Posts tagged with "book":

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Inside North Korea: A candy-colored fever dream

When British landscape architect Nicholas Bonner set out for North Korea's capital, Pyongyang, in 1993, he anticipated a gloomy concrete metropolis. However, on the flight there, brightly colored sugar and pepper condiment packets hinted that a more florid environment lay in store. Fast forward 25 years and Bonner is offering tours of Pyongyang to visitors, including The Guardian's architecture critic Oliver Wainwright who documents the candy-colored city in his new book, Inside North Korea available August 15 from Taschen. Wainwright only spent a week inside North Korea, but that was sufficient time to take enough photographs to fill a 240-page book. "Every day was jam-packed," Wainwright told The Architect's Newspaper. The photographs along with an introductory essay shed light on what is a typically closed-off country that has strict rules for journalists. Though he was shepherded by three guards at all times, Wainwright was afforded more freedom by traveling as a tourist instead of a journalist and was able to document Pyongyang's built environment through a point-and-shoot camera. The images, particularly the interior shots, could easily be stills from a Wes Anderson movie. Interiors are laid out symmetrically, with portraits of the former North Korean premier, Kim Il-sung, and the former Supreme Leader of North Korea, Kim Jong-il, typically hanging at the focal points of the room. Their presence is no accident. According to Kim Jong-il's 160-page treatise, On Architecture, "the leader's image must always be placed in the center of the architectural space," a dictum which is carried through with regulations that stipulate that nothing else can be hung on the same wall as these portraits. Perhaps the most dazzling interior is that of the East Pyongyang Grand Theatre seen above. Originally built in 1989, it can hold an audience of 3,500 people. A 2007 renovation brought the theater up to Grand Budapest Hotel standards with plaster moldings, scalloped peach-colored walls, purple upholstered seats, a bright-blue vinyl floor, polished stone tiles, and a huge mural relief being added. Images of the theater and other interiors can feel staged, which Wainwright acknowledged while saying everything was shot "just as it is." Images of leadership are used even more emphatically outdoors. Streets have been organized to maximize the effect of these portraits, which Wainwright describes as "utterly crushing, giving the impression of a street made for giants." The world's largest bronze statues of people can be found at the top of Mansu Hill. Looking over a stone plaza, 66-foot-high statues of Kim Jong-il and Kim Il-sung peer onto the Monument to Party Founding situated at the end of an axis one-and-a-quarter miles away. The two former leaders stand in front of a mosaic and are flanked by giant red granite flags which are propped up by bronze workers. One has a plaque which reads: "Let us drive out the U.S. imperialists and reunite our fatherland!" For a country so focused on image, it's unsurprising to learn that it has tried to scrub all foreign influences, U.S. imperialism included, from its aesthetics and architecture. "An architect who is convinced that his country and this are the best will not look upon foreign things or try to copy them, but make tireless efforts to create architecture amenable to his people," wrote Kim Jong-il in On Architecture. Despite all this, images of architectural precedents could be found at the Paektusan Academy of Architecture where images of buildings from around the world could be found, from Moscow's Seven Sisters to Terry Farrell's MI6 Building in London. In all, Pyongyang embodies North Korea's approach to self-presentation: Big Brother-esque images that project the state's power and ability to protect its citizens amplified at a bombastic scale and sweetened with saccharine pastels. Inside North Korea Oliver Wainwright, Julius Wiedemann TASCHEN $60.00
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In “Nincompoopolis,” Boris Johnson’s architectural follies mask even bigger failures

For the U.K.’s latest passport design, a page is dedicated to British-Indian artist, Anish Kapoor. This is nothing untoward; Kapoor is a distinguished artist both nationally and on the world stage. On the page are three of his works: Marsyas, Temenos, and the Orbit, the latter of which was designed with the help of equally esteemed British engineer, Cecil Balmond.

At 377 feet, the Orbit is Britain’s tallest sculpture. A press release for its 2014 re-opening proudly proclaims that the ArcelorMittal Orbit—to call it its official name after Indian steel giant Lakshmi Mittal—“originated in 2009 when [former] London Mayor Boris Johnson launched a competition to design a sculpture for the Olympic Park.”

