Posts tagged with "Books":

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Here are AN’s picks for design reads to enjoy while housebound

With all of AN's staff sheltering in place, we’ve found it an opportune time to catch up on some long-neglected or newly relevant reads. As befits our time of crisis, the following picks thematically converge on the existential, oscillating between the bleak and the restorative. There are fillips to cozy domesticity, incitations toward household intrigue, bleak invocations of abandoned cityscapes, historical reckonings of queasy illness, and implicated in all of them are buildings, interiors, objects. In a word, these are the books we’re reading while stuck at home. Need something more visceral than a book? Don't miss our complementary shut-in's guide to must-see movies and TV! The Design of Everyday Things: Revised and Expanded Edition By Don Norman Hachette, 2013 What better time to critically re-examine your collection of household objects than when you’re stuck indoors? In The Design of Everyday Things, the objects you take for granted every day are torn down and put back together again with explanations of how and why the designers made the choices they did. There's a reason this book is required reading in most UI/UX and product design courses. –Jonathan Hilburg, web editor Fewer, Better Things By Glenn Adamson Bloomsbury, 2018 In this somewhat autobiographical book, leading design and craft theorist Glenn Adamson makes the case for paring down our domestic interiors. After all, why would we surround ourselves with things lacking in sentimental or functional value? Through careful recollections of his own experiences, Adamson defends the importance of well-designed, well-made objects, as antidotes to the proliferation of information and services associated with the digital age. –Adrian Madlener, interiors editor The Little House: An Architectural Seduction by Jean-Francois de Bastide (translation by Rodolphe El-Khoury) This out-of-print gem takes the reader on a tantalizing journey through an 18th-century manse, complete with a picturesque garden. From the erotic depths of Jean-Francois de Bastide’s imagination, unfolds the fictitious tale of a woman seduced by the all-encapsulating beauty of the estate. Illustrated with drawings of furnishings and objects, as well as in-detail maps, each scene presents itself in a visually intoxicating aesthetic account. Used copies published by Princeton Architectural Press can still be found via Amazon or Abe Books for your viewing pleasure. –Gabrielle Golenda, products editor The House Next Door By Anne Rivers Siddons Simon & Schuster, 1978 This late 1970s work of character-driven literary horror by Anne Rivers Siddons, a Southern writer best known for beach read-y bestsellers in other genres, garnered renewed attention after her death late last year. Taking place in the affluent Atlanta suburbs (Buckhead is that you?), the Stephen King-beloved book, while not a haunted-house yarn per se, is the most unsettling work of fiction concerning modern residential architecture ever written. Just imagine a Deep South version of John Cheever’s The Swimmer thrown into a blender with Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House, Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s The Yellow Wallpaper, and a vintage copy of Architectural Digest and you’re somewhat close. –Matt Hickman, associate editor Sun Seekers: The Cure of California By Lyra Kilston Atelier Éditions, 2019 The second volume in Atelier Éditions’ The Illustrated America series is fascinating, fun, and quite topical. Tracing the history of the often quixotic and quack-y tuberculosis-spurred health trends imported from Europe to Southern California during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Sun Seekers pays particular mind to the role that modernist architecture played in the rise of clean living. This beautifully produced book truly has it all: heliotherapy, raw foods, German proto-hippies, naturopathic zealotry, experimental sanatorium design, a brief history of granola, and a discussion of Richard Neutra’s musings for Nude Living magazine. –Matt Hickman, associate editor X-Ray Architecture Beatriz Colomina Lars Müller, 2019 In her latest book, historian Beatriz Colomina argues that the cleanly aesthetics associated with modern architecture are, in part, a response to the turn-of-the-century tuberculosis pandemic. In the work of architects such as Le Corbusier, Alvar Aalto, Richard Neutra, and Friedrich Kiesler, Colomina discovers a medicinal throughline that skillfully challenges preceding histories of modernism. –Shane Reiner-Roth, associate editor Digital Fabrications Galo Canizares Applied Design & Research, 2019 Mixing fiction with applied research, Galo Canizares follows emerging trends in digital design to question our relationship with software, that elusive and often misused term. One of the major pleas found throughout the book is for architecture students to not only learn every software program required to bring their concepts to fruition, but also to consider the impact those programs are quietly having on cultural conventions and the language used for describing architecture itself. –Shane Reiner-Roth, associate editor Map: Exploring the World By John Hessler Phaidon, 2020 (midi format) Take a look at the NYC metro map and you’ll easily get a sense of how you can move from one place to another. Most, if not all, contemporary transit maps are inspired by Harry Beck’s 1933 London Underground map (which famously sacrifices geographic location and scale in favor of representing relative locations of stations and lines). For this reason among others, maps help us to see connections we might not otherwise. From the birth of cartography to today’s high-tech digital maps, this new edition surveys a breadth of visual tools made in both analog and digital formats. –Gabrielle Golenda, products editor Extrastatecraft: The Power of Infrastructure Space By Keller Easterling Verso, 2015 Fun fact: Did you know there’s an extra-governmental body that regulates everything from the thickness of credit cards to the height of doorknobs? How much do you know about free trade zones, business-friendly districts found all over the world technically not under the purview of the countries that host them? Keller Easterling’s dig into the non-governmental bodies that influence how much of the world works—often free of oversight—reads a bit dryly but paints a dystopian picture of the systems already guiding our day-to-day lives. –Jonathan Hilburg, web editor Applied Ballardianism: A Memoir from a Parallel Universe By Simon Sellars Urbanomic, 2018 The mood of the day is undoubtedly dystopian, and no remedy of spirits appears forthcoming. In need of a guide for navigating the new bleak normal? Look no further than J.G. Ballard, docent of alienated modernity. And there is perhaps no better guide to Ballard than Simon Sellars. In his involute book—part-memoir, part-literary hall-of-mirrors—Sellars recounts his personal affinity to the famed British novelist, a bond that spans Sellars’s promising graduate school career and the crisis of identity that brought it to an abrupt end. Along the way, he rescues Ballard from the lazy empirical shorthand Ballardian, a fate not afforded to that other master of the uncanny, Kafka. –Samuel Medina, executive editor
Every book on this list was selected independently by AN’s team of editors. If you buy something via the embedded links, AN will earn a commission. 
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Steven B. Smith captures the tireless, artificial quietude of suburban Utah

