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Space Settlements explores what happens when we run out of Earth

Space Settlements By Fred Scharmen Columbia Books on Architecture and the City $24.00 The Earth is finite, and the sky is limitless. So proposed Princeton physicist Gerard O’Neill during the convening of the NASA Summer Study in 1975, when O’Neill gathered engineers, architects, astrophysicists, and others to flesh out logistics for the space settlements originally conceived by his students. With fears of resource shortages and overpopulation dominating the 1970s, O’Neill, his students, and prominent science fiction authors proposed massive rotating spaceborne structures that could perpetuate humanity among the stars. Of course, as Fred Scharmen meticulously documents in Space Settlements, that’s easier said than done. How can humans make the leap to living in pastoral orbital colonies when every artificial biosphere on Earth has failed? How would placemaking work in a wholly artificial environment, where every vista must be carefully curated as to not alienate inhabitants? What is the “ground,” normally a constant constraint to push against, in a habitat where even that is constructed? Scharmen’s book starts as a history of the creation and impact of a series of Summer Study paintings from artists Rick Guidice and Don Davis, but it quickly turns into a deeper examination of what it means to exist outside of Earth’s atmosphere. If building vertically allows architects to imagine new spaces unconstrained by the ground plane, as Rem Koolhaas proclaimed in Delirious New York, then building in space presents designers with the ultimate freedom—while ironically constraining them with the most stringent challenges. The images that emerged from the Summer Study are, by design, both familiar and alien. They show pastoral landscapes and familiar building typologies curved around the interior of massive toroidal or spherical spaceships, rotating to create artificial gravity at their edges. While O’Neill emphasized the need to consider these settlements as places with logistical needs and eschewed flashy pop culture depictions of his work, Guidice and Davis knew that illustrating the space stations as occupiable places would drum up public interest for the research. These megastructures, half-a-mile wide or wider with names like O’Neill Cylinders, Bernal Spheres, and Stanford Tori, would be anchored into orbits or Lagrange Points—places where the gravitational pull from the Earth and the Moon were equal, meaning whatever's put there, stays there. That imagery is still powerful 40 years later. With the fears of the ’70s once again resurgent as climate change, resource shortages, and mass migration dominate the headlines, billionaires are looking for ways to leave this world behind and move to the stars. Take the Jeff Bezos–founded Blue Origin, a spaceflight and rocketry company founded by the world’s richest man for the express purpose of eventually moving humanity off this planet. In May of this year, the company released a suite of renderings of spacefaring toroidal colonies, each depicting idyllic countrysides and architectural pastiches protected by a glass-enclosed sky, clear references to the Summer Study images from 40 years prior. The renderings were created to gin up excitement—and financial backing—for extracting resources from the moon as the first phase of launching an extraterrestrial settlement, but exactly what’s depicted has a deeper significance. Scharmen devotes much of Space Settlements to the human considerations of living in space. Humans, like all animals, need certain things to thrive, including open space and greenery, and the opportunity to watch something grow; hence the abundance of agricultural landscapes and wide vistas in Davis’s, Guidice’s, and Blue Origin’s images. However, as Scharmen points out (and landscape architect Marc Miller highlighted in an online article for AN), the renderings are very conscious throwbacks to Hudson River School paintings. These paintings were intended, in part, to encourage white observers to move west and assert their dominance over the North American wilderness. In depicting their landscapes as (artificial) wildernesses to be tamed, Blue Origin is trying to entice a very specific, well-educated population to “settle” these massive structures. Therein lies the rub. Both the Summer Study artists and O’Neill knew that their depictions of leisure were a bit misleading, as all colonists would have to work hard to keep their city-in-the-sky running even with advanced automation. More importantly, the rationale behind expanding into these megastructures in the first place is rooted in an outgrowth of extractive capitalism. As Scharmen and O’Neill both discuss in the book, and as the Earth-bound billionaires of today surely know, space outposts would have to justify their immense cost, likely through extraterrestrial mineral mining. However, go one level deeper, and the implications become even darker. As Bezos and his peers have repeatedly stated, they feel that the only way to “save” humanity from our doomed planet is to expand into space. Bezos frequently claims that he has too much money to spend on Earth and that expanding into space is the only logical next step. "The solar system can easily support a trillion humans,” Bezos told Business Insider. “And if we had a trillion humans, we would have a thousand Einsteins and a thousand Mozarts and unlimited, for all practical purposes, resources and solar power." To say that entirely artificial and dangerous habitats are the next logical step in humankind’s progression presupposes that this planet, one that we evolved specifically to inhabit, is already full. What was once proposed as a way to foster unique communities in the sky and expand humanity’s consciousness beyond the borders of this world has taken on a nihilist tinge. No one else has summed it up better than Elon Musk, another stargazing tech billionaire. When asked why he wanted to settle other planets in an interview with Aeon, Musk famously replied, “Fuck Earth! Who cares about Earth?”
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The Venice Variations traces the city’s deep urban fabric