The term sculpture is perhaps too kind, since the Orbit looks like Kapoor and Balmond both sneezed while trying to wrest control of the mouse with Rhino running on the computer. Today, despite adding a slide, it costs the taxpayer $13,100 a week to keep running. The omnipresent Orbit looms over the London 2012 Olympic site in the London borough of Newham and now the work—an inescapable reminder of Johnson’s eagerness to create an icon—will follow Britons around the globe.

Though a picture is sometimes worth a thousand words, thankfully there is better documentation of Johnson’s foibles in the built environment. Critic Douglas Murphy’s Nincompoopolis: The Follies of Boris Johnson, does this superbly and goes beyond, relating it to Johnson’s ironic ineptitude on more serious issues with real-world ramifications, such as the Heygate Estate evictions in South London. In this instance, Johnson remarked that it was “vital we push forward with work to unlock the economic potential” of the area as he approved the replacement masterplan, seemingly oblivious of the implications. The estates were home to more than 3,000 people. 

The darker manifestation’s of Johnson’s mayoralty come later in the book, which is laid out in two parts: Johnson the architectural meddler comes first and Johnson the hapless, apathetic, and willfully ignorant politician, after. In this sense, Murphy’s depressingly long catalogue of Johnson’s errors posits the more obvious architectural blunders as a mask to his more inimical failings.

To make the grim reading digestible, Nincompoopolis is filled with personal touches from Murphy (all but two of the images used are the author's own) who found himself in London just as Johnson took the reins in 2008. His sophisticated anger is both fitting and relevant, delivered with a dry sense of humor, as he dismantles everything wrong with each project, from the process (or lack of it) to the final product. The reader is doused with lashings of context, followed by a predictable punchline: Johnson.

It’s not all doom and gloom, though. The Garden Bridge, with a corrupt tendering process in which Johnson played a central role, was scrapped by incumbent Mayor Sadiq Kahn. A shopping mall version of the Crystal Palace was another near-miss, and orders have been stopped on the New Routemaster London bus. These failed follies can hardly be classed as wins, however, with millions of dollars of public money having already been squandered on them.

Perhaps a bright spot can be found in the socially-minded work of Peter Barber Architects, which Murphy duly mentions. Johnson is also credited for issuing new housing standards in the shape of the London Housing Design Guide which, bemusingly for him given his track record, called for less “iconic” architecture and beckoned in the “New London Vernacular.” However, as Murphy points out, much of this genuinely good work rides on the legacy of former mayor Ken Livingstone, who worked with Richard Rogers during his time as mayor. “In a city that has been undergoing so much housing struggle, no amount of tasteful brick detailing can mask the problems,” Murphy remarks.

The bearer of an American passport which reads “Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson,” London’s former Mayor will never have to suffer the full consequences of Brexit, in which he played a leading role. Nor will he have to look at the Orbit embarrassingly sprawled across a page of official national documentation.

Brexit, hopefully, was Johnson’s political swan-song. It made sense as well. The Routemaster and Crystal Palace fiascos were projects inspired by a misplaced public love of nostalgia, to which Johnson, seeing his chance as a so-called man of the people, rushed ham-handedly to cater to.

Inspiration also came from New York, where Johnson was born, but again, these ideas were executed in the wrong way. The High Line’s success spurred the Garden Bridge into almost becoming a reality, but ignored the 1964 New York World’s Fair. Johnson was determined to emulate the grandeur of antiquated world expos, but this somehow resulted in the Orbit and nearly led to a enormous glass mall, neither of which approached the legacy of 1964.

Nincompoopolis is a playful word, more endearing than insulting. However, Murphy does not shy away from showing that beneath Johnson’s boyish bravado and messy hair, depicted atop the Orbit on the book's coveris a more clueless and sinister character.

Nincompoopolis: The Follies of Boris Johnson Repeater Books $10.00

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What can architects learn from Walmart’s fulfillment centers?