Your Mountain is Waiting By Steven B. Smith Radius Publishing MSRP $55.00 In his Homes for America photographic series (1966-1967), the New Jersey-raised conceptual artist Dan Graham revisited his home state to document the eerily tidy suburbs, with names like ‘Green Village’ and ‘Pleasantside,’ that appeared to have fallen from the sky during his absence. Entirely devoid of people and other personal effects, he drew attention instead to the pure seriality and geometric rigidity of post-war home developments to create a comparison between them and the then-current work of minimalist and rule-based artists. The accompanying text Graham provided is as cold and removed as the photos themselves, imagining New Jersey’s suburbs less as a place where people live and work than as an anthropological site to be examined with surveying tools. Others have since made a tradition of mining the suburbs of America with a similar intellectual distance, from architects Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown in their exhibition Signs of Life (1976) at the Renwick Gallery of the National Collection of Fine Arts, to British architecture professor Jason Griffiths in his book Manifest Destiny (2011), for which he drove over 22,000 miles across the country to document the “placeless” character of the suburbs. Few in the creative fields, it seems, have reflected on the suburbs after having grown up in them. Born, raised, and trained as a photographer in the low-density sprawl of Utah, Steven B. Smith has made a career documenting the transition of the Western landscape into housing developments, of which he has an intimate knowledge. His latest book of photographs, Your Mountain is Waiting (2020), presents large-format images of recently completed and nearly complete housing developments to offer a study of the suburbs centered on those who build them and call them home. While he confirms the idiosyncrasies discovered by those who precede him, Smith comes across several of his own using the sensitivity and attention to detail of a resident observer. For Smith, the suburbs are far from “placeless.” With a focus on the new neighborhoods popping up throughout Utah, his photographs document how their developers had to contend with the state's famously picturesque land formations. Rooflines effortlessly mirror the mountain behind them, backyards encompass miniature topographies of their own (amateurishly fabricated with unironic admiration), and, in one photo, a boulder appears to violently intersect with the veranda of a hilltop home. Even the image on the book cover is a tangle of natural and built elements, from the mountain-shaped gate in the foreground to the textured blocks keeping the hills from losing form. Human and geologic histories are rolled into one through the restless production of artificial mountainscapes that tirelessly attempts to conceal its own labor. The routine maintenance necessary to compete with the beauty of the surrounding landscape—taking out the garbage, watering plants, raking leaves, installing organically-shaped swimming pools—that would otherwise wish to remain invisible is exposed here in heroic compositions. The mysteries of seemingly ancient lawn objects are similarly dispelled by the presence of tractors, backhoe loaders, bricklayers, and plastic wrap fresh from the factory that all appear to be permanent fixtures of the environment themselves. In an interview with Katie Lee-Koven near the end of the book, Smith asserts that the suburbs he photographed are particularly manicured because the majority of their residents are Mormon, a religious group with a unique pride for the American soil. “The yards in Utah,” he said, “have become a place where people are professing their love four country and also for landscape.” There is little doubt, however, that if one went to other suburbs across this country of seemingly every religious and cultural stripe, with a similar sensitivity and attention to detail as Smith demonstrates, a reverence for the American sublime through adoring imitation would be all too easy to find.
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Postmodern Architecture: Less is a Bore is a delightful distraction during troubled times

If there ever was a time to slip away from reality for a moment to feast your eyes on buildings that are exaggerated, extravagant, eccentric, exuberantly colored, overly embellished, unabashedly hodgepodge-y, and incorporate cartoon dwarves as supporting columns, now is the time. Postmodern Architecture: Less is a Bore, released late last month by Phaidon Press, is the perfect architectural tome for hunkering down with for an extended spell at home. Compiled and written by London-based curator and architectural historian Owen Hopkins, this is a photo-driven architectural survey that’s hefty in size, exhaustive in scope, and, most important, a lot of fun. Featuring over 200 globe-spanning projects of all types and sizes, Postmodern Architecture—a more rambunctious companion piece to previous Phaidon surveys of modernism and brutalism—includes multiple works by the usual suspects: Michael Graves, Philip Johnson, Denise Scott Brown, Stanley Tigerman, Aldo Rossi, and, of course, Robert Venturi, the so-called father of postmodernism himself who coined the Mies-ribbing, anti-minimalist adage that the book borrows as its subtitle. “It’s a celebration and a global survey,” Hopkins told AN of the book. “When creating a book like this there’s always the sense that you are establishing and promoting the canon. But at the same time, there’s an opportunity to broaden the canon, by including both the familiar projects and some unexpected stuff as well.” To achieve this, Hopkins includes lesser-known practitioners of postmodern architecture; obscure and overlooked buildings; and in some cases, nonconformist structures that met the wrecking ball long ago. Also featured are works by architects who dabbled in postmodernism during the movement’s mid-1970s through late-1980s heyday but who are generally known for being more restrained in their approach. What’s more, Hopkins also included numerous examples of more contemporary postmodern architecture, as well as a sizable assortment of buildings that are playful, iconoclastic, and distinctly Dutch. Hopkins noted to AN that when curating Postmodern Architecture, he was “instinctively drawn to the classic buildings of that moment” like Arquitectonica’s Atlantis Condominium, a 1982 Miami luxury apartment tower that’s “so very redolent of that era.” A personal fan of the radically altered big-box showrooms designed by SITE for now-defunct American retailer Best Products, Hopkins was also “really interested and very eager to point out” the lesser-known work of the late, great postmodernist architect Charles Moore. “Everyone knows the Piazza d’Italia, said Hopkins referring to Moore’s cheeky, column-heavy public plaza completed in downtown New Orleans in 1978. “But there’s much more to his work, and there’s a real kind of intellectual depth to it.” Hopkins pointed out Moore’s own home in Austin, Texas, as being “just this most extraordinary composition of ideas and forms and objects.” In addition to big photos of bold buildings, Postmodern Architecture is also peppered with quotes from a range of architects, critics, and cultural figures—Andy Warhol, David Byrne, Charles Jencks, Noam Chomsky, Jane Jacobs, and Venturi to name just a few—who are either associated with postmodernism or “whose work has provided some kinds of inspiration or backdrop to the movement,” as the book’s preface explains. “These quotations provide both context or counterpoint. Some are rather more condemnatory than complimentary. Yet this is wholly fitting for a movement that revels in provocation and very often defines itself against a moribund status quo.” “Postmodernism has been tainted with the brush of being a very kind of commercial architecture, and in many ways it is,” Hopkins told AN when asked why reactions—particularly contemporary reactions—to postmodern architecture are frequently disparaging. “And therefore it has been seen, partly at the time but particularly retrospectively, as kind of the embodiment of the worst aspects of 1980s individualism—so there’s that kind of more ideologically motivated prejudice against this moment.” “Also, aesthetically, postmodern buildings, for the most part, are designed to stand out,” Hopkins continued. “They are often very bold in the forms that they employ and their colors, and in their decorative languages. And buildings that stand out do polarize opinion. At the same time, there’s lots of contextual, kind of polite postmodern architecture—but maybe not that much of it is in the book.” “Maybe there’s a groundswell of architects who don’t like postmodernism,” Hopkins added. “But I think with the public, it’s always been popular.” Below are eight projects featured in Postmodern Architecture—some quite iconic and others more under-the-radar—that run the gamut from private homes to public spaces to municipal office buildings and beyond. These are strictly North American projects, but there’s obviously a lot more where they came from.

