Posts tagged with "Books":

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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.”
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AN Interior‘s fall reading list spans genres and centuries

With fall fast approaching, we’ve rounded up a selection of new architecture and design releases to cozy up with by a warm fire (or radiator) as temperatures cool down. From the frosty fjords of Nordic country houses to the desert-baked structures of Judith Chafee’s southwestern imagination, these volumes are sure to rekindle some design inspiration. Read the full list on our interiors and design website, aninteriormag.com.
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Hare & Hare tracks how cemeteries became thoughtful landscapes

Hare & Hare, Landscape Architects and City Planners Carol Grove and Cydney Millstein University of Georgia Press in association with Library of American Landscape History List price: $39.95; 264 pages Cemeteries are like cities. They need streets that efficiently accommodate traffic flow, harmonious neighborhoods of related structures, visual landmarks and vistas, and a sense of place that will attract not only its permanent residents but also visitors. Sidney J. Hare (1860–1938) was one of America’s most influential designers of such landscapes. “On a national level, Sid’s foremost contribution was his participation in the ideological and physical shaping of a new type of cemetery, one fit for the twentieth century,” write Carol Grove and Cydney Millstein in their book, Hare & Hare Landscape Architects and City Planners. What had once been spooky, gloomy, often remotely sited plots of land well outside the city limits for the dead, suddenly became, through the work of Hare and his son, S. Herbert Hare (1888–­1960), in-town locales that were very much alive. The father-son team of landscape architects, based in Kansas City, designed fifty-four cemeteries throughout the country and one in Costa Rica—among them, Forest Hill in Kansas City, where they would both eventually be buried. In Monongahela, Pennsylvania, and Grandview in Salem, Ohio, which would forever change the way the dead and the living interact. The team fashioned cities of the dead that incorporated macadam-paved roads that honored the natural topographies, introduced engaging architectural elements, along with lakes and plant features, and chose foliage for the ways they would change throughout the seasons. A kind of design mantra evolved for them: More nature and less marble and stone. The elder Hare “understood more than aesthetics,” the authors recount in this first-ever dual biography of the designers, for he was “grounded [too] in the technical aspects of dealing with nature.” Quoting Hare directly, the authors write that he considered the best cemetery to be a “botanical garden, bird sanctuary, and arboretum.” The book proves that some of the best-recognized and most prized city planning designs are often ones whose makers go uncredited. “It was not until the formation of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) in 1899 and Harvard and MIT’s offering courses geared toward future practitioners the next year that landscape architecture began to coalesce as a profession,” write Grove, a professor of art history and archaeology at the University of Missouri, and Millstein, founder and principal of the Architectural and Historical Research in Kansas City. This record of the Hares' lives and works reinforces the notion that the discipline of landscape architecture is “the fourth fine art after architecture, painting, and sculpture.” The moment the elder Hare enlisted his son to join the firm he established in Kansas City’s Gumbel Building in 1910, the two embarked on making some of the most resonant landscapes in America. One of the great American places is Kansas City’s Country Club District, for which Hare & Hare would plan some 2500 acres over a forty-year period. They would incorporate extant pasture land and wood into some of the residential neighborhoods, including Mission Hills, defined by narrow, sinuous roadways, interior parks or “parklets”, as they called them, and carefully chose flowering shrubs and sculptural trees. So obsessed was the father-son team during their work on the complex, which they began in 1913 with the developer, J.C. Nichols, that no element was too small to be accounted for—weathervanes, bridges, the fonts on the signage, the placement of public artworks, the locales for campfire sites and bridle paths. Grove and Millstein expertly detail the process for this city planning project, recounting that the Hares made more than two hundred finished drawings, apart from those they executed for some of their many individual residential commissions within the district. “Transformed by Hare & Hare’s plan—praised as beautiful, thoughtful, and original—Mission Hills was perhaps the finest neighborhood executed for Nichols,” conclude the authors. No landscape, no matter how seemingly topographically challenged, couldn’t be tamed and transformed by Hare & Hare. For their many works in Houston, for instance, the elder Hare’s vision for the new residential neighborhood of Forest Hill embraced as one of its defining scenic attributes what many would have considered its biggest natural obstacle—a swampy, sinuous bayou. Making that watery source one of its focal points was a revolutionary idea in its day. He and his son decided to depart from the strict street grid of nearby downtown Houston and instead fashion a series of roadways that radiated in arcs, outward like a giant fan. Meanwhile, their work in planning the city’s exclusive residential neighborhood known as River Oaks—some 2000 acres of land—endures. As the authors point out, “Fifty years after its inception, the architectural critic Ada Louise Huxtable condemned 1970s Houston, but noted River Oaks’ exceptional planning.” Other notable projects of theirs documented by the authors include Houston’s Hermann Park, on which the Hares worked for more than twenty-five years, the expansive grounds of Tulsa’s Villa Philbrook (now open to the public as the Philbrook Museum of Art), the city of Longview, Washington, the Lake of the Ozarks, and parks in Fort Worth, Dallas, Joplin, Missouri, and elsewhere. Ultimately, upon the younger Hare’s death in 1960, the firm could list some four thousand projects in more than thirty states, Canada, and Costa Rica. As Robin Karson, executive director of the Library of American Landscape History (LALH) points out in her preface, the book “covers so much formerly uncharted territory in the history of American landscape design.” Indeed, LALH’s ongoing mission is to keep laying the often ignored historical groundwork for the discipline of landscape architecture. Even though the book immerses readers at times in the thick brambles of city bureaucracies and office politics through which the designers had to hack their way, the personalities of the two men emerge, so much so that the book functions, too, as a revealing biography of them. We feel them in action. Of Herbert, the authors state, “…he recognized that good design was achieved both over the drafting board and in the field, not by one or the other.” “Sid and Herbert believed that good landscape architecture was both a science and an art,” the authors state. “Although they emphasized the practical, functional role of their profession, they firmly believed that if a city for a garden ‘is not to be a work of art, then it would be best not to build it.’” We are grateful the Hares designed it and built it. And readers should be grateful this book was published to keep their accomplishments acknowledged and flourishing.
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Modern Management Methods shines a literal light through the U.N. Headquarters