Architects are fascinated with infrastructure, or better yet, anxious about it. Infrastructure is far larger and more pervasive, blanketing the earth with its concrete and asphalt, yet it also threatens architecture with irrelevance. Infrastructural architecture is dangerous: The ubiquitous big box that houses warehouses, distribution centers, data centers, and processing plants is optimized to the point that architects are excluded. Perhaps because of this, condition studies of the big box and its implications have been wanting. Jesse LeCavalier’s The Rule of Logistics: Walmart and the Architecture of Fulfillment helps fill the void. As the title makes clear, LeCavalier focuses on the world’s largest retailer, Walmart, and how its overarching obsession with optimizing logistics manifests itself in built form. For those interested in the dangerous encounter of architecture and infrastructure, the book is worth reading. While LeCavalier’s book is an academic study, it eschews the empty and abstruse theorizing that has marked such recent efforts, producing the best book on architecture and infrastructure of this decade. The book is composed of five chapters bracketed by an introduction and conclusion: “Logistics,” which delineates LeCavalier’s thesis, followed by “Buildings,” “Locations,” “Bodies,” and “Territory,” each of which explores how Walmart embodies logistics in a different condition. Logistics, LeCavalier argues, has taken over from mass production and become the new organizational paradigm for our age. Where mass production was formed around relatively stable, physical forms of organization, logistics is ever mutable and contingent, constantly responding to the conditions it encounters. The built products of logistics embody this condition, with the stability of carefully designed envelopes giving way to what he calls “a constantly transforming network of calibrated and interconnected interiors.” It’s this point that’s crucial to those of us hoping to understand the “big box.” This term “big box,” LeCavalier points out, belies the complexity of the horizontal surfaces of floorplate and roof, which gives the building its infrastructural capacity to optimize throughput, notably by eliminating as much of the back area of the store as possible. In opposition to any idea of architecture as autonomous form, the exterior adapts to make the store tolerable whatever the local condition. LeCavalier painstakingly details case studies of the negotiations Walmart makes with local planning authorities and the resulting effect on the (endlessly mutable) building envelopes of its stores. LeCavalier observes that, in a paradoxical twist, form and building envelope take precedence at Walmart’s data centers since the rapid rate of change of digital technology ensures that those buildings need to be planned before a final layout can be envisioned. But to talk of Walmart’s data centers as formally intended is itself a paradox: The goal of these structures is to disappear through camouflage. At times I wanted the book to be more architectural—to have larger illustrations and in color. Recently many of University of Minnesota’s publications have given the impression of being published on demand by Blurb or Lulu and the squat format and the quality of the cover underscores this. But ultimately this allows the book to be more manual-like, more like the precipitation of information from a manual of logistics into physical form and that fits the subject matter well, so I can’t complain. More disappointing is that the drawings by LeCavalier, one of our most accomplished draughtsmen, are small and hard to read, but again this seems a decision of the press rather than the author. Moreover, had the book been a glossy architectural publication, it might have compromised the argument. Still, I wished to see LeCavalier brilliant analytic axonometric drawings included in some form. Perhaps a future publication will follow containing more of these.
The Rule of Logistics is an important book. For too long, what passes for the avant-garde has chased form for form’s sake, to embody the triumphant exuberance of the city and its neoliberal boosters. But last November, blue lost and red won, urban elites were undone by the heartland working class, the culture of Whole Foods shown up by that of Walmart. LeCavalier’s book, published some months before the election, underscores that the heartland is as permeated by the forces of the network as the urban center. The Rule of Logistics allows us to decode the spatial implications of this condition even as it suggests that architecture needs to learn from the architecture of the big box, much like it did from grain silos and factories in the early 20th century. Just as the election served as a wake-up call to well-intentioned urban liberals, The Rule of Logistics reminds architects that the most advanced work in the built domain is not in the city but in the sprawl outside it, that it’s not cool form but efficient logistical operations that pave the way to our future. The Rule of Logistics: Walmart and the Architecture of Fulfillment by Jesse LeCavalier University of Minnesota Press, $30.00 Kazys Varnelis is the director of the Network Architecture Lab and cofounder of AUDC, as well as the author of several books about infrastructure and network culture.
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Cataloging Detroit over 25 years, Camilo Jose Vergara has documented the city’s decline and decay