The Venice Variations: Tracing the Architectural Imagination Sophia Psarra UCL Press List price: $45.00 Sophia Psarra’s The Venice Variations fulfills a dreamy mission of aggrandizing the titular city’s history and beauty while recognizing its fragility and potential demise because of climate change and overcrowding from tourists and their marine vehicles. The beautifully designed book sets up the over-thousand-year-old city as paradigmatic but atypical. Social and physical analyses add to a discussion of its awesome historical architectural development and two contemporary works that the city inspired, Italo Calvino’s novel Invisible Cities (1972) and Le Corbusier’s Venice Hospital (1964). These projects exhibit an intensity of imagination commensurate with Venice’s idiosyncratic character. Psarra’s book points to the city’s republican governance, worldwide trading patterns, and physiognomy, especially its islands, as evidence of its fundamentally deindustrial nature, positioning its regeneration as an example worth following. Of course, Venice’s architectural importance has always been obvious: Books on Vitruvius were printed there, and Palladio’s thinking and buildings take central stage in its heritage of interwoven islands and structures. The irregularity of the city’s urban fabric introduces variability within an organic whole. Psarra deals very carefully with the history of Piazza San Marco and its central position in civic and religious interpretations of the city. Its architects, Sansovino, Longhena, and Palladio, orchestrated their contributions to this special communal space to create specific views for the public to experience. The piazza accommodated many Venetian citizens and their commercial interests, as well as cultural rites—the author titles this chapter “Statecraft,” but the square welcomed stagecraft, too. Religious processions led by clergy and the Doge marked many occasions. Illustrations of the piazza and its surroundings by the author abound; these educational aids are present to a fault. Italo Calvino makes his Invisible Cities mysteriously visible in print, a feat of vivid invention. This is a novel where plot is overtaken by expansive, thought-provoking fabrications. The merchant Marco Polo describes 55 cities as fantastical constructions to Kublai Khan, who rejoices in his empire. Our two protagonists, Khan and Polo, differ greatly: The former seeks order in his possessions, while Polo “seeks not-yet-seen adventures.” Invisible Cities attracted postmodern architects with its playfulness. The book juxtaposes images of lightness and coherence with images of entropy—disorder and ruin are the fascinations of our two protagonists. Although Polo refuses to discuss Venice, he provokes thoughts of it intermittently, and the city haunts the book. There is a play of numbers showing Calvino’s attachment to the Oulipo group of mathematicians, and he includes Polo’s descriptions and his and Khan’s dialogues and the number of combinatorial rules. Psarra shows some brilliance in this interpretation of mathematical patterns that few, including this author, fully comprehend. Though not an expert in mathematics, Psarra certainly seems to manage these complex concepts in the book. While architecture demands knowledge of mathematics, I wonder if there are architects who might appreciate the math of Invisible Cities as conveyed in The Venice Variations. As the last project Psarra visits, Le Corbusier’s Venice Hospital leaves a heavy imprint on the mind. Unlike the architect’s typically isolated buildings, Venice Hospital is meant to fit in with existing neighboring structures. Le Corbusier’s imagery is pertinent for understanding that of contemporary Venice. If Palladio’s San Giorgio Maggiore lies at the front of the city, the hospital would have marked its back door. The completed project would have been as radical as the first modern designs of the avant-garde—especially in its entrance from beneath, which recalls the Villa Savoye and the later National Museum of Western Art in Tokyo. Psarra also explores the hospital’s affinity with mat buildings as described by Alison Smithson. In fact, Venice Hospital’s place in the realm of architectural history lies in the province of Team Ten, with a neat precedent in Shadrach Woods’s Berlin Free University. The project engaged Le Corbusier’s attention for over nine years; after the master’s sudden death, Guillermo Jullian de la Fuente continued the work. Psarra tells the tale well: how the horizontal layout of the design sets up pivoting squares and nurse stations on the first floor and how the aggregation of cells flows horizontally to merge with the city. As in other signature buildings, Le Corbusier develops a system of squares and golden-section rectangles, which gives geometric logic to the spaces.
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Archigram, architecture's pop legends, come alive in new book

Archigram: The Book Dennis Crompton, editor Circa Press, 2018 $135.00 A dozen years ago, in the early stages of a dissertation, I found myself in the special collections room at the Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles. To my left, a tweedy professor type softly sang Latin lines from an ancient leather-bound tome. To my right, a pair of art historians hunched intently over delicate sheets of 18th-century foolscap. As the attendant eyed me skeptically from across the room, I sat snickering at what appeared to be a sci-fi comic book. I had just unpacked all nine and a half issues of Archigram, and, frankly, I was a little giddy. There they were: The iconic first broadsheet of 1961, insisting that “a new generation of architecture must arise”; the iconoclastic third issue, advocating “a throwaway architecture” to replace society’s stubborn preference for permanence; the prophetic seventh issue, “Beyond Architecture,” which suggested that “there may be no buildings at all in Archigram 8.” (Spoiler: there were.) And, of cozurse, the breakthrough “Zoom Issue,” which in 1964 launched the group into the international spotlight, and which, in response to my giggles, was now shedding bits of desiccated cellophane tape onto the special collections room floor. These infamous and now extremely rare magazines were produced—painstakingly, mostly by hand, run off after hours in the print rooms of unsuspecting London architecture firms—by a loose band of young English architects that eventually congealed into the famous sextet that took the name of the magazine as their own: Warren Chalk, Peter Cook, Dennis Crompton, David Greene, Ron Herron, and Michael “Spider” Webb. At first, the group used the magazine as an antidote to the dull, conventional work they chafed against in 1960s London. Early issues featured formally exuberant projects, mostly from their student days, as well as more recent competition entries by themselves and their friends. Loosely thematic issues related to expendability, science fiction, the city, and experimentation came next, followed by more polemic editions that aimed to drive architecture beyond building. A last “half issue” that featured work on the boards at the short-lived firm, Archigram Architects, appeared in 1974. Archigram’s flagship projects—Cook’s Plug-In City, Herron’s Walking City, Webb’s Cushicle, and many more—all made important appearances in the magazine, as did the work of fellow travelers like Cedric Price, Buckminster Fuller, Nicholas Grimshaw, and Craig Hodgetts. By the mid-1960s, young architects from around the world were eagerly awaiting each new issue. By the end of the decade, a generation of architects had taken up the group’s technophilic agenda. Without Archigram, the early careers of architects as diverse as Rem Koolhaas, Thom Mayne, and Richard Rogers would be difficult to imagine, and the development of high tech architecture unthinkable. Ironically, by the time high tech had reached its apotheosis in the 1980s, Archigram had largely fallen out of favor, overshadowed by the heady critical culture of postmodernism and deconstruction. While I was at the Getty, the group was enjoying something of a renaissance. A major exhibition had opened in Vienna in 1994. By 2005, it had toured sixteen additional cities and had spawned four catalogues. Simon Sadler released an informative monograph, Archigram: Architecture Without Architecture, in 2005. Hadas Steiner followed in 2009 with an excellent study, Beyond Archigram: The Structure of Circulation. Yet even with all this, it was difficult to get a sense of the Archigrams themselves. Sure, some of the pages had been reproduced in print over the years, and all of them are now online at the Archigram Archival Project. Unfortunately, books and magazines tend to privilege Archigram’s projects over its publications, and the online archive, attempting to stave off piracy, provides images only at disappointingly low resolutions. The pamphlet’s idiosyncratic shape and feel—each with its own trim size, color scheme, graphic identity, and quirky design devices (a pop-up skyscraper centerfold in issue 4, a cutout megastructure model in issue 6, etc.)—remain elusive. Archigram: The Book works hard to change this. Edited by Dennis Crompton and featuring extensive commentary from Peter Cook and other surviving Archigram members, this generous volume takes Archigram’s nine and a half issues as its central organizing device. Every issue is reproduced in its entirety at high resolution and in full color. The book’s large trim size (14 inches by 11 inches) accommodates reproductions at close to original size (sometimes enlarged), allowing careful study of the original layouts. It even includes the pop-up skyscraper! Extensive presentations of key Archigram projects complement the magazine pages. Many of these feature gatefolds to afford the group’s expansive drawings the space they deserve. Even seasoned Archigram aficionados will find surprises here. The book presents canonical projects with a thoroughness that earlier publications generally lack, and lesser-known ones with equal intensity. Key moments in Archigram’s history—such as its 1963 Living City exhibition, a BBC television special from 1967, and the Archigram Opera, first performed at the Architectural Association in 1972—receive ample treatment, and seminal historic documents, such as Reyner Banham’s 1965 “A Clip-on Architecture,” are also included. More documentary compendium than analytical treatment, this book (and Michael Sorkin, in his generous introduction) largely maintains the party line, best articulated by Banham in 1972, that “Archigram is short on theory and long on draughtsmanship,” and that it did what it did “for the sheer hell of doing it.” True enough. Archigram unapologetically privileged pleasure over politics and rarely bothered to unpack theoretical propositions beyond pithy captions. Its reluctance to address head-on the thornier sociopolitical implications of its work left its members exposed to searing criticism, particularly in the early 1970s. This book acknowledges but doesn’t trouble too much over those implications or Archigram’s relation to broader historical contexts of the 1960s and ’70s. (If these are your interest, head for Sadler’s and Steiner’s books, noted above.) The argument here— and, ultimately, I think it’s the correct one—is that Archigram’s graphic work, in all its exuberant, technicolor, detail-driven complexity, is what matters most. So, does this sumptuous volume produce the same kick as fondling original Archigrams? No. The presentation is a little too slick to capture the raw excitement of the originals. But it’s still an awful lot of fun, and it comes closer than any previous attempt. Unless you’re ready to don the white gloves and head to the archive, Archigram: The Book is about as good as you’re going to get. Todd Gannon is head of the architecture section of the Knowlton School at Ohio State University and the author of numerous works of architectural scholarship and history.
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Amanda Kolson Hurley dives into radical histories of U.S. suburbs