Blue House, New Buffalo, Michigan; Margaret McCurry (1993)

Best Products Showroom, Miami; James Wine/SITE (1979)

Franklin Court, Philadelphia; Venturi Scott Brown and Associates (1976)

James R. Thompson Center, Chicago; Helmut Jahn (1985)

Academic Center at Georgia Gwinnett College, Lawrenceville, Georgia; John Portman Associates (2003)

Casa Wolf, Ridgeway Colorado; Sottsass Associati (1989)

Team Disney Building, Burbank, California; Michael Graves (1986)

The Charles Moore House, Austin, Texas; Charles Moore

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Living on Campus reveals the secret life of the American dormitory

Living on Campus: An Architectural History of the American Dormitory By Carla Yanni Published by the University of Minnesota Press MSRP $34.95

Dormitories figure prominently in the popular vision of American college life. They might have different forms, such as buildings surrounding a quadrangle inspired by medieval European universities or functional, modernist structures with an interior array of nearly identical rooms lining both sides of a long hallway. Dorms establish college as more than just a place where a person gains skills and knowledge before going out into the world, getting a job, and getting on with life; they help make higher education a distinctive life experience. Academic leaders have long fostered this concept. Lucy Diggs Slowe, the dean of women at Howard University in the 1920s and ’30s, declared dormitories to be not only “laboratories in human relations,” but also places “for the development of those cultural pursuits that ought to be part of every college student’s life.” In Living on Campus: An Architectural History of the American Dormitory, Carla Yanni, an architectural historian at Rutgers University, examines residence halls not as “mute containers for the temporary storage of youthful bodies and emergent minds.” Rather, in tracing 300 years of this building type, Yanni sees dormitories as evidence of educational ideals, ways to manage new types of students, and broader societal shifts.

The first residence hall was a space of exclusion. Constructed in the 1650s, the Indian College at Harvard University was intended to house 20 indigenous students so they could live near their classes while remaining separated from white students. This building, Yanni argues, demonstrates that “from the very beginning of colleges in North America, student housing existed to establish hierarchies.” The indigenous population differed from the typical college student of the period, namely a white teenage boy from an elite family. College contributed to these students’ individual formation but was also a broader reflection of a flourishing America. Nassau Hall, completed in 1756 at the College of New Jersey, now Princeton University, was “the largest and most distinguished structure in the colony.” The dorm was separated from the street by a spacious lawn and surrounded by farms, which, university leaders argued, provided the isolation from the adjoining settlement and distance from home that gave students the best chance of becoming useful citizens.

Once women began attending college in large numbers in the 19th century, their living quarters functioned as both a sanctuary and a means of surveillance and management. Completed in 1887 at Oberlin College, Baldwin Cottage, designed by Weary and Kramer, offered a homelike environment with a combination of public and private spaces, including a parlor, reception hall, and dining room along with bedrooms. Women living in the dorms were subject to strict rules about walking in the halls and requisite bedtimes, but since male students at Oberlin lacked similar accommodations until 1910, social life at the college revolved around women’s residence halls.

The 1944 GI Bill resulted in a near-doubling of the number of college students in the decade after 1945. Faced with this expanding population, urban universities, such as Rutgers University and New York University, constructed high-rise dormitories that were not only economical but required less land than a leafy, low-rise quadrangle. High-rise dormitories also appeared outside of urban areas, such as the Morrill and Lincoln Towers at Ohio State University, designed by Schooley, Cornelius, and Schooley and completed in 1965, with room for more than 3,800 students. Intended as a response to criticisms about the impersonal appearance of high-rises, the towers’ rooms were arranged in a distinctive honeycomb-shaped plan meant to encourage better communication and raise student morale. Kresge College, by MLTW, which opened in 1973 at the University of California, Santa Cruz, offered a more striking critique of high-rise dormitories as well as the seeming impersonality of a large university: Its low, white buildings were accented with playful red, blue, and yellow supergraphics and housed a mere 270 students. Kresge’s distinctive design was intended to signal the school’s close-knit student and faculty community and experimental curriculum.

Does the image of college life change without the dormitory? Today a considerable number of students attend college beyond their teenage years and early twenties, at community colleges or commuter schools, or exclusively online. Yanni’s conclusion points to these issues regarding the future of dormitories, but the book as a whole raises questions about the relationship between architecture and transformations of the American university. Whether in the shape of a medieval quadrangle, Georgian estate, or high-rise tower, residence halls help maintain the conventional image of an American undergraduate. But shifts in the student body and new resources and buildings to facilitate education will inevitably prompt new stories about higher education in the United States.

Pollyanna Rhee is an architectural and landscape historian at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

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Japanese engineering gets its due in Structured Lineages

Structured Lineages: Learning from Japanese Structural Design Edited by Guy Nordenson Published by the Museum of Modern Art MSRP $45.00

Western architects’ fascination with Japan is indisputable, a tendency most famously personified by none other than Frank Lloyd Wright. Contemporary practices are contributing to what is perhaps the third or fourth wave of Japanese influence on American architects, and this group was the focus of the 2016 Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) exhibition A Japanese Constellation: Toyo Ito, SANAA, and Beyond, organized by Pedro Gadanho and Phoebe Springstubb. There is something simple yet sophisticated in the examples of contemporary Japanese architecture selected for this exhibition—attributes one can trace to the synthetic nature of Japanese design itself.

To accompany the exhibition, Guy Nordenson, a structural engineer and professor at Princeton’s School of Architecture, organized a symposium that sought to delve more deeply into Japanese design from the vantage point of the structural engineers who have collaborated with these architects. (Nordenson himself has a significant engineering practice, and worked with SANAA on the New Museum in New York and Johnston Marklee on the Menil Drawing Institute in Houston.) The resultant publication, Structured Lineages: Learning from Japanese Structural Design, illuminates key figures of postwar Japanese structural engineering and the hybrid nature of their consulting on the major works in the MoMA show. Consulting is not the right word for the essential, creative contributions of these talented engineers. As Nordenson noted in his introduction, “In Japan the cultures of architecture and engineering are entirely intertwined.” Laurent Ney observed that the architect and engineer Saito Masao titled an exhibition that he organized at the Architectural Institute of Japan in Tokyo in 2008 Archi-neering Design, coining a term that neatly grafts the two disciplines. Aspiring Japanese architects and engineers study together at university in the first phase of their education and specialize only later on. Design and technical skill are given equal weight academically, which forges a hybrid of both disciplines from a unified way of thinking.

The Structured Lineages symposium highlighted various practitioners of this fusion of art and technology: In addition to Masao, Yoshikatsu Tsuboi, Mamoru Kawaguchi, Gengo Matsui, Toshihiko Kimura, and the most significant contemporary structural engineer, Mutsuro Sasaki (who has collaborated with architects like Kenzo Tange and Rem Koolhaas), were given their rightful prominence by experts such as Marc Mimram of l’Ecole d’Architecture de Marne-la-Vallée, Mike Schlaich of Technische Universität Berlin, Jane Wernick of Jane Wernick Associates, and William F. Baker of SOM. Three roundtable discussions, moderated by Sigrid Adriaenssens, John Ochsendorf, and Caitlin Mueller and transcribed in the book, explored the basis for this “intertwining” of disciplines. These revelations—of what would be considered in Japan to be open secrets—feel like the discovery of why there is such qualitative consistency in Japanese design and architecture.

