy princeton architectural press

Meanwhile, in the countryside outside of Beijing and in sight of the Great Wall, Hong Kong architect Gary Chang has designed a house to serve the extraordinary vista. The striking timber-covered rectangular box, banded by large windows, is set on a tall concrete base. Inside, the main floor is a vast loftlike space with folding partition walls that can be configured in numerous ways. A hidden ladder pulls down from the ceiling for entry to the rooftop terrace, and pneumatically hinged trap doors in the floor open for access to sleeping quarters (accommodating up to 14 people), as well as a kitchen, bathrooms, storage, and a meditation chamber. Chang has radicalized the weekend house.

With only a few exceptions, the 33 dream houses profiled in Barreneche's insightful, handsomely designed coffee-table tome are the high-style showplaces of the design-conscious rich. By contrast, Will Jones' modest soft-cover book presents a more idiosyncratic collection, ranging from single-family residences to unbuilt concepts, prefab secondary homes to multifamily housing. Among the 40 projects featured are quirky examples like British architect Laurie Chetwood's Butterfly House in Surrey. Fashioned from cables, wires, fiber optics and sculptural metalwork, it depicts a caterpillar's metamorphosis. There's also Bloembollenhof, a housing estate in the Netherlands, designed by the Dutch firm S333 as an alternative to suburban sprawl. The firm devised four simple low-rise building types with gables, dormers, and skylights that can be variously arranged to create 52 different homes, from single dwellings to townhouse blocks. Constructed out of wood and corrugated steel, the buildings resemble farm structures. By massing them closely together, the architects have helped preserve the rural character of the surrounding landscape.

In Gary Chang's 2002 Suitcase House
in Badaling, near the Great Wall in China,
pneumatic hinges prop open trap doors that open to sleeping quarters below the floors.
Courtesy phaidon

Another perspective on the modern house is offered in Housey Housey by the Bombay-born British architect Pierre d'Avoine and his wife, architecture writer and ethnologist Clare Melhuish. Subtitled A Pattern Book of Ideal Homes, it is an assemblage of 23 housing plans, drawn from D'Avoine's 20 years of practice and research in residential design in Britain and abroad. While appealing and contemporary, these are not showy, mega-dollar projects. They are instead highly original responses to real-world building conditions, which should make them particularly useful to most architects. Take the prefab Piper Penthouses that were lifted onto the rooftop of a converted London apartment building by crane. Or the large two-story Invisible House neatly inserted into the former back garden of a suburban London house. So as not to disturb the views of neighbors, one of its floors was dug into the ground. NIMBYism, it seems, exists everywhere.

These three books demonstrate just how universal a language modern design has become. Let's hope more architects the world over can teach their clients, especially developers, to speak it.
Marisa Bartolucci lives in New York and writes about architecture, art, and culture.

 

Tschumi on Moneo

Theoretical Anxiety and Design Strategies in
the Work of Eight Contemporary Architects
Rafael Moneo
ACTAR/MIT Press, $39.95 (paper)

Rafael Moneo is a major figure in world architecture, at once a respected designer and an important influence in Spanish building culture. He is also an excellent teacher. His new book, Theoretical Anxieties and Architectural Strategies in the Work of Eight Contemporary Architects, is largely texts expanded from lectures given in the early- to mid-1990s at Harvard's GSD and Madrid's Circulo de Bellas Artes, and it keeps the livee feel of a master performance. His subject is an influential group of architects, all except one Pritzker Prize winners like himself. The result is an exacting but easy read that unfolds like a novel by Italo Calvino. In Calvino's Invisible Cities, the explorer describes dozens of cities but at the end confesses that they evoke a single topossVenice, the city he loves above all others. Moneo describes architecture similarly. This is his own perspective, but he elaborates architecture's nooks and crannies. But what view of architecture are we talking about here?

Could Moneo's Venicee be regional? Reading Theoretical Anxieties, I was reminded of an event in Barcelona nearly 20 years ago, where I was invited to introduce my first built project to an audience of architects. I talked about architecture and culture, film and literary criticism, establishing parallels and suggesting cross-fertilization among disciplines. At the end came outrage: No crossovers, please: Architecture is architecture, literature is literature, film is film!! To this day, the certainty of the audience puzzles me. Is architecture an absolute value that can be isolated from everything around it? To find out more, I read further in Moneo's book.