Radical Suburbs: Experimental Living on the Fringes of the American City Amanda Kolson Hurley Belt Publishing $16.95

When a book about suburbia contains a chapter called “The Anarchists Who Took the Commuter Train,” you know it is going to be an interesting read. That book is Amanda Kolson Hurley’s Radical Suburbs: Experimental Living on the Fringes of the American City, and it does not disappoint. In six well-researched and informative—yet fast-paced—chapters, Hurley introduces us to a tapestry of suburban social experimentation, from communal living in celibacy to a community of working couples inspired by the Bauhaus. It is a rich collection of projects, most of which have been overlooked by standard urban surveys.

And yes, there were anarchists in Piscataway, New Jersey, commuting to day jobs in Manhattan. Stelton was a development by anarchists decamping from New York’s East Village in 1915. It was centered around an experimental school, the Modern School, which had both year-round and summer residents united by ultraleft political beliefs and, apparently, a love of argumentation. As throughout the book, Hurley takes her research of Piscataway and the Stelton development on the road, visiting the remnants of the town and interviewing former Stelton residents who remember idyllic school days where—as you can imagine in an anarchist paradise—they were pretty much allowed to do anything they liked. Hurley tells Stelton’s story in rich detail, examining everything from how property rights were handled to the ways in which the houses were decorated.

The chapter on Concord Park, which is just outside of Philadelphia, is equally illuminating. Subtitled “Integrating the Suburbs at ‘Checkerboard Square,’” this section details the efforts of a white developer, Morris Milgram, to create a completely integrated suburb in the 1950s. Hurley effectively conveys the many hurdles Milgram faced and the agonizing choices he had to make, most notably his decision to mandate a quota of 55 percent sales to whites and 45 percent to blacks. As one of only a handful of suburban communities to offer high-quality homes to black residents, the quota was deemed necessary in order to keep it from becoming majority black, with the 10 percent disparity added to entice whites to buy. The project was an initial success (it later did revert to an upper-middle-class majority black neighborhood). Hurley again found authentic voices of former residents, combined with tireless research, to record its story.

All of the stories in this book are masterfully told, adding depth to the examination of suburbs within the disciplines of urbanism and architecture—while at the same time providing enough color and commentary to appeal to a reader with little experience or prior interest in the subject. Hurley’s focus on social experimentation and the ways developments affected residents’ day-to-day lives is part of this success.

What gets perhaps less attention, however, is the wonkier architectural-urban analyses of urban design and architecture in contributing to the radicality of these projects. Of the two more “architectural” projects detailed in the book, The Architects' Collaborative’s collection of Modernist homes outside of Cambridge, Massachusetts, and the planned city of Reston, Virginia—the dreamchild of developer Robert E. Simo designed by William Conklin and Thomas Rossant—which only Reston could be considered a truly radical challenge to the standard subdivision in terms of its urban design, embracing both density and mixing of uses. Even at Reston, Simon was forced out and the project reverted to typical suburban norms. (The knife in the gut is that the companies that took over the project were Gulf Oil and Mobil—as if we needed any further proof of what oil companies are looking for in terms of how people live and commute.)

As a result, the book is rather short on critical analysis of the role of design and, perhaps more important, whether design can play a role in remedying any of the problems—restrictive covenants, lack of density and connections, the effects of climate change—that Hurley details in her conclusion as everyday realities. As many—if not most—of the projects in the book ended up failing in themselves or at least failing to inspire any larger movements, the role of design in the relative success of an example like Greenbelt, Maryland—where the proto-modernist forms of Art Deco were used to create a successful mingling of a main street with true suburban freedoms—would make for an interesting next volume.

Hurley’s organization of the book reflects this dichotomy between what is considered success and what is considered failure. She begins in the introduction with a full-throated defense of the suburbs, detailing their increased diversity, quality of life, and sense of community, arguing that the examples in the book are a refutation of suburban clichés of conformity, mediocrity, and blandness. Yet she ends with the aforementioned critique and offers a list of ways in which suburbs could improve. Even the most ordinary of suburbs can of course be considered a uniquely American experiment that has had extraordinary success in redefining how people live. As with any experiment, it is the failures that often provide the pathway to new solutions, and Hurley shows how a number of outliers previously lost to history offer clear alternatives. With 50 percent of Americans still living in the suburbs, even the most hardcore urbanist cannot refute the need to reexamine and redesign them. Hurley has provided us with much-needed fuel for the imagination.

Dan Wood, FAIA, is a cofounder of WORKac and author of We’ll Get There When We Cross That Bridge and 49 Cities.