Numerous structures are presented throughout the book. Little known architect/engineer Mamoru Kawaguchi’s Fuji Pavilion at Expo ’70 in Osaka, the book’s cover image, could easily be mistaken for an early Ant Farm proposal (or a late Zaha Hadid project), with its colorful inflated tubular skin and curvaceous geometry. Toyo Ito’s innovative Sendai Mediatheque, with its occupiable structural elements engineered by none other than Sasaki, makes an appearance. MoMA curator Sean Anderson details how, in 1954, a traditional Japanese house came to be the third constructed “House in the Museum Garden,” following designs by Marcel Breuer and Gregory Ain.

This newly published book of the symposium offers essential enlightenment into the thinking, philosophy, and technical explorations behind these canonical buildings. It adds insightful analysis of and commentary on the special circumstances that gave rise to these projects, even though these significant Japanese structural engineers may be unfamiliar to the average American architecture student (and quite possibly for the average American architect). The documentation of the technical contributions, coupled with the high regard in which these projects are held internationally, makes Structured Lineages a necessary companion text for those with a deeper curiosity about the basis for the uniqueness of the design and structural experiments that have come to define architecture in contemporary Japan.

Craig Konyk is an architect and the chair of the School of Public Architecture at the Michael Graves College at Kean University in New Jersey.

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Kick off 2020 with these architecture primers

Start the new decade off right with these freshly released architecture and urbanism books. From the lasting architectural influence of Thomas Jefferson (with a dash of character examination), to cutting edge research in timber construction, to 10,000 years of earthen construction, the following books all present new examinations of what might seem like familiar topics. Pick up one (or all) of these titles to keep you warm on those long February nights. The Responsive Environment: Design Aesthetics, and the Human in the 1970s By Larry D. Busbea University of Minnesota Press MSRP: $30.00 Busbea begins this book with a question: “Where do we—as subjects and objects—begin and end?” Exploring the new interactions between humans and their environments that characterized the 1970s, Busbea delves into emerging practices in design, art, architecture, and technology. The Responsive Environment analyzes theories developed by Gregory Bateson, Marshall McLuhan, Wolf Hilbertz, and many others, to examine the changes of how we perceive our spatial identities and physical boundaries in the latter part of the 20th century. Ways of Knowing Cities Edited by Laura Kurgan and Dare Brawley Columbia Books on Architecture and the City MSRP: $28.00 Co-edited by Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation (GSAPP) researchers, Ways of Knowing Cities compiles 16 essays on the influence of technology on urban experiences. The texts broach the undeniable politics of reshaping urbanity through data, calling on architects, anthropologists, migration and media specialists to analyze the information systems that affect cities. The book is a product of a 2018 GSAPP symposium of the same name. Planetary Mine: Territories of Extraction under Late Capitalism By Martín Arboleda Verso MSRP: $29.95 Arboleda opens this book with a description of a miners’ strike in northern Chile as just one example of the effect of global resource extraction on the human experience. He traces the geographic development of supply chain capitalism from South American to East-Asian economies, questioning exploitations of resource-based industries like construction. Planetary Mine rethinks global development in terms of world political climate and geography. The Art of Earth Architecture: Past, Present, Future By Jean Dethier Princeton Architectural Press MSRP: $125.00 In a global survey of raw earth construction techniques, 1987 Grand Prix d'Architecture winner Dethier investigates over 250 instances of environmentally sustainable architecture through technical, cultural, and historical lenses. This encyclopedia of raw earth construction depicts projects built over the last ten thousand years, including UNESCO World Heritage sites from the Great Wall of China to the Great Mosque of Djenné. Over 700 high-resolution photographs and illustrations are paired with essays from 20 experts to explore projects from ancestral palaces to contemporary dwellings. Thomas Jefferson, Architect: Palladian Models, Democratic Principles, and the Conflict of Ideals By Mabel O. Wilson Edited by Lloyd DeWitt and Corey Piper Chrysler Museum of Art, Norfolk (Yale University Press) MSRP: $45.00 A publication stemming from a 2019 exhibition at the Chrysler Museum of Art of the same name, Thomas Jefferson, Architect provides an inside look into the architectural works of the principal author of the Declaration of Independence. This book examines Jefferson's designs with a new perspective, highlighting the neoclassical influences on the contention between Jefferson's ideology of liberty and property. Jefferson's complex character is explored through the designs of Monticello, Poplar Forest, and the University of Virginia campus, as well as his prioritizations of both democracy and slavery. Wood Urbanism: From the Molecular to the Territorial Edited by Daniel Ibañez, Jane Hutton, and Kiel Moe Actar Publishers MSRP: $54.95 From microscopic biology to the macrocosms of cities, wood has been an invaluable component of construction throughout history. Wood Urbanism explores the scalar properties of wood in terms of species, carbon impact, thermal qualities, ecology, cities, and metabolism. Case studies and visual essays are separated by full-spread photos and technical graphics that question the role of wood in today's industry. Both a manual and a challenge for architects, this book investigates how wood can continue to be a dynamic, multi-faceted material in an ever-changing landscape. Frederick Kiesler: Face-to-face With the Avant-garde: Essential Essays on Network and Impact Edited by Peter Bogner, Gerd Zillner, and the Frederick Kiesler Foundation Birkhäuser MSPR: $44.99 The father of the Correalism theory (the continuous interactions between people and their built environments), Frederick Kiesler was a visionary of architecture and design in both Austria and New York. This monograph is comprised of 21 essays that explore his work in regard to his contemporaries, including Theo van Doesburg, Piet Mondrian, Arshile Gorky, and more. The book's release marks the 20th anniversary of the Frederick Kiesler Foundation, and a celebration of the network of avant-garde artists of the time, placing Kiesler's contributions in fuller context. Bodybuilding: Architecture and Performance Edited by Charles Aubin and Carlos Mínguez Carrasco Performa MSRP: $35.00 Where architecture traditionally functions on permanence, Bodybuilding is the first publication specifically devoted to the ephemerality of live performance in design. Featuring architects and collectives from Lina Bo Bardi to Toyo Ito, the book traces staged performances, rather than constructed buildings, that have questioned the built environment. Bodybuilding was launched as a part of Performa's eighth biennale, examining trends that stemmed from the Bauhaus. The book surveys performance art curated by contemporary designers, who searched for other creative outlets during economic downturns that stymied construction projects. AN uses affiliate links; if you purchase a product through this page, AN may receive a commission. 
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X-Ray Architecture asks us to reimagine building materiality