Every so often, images of abandoned buildings circulate cyberspace, populating blogs or other online outlets in the form of slideshows and photo series. Chances are that if you have come across such photography, that you have seen the work of Camilo Jose Vergara. The photographer and writer specializes in capturing ruins and settings in states of decay and has become known for revisiting sites and producing a chronology of their fate. In 2013, he received the National Humanities Medal from President Obama, being the first photographer to be awarded the medal. Vergara is prolific. The 73-year-old from Santiago, Chile has produced seven books that document dereliction in Los Angeles, Chicago, Newark, Camden, New York, and Detroit. His work builds on that of Jacob Riis, a 19th-century documentarian who published the landmark book, How the Other Half Lives, in 1890. Times have indeed changed since then, however, and Vergara's work remains relevant. "All of this comes from the idea that the real poor and segregated neighborhoods are different in every aspect," he told me as we drank beers on the rooftop of his Morningside Heights apartment. "It's the idea that you have separate Americas... what really fascinates me is the history of places that are in decline because everybody concentrates on the history of places that are moving up, but the other process is just as interesting. It involves people, people coping with their circumstances and its arresting visually too." Over the course of numerous decades, Vergara, a MacArthur Award winner in 2002, has revisited the aforementioned cities, capturing their evolving urban and suburban environments. His methodology is meticulous, returning to the exact same point time and time again to take the same photograph, while also speaking to the local residents. While he occasionally takes portraits of those that approach him, Vergara prefers to shoot buildings and streetscapes as they represent, in his eyes, a place more accurately. "You develop a relationship with the city," he said. "You don't declare that you're going 'steady' with that city until you're going to be back unless you have some assurance that you're going to do it—it's like having a girlfriend." So how do you do it? "You need the money to go there on a regular basis; you need somebody to put you up, or enough money to pay for a hotel; you need money to rent a car, and all of those things are expensive," he explained. Detroit, in particular, became available to Vergara on a regular basis in 1991 when his brother-in-law purchased a building there that was only ever two-thirds occupied. All he needed, he proclaimed, was a mattress and he was set. Before the internet, getting back to an exact location required lots of notetaking. Besides location, Vergara added, the same lens is required and the lighting needs to be similar, if not the same (so you have to be there at the same time of day). "And then sometimes it is rush hour and traffic is in the way, or you have you park your car in the middle of the street and stand up on the roof," Vergara continued "I do that all the time! The car is running, I'm up on the roof, but I can get away quickly if I needed to." But sometimes this zealousness has its consequences. In Detroit, Vergara was once reminded of the city's tensions. "One time a man showed me his gun, he didn't point it at me, just showed it to me." He laughed, apparently unphased by this experience. "I went to the police station and told them and they said, 'What business do you have coming to this neighborhood?' Apparently, I didn't have the right to complain." Other dissenters of Vergara deride his (and his contemporaries') work as socially irresponsible poverty porn. Vergara considers this an "absurd accusation." His view is that derelict structures have permanency, history, "feed the imagination," and sometimes, can be a device to propagate the development of their surroundings. "A problem folks who are interested in poverty and ruins deal with is that ruins tend to be very beautiful," Vergara elaborated. "The most magnificent ruins are from buildings that were spectacular to begin with." "There is more than one way to look at my work," he continued. "One way is to look at it, say 'nice' then forget about it. But then maybe other people want to find out more about what they are looking at. Those people would find what I am talking about—the context." Vergara couples short essays and interviews with his work; he is a sociological documentarian more so than just a mere photographer. "The context I think adds interest and gives it relevance." As for carrying out his work, Google Maps, he said, is making things easier. "It has changed they way I work tremendously. Before I go back to reshoot a location, I look at my old photographs and think to myself, 'What's around this place?' There is no way in the world I am going to photograph every building in Detroit so I use Google Streetview, using the time sequences they offer as well as my own work. After all this, I have a pretty good idea of what I want." Both online and in real life, Vergara has been roaming Detroit's poor neighborhoods, visiting housings projects and rooftops. I asked him if, despite being from Santiago and now living in New York, if he felt like a citizen of Detroit. "I feel like I am a citizen of the ghetto because those are the places I know the best," he replied, referencing the ghettos of Camden, Newark, South Chicago and Harlem as well. Detroit, though, has been Vergara's main focus. It was the city where his love of ruins brought him to and it is also the city