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Spring into summer with these enthralling architecture books

A new crop of architecture, art, and urbanism books have come out just in time to make the summer reading list, and they span the range from biographies to ballparks. Worried about what to read over the long Memorial Day weekend? Check out one of the below books, and remember that any book can be a beach read if you're brave enough. Gropius: The Man Who Built the Bauhaus Fiona MacCarthy Belknap Press (Harvard University Press) MSRP $35.00 A slew of new books and reissues have arrived in honor of the 100th anniversary of the Bauhaus, but for those craving a bit more personal insight into the life of the notoriously uptight Walter Gropius, Fiona MacCarthy’s biography will be sure to scratch that itch. While Gropius may not have led as libertine a life as his contemporary and Man in the Glass House subject Philip Johnson, Gropius paints a picture of the man as a disciplined collaborator, without whom Marcel Breuer, Mies van der Rohe, and Le Corbusier wouldn’t have been able to reach their full potential. While Gropius himself produced few built works, the book bearing his name argues that his influence can still be felt today. Ballpark: Baseball in the American City Paul Goldberger Knopf MSRP $35.00 Is there a more American sport for the summer weather? Possibly, but as Paul Goldberger argues, baseball has been the most influential (hence the book’s title). The diamond’s shape and regulation size drive the design of not only ballparks, but, Goldberger argues, urban development and culture, as well. Train lines spring up to deliver sports fans to their stadiums, physical infrastructure of the venue changed to accommodate new media, and baseball stadiums continue to evolve alongside contemporary urban planning and design. Aesthetics Equals Politics: New Discourses across Art, Architecture, and Philosophy Mark Foster Gage (Editor) The MIT Press MSRP $34.95 Can a broader understanding of the nebulous concept of “aesthetics” help us navigate these turbulent times? In Aesthetics Equals Politics, Mark Foster Gage and Matt Shaw rally architects, philosophers, writers, curators, and more in an attempt to create, or uncover, the framework on which to base new understandings of art and architecture. Movement, abstraction, and art in the post-digital age are all examined, as is design at the small scale all the way up to the cosmic, in a series of essays from well-known practitioners and theorists. Architecture of Nature: Nature of Architecture Diana Agrest Applied Research & Design MSRP $49.95 Eight years of collected research from “Architecture of Nature/ Nature of Architecture,” an advanced research graduate studio at the Cooper Union, have been compiled into a hardcover edition that lets each case study breathe. Splashy-full page diagrams and renderings complement research on volcanic activity, the spread of nuclear fallout, coral reef regeneration, “unrepressing” nature, and more. Taken together, the projects in Architecture of Nature blur the lines between architecture and nature, revealing the hidden divisions that slice the Earth. Aldo Rossi and the Spirit of Architecture Diane Ghirardo Yale University Press MSRP $65.00 Ghirardo’s new monograph bounces between Rossi's work while never shying away from the personal life of the artist, architect, industrial designer, writer, and Pritzker winner. Biography and Rossi’s reflections on his own work are interwoven with examples of historical precedents to paint a fuller picture of how selected works were conceived and executed. Aldo Rossi examines the foundations of its subject’s work and reassesses (and reinforces) Rossi’s position at the base of the Postmodern movement.
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New book grapples with ambitious, contentious moment in Pittsburgh’s urban history

Imagining the Modern: Architecture and Urbanism of the Pittsburgh Renaissance Rami el Samahy, Chris Grimley, and Michael Kubo The Monacelli Press List Price: $50.00 In times of cynicism, revisiting more optimistic moments in architecture can conjure mixed emotions. Mid-century architects, designers, and planners exuded the optimistic belief that architecture and design could solve social ills worldwide—a spirit celebrated in recent exhibitions of Latin America and Yugoslavia at MoMA, and new books on Miami’s modernism. In a new book, Imagining the Modern: Architecture and Urbanism of the Pittsburgh Renaissance (Monacelli Press), Rami el Samahy, Chis Grimley, and Michael Kubo paint a vivid picture of the mixed emotions evoked by the changing urban landscape in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, a city heralded as a role model of rustbelt reinvention. The book functions as an introduction to a complex moment in the city’s history, looking at Pittsburgh as a case study in a broader moment of urban renewal in many U.S. cities. Pittsburgh was deemed “the Mecca of urban renewal” in Architectural Forum in 1957, and yet Imagining the Modern is the first book to chronicle the city’s modernist history in a comprehensive way. The book emerged from a 2015–2016 curatorial experiment at the Carnegie Museum of Art’s Heinz Architectural Center, overseen by curator Raymund Ryan. Ryan invited the book’s authors, principles of the Boston-based studio OverUnder, to be architects-in-residence in the museum and explore Pittsburgh’s contentious relationship to urban renewal in an exhibition. The trio went to great lengths to dig up photography, publications, ephemera, and other documents around five Pittsburgh neighborhoods and projects: Gateway Center, the Lower Hill, Allegheny Center, East Liberty, and Oakland. The exhibition’s walls were plastered with unsung gems from local archives, and a series of panel discussions affiliated with the exhibition added to the cacophony of voices measuring the legacy of urban renewal and how architects ought to respond. Imagining the Modern distills this rich material in a manageable way, in the spirit of the authors’ reappraisal of Boston’s mid-century concrete, Heroic: Concrete Architecture and the New Boston (Monacelli Press). Their new book specifically deals with the built and imagined architectural transformations of Pittsburgh in the 1950s and ‘60s, and with even a quick flip through the book one can see the changing urban fabric of the city. Imagining the Modern includes a wonderful array of high-quality images and well-designed diagrams—from archival documents to photographs to city maps, the stunning visual display is captivating and invites the reader to explore “the manifold ways in which the modern was imagined in Pittsburgh.” Imagining the Modern offers several modes of engagement rather than taking a strong position on Pittsburgh’s modern legacy. Scholars Kelly Hutzell, Caroline Constant, and Martin Aurand provide historical context and analysis for the development of Pittsburgh’s urban form and infrastructure. The book includes a series of diagrams entitled “Modern Networks” by Aurand that map the extensive networks of public and private entities that commissioned local modern architecture. The diagrams reflect the complexity of the patronage that funded this “Pittsburgh Renaissance;” one could spend hours trying to decipher the often confusing lines between architects, buildings (both built and unbuilt), commissions, and patrons. At the heart of the book are archival documents, which the authors present as evidence for readers to arrive at their own conclusions. A section of the book is devoted to reproductions of excerpts from two “Visionary Documents” that outlined the challenges for modernist designers to solve—pollution, traffic congestion, housing, parking, urban blight—while also suggesting ways to remedy such issues through architecture and design. Imagining the Modern goes on to show readers how plans for Pittsburgh neighborhoods and infrastructure were marketed, sometimes successfully, to respond to these issues through superlatives and dazzling renderings. Pittsburgh positioned itself as a “Cinderella City,” as a headline put it in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on June 30, 1953: “Ridiculed, scorned and snubbed for over a century and a half, Pittsburgh throws off her pall to become the ‘City of Tomorrow.’” As steel production left the region and factories closed in the 1950s and ‘60s, dazzling buildings of mid-century modern buildings by leading architects rose with a zeal unfathomable today. Harrison & Abramovitz, Mitchell & Ritchey, Simonds & Simonds, and Gordon Bunshaft of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM), to name a few, all built memorable works in Pittsburgh around this time. Imagining the Modern shows the development of the city’s most iconic buildings alongside ambitious plans that remain unbuilt, including one scheme that proposed filling the Oakland neighborhood’s Panther Hollow ravine with a mile-long research facility to bridge the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University. Rather than allowing the beautiful architectural renderings and photography to simply seduce the reader—which, occasionally, they do—Imagining the Modern also shows a collection of excerpts from the architectural and popular press responding to these proposals. The book juxtaposes the cheerleading coverage of The Pittsburgh Press alongside the coordinated, albeit unsuccessful, campaign by The Pittsburgh Courier to thwart plans for the displacement of thousands of mostly Black residents of the Lower Hill. The book’s photography also humanizes the actors on both sides of the city’s transformation, with moving images of people designing, building, debating, celebrating, protesting, photographing, and using the new works. Refreshingly, the book complexifies the role of architects in this transformative moment as well. Interviews and works by Troy West, for example, show that architects weren’t only the handmaidens of the powerful—his teaching and collaborative practices, which he operated as Architecture 2001 and Community Design Associates, offered an alternative model to the top-down design and planning approaches that often mar the legacy of postwar design. Instead of staking claims about the history of Pittsburgh’s modernism, Imagining the Modern showcases the debate that optimistic work by designers and planners continue to provoke. At a time when cities across the U.S. are working tirelessly to reverse the effects of urban renewal—understood as a pseudonym for “Negro removal,” as Dr. Mindy Fullilove suggests in her book Root Shock: How Tearing Up City Neighborhoods Hurts America, And What We Can Do About It—this book asks readers to take a closer look at a few urban visions through a mix of historical essays, sexy images, riotous press clippings, enlightening diagrams, insightful interviews, and informative project descriptions that offer everyone an entry into a fraught urban and architectural moment.
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Lydia Kallipoliti cracks open yesterday's sealed techno utopias