X-Ray Architecture Beatriz Colomina Lars Müller Publishers MSRP $40.00 One of the many provocative images in Beatriz Colomina’s X-Ray Architecture (Lars Müller Publishers, 2019) is a 1956 Life magazine photograph of three women holding trophies and posing in front of their own X-rays. They are the winners of a beauty contest organized by chiropractors who presumably judged them on both external and (literally) internal beauty. Wilhelm Röntgen called his accidental discovery “X” rays because he didn’t know what they were, and for a while, much fun was had with these mysterious new particles that could pass through matter—it wasn’t until the 1970s that the effects of excessive radiation were a concern. The discovery coincided with the beginning of Modern architecture, and Colomina uses the chronological alignment to theorize how this new way of seeing could be used to reread the modern canon; Loos, Mies, Neutra, and of course Le Corbusier, all make an appearance. The X-ray doesn’t so much reveal what is inside the body as it re-images it as a gradient of opacity, and applying this concept to architecture means imagining a new understanding of building materiality. Colomina begins the book with the architecture designed to prevent or cure tuberculosis—the disease best diagnosed with an X-ray—and finds that the hygienic-white spaces and sunny terraces of modern architecture made perfect machines-for-health. She concludes with an epilogue about tomography scans, the technology for seeing through the body that is to the 21st century what X-rays were to the twentieth. In between, she offers anecdote after anecdote and litanies of examples that support the understanding of architecture either as an explicit medical device, as in the tuberculosis sanatoriums, or more interestingly, as a kind of imaged body that borrows from medical imaging. Take, for example, the use of glass envelopes to reveal the “true structure” within; Colomina argues that these glass skins are never truly transparent. Rather, they are “called on to simulate transparency” because “there is an outer screen that disappears in order to register the ghostly image of the inside” (page 135). The idealized glass of modernism gives us a clear demarcation between the interior and the exterior of a building, and an effacing of materiality since we see through the glass rather than the glass itself. But when Colomina asks us to pay attention to its full presence—the reflection, refraction, and other properties besides transparency—glass blurs the inside-outside boundary and makes the void within seem thickened and fleshy. Colomina invites us to look again at some canonic images of modern architecture such as the 1922 Mies photomontage of his Glass Skyscraper project. We are accustomed to understanding this image in the context of what was built later, including Mies’s own Seagram’s building, as an early, if fuzzy, notation of the glass wrapped structures that have dominated our cities since the 1950s. But Colomina encourages the reader to take the image at face value, mentioning that Mies was fascinated by X-ray imaging, and we are convinced that it does look a bit like an X-ray. If this early image can be newly understood as a gradient of densities, then the significance of modern architecture is relocated from the tectonics of structure and glass to the visual effects of the building’s materialities. In many ways, this book is a continuation of themes in Colomina’s past work; namely the understanding of modern architecture as a mediated thing, and the airing out of its patriarchal undertones. It’s a debunking of modernist myths, similar to what Colin Rowe and Robert Slutzky did with their phenomenal transparency essays or Reyner Banham with his arguments about functionalism. It’s also a feminist critique—Colomina takes the primacy away from the tectonics of a building, the all-mighty structure that is associated with the masculine, and shifts it to the visual and mediated experience of space. In her reading of modern architecture, the structural and technical, “serious” components of a building are merely the means to hold up the materials—e.g. glass—that produce the visual experience, the true location of architecture. Jennifer Bloomer did something similar in the 1980s with her Boudoir essay, using her characteristic wit and wordplay to unravel Alberti’s assignment of (masculine) structure as primary, and (feminine) ornament as secondary. X-Ray Architecture takes the reader from the male gaze looking at women’s bodies exercising—in heels—on Le Corbusier’s rooftops to a kind of feminist glazed gaze. The last project she discusses is a temporary installation by SANAA in Mies’s Barcelona Pavilion. It consists entirely of a curved acrylic wall that is in all appearances unobtrusive, like the expected politeness of a female presence, but that in fact vigorously transforms the experience of the building. The acrylic is transparent, but its curvature and layering blur spatial boundaries and makes the former void into a thickened, fleshy space. The intervention also changes the approach into the pavilion, much like Colomina’s work brings us to the modern canon through novel approaches that make us see it anew.
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Lair puts a spotlight on the homes of famous movie villains

Lair: Radical Homes and Hideouts of Movie Villains By Chad Oppenheim / Andrea Gollin Tra Publishing $75.00 Bad people don't always have good taste, but when they do, their homes are the stuff of architecture history. Curzio Malaparte was attending fascist rallies in between stays at his cliffside retreat, the various owners of Lloyd Wright's Sowden House committed unspeakable crimes behind its stony facade, and Philip Johnson's sordid past all but eclipses his career as one of the most accomplished architects of the 20th century. While most of us may not be able to tour the homes of these baddies or live in anything remotely like them ourselves, the homes of movie villains are at our disposal however many times we wish to visit them. Chad Oppenheim of Miami-based Oppenheim Architecture and writer Andrea Gollin have come together to shine a spotlight on the homes of the silver screen that lurk in the shadows to draw an undeniable connection between low morale and high design. Their book, Lair: Radical Homes and Hideouts of Movie Villains, pries open 15 of the most diabolical abodes and renders them in silk-silver linework over depthless black paper, all of which were exquisitely illustrated by Carlos Fueyo, a VFX and CG supervisor behind some of the most visually sumptuous blockbusters of the last decade. Lair makes evident that the average movie's art production team is at its most creative when given the opportunity to imagine homes as sinister and calculated as the villains that would commission them with dark money. An eye-opening interview between Oppenheim and Star Wars set decorator Roger Christian uncovers the inspiration behind the Death Star, arguably the most famous evil lair in cinema, albeit one that doubles as a weapon capable of obliterating planets many times its size. "When it came to the Death Star," Christian explained, "that was inspired by the Reich architecture of Albert Speer, obviously. When you look at Nazi architecture, it's very black with red on it. Very simple and very daunting—and strangely beautiful." Fueyo's illustrations render the highly articulate surface of the Death Star with all the wonderfully arbitrary detailing of the original and managed to produce a perspective cutaway that offers a glimpse into the orderly, clock-like work of its scaleless interior. The divergent paths of the light and dark sides of the force are as apparent in the contrasting austerity between the Empire's home base and the humble desert residences of the Jedi as they are in any of the other cinematic choices made in the production of the blockbuster film series. About a third of the 15 lairs are owned by various Bond villains, from Ernst Stavro Blofeld's sub-volcanic hideaway in You Only Live Twice (1967) to Karl Stromberg's spider-like marine research laboratory in The Spy Who Loved Me (1977). While Bond trots around the world as a stylish nomad, his enemies stay put in increasingly eccentric abodes that speak to their character just as effectively as their words or actions. The sensuous architecture of Los Angeles-architect John Lautner makes more than a few cameos and is otherwise the unsubtle inspiration for a number of the evil lairs throughout the movie series. A rarely-seen interview between Lautner and Marlene Laskey on the Elrod House, a home the architect designed in 1968 that was extensively featured in Diamonds are Forever (1971), reveals that the home was built with surprisingly few restraints, thus imbuing the structure with a number of eccentricities suited to the fictional supervillain Ernst Stavro Blofeld. Good design often comes at a price, either through its exchange with one's soul or a sum of money that no one person should reasonably have. While real-life crooks reveal little of themselves to the public by trade, the homes featured in Lair grants its readers a more-than-generous look into the lives lived by a fictional class of villains.
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AN rounds up 2019's must-reads for the holiday season