Moneo discusses each architect in turn, beginning with an introduction that explains the architect's intentions and concerns and then proceeding to a group of projects he considers exemplary of the designer's oeuvre. This structure works well, and the grainy black-and-white illustrations do not detract from the rhythm of the reading. He sets the tone in the first chapter on James Stirling: This book is about the architect's tools and forms. Stirling's tools are the section (in his early constructivist and 19th century industrial periodd) and the plan (in his later career, influenced by Corb's architectural promenade and Colin Rowe). Moneo characterizes Stirling's forms as a balance of massessachieved in a quasi-canonical mannerr when discussing the Leicester Engineering Building (1959963), which celebrates the meeting of the diagonal and the perimeter.. From the outset, Moneo's analysis is formal and compositional, at once praising the architectural landscape of the Stuttgart Staatsgalerie (1977783) and joining Rowe in lamenting its lack of facades.

Stirling rarely discussed theoretical concerns, but Robert Venturi and Aldo Rossi often did. Moneo excels in his analysis of these two figures. He not only describes their intentions with precision and clarity but, having lived through the ideologies of the era, can also assume a critical distance. Moneo's presentation of Rossi's view of typology as the embodiment of timelessness and permanence, and of type as a basis for temporal continuity, is accurate and insightful.

Moneo is less at ease in presenting Peter Eisenman's often far-ranging theories. He is more comfortable with formal analysis of Eisenman's work; he understands and reads with sensitivity and connoisseurship the frontality, shifts, intersections of planes, diagonals, rotations, and other devices that make up the architect's repertory. He confesses to being less impressed by [Eisenman's] sources of inspirationnincongruent, unnecessary borrowings from other fieldssthan by the skillful manipulation of formal proceedings.. Are these reservations symptomatic of Moneo's wish for a self-contained discipline of architecture? Or do they reflect his abiding view of architectural history as a history of forms, not concepts? (Later, commenting on Herzog & de Meuron, he writes that perhaps the only external field useful to architects is art.)

One of the elegant things about this book is Moneo's way of deconstructing how architects work. Would Frank Gehry recognize himself in Moneo's observation of Gehry's strategy of breaking apart the program, reshaping it through an elemental impulse, and searching for the appearance of immediacy? The description tells the reader as much about architectural strategy as about Gehry. Moneo convincingly differentiates Eisenman's and Gehry's attitudes toward representation, noting that if the first fetishizes traditions of graphic representation, the second fetishizes the more intuitive production of models. (Moneo is scathing about Gehry here: In the final analysis, to make architecture is to know how to make a model..) Although Moneo rarely discusses construction, he does mention Gehry's understanding of the American construction industry as well as the architect's avoidance of simulation, which Moneo associates with Eisenman and Venturi. But the formal takes precedence over the material in Moneo's comparison of Eisenman's Columbus Convention Center (1989993) to Gehry's Santa Monica Place Shopping Center (1980). Moneo never talks about the role of Los Angeles' climate on Gehry's early collaged materials, as opposed to the Swiss climate and its energy conservation laws on the continuous stucco surfaces he admires in Gehry's Vitra building, which he identifies as a new direction in the master's oeuvre.

Switzerland would have no architecture without insistence on materiality. Moneo correctly locates this interest in the work of Herzog & de Meuron, in which he observes, materials are what makes forms emerge.. But he again shows his desire to isolate architecture from construction. Because their work does not explicitly manipulate forms, he finds no personal gesturee in it. Here Moneo is limited by the fact that he discusses only works through the early 1990s. He perceptively characterizes their early work as a search for origins marked by fascination with the archaic, noting how they explore the formal potential of materialss in their Napa Valley winery or Swiss countryside projects. However, the book's scope precludes examining more recent, culturally informed projects in which surfaces and different components of architectural form provide receptacles for other, external influences. (Certainly Herzog & de Meuron's Tokyo Prada store of 2002 would have altered Moneo's view on their exploration of the archaic.)