The Architecture of Closed Worlds; or, What Is the Power of Shit? Lydia Kallipoliti Lars Muller Publishers $40.00 Where’s the future we were promised? It’s hard to follow popular culture in the early 21st century without encountering variations on this question. Almost everybody remembers The Jetsons. This show is usually the go-to example for those who still—for some reason—want a jetpack (or, perhaps even less realistically, George Jetson’s three-hour work week). Saturday morning cartoons may have showed us the shiny future in our living rooms, but the futures of the 20th century were designed in the workshops, laboratories, and drafting studios of architects and designers, and most of that never made it to television. Lydia Kallipoliti’s new book, The Architecture of Closed Worlds; or, What Is the Power of Shit?, tells us, as the subtitle suggests, a messier set of stories about the hidden production history of design futures.

If commuters dream of a Utopia with flying cars, then urbanists, engineers, architects, and building scientists yearn for structures that clean themselves, eat their own waste, recycle their own water, and never need to tap an electrical grid. These are the “closed worlds” of the book’s title. This book is a catalogue of attempts, over an 80-year time span, to create self-sustaining structures that can support human life. But Kallipoliti shows that, besides acting on mere biology and its technical problems, the image of the closed world is a cultural agent as well. This is a dream that’s about more than survival; it’s about independence and the freedom to explore and expand life into hostile or unknown territories. The closed worlds here bridge the space between mainstream architectural history, science fiction, space science, pure engineering experiment, and countercultural autonomy. There are spaceships and communes, quack medicine and fad diets. There are brave explorers risking their own lives (Jacques Cousteau’s team living on the continental shelf), snarky art projects as cultural commentary (Ant Farm’s “clean air” inflatables), astronaut trainees getting sick on their own waste (in a 1960 simulation at NASA Langley), utopian technocrats (Masdar City), and even hamsters (SEEK). Of course, Bucky Fuller makes several appearances.

The book is organized like one of the classic “catalogues” of 20th century future studies. American audiences will recognize antecedents like Paula Taylor’s The Kids’ Whole Future Catalogue, from 1982, a riff on Stewart Brand’s 1968 Whole Earth Catalog, which featured underwater living, space settlements, and driverless cars. Another precedent, from the U.K., is the Usborne Book of the Future series, which presented domed cities, space elevators, and two-way wireless video chat via wristwatch. Like these books, Kallipoliti’s gives us a format that’s easy to browse casually at a surface level, and it’s just as easy to get lost in its depths. Also like these other collections, this book is lavishly illustrated. The period photographs and drawings are complemented and unified by a series of complex and compelling diagrams by Temitope Olujobi, showing the technical networks that these structures weave in order to create and sustain their environmental conditions.

But Closed Worlds is not a work of optimistic retrofuturism. Kallipoliti includes, along with each project entry, a section on “Key Failures.” Waste builds up, maintenance takes time, seals leak, crops fail—but even more broadly, hubris exists. The reach of these would-be world-makers often exceeds their grasp. These failures bring the projects back down to Earth, and Kallipoliti has invited a collection of practitioners and critics to join her in short essays that examine what it all means. These “Commentary” entries for select projects help contextualize the work in contemporary terms. No hagiography, the stories that Kallipoliti is telling in her book are far stranger and dirtier than simple nostalgia for lost futures would allow, and these stories are all the more instructive for their open-endedness.

This resistance to offer up easy answers is the book’s strength, but it can also leave the reader a little confused and maybe wanting. The diagrams by Olujobi are, like the projects themselves, fascinating. They should be poster size to do justice to their intricacy. But, again like in the projects, the complexity here can be overwhelming at times. As we try to follow the movement of material and energy from component to component, coded in the custom notation and color scheme invented just for the book and its accompanying exhibition at the Storefront for Art and Architecture in New York, it’s hard not to get dizzy and lose sight of the big picture. Does this catalogue of complex failures mean that any attempt to design systems this complicated will be doomed? What is the nature of the implied openness that is the complement to the closed nature of the worlds catalogued here? Is the closure ever really complete in the first place? Maybe the crucial question that we’ve yet to grapple with, as designers, is right there in Kallipoliti’s subtitle: What indeed is the power of shit?

Here in the 21st century, architects are constantly reminded that the construction and maintenance of the built environment takes a disproportionate toll on the quality and health of the unbuilt environment. Kallipoliti’s open questions about Closed Worlds are a vital reminder that these conditions—and our attempts to address them and answer her questions—are not new. As we discuss how built structures can, through partial or complete closure of their own waste-to-value cycles, mitigate their impact on the world, Kallipoliti’s book reminds us that this larger world is itself both “closed” and “open.” We, as a technical species, and as designers, have already begun to intervene in those complex, incomprehensible networks that Olujobi is drawing, but at the scale of the planet. Whether we have intended to be or not, we are ourselves the makers of a closed world, and we might as well get good at it.