With the end of the decade on the horizon, AN has once again rounded up the best new releases for holiday reading. This list has something for everyone on your list, whether they want to dive back into Michelangelo's renaissance work, learn the ins-and-outs of socialist architecture, or explore the world's contemporary architectural biennials. While it's too late for holiday shopping, that doesn't mean you can't pick up something for the New Year's break. Note: AN may receive a commission for items purchased through the following affiliate links.  Biennials/Triennials: Conversations on the Geography of Itinerant Display  Léa-Catherine Szacka Columbia Books on Architecture and the City  MSRP: $17.99 Recent decades have brought about an onslaught of -ennials (or -iennales), indicating both the growing importance in exhibition design for architects as well as increased capital and spectator entertainment value; architecture for show, but also a “taking the temperature” of the current climate. This little book colleccts conversations between the author and dozens of biennial and triennial curators, as they discuss the showpiece of our contemporary moment in context.  Structured Lineages: Learning from Japanese Structural Design  Edited by Guy Nordenson  MoMA MSRP: $39.57 This collection of 10 seminal essays outlines the contributions of Japanese post-war architect-engineer collaborations that led to some of the country’s most iconic buildings. Japanese domes, bubbles, and sweeping forms fascinated architects and designers worldwide and led to an unprecedented non-linear chapter in architectural history.  The essays, and their generous accompanying images and archival materials, show how the ideas and concepts of these collaborations were passed down seamlessly over several generations, and in some ways, how they still persists as a scientific feat in design imagination today.  Architecture in Global Socialism: Eastern Europe, West Africa, and the Middle East in the Cold War By Łukasz Stanek Princeton University Press   MSRP: $60.00 Political regimes have used architecture as a way of transmitting power, legacy, and permanence throughout all of history, and the socialist movements of the mid and late 20th century were no different. Throughout the Cold War years, architects and planners from socialist Eastern Europe worked closely with those in regions such as West Africa and the Middle East, resulting in a substantial reshaping of the great cities of Accra, Lagos and Abu Dhabi, among others.  This text-heavy book brings this story of cross-continent collaboration to life with previously unpublished images and original archival research, revisiting the connective powers, as well as lessons through longevity, of architecture.  A Moving Border: Alpine Cartographies of Climate Change By Marco Ferrari, Elisa Pasqual, and Andrea Bagnato Columbia Books on Architecture and the City  MSRP:  $25.52 A moving border is not a border at all—movement becomes negotiable, and the ebb and flow of human fabrication and implication are thrown out of balance. This is a phenomenon observed by ZKM researchers, who have dispatched equipment along the mountainous border between Italy and Austria, the ridge that forms the disparate water flows towards either Northern or Southern Europe. Their findings and cartographic visual language remind the reader that borders and the human political mind are in flux and impermanent, but that our actions towards melting glaciers and climate change are not: in fact, they’re reflected as hiccups in the very borders we try so hard to maintain. As glaciers melt, rivers flood, and borders shift, the environment is literally reshaping political boundaries. The Shenzhen Experiment: The Story  of China’s Instant City Juan Du Harvard University Press MSRP: $35.00 The “instant city” concept of Chinese mega-development is crystallized in the success of Shenzhen, a government-planned city that seemingly sprouted from the ground. Recognized for its role as an international technology center, economic powerhouse, and mega-city population of over 20 million, Shenzhen also a bit of a mystery, as the same model has been applied to dozens of other "insta-city projects," but none have approached Shenzhen’s overnight celebrity. This book explores the blurry history of the city, beginning with its farmers and oyster fishermen. Tracing policymakers, government regulation, and that the concept of explosive overnight growth is desirable the world over, is an important story for architects and planners everywhere facing the excitement as well as perils of rapid urbanization and industrialization.  Michelangelo, God’s Architect: The Story of His Final Years and Greatest Masterpiece By William E. Wallace  Princeton University Press  MSRP: $29.95 The last two decades of Michelangelo’s life were at first expected to be marked by failure and decline—the Renaissance artist even began to carve his own tomb. However, intervention via the Catholic Church landed Michelangelo with the master plan of St. Peter’s Basilica, a commission that would change his legacy, as well as the course of the Renaissance's architectural history. A fresh look at a portion of the artist’s life that often goes overlooked, the narrative aspects bring to light many myths and very human struggles that the venerated figure overcame. City on a Hill: Urban Idealism in America from the Puritans to the Present By Alex Krieger Harvard University Press MSRP: $35.00 A critically deep dive into the visions of utopia that have shaped American development, City on a Hill outlines the idealisms underlying various urban design movements, starting with the first wave of pilgrims looking for a new start. Krieger honors the grand ideas that have moved America and its cities forward over the centuries but also underwrites with a critical eye the lessons that can be learned as we move forward towards contemporary ideals of sustainability and smart cities today. 
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AN rounds up our must-reads for this fall