This time restriction also limits his reading of Rem Koolhaas, whom he presents as a rigid anti-contextualist, for whom place doesn't matter.. This conclusion ignores the sophisticated dialogues that Koolhaas' recent buildings in Seattle, Berlin, Porto, and Chicago establish with the cultures in which they are located. Moneo is better at analyzing Koolhaas' individual projects than his overall project. For example, describing Koolhaas' stylistic mixings as cocktail architecturee is reductive, but elucidating Rem's flair for iconographic representations of programs, as in the Zeebrugge Ferry Terminal in Belgium (1989), makes for highly perceptive commentary. Given the writer's astute talent at establishing comparisons and parallels among different architects, I would have been interested in seeing a link developed between Rossi's view of type as a universal constant and Koolhaas' obsessive efforts to invent new typologies, which are never mentioned by Moneo.

Moneo's attention to architecture as architecturee finds its culmination in lvaro Siza's work. Perhaps because Siza's practice echoes Moneo's own cultural origins, it resonates throughout the book as a whole. Siza, Moneo writes, seems to want to tell us that he simply wants his architecture to reek' of architecture. And it is this aroma of architecture''or, if you wish, of what we understand as architectureethat we breathe in his works.. What in architecture reekss of architecture? Am I not religious enough to grasp it, or am I missinggor missing out onnsome attainable absolute value? Moneo revels in the formal operations of Siza's art, describing the Banco Pinto & Sotto Mayor (1971174) as an attempt to show architecture at its purest, devoid of phenomena and event.. Opposed to purely linguistic considerations,, it is a building that speaks of architecture and tries to offer the architectural experience in terms offits very essence: space in all purity, space without the limitations that use confines it to in buildings.. This is architecture in its most visual incarnation, an architecture of forms rather than ideas.

The exclusive view expressed in Theoretical Anxieties and Architectural Strategies begs a rhetorical question: In writing about literature and writers today, could one do so without examining the role of film, television, media, social politics, or theories of public and private space? Moneo's fundamental thesis about the arbitrary form at the very origin of our workk restricts architecture's terrain, leaving out issues of context and content. Yet within these preconceptions, few writers have addressed the territory with equal incisiveness or authoritative command. Hence the second question raised by this volume: How can an architect write well about his colleagues? Here Moneo's sharp insights and thorough research make for remarkable reading. But if there is a moment when Moneo's discerning commentary becomes outstanding, it is when he makes cross-comparisons among architects, establishing similarities, relations, and differences. It is at this point that Moneo is most potent and, to my mind, really talks about architectureewhich exists at the intersection of vastly different practicessby using these well-informed differences and adding information drawn from first-hand knowledge of the architects, their work, and his own. At this point Moneo moves beyond the common denominator of form to touch on the rich complexity of what architecture is. In the sense that architecture is between the lines, you have to read between the lines of this book. Bernard Tschumi is an architect in New York and Paris.

 

Guide to New York Guides

The Landmarks of New York: An Illustrated
Record of the City's Historic Buildings
Barbaralee Diamonstein-Spielvogel
Monacelli Press, $65.00 (hard)

City Secrets: New York City
Robert Kahn, editor
The Little Bookroom, $24.95 (hard)

Garden Guide: New York City
Nancy Berner and Susan Lowry
The Little Bookroom, $19.95 (paper)

Touring Gothamms Archaeological Past:
8 Self Guided walking Tours through New York City
Diana di Zerega Wall and Anne-Marie Cantwell
Yale University Press, $18.00 (paper)

City Art: New York's Percent for Art Program
Essay by Eleanor Heartney, introduction by Adam Gopnik
Merrell Publishers, $49.95 (paper)

The AIA Guide to New York by Elliot Wallinsky and Norval White was first published in 1967, but it remains the architecture guidebook to New York City against which all others must be measured. It is still the most comprehensive source on the city's architecture, primarily because it is one of the few to thoroughly survey all five boroughs, and includes more than 130 maps and 3,000 building images. Originally long and lean, it has gotten chunkier with each new edition. Its one drawback is that it is too bulky to be carried easily on walks. Also, it has not been revised since 2000 which means, for a city like New York, it's sure to have significant omissions.

A quick glance at the New York section of Urban Center Books makes it clear that many authors have tried to round out the picture.