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Sigfried Giedion gets a fresh look in new book

Giedion and America: Repositioning the History of Modern Architecture Reto Geiser GTA Verlag $85.00

Was it an ironic coincidence or part of the modern movement’s DNA that the heroic architectural avant-garde of the 1920s and 1930s was accompanied, promoted, and memorialized by historians even as protagonists like Walter Gropius vaunted breaking the shackles of history? Despite protests to the contrary, the key 19th-century concept of historicism—the idea of the spirit of the age as form-giver—was inherited by a generation of historians and polemicists. Gropius found the first of his genealogically inclined historian champions in the German art historian Nikolaus Pevsner, who published Pioneers of the Modern Movement: From William Morris to Walter Gropius in English in 1936 with the Museum of Modern Art.

By then, Le Corbusier had already found his James Boswell in art historian Sigfried Giedion, a fellow Swiss. Giedion collaged Le Corbusier’s work in the form of both images and paraphrased slogans into his first historical manifesto in 1928 with Bauen in Frankreich, Bauen in Eisen, Bauen in Eisenbeton. The book took the tradition of Wöfflinian art history into a millenarian manifesto mode with its use of startling transhistorical photographic juxtapositions.

For decades, Giedion would serve as secretary and scribe of CIAM, the Congrès Internationaux d’Architecture Moderne, founded the same year that Bauen in Frankreich was published—even as he continued to lecture, publish, and compose novel illustrated volumes in which he inscribed the present in an ever lengthening historical trajectory that ultimately took him back to the prehistoric. It has always been held, however, that his most lasting and influential work, Space, Time, and Architecture, published in 1941, derived as the concrete result of the first of his many trips to the United States to give public lectures at Harvard between 1938 and 1939, the very years the Bauhaus masters were settling into teaching positions in Cambridge and Chicago. Like Pevsner’s Pioneers, Giedion’s book, which was also originally published in English, has remained continuously in print for over 75 years, exerting an enormous influence even as it has transitioned from being read as a source for the history of modern architecture to being analyzed over and over again as an artifact of the modern movement in the historiographic turn in architectural history of the last 20 years. But Reto Geiser’s book demands that we take a longer look at the historian himself.     

Giedion has indeed now found his own historians. In 1989, soon after his papers were organized and opened to researchers in Zurich, a first intellectual biography—simply titled Sigfried Giedion—was published by the collection’s then-curator, Sokratis Georgiadis. Now Reto Geiser’s Giedion in America is both an homage to a fellow Swiss historian’s mastery of integrating images and text and a subtle reflection on the important role that America—as a place, idea, and culture—played in the formation of one of the most influential intellectual projects in 20th-century architectural history.

Geiser organizes his analysis less in a strict chronological fashion than as a series of four extended essays on different interpretations on the theme of Geidion as a figure “in between” countries and cultures. In the process, he weaves together cultural influences that go far beyond any previous analyses of Giedion’s involvement with American intellectual life, while also underscoring a number of paradoxes and ironies of his career. The first of these is language, since Giedion’s less than perfect command of spoken English contributed to the innovations of his visual layouts, first in slide lectures and then in the meticulous care with which he worked on the mock-ups of his page layouts—many of which are illustrated in Geiser’s book—in collaboration with book designers like Herbert Bayer and Jaqueline Tyrwhitt, the handmaiden to the readability of his text.

No less does it set the stage for the chapter “In Between Approaches,” which analyzes Giedion’s engagement with the published works of established figures of American thought such as philosopher Alfred North Whitehead and cultural historian Lewis Mumford. Indeed, the dialogue between Mumford and Giedion in establishing the American contribution to the development of modern architecture is the subject of some of the most consequential passages in a book that zigzags between a rich orchestration of information about this “art historian’s central role in a global network of modern architects” and astute analysis of his evolution as a historical thinker. This is one of the chief contributions of Geiser’s study.

On the Swiss side, the most interesting revelations concern Giedion’s frustration with failing to ever find a position in the academic establishment in Zurich, despite the prestige he held at Harvard. This plagued Giedion throughout his career.

Geiser is the first biographer of Giedion to give full attention to the genesis and impact of his fascination with the art and architectural expressions of prehistoric and pre-Hellenic cultures, from the cave paintings discovered at Lascaux in 1940 to Sumerian ziggurats and Egyptian pyramids. These fascinations were first honed and presented for the general audience attending his 1957 Mellon Lectures at the National Gallery in Washington, D.C., and then expanded into The Eternal Present: The Beginnings of Art, a two-volume work. But Giedion scarcely lost himself in the dawn of time—even if his ever-patient art historian wife Carola Giedion-Welcker claimed that it took him for a time away from “all architectural problems.”

One of the most fascinating relationships that Geiser takes up is Giedion’s relationship to Marshall McLuhan, an earlier admirer of the historian, who understood from the outset the relationship of the medium of the book (or the slide lecture) to a message about the historical dimension of even the present moment. Appropriately enough, Giedion’s relationship to McLuhan, to György Kepes and the early years of the MIT Media Lab, and the creation of the Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts at Harvard—for which Le Corbusier would supply his only building on American soil—come together in Geiser’s final chapter, “In Between Disciplines.” Not only does this expand our understanding of Giedion’s role into the postwar period, but equally of Giedion as a historian protagonist as important to the evolution of media studies as he was to modern architecture and its history. Despite the numerous chronological backtrackings and the repetition of salient quotes that mar the text, Geiser has shed light on facets of Giedion’s long trajectory that recast a figure whose books were perhaps too long ago moved to an upper shelf with other college texts.

Barry Bergdoll is a professor of art history at Columbia University and recipient of the 2019 Cattedra Borromini professorship at the Accademia di Architettura in Mendrisio, Switzerland.

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Sandy Isenstadt takes readers on a tour of the dawn of electric lighting

Electric Light: An Architectural History Sandy Isenstadt MIT Press $44.95

At the turn of the 20th century, the life-world in Europe and America was deeply transformed by the simultaneous appearance of the telephone, subways, elevators, skyscrapers, cinema, automobiles, and the incandescent lamp. As outlined by Sanford Kwinter in his 1986 article, “La Città Nuova: Modernity and Continuity,” a new order emerged, whose main manifestations also fueled a new aesthetic realm—exemplified by the theoretical program of Italian Futurism.