on which he focuses on in his latest book, Detroit Is No Dry Bones: The Eternal City of the Industrial Age. Every year, for the past 25 years, the documentarian has visited the city for at least a week. The book catalogs Detroit's ill-fated suburbs, the city center's partial revival, as well as murals, churches, and signage. The latter is indicative of Detroit's changing landscape and morphing typologies. "The signs I photograph stand for the culture that has been developed over many decades," Vergara said. The subject of signage is even more poignant in Detroit, too, in a city that once produced the automobiles of America—cars that symbolized success and the American dream. Over time, the city's car mechanics and garages transformed into cheaper-to-run car washes, and drive-ins, as money left the area. "It's not just the white flight, it's the money flight," Vergara remarked. More than automobile imagery, Vergara argued religious signage is more representative of Detroit's visual culture. It's residents, he says in his most recent book, are waiting for God to save the city. In one instance, on 14849 Livernois Avenue, a church photographed in 2000 changes to become home to "Motor Sales." Vergara, on his rooftop with me, called these "storefront churches." This theme has been prevalent in his work for some time, most notably seen in his book, How the Other Half Worships, an explicit nod to Riis that tracked how poor neighborhoods embraced religion. Murals and signage are important to Vergara. In 2015 he was invited to speak at the Black In Design conference at Harvard University. "You think they're going to get the sign painter that worked for car washers in Detroit?" he asked me. "No. They got designers that went to Ivy League schools and worked at high-end firms. "That leaves out this visual culture." "I like to call attention to this," he continued, evidently agitated. "You can't just ignore segregated areas like you get in Detroit where people have been there for decades and don't have the money to move." Another annoyance of his is how new, predominantly white residents, who set up shops, bars, and restaurants in Detroit's downtown, display images from the 1930s and '50s. "My beef is, why don't you use the visual culture that was born from the riots?" (This year will be the 50th anniversary of the Detroit riots. A film called Detroit is coming out this August to mark the event.) In a lecture at M.I.T. this year, he furthered this sentiment, pointing out how neighborhood artists are unaware of how to publicize their work due to issues such as not having an email account of having their phones disconnected. Of the artists he had spoken to, some had either done time in jail, were homeless, sick, or made money away from art. "In contrast, white artists are often represented by galleries and are able to apply for and receive foundation grants," he said. "Local sign painters and commercial artists with a shrinking neighborhood market see their work further diminish as handmade signs are replaced by vinyl signs made inexpensively by commercial printers." In that same lecture, he added that it is his goal to acknowledge the "history and achievements" of people from Detroit's segregated neighborhoods, "no matter how insignificant they may seem to the rest of the nation. I also try to answer the question, 'What happens next?' as I track these neighborhoods within the city’s larger evolution." Vergara's answer to that question is bleak. To him, there appears to be "no way" of improving the living conditions of the majority of the population. "A dual city continues to develop in which a growing educated population is surrounded by 131 square miles of decline, where poor African Americans survive amidst decaying buildings and empty lots." As the original population flees the poverty stricken suburbs, local businesses such as dry cleaners or barbershops become unsustainable, a scenario Vergara only sees worsening. "Already a quarter of a century ago, black Detroiters believed that the city might not be theirs for very long," he said. "Now throughout Detroit one can find adumbrations of a white paradise of bed and breakfasts, fruit orchards, woodlands, goat farms and artists’ lofts." And as for what happens next to his own work? "Whether or not my work is used in 30 years time, I do not know," he answered. "But it will be preserved because the library of congress purchased my collection." Vergara does, however, have a proposal for Detroit. "As a lifelong documentarian of the ephemeral visual culture of the American ghetto, I believe that the weathered commercial signs with their whimsical lettering, the religious imagery, the Afrocentric historical murals and the memorials to the dead found in the city’s neglected neighborhoods are defining elements of the Detroit spirit." This visual culture, he attests, is overlooked by companies such as Shinola who prefer to reference the industrial age of Motor City. The artwork and signage by locals, argues Vergara, must be preserved and thus acknowledged by the National Museum of African American History and Culture and furthermore, this art should be encouraged. In addition to this, he calls for the production and worldwide marketing of luxuries (such as the products from Shinola) made out of street art, with some of the profit going back to the neighborhoods. "Detroit has a history that hasn't been told all that much, if at all. This is what I am trying to do."
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An examination of the relationship between architecture and the site by Caroline O’Donnell