In the armchair traveler category, the most satisfying new book is The Landmarks of New York by Barbaralee Diamonstein-Spielvogel, a leading landmarks advocate and former member of the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission. The book is billed as the definitive history and guide to New York's most treasured structures,, although Robert A. M. Stern's three volumes on New York, published by Rizzoli, might also lay claim to this title. Landmarks of New York is a history of preservation in the city, and begins in 1831, when New Yorkers began to first fret that important buildings were being lost, and continues through the destruction of the World Trade Center. Along with every official landmarked building in the city, Diamonstein-Spielvogel includes many lesser-known but interesting examples, like the four Hunterfly Road Houses on Bergen Street in Brooklyn that were the center of an early black community in the 1830s.

There is also a growing number of idiosyncratic guides for locals who might think they know the city inside out. The pocket-sized City Secrets: New York compiles the favorite spots of writers, artists, filmmakers, architects, and others, presented with first-person reminiscences as well as directions and hours of public operation. There are many gems: Between the Enrico Caruso Museum in Brooklyn and the Capitol Fishing Tackle Company near the Chelsea Hotel, there is SOM's 1967 Marine Midland Bank in Lower Manhattan, accompanied by remarks from Richard Meier, who claims that with the exception of Frank Lloyd Wright's Guggenheim, the best works of architecture built in New York during the last half of the 20th century were the black buildings.. (The other two he cites are the Seagram Building and the CBS Building.)

Part of the same pocket-sized series is Nancy Berner and Susan Lowry's comprehensive Garden Guide: New York City. It features many little-known publicly accessible green spaces, such as the Lotus garden on the roof of a garage on West 91st Street, and community gardens like the Taqwa Community Farm and the Garden of Happiness, both in the Bronx.

The slim paperback Touring Gotham's Archaeological Past: 8 Self-Guided Walking Tours Through New York City is a guide to the city not only of today but of yesterday. It discusses Native American life here, the early development of the grid, and long-gone neighborhoods. It includes drawings of a 16th-century Dutch West India wind-powered sawmill and maps of the Lower Manhattan waterfront when it bumped up against Hanover Square. In a city that seems to change by the moment and quickly obscures its past, it is a pleasure to know what's under our feet as well as on the street.

Another often-overlooked feature of New York is its public art. City Art: New York's Percent for Art Program features the nearly 200 works of public art completed since the program's 1983 initiation. While many of these pieces are easily accessible, others are in obscure spots. With an introduction by New Yorker critic Adam Gopnik and an essay by art critic Eleanor Heartney, the book documents the work of several of the city's best known public artists and their experiences working for the city.

Kristen Jones and Andrew Ginzel's 1992 installation, Mnemonics, at Stuyvesant High School, featured in City Art.
Courtesy Merrell Publishers

These books are but a sampling of the range of New York City guidebooks, each with a strong point of view. While they contain many familiar landmarks and spaces, they also offer just enough that is new (or little-known) to allow you to see the city with the wide-open eyes of a tourist. William Menking is an editor at AN.

 

Singular pleasures

It's no secret that architects and designers are fantastic fetishists. Sensuous forms, hard details, or soft textures can be enough to arouse even the most mild-mannered among us. The greatest turn-on of all, though, might just be the monographhthose beautiful tomes that we love to possess, exhibit, and gaze at. Here are several recent publications that we found not only eye-popping but stimulating too.

Ando: Complete Works
Philip Jodidio
Taschen, $125.00 (hard)


Bruno Taut:
Alpine Architecture
Matthias Schirren
Prestel, $39.95 (hard)

David Adjaye: Houses
Peter Allison, ed.
Thames & Hudson, $45.00 (hard)


 

Emilio Ambasz:
A Technological Arcadia
Fulvio Irace, ed.
Skira, $70.00 (hard)

Event Cities 3: Concept vs. Context vs. Content
Bernard Tschumi
MIT Press, $35.00 (paper)

Joel Sanders: Writings and Projects
Joel Sanders
Monacelli Press, $40.00 (paper)

 

Nox: Machining
Architecture
Lars Spuybroek
Thames & Hudson, $49.95 (paper)

Peter Eisenman: Barefoot on
White-Hot Walls
Peter Noever, ed.
Hatje Cantz/D.A.P., $49.95 (paper)

The Charged Void:
Urbanism
Alison and Peter Smithson
Monicelli Press, $65.00 (hard)