Electric Light: An Architectural History, written by Sandy Isenstadt and published in 2018 by MIT Press, depicts the same cultural milieu as Kwinter did: It’s an attempt to relate the rise of a novel spatial sensibility with the proliferation of technical innovations. More specifically, Isenstadt, professor in the art history department at the University of Delaware, focuses his attention on electric light as epiphenomenon of a broad paradigm shift: modernity.

The advent of electric light, in fact, not only allowed people to extend conventional daytime activities to nighttime, but also alter the conception of a day-night divide Electric light introduced modern space through two fundamental concepts: instantaneity and action at a distance.

Despite similar premises and a shared chronological framework, Isenstadt’s work differs from Kwinter’s and many other contributions on the same theme in several significant aspects. First, Isenstadt doesn’t directly confront the avant-garde culture of the time. He doesn’t indulge in the typical topoi of movement and dynamism, nor does he introduce Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, Umberto Boccioni, and Antonio Sant’Elia, all leading Futurist figures who envisioned a new material world made of speed, electricity, and intensity. On the contrary, Isenstadt is concerned with the impact of electricity on the everyday lives of millions of people. This is because, as he claims, electric light is itself a form of architecture. For this reason, Isenstadt also compiles an inventory of extraordinary objects enabled by electric light, such as cars, lamps, bulbs, animated advertisements, and lighted signs—all of which not only contained novel intrinsic properties, but also forged the emergence of a world that radically altered the perception of existing spaces and created new ones. By compiling these objects, Isenstadt traces a genealogy of modernity crystallized in the description of five different case studies all rooted in the American territory.

Whereas the first case study on the light switch depicts its technical and symbolic relevance—from its use in domestic spaces to the celebration of religious and political events—the second one looks into the experience of night driving; the car becomes a prosthesis of the human body, a projection of desires and curiosities, and the headlamps an instrument to explore unknown territories. The third case study analyses electric light in terms of efficiency and productivity in the workplace, including factories and schools, and the fourth is on Times Square in New York City: a landmark of modernity, a phantasmagoria of signs and billboards that constituted the first example of TEXT-scape, a homogenous field characterized by signs, signals, and advertisements. Lastly, Isenstadt explores the relationship between wartime and lighting during World War II by describing the application in America of collective and individual forms of blackout, which stemmed from paranoia about being bombed.

Regardless of its organization into five different parts, Electric Light: An Architectural History constitutes a narrative continuum on the idea of modernity. A further differentiation emerges. The case studies, in fact, suggest the simultaneous presence of two interpretative criteria. One is merely phenomenological: electric light has altered the perception of the space around us, our experiences, and our feelings. But at the same time, Isenstadt also points out how electricity has physically shaped a new world by inducing the rise of unprecedented spaces and typologies. This twofold perspective translates either into the intriguing description of certain perceptual conditions—such as the act of night driving or the urban reading of Times Square—or into the accurate classification of technical devices and methods of construction.

Whereas the whole narrative skeleton defined by Isenstadt makes his text undoubtedly fascinating, at first sight its subtitle—An Architectural History—can appear misleading. The book, in fact, is not a chronological excursus of architectural episodes, nor does it provide a methodological schema to understand what modernity in architecture is and what its features are. In varying the scope of his reflections—from the detail of the light switch to the suspended temporality of a city’s electrified streets—Isenstadt engages readers on a compelling journey at the intersection of society, culture, and technology. Rather than deploying aesthetic categories, Isenstadt focuses on new visual habits. Here again, the convergence between material, constructive depictions, and phenomenological aspects allows us to look at the five selected cases with a revived interest that reaches beyond sterile disciplinary categorizations.

The end result is a history of electric modernism: in the author’s words, “If modernity itself can be characterized by rapid, incessant change and modernism as the creative and conscious response to such change, then electric light—instantaneous, malleable, evanescent—is modernity’s medium.”

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Peruse our favorite spring 2019 architecture book releases

As the weather warms and flowers sprout, so too do a new crop of spring releases. A varied bunch of books offers everything from a meditation on the impermanence of inflatable architecture to a dense taxonomy of trees. So snag one of these new releases for when a sunny day in the park or a rainy spring day spent inside. Ruin and Redemption in Architecture Dan Barasch and Dylan Thuras (contributor) Phaidon $59.95 New A flashy split-tone coffee-table book cover belies a slick collection of ruin-to-redemption case studies. All types of buildings and infrastructure fall to the ravages of time. Some are icons that have been lost forever, demolished or repurposed in a way that destroys their original intent; some have been left dormant for decades and are actively being reimagined; others have been successfully transformed for a second chance at glory. This book takes a look at all types. In a nice touch, the abandoned buildings are all shown in black and white, while their transformed counterparts are rendered in full-color spreads. The “redeemed” buildings include a multitude of well-known rehabs, such as Heatherwick Studio’s Zeitz Museum of South Africa and Ricardo Bofill’s monumental transformation of a 33,000-square-foot Spanish cement factory into his personal home and office. The Architecture of Trees Cesare Leonardi and Franca Stagi Princeton Architectural Press $76.27 Any landscape architect worth their soil should pick up The Architecture of Trees, an all-encompassing atlas of all things tree-related. The massive 10-inch-by-15-inch compendium is a remastered English edition of L’Architettura degli Alberi, which has been out of print since 1982. Over 550 large-scale pen drawings of 212 tree species are provided at 1:100 scale, and each copy of the book comes with a large ruler-slash-bookmark that allows readers to visualize how tall each specimen would be in the real world. Lavish color studies of how the foliage of each tree changes throughout the seasons—as well as their relative canopy size—are also provided. Information on each family, genus, and species, leaf etchings, essays on utilizing public green space, solar studies for different tree arrangements, and more can be found in this 424-page doorstopper, the result of a twenty-year study. Toward a Living Architecture?: Complexism and Biology in Generative Design Christina Cogdell University Of Minnesota Press $31.35 The popularity of organic parametricism shows no sign of slowing down, especially with the likes of Zaha Hadid Architects and other internationally acclaimed studios continuing to champion the style. But, just because architects have sinewy curves, biomimetic facades, and other tools readily available in their kits, does that mean any of their work is truly sustainable? In Towards a Living Architecture, Cogdell refutes the argument that biological architecture, computer-driven iterative architecture, symbiotic architecture, etc., are inherently “better” or more sustainable. Instead, she calls for a lifecycle analysis of each project and technique and offers pointed questions to each technology in chapter-by-chapter breakdowns. Bubbletecture: Inflatable Architecture and Design Sharon Francis Phaidon $24.95 New Meet the hypersaturated, candy-colored younger sibling of Ruin and Redemption, a pocket-sized compendium to all things inflatable. Everything from inflatable stools to children’s toys to useable bridges are represented in Bubbletecture’s 288 pages and are helpfully coded by size. Colorful pieces from artists, ranging from Kapoor to Kusama and Christo, mingle with large-scale installations from BIG and Snarkitecture (and keep an eye out for the Trump baby balloon). X-Ray Architecture Beatriz Colomina Lars Müller $25.47 As architecture became more about analyzing fragmented portions of the building in the 20th century, so too did medicine. The advent of the x-ray coincidentally—or perhaps not, argues Colomina—came about in tandem with the rise of modern architecture. Buildings offered more light and more glass and became airier in the early 20th century, affording the general public with conditions previously prescribed to those suffering from tuberculosis. At the same time, armed with the ability to peer inside the human body and examine its underpinning structure, medicine became more architectural. Surveillance into either body, whether human-built or organic, increased—an obtrusion that’s continued into the current day.
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Art gallery book fair this weekend