These photos are from Modern Management Methods: Architecture, Historical Value, and the Electromagnetic Image, by Caitlin Blanchfield and Farzin Lotfi-Jam, to be released November 29 by Columbia Books on Architecture and the City.

Modern Management Methods casts architecture in a new electromagnetic light. Through the X-ray and the archive—paired forms of modernist media—the project renders the United Nations Headquarters in Manhattan, a site of geopolitical uncertainty and bureaucratic happenstance, at the scale of the architectural detail. Thus, it asks how the value of a building is produced through instruments of expertise, management ideologies, and historical narratives.

At a time when the U.S. is withdrawing from its international obligations and nationalism is on the rise in this country and others, what does it mean to consider the U.N. Headquarters as a building in New York City? What do we learn by grounding abstractions like universal heritage and internationalism in the material realities of this place, with all the messiness and negotiations of such an undertaking at the city, state, and extraterritorial levels?

Following the September 11 attacks, in 2002 the $2.4 billion Capital Master Plan was launched to refurbish the U.N. Headquarters, bring the building up to fire code and environmental standards, and to strengthen its security—all while maintaining its iconic historical character. The plan was an exercise in risk management in an era of securitization, in the administration of jurisdiction (the U.N. is sovereign territory), and in the regulation of symbolic architectural value. It was also an intensive restoration process, dismantling, for instance, the famed curtain wall to replace it with blast-proof, tinted glass.

Modern Management Methods locates these administrative moments in the spaces of the archive and the building. Through unorthodox survey practices, the project correlates documents from the Capital Master Plan—memoranda, reports, and PowerPoint presentations—and X-rays Blanchfield and Lotfi-Jam took (with a radiographer) of the U.N. Headquarters’ structural columns, window mullions, and communications systems. These two forms of representation reveal how conversations around security, nationalism, environment, accessibility, and historical value entered the bureaucratic framework of a capital construction project, and the specific sites in which this paperwork was translated into architecture.

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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.