Niche Tactics, a collection of essays edited by Caroline O’Donnell, approaches architecture as a living entity with a symbiotic relationship to its environment. She starts with contrasting bubble metaphors, the “ecological bubbles” of biologist Jakob von Uexkull, who studied creatures’ particular stimuli—blood for ticks, pollen for bees—with the Corbusian bubble that focuses on interior space shaped by program. External forces will burst the bubble rather than merely deform it if it isn’t designed for its ecology or able to adapt.

O’Donnell also bases her studies on Greg Lynn’s evolution of formalism unleashed from typological constraints. To this strategy, she adds the tactical niche, which references the components and resources of a habitat that influence survival. She takes us through a breadth of history, theory and cultural studies—from the Renaissance and the Picturesque, to Vitruvius and Palladio, to Colin Rowe and Peter Cook, and from sustainability and phenomenology to film and comedy—examining objects’ relations to their contexts and how this relates to architecture. Along the way she shows that basic principles of symmetry, proportion, and typology are not antithetical to an ecologically responsive architecture.

However, radical practices often get slapped with the “weird shape” or formalism label, so it’s encouraging to trace a trajectory from Rudolf Wittkower to Nikolaus Pevsner and Rowe, whose own studies of the analytic and the collage are found in O’Donnell’s research of context. Ideal Palladian villas are reintroduced to their country settings, and churches yield their historically typological forms to exaggerated responses to wind, solar, and urban orientation. Considering the urban, O’Donnell speculates what would have emerged had Le Corbusier’s clean sweep of the Plan Voisin grid considered cultural and civic landmarks as interferences. However, none of this is really all that new, foreign, or radical. The original Citicorp Center tower gave way to its site, the economics and air rights of St. Peter’s Lutheran Church, and O’Donnell shows how Manhattan’s gridiron deforms when confronting natural features, such as those of Morningside Park.

Moving into contemporary practice, O’Donnell reminds readers that the iterations initiated by Lynn grew from specific conditions, often dealing more with environment and evolution than more recent strategies such as application scripts and parametricism. A couple chapters addressing monsters and notions of ugliness are useful in describing how appearances that deviate from our expectations may actually indicate something more in tune with their environment or be on their way to a new “species” of architecture.

While O’Donnell laces her text with examples of analyzing and implementing contextual forces in projects, she saves the final chapter for examples of her own firm’s works. While some are no more than a paragraph, others elicit a more thorough explanation, such as her firm’s MoMA/PS1 Young Architects Program winning entry Party Wall, to show how one can design to respond to site, urban context, history, and program.

The book is a welcome mix of the multidisciplinary—theory expands beyond formal analysis or historical indexing. O’Donnell combines those aspects with examples of projects in their environments, incorporating ecological and contextual referents into a living, evolving design practice. Ultimately O’Donnell argues for an ecological responsiveness to inform firmitas, utilitas, venustas contemporary architectural design.

Niche Tactics: Generative Relationships between Architecture and Site Caroline O’Donnell Routledge $59.95

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London is a playground for Pritzker Prize winners, as this book demonstrates

“Context,” “vernacular,” and “reference” were the architectural buzzwords of choice that critic Owen Hatherley, at the start of 2017, used to recall the Architectural Review’s “Townscape” campaign. Here, he postulated that enhancing the old can be achieved by celebrating the new and serve as a deterrence to bland homogeneity. In London, viewing architecture without actually experiencing it in person is dominated by two abstract frames of reference: Instagram and flying things.

The former has helped to articulate a trend of austerity nostalgia and pastiche faux edginess, all bound by a medium that aestheticizes a bygone era and conveniently filters out context. It is, however, a deeply personal medium. The latter, meanwhile, depicts architecture within the cityscape and typically from above; lashings of context, yet devoid of any personal meaning seeing as very few of us can afford to travel by helicopter, and even fewer are birds.