Carriage Trade Gallery at 277 Grand Street, New York, New York, is holding a book fair this weekend that will feature books, ephemera, and zines that will undoubtedly hold gems for those interested in architecture and design. The second-floor gallery just hosted an exhibition of Denise Scott Brown and in the past has featured shows that inhabit the territory between art and architecture. The fair should have a great many books and ephemera by artists on architecture that are insightful and provocative. The participating galleries and booksellers include: Christine Burgin New Directions Common Notions INK CAP PRESS Division Leap Kai Matsumiya Office Space 2 (Sunday only) prompt: Small Editions PDF null The Home School & The Song Cave (Saturday only) Saturday & Sunday, March 2-3, 2019, 1-8 p.m.
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New book prepares crematoria for the architectural spotlight

Goodbye Architecture: The Architecture of Crematoria in Europe by Vincent Valentijn and Kim Verhoeven nai010 publishers, $80 Long a taboo subject, death is becoming a hot topic in architecture. Not since the 1980s has a book devoted to architecture and death been published, and many merely examine historical temples, tombs, and rites. Responding to an increase in cremation, Vincent Valentijn and Kim Verhoeven have authored Goodbye Architecture: The Architecture of Crematoria in Europe, a book collecting Europe's finer examples of architecture that does indeed burn. The book design, also by the authors, strikes a perfect balance between an image-laden coffee table book and a text-heavy treatise. Each of the 26 highlighted projects opens with a site plan, a building axonometric, the number of ovens, the number of incinerations per year with the percentage of type, as well as the size and program dedications. Spreads of photos, plans, and sections unfold with descriptions of context, conceptual approach, materials, and special features, punctuated with circulation diagrams: one for the deceased and another for visitors. Analytics, interviews, and essays follow. Cremation's resurgence in the West is recent—Japan has long had a near 100 percent cremation rate while Islam forbids it. Despite the Vatican's ban from 789 until 1963, the first modern crematorium was built in Milan in 1876 following the unveiling of a new oven at the World Exhibition in Vienna. Incineration caught on slowly, mainly by "cultural and intellectual elites," and has grown steadily since the 1990s. Currently, over a thousand crematoria perform two million services every year. How the crematoria weigh technical issues, context, and local customs varies widely, and this is where Valentijn and Verhoeven's research shines. Many facilities have undergone renovations and extensions to meet stricter emissions standards. For the crematorium in Aarhus, Denmark, designed in 1969, Henning Larsen returned for the 2011 upgrade and in the process enhanced its sustainability. Condoned by both the city council and the local church, excess heat warms the chapel and other buildings within the district's heating network. Architect Paolo Zermani invites visitors to the rationalist Tempio di Cremazione in Parma, Italy, into the crematorium for a ceremony, which is uncommon in Italy where cremation has been viewed as a technical process. Zermani's design inscribes a deliberate route through the landscape to the oven—the ritual procession is the promenade architectural. While many are singular in their use and isolated, other crematoria openly embrace their communities with flexible plans and mixed programming. The crematorium at the Heimolen cemetery near Ghent, Belgium, comprises two pavilions. One contains the oven, the other houses reception and ceremonies, which allows non-associated uses like a cafe and an auditorium for presentations and lectures. Similarly, the crematorium designed by Eduardo Souto de Moura in Kortrijk, Belgium, opens its facilities for concerts to better integrate with the community.   Others attempt to redefine and popularize the typology. Architect Albert Chambers Freeman, who published the type's first overview in 1904, showed that crematoria were highly cultural and contextual, often located in areas where final rites were divorced from the church. Albert Heinrich Steiner's Nordheim Crematorium in Zurich, Switzerland, expresses an appeal to the masses. Dok architecten designed the City of Haarlem, Netherlands' crematorium with a cultural institution atmosphere to attract clientele in an era when people deliberately plan their funerals. It makes sense that today's architects continue to grapple with designing an identity. Following the alphabetically arranged portfolio, the authors cull their analysis into a series of spreads auditing chronology, context, programmatic breakdowns, number and type of cremations, circulation, ritual spaces, and taboos. I found myself frequently flipping through the book to connect these details to the projects. The section "Theory-Design-Practice" eschews images for essays and interviews from crematoria academicians, managers, and directors, as well as several architects. Luigi Bartolomei examines socio-religious conceptions of fire, exposing the need for a psychological and phenomenological approach to experiencing cremation rites. Laura Cramwinckel reveals symbolic meanings of fire in order to build acceptance for the alternative to interment. Douglas Davies's emotional processing of death reveals how successful design addresses "emotion, identity, and destiny." Kris Coenegrachts, director of IGS Westlede, which commissioned the Heimolen crematorium, says secularization has popularized incineration, but without rituals, clients can develop unique services that affect programming, circulation, technical capabilities. One aspect alluded to, but skipped, is sustainability. The authors celebrate public parks around crematoria, but graveyards provide open space and nature trails as well. Considering land use and energy demands, I wonder about the energy required to incinerate a body versus the carbon sequestering of a similarly-sized burial plot, and leaching of formaldehyde. Possibly exceeding the authors' original scope, today's climate, literally, begs energy and resource analysis, especially as the authors provide detailed quantifiable infographics. The authors occasionally submit to hyperbole: "the crematorium is more ambiguous than any other building type," and crematoria "more so than other buildings, reflect [our society]." Fortunately, the hyperboles are few. More importantly, they clarify the challenges to a typology in transition and ignite interest in the designers and buildings confronting specialized needs. Goodbye Architecture recognizes a growing trend for cremation and the design possibilities that the mutating rituals and spaces provide. The building type is a design challenge accepted by the architects and clients whose projects are included. Part travel guide, history, and analysis, the book is a welcome addition to the limited study of funerary architecture. James Way promotes ecology and preservation at Biohabitats.