Fall—and nearly-winter in some parts of the U.S.—has reared its ugly head again, and AN has prepared a list of books to hunker down with as the weather turns. Impress your relatives on Thanksgiving by brushing up with these books on edible architecture, living as a digital citizen, squatting, and Ezra Stoller. Architecture of Appropriation: On Squatting as Spatial Practice Edited by René Boer, Marina Otero Verzier, and Katía Truijen Het Nieuwe Instituut MSRP: $28.75 Centered around the urban life of the Netherlands, this new book brings together a non-author-based approach to discussions surrounding spatial takeover by city residents. The documents, photos, and stories of these squatters transforming their city and spaces through a grayscale of ownership and legality, assert an argument that squatting is a form of architectural practice: an alternative to our contemporary housing systems.  Avant-Garde in the Cornfields: Architecture, Landscape and Preservation in New Harmony Edited by Ben Nicholson and Michelangelo Sabatino University of Minnesota Press MSRP: $40.00 An unassuming yet magnetic town in the cornfields of Indiana, New Harmony has been home to two iconic utopian settlements, the Harmonists and the Owenites. However, the Cold War years ushered in a new sort of spiritual “living community,” one to which many renowned artists and designers contributed—from Philip Johnson to Richard Meier.  This book surveys not only the history of New Harmony but the social and preservationist forces that kept it on the map. The role of modernism in the American imagination, as well as the cornfields as a blank canvas for many starchitect-type figures, make for powerful imagery and archival material, cleverly organized for clarity as well as surprise. Cyberwar and Revolution: Digital Subterfuge in Global Capitalism By Nick Dyer-Witheford and Svitlana Matviyenko University of Minnesota Press MSRP: $17.23 In an increasingly digitized moment, technology is not only empowering us but implicating us, as explained by partners Dyer-Witheford and Matviyenko. The adverse psychological effects of social media are well published, but technology and its leanings into a subconscious “cyberwar” over the internet have brought entire countries into the fold, including the United States, notably amidst allegations of Russian interference in the presidential election.  As professionals often pushing the boundaries of technology, architects should be aware of the impact of technology on their practice, work culture and academia. As creatives working toward the creation of a marketable product with technology as a tool, architects may find that this book opens awareness into the subtleties of the web.  Eco-Visionaries: Art, Architecture and New Media After the Anthropocene Edited by Pedro Gadanho Hatje Cantz MSRP: $35.14 Gadanho begins this book with a question: “Are we just secretly yearning for an endless summer?” An endless summer for the few, the privileged, those whose money or upbringing situated them in the technological havens of the developed world and its iPhone app-coordinated climate controls.  Architects, artists, and designers are thinking beyond this bubble, though, and timeliness in the efforts of built environmentalism in the 21st century has led to some of the most adventurous experiments in egalitarian ecological thought yet. Eco-Visionaries is asking and drawing up the big questions and projecting the messages of artists around the world telling us to wake up.  Le Corbuffet: Edible Art and Design Classics By Esther Choi Prestel MSRP: $26.14 While Ina Garten might label you low-brow for not crushing your olive oil from scratch, photographer Esther Choi’s cookbook of celebrity pun recipes will bring the high-brow clout of art and architecture into any kitchen. From Rem Brûlée to the Robert Rauschenburger, there is a recipe for everyone’s favorite artist, and some you can test your friends with. (Anri Dammi i Colori Sala(d)?) Modern Management Methods: Architecture, Historical Value, and the Electromagnetic Image By Caitlin Blanchfield and Farzin Lotfi-Jam Columbia Books on Architecture and the City MSRP: $25.19 An X-ray look at the UN Building, a structure iconic in its metaphors of organization and management, directs the new narrative of this book. Dense with images of x-rayed architectural details, the new book adds to the arguments made by Beatriz Colomina in her work, X-Ray Architecture, and is inspired by the document archive by Frau Anja Kramer of the Weissenhofmuseum im Haus Le Corbusier—a standardized set of information existing to correct the eventual and inevitable repair, replacement, and maintenance of a built environment. Modern Management Methods recontextualizes the active archive of architecture by experimenting with a new narrative of archive and visual media. Read the full AN review here. Signal. Image. Architecture. By John May Columbia Books on Architecture and the City MSRP: $18.00 In this slim volume, MILLIØNS cofounder John May tackles the culture of digital images that architecture is immersed in and simultaneously creating. Dipping into philosophical pondering, Signal. Image. Architecture. explores how an experiment in images is shaping how we perceive ourselves, our world, our politics, and our aesthetics. These are questions that are unique in that we are already living their effects, but that we have no idea how to interrogate them.  Ezra Stoller: A Photographic History of American Modern Architecture By Pierluigi Serraino Phaidon MSRP: $87.69 In a monumental visual homage to the power of architecture under a lens, this largely black-and-white coffee table tome leaves nothing out. A pioneer in the use of photography to inform the world’s knowledge of architecture and design, Stoller brought the greatest American experiments to life. This collection of over 450 images documents the prolific output of the photographer, spanning subjects from the desert of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesen West to the Nordic woods of Alvar Aalto’s Villa Mairea.
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The mid-century fairy tales of Cinderella Homes

The Cinderella Homes of Jean Vandruff: Fairy Tale Tracts in the Suburbs By Chris Lukather $35.00 “Men are forever guests in the home no matter how much happiness they may find there,” famously stated Elsie de Wolfe, the American interior decorator often credited with founding interior design as a profession. In the early 20th century, de Wolfe’s thoughts on the importance of decoration established a framework that empowered women to consider how domestic interiors shaped and reflected feminine identity, both socially and psychologically. She believed that while men may build and decorate the house, it’s the woman’s personality that will always shine through—it’s the woman who makes a house a home.  A new book by California-based writer and publisher Chris Lukather, The Cinderella Homes of Jean Vandruff: Fairy Tale Tracts in the Suburbs, explores this complex relationship between women and domestic architecture. It tells the story of how one man, Jean Vandruff, dedicated his life to designing homes conceived around atomic age fantasies about housewives, who the homes’ advertisements called “modern Cinderellas.” The book echoes de Wolfe’s sentiment while painting a picture of the dramatic changes women began to face, both in the home and out, as the country progressed through the Great Depression, the Second World War, the growth of the American middle class, and, most importantly, the mass migration to the suburbs In 1954, seven years after the first Levittown, and many before Disneyland came to Southern California, Vandruff started designing and building communities of “storybook” tract homes in the image of a midcentury modern fairy tale. While typical tract developments were filling out landscapes across the country, they just as quickly entered the popular imagination, as, in the words of Malvina Reynolds’s 1962 song, “little boxes made of ticky tacky…little boxes all the same.”  In a catalog for the 2001–2002 exhibition held at the Brooklyn Museum, Vital Forms: American Art and Design in the Atomic Age, the postwar single-family home was romanticized as, “a fairy-tale castle hidden away under a magic spell in a wilderness of identical streets curving past a series of identical, partially prefabricated wooden boxes.” Vandruff’s Cinderella Homes embraced this idealized notion of fairy-tale living but offered an alternative to the ubiquitous box housing that was popping up all over California. He designed ranch-style homes that didn’t shy away from color, ornamentation, or custom craftsmanship, all for a competitive price, and people camped out overnight to secure a model. Lukather’s book is the first to take a look at these homes through an in-depth collection of oral histories with the Vandruff family, Cinderella homeowners and realtors, as well as interviews and essays by Vandruff, who, at 96, is still thriving and telling tales by going door-to-door preaching the history of the 6,000 homes he created across California, Kansas, and Texas between 1950 and 1962.  The book is richly illustrated with original photographs, floorplans, and advertisements exhibiting the many variations of the ranch homes, which set Cinderellas apart from prefab war housing and other experiments of the time (Arts & Architecture magazine’s Case Study House Program ran contemporaneously from 1945 to 1966). “I detested modern architecture in homes…so cold, rigid, simplistic, blah!” Vandruff wrote in a manifestolike list of key Cinderella features. “Architects hated Cinderellas,” he said.  Cinderellas featured high gabled entryways, large overhangs, Victorian gingerbread trim, and diamond-shaped windows with cartoonish, scalloped frames. Perhaps the most striking features of the original homes were their shake-shingle roofs and custom stone and brickwork, which flowed into the interior where a massive fireplace “anchored” the home. Vandruff cites traditional Swedish and Austrian homes as sources of ornamental inspiration.  The story of the Cinderella Home illuminates an era of U.S. history characterized by abundant self-indulgence and escapist material culture, an era when the home entered the consumer sphere as a mass-market commodity just like the automobile or the television set (which soon began to dictate the organization of a living room more so than the home builder themselves). It’s fitting that the first home opened in 1954 in Downey, California, where the first McDonald’s franchise opened a year prior.  The book displays a list of 50 architectural features originally printed in the Downey development’s brochures. Number 32 reads: “TV viewing directly from kitchens!” While the houses didn't have completely open plans, each Cinderella kitchen had a large window that looked out into the living quarters. The design feature was also heavily advertised for its other purpose: to maximize visual and verbal communication between wives and their husbands and children. For Vandruff, this was the most important design issue of all.  “This was key to a happy home. A kitchen-isolated wife is an unhappy wife…likely producing an unhappy family,” he wrote. “My constant thought was for the woman, the home-maker. Everything must be done to make her a fulfilled success.” It was, in fact, his wife Eleanor Vandruff, a former beauty queen, singer, and popular radio personality, who came up with the name Cinderella after she saw one of the first drawings and thought it to be fit for a princess.  Vandruff believed that setting women up for success (and, in turn, setting up the husband for success) meant creating spaces that appeared open and light-filled. In some models, you could stand in the front entryway and see all the way through to the back of the house. Vandruff wrote, “Wall mirrors and big clean windows added ‘space’ to any room, making it the opposite of a jail cell or dungeon,” a sentiment that anticipated the attitudes and feelings toward the home that would be put into words a few years later in Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique from 1963, which dissected the psychology of the suburban housewife and ushered in the age of second-wave feminism.  Perhaps before Friedan’s book, women’s unhappiness with household drudgery was rarely discussed—it was “the problem that had no name.” But no one wants an unhappy wife. As Vandruff explained in his interview with the author, “I wanted to make a home for the woman of the household, since she spent the most time there…if she is happy, the home is probably happy…then you’re probably going to be happy too.” We now know that personal fulfillment for women involves far more than being able to watch TV while cleaning the kitchen. It is hard to theorize what life was actually like for the housewife in a Cinderella Home, as the book failed to include a single account of a female homemaker who occupied one of the tracts in such fraught times or even an account of a female homeowner today. While informative and aesthetically pleasing, the book, like the homes, was crafted entirely from a male perspective with the wife in mind—but how much was she involved?  That’s not to discredit Lukather’s important addition to the history of the rise of suburban life and the fantasy of the American Dream. Cinderella Homes, just as much as Levittown, embody postwar U.S. culture in all of its complexities—of course, the book wouldn't be complete without a chapter dedicated to Jean Vandruff’s years in the Air Force.  But just like the era itself, it’s hard not to think about something darker going on beneath the surface. Marshall Vandruff, Jean Vandruff’s son, fondly recalled memories of growing up in a Cinderella tract neighborhood and becoming “dangerously nostalgic” upon revisiting it for the book. In a way, the entire book is dangerously nostalgic. Lukather wants to tell the story of playful design, happy families, material abundance, and optimism, but only through the insight of the men who built and continue to surround themselves with the homes. What’s given less importance in the book is the atmosphere outside the home: the threat of nuclear danger, the ideological dynamic of the cold war, the uneven distribution of wealth, and rampant racism and sexism. The Cinderella Home lives magically outside of such realities. There is simply no room for those very real anxieties in the story’s fantastical fairy tale.  Leilah Stone is a Brooklyn-based writer and editor.
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A study of L.A. strip malls validates a long-ignored building type