New Architecture London, refreshingly and succinctly, makes no allusions as to what it's about through its title—not London looking nervously over its shoulder through rose-tinted spectacles, nor blind developer-driven optimism, this is the city as if were you to wander it right now.

Across 163 pages, photographers, Agnese Sanvito and Richard Schulman present a perpetually changing London in the “now;” a city, evidently rich in history, but not bound by it. For Schulman portraits of architects—and not just their buildings—is a hallmark of his work. While no portraits are featured in this book, it operates at a personal level with Schulman and Sanvito's lenses curating a pedestrian perspective of the city’s contemporary buildings.

In his foreword to the book, critic Edwin Heathcote describes Norman Foster's 30 St. Mary Axe (known by its colloquial moniker: The Gherkin) as a "bullet emerging from a city that has been bombed three times in a century." “Now it can barely be seen,” he continues, noting the structure as a stylistic and typological catalyst for its more contemporary, Boris-approved counterparts. It’s not all heroic, however. A generation ago, as Heathcote acknowledges, London was populated by few structures by architects of international repute, but now it is a playground for Pritzker Prize winners to plonk their iconic structures.

When Renzo Piano's Shard is framed with the abstract geometry of more glass you wonder: if the U.K.'s tallest building wasn't in the picture, would we know what city we were in? On the next page, a counter: the Shard rising above a Georgian wall, amid an equally mundane, yet historically inflected setting. In both, the Shard is the only visual indicator of place, but how long will this continue to be the case? Heathcote remarks, though, “it’s not just [London’s] skyline that has seen radical changes; its streets and its public spaces are being transformed” too.

This is a precedent for the photographers' work which looks at the abstract and intimate relationship between old and new (Amanda Levette’s 10 Hills Place and RARE Architects’ Patriot Square being notable examples). It also allows London's new architecture, in light of Townscape, to frame and be framed by its context. This is achieved sometimes by letting reflections, light, and shadow alternate focal points. Other times, it is as Heathcote remarks, “glimpsed around corners… or poking above streets.”

The technique encourages you to seek the narrative of a place and imagine the moment which is presented, as Schulman’s photograph of Caruso St. John's RIBA Stirling Prize winning Newport Street Gallery demonstrates. Even if you don't know what a delayed Southwest train service destined for Waterloo sounds like, the act of placing yourself in that scene isn't hard as the skyward facing photograph frames the saw-toothed roof and train reflection in the gallery's windows. Sadly, however, this image is afforded little page space by Prestel. The same could be said for a few other images too.

The term "shot" perhaps is a disservice to the photograph. Implying it was taken sporadically in the moment (a trait intentionally and successfully articulated) hides the fact that Schulman, in fact, spent considerable time to capture the moment and essence of place—even if a particular place is lacking in just that. He typically visits sites 20-30 times before shooting. "To take great pictures, you have to be prepared to lie on your back in the middle of the street," he told me.

Or sometimes, you have to be in a gondola—the Emirates Airline to be precise—from which Wilkinson Eyre’s Emirates Royal Docks and the Crystal can be spied. A synopsis states the cable-car system “connects directly to the London Underground while granting passengers a much more absorbing visual experience.” Don’t be fooled. When the summer tourists disappear, the supposed infrastructure is a ghost town gimmick—and a costly one too.

The Emirates airline is the only transport-orientated project featured, which says a lot for London’s building priorities. It could be said today’s starchitects were beaten to the opportunity largely by the Victorians, but Norman Foster's British Museum proved great work can be done when working with buildings from this era. New Architecture London is also ordered as haphazardly as London itself. A chronological or geographical route through would have been handy.

Three brick blockbusters, O'Donnell + Tuomey's LSE Saw Swee Hock Student Center and Herzog de Meuron's Switch House, in addition to Newport Street Gallery, can be found at the end of the book and remind us that London was once a brick-built city; a gracious nod to, not fetishized fawning, of the past. Looking forward, meanwhile, is New London Architecture, presenting an honest and refreshing take on a city still working out where it wants to go.

New Architecture London Prestel $45.00