Sunset Market Plaza: Meditations on Strip Malls in Los Angeles Edited by Shaina Goel and Use All Five Published by Use All Five List Price: $35.00 If there was ever an official tribunal to determine what Architecture is and what it is not, the strip mall building type might be placed in the latter category without hesitation. Strip malls, sometimes known as mini-malls, can rarely be traced back to an architect, virtually never receive historic protections, and are rarely perceived as anything more than a response to the modern consumer’s demand for convenience. Even their origins struggle to align with any familiar canons of architecture history: when the 1972 oil crisis caused several gas stations to close throughout Los Angeles, their small corner parcels became ideal sites for the inexpensively-constructed building type, which attracted small business owners due to their relatively cheap rental costs. A new self-published book by the Los Angeles-based design firm Use All Five and edited by Shaina Goel intends to elevate the strip-mall into a building type as worthy of study as any other, complete with a historical overview, fine-art photography, and genuine speculations concerning its future against the prevalence of online shopping. Sunset Market Plaza: Meditations on Strip Malls in Los Angeles begins with a plea for clemency from Robert Venturi, Denise Scott Brown, and Steven Izenour’s 1972 classic Learning from Las Vegas: “Learning from the existing landscape is a way of being revolutionary for an architect. Not the obvious way, which is to tear down Paris and begin again, as Le Corbusier suggested in the 1920s. But another, more tolerant way; that is, to question how we look at things.” Just as the two saw the common person’s tastes made legitimate in Sin City, so too does the team behind Sunset Market Plaza elaborate on its subject without a hint of irony or derision. Its spiral-bound spine and numerous fold-outs, in fact, lend it the essence of a field guide. The first half of the book details several of the “best strip malls in L.A.” and nearby San Gabriel Valley, each distinguished by their site plans rendered in dense green stripes and the businesses they contain. Comparing plans, it becomes clear that the strip mall is an infinitely variable thing: some are more than one story, some are irregularly shaped, some have scores of underground parking and many have surprising relationships to the street(s) in front of them. Reading through their descriptions tells us that many of the businesses have not only survived for decades but have also become some of the most popular destinations in the city for a variety of cuisines and specialty services. Sunset Market Plaza also includes a few proposals for the future (or alternate past) of the strip mall, in response to the highly informed marketing present in the world of online shopping. “What would happen,” its editors ask, “if these strip malls were designed with more explicit intentionality?” The results, as they imagine them, are “made with consolidation in mind.” One proposal imagines a strip mall as a one-stop-shop for self-publishing, with independent shops that, when combined, would become a graphic designer’s paradise, while another, titled “Wedding Chapel Plaza” divides the space into several independent businesses catering to the wedding crowd. It becomes up to the reader to determine whether these spaces function better with all of its spaces united under one industry or, more traditionally, as divided among many independently-spirited businesses. An interview between urban planner Jonathan Crisman and urban developer Sam Bachner, the “key figure in the history of strip malls because of his role in co-founding La Mancha Development Company,” succinctly reveals the thought process behind their unique aesthetics. When asked about his approach towards the architecture and design of strip malls, Bachner claimed that he has always aspired “to incorporate elements which are reflective of the specific community in which they are located… Some places might care more about color schemes, or I might have one place with a bell tower, or maybe I will use a blue tile roof in Koreatown—it’s all about community context.” Near the end of Sunset Market Plaza are Catherine Opie’s panoramic photos of strip malls across Los Angeles, all of which honorably confirm the site-specificity Bachner describes as well as their delicate beauty. “[Strip malls] are about the American dream for me,” writes Opie. “But they’re very fragile. They change almost overnight, and are often forgotten about, just like the freeways.”