As the leaves change color, the nights lengthen, and the temperatures drop, a crop of new book releases are hitting the shelves with fall reading that's are guaranteed to keep readers warm for the winter. Want to learn more about Philip Johnson’s bombastic early life and work for Donald Trump? How about a deep dive into the history of modernism and a treatise on how it’s ruined society, or a look into stark, cold concrete buildings around the world (for when the weather gets unseasonably warm)? AN has compiled a list of the hottest new releases for autumn, so pour a glass of cider, light the fireplace, and dive in—or better yet, start your holiday shopping early. The Man in the Glass House: Philip Johnson, Architect of the Modern Century Mark Lamster Little, Brown and Company MSRP $35.00 Nine years in the making, Lamster’s deep dive into the life and career of Philip Johnson pays off in spades. Johnson is presented as a quintessential American architect and a walking mess of contradictions throughout the book; a populist born to an upper-class family who was a millionaire before the age of 25, a gay man who fervently supported the Nazis, and a patron of the arts who ultimately went on to help Donald Trump leave his signature across Manhattan. Lamster’s meticulously researched biography also entwines itself with the history of modern art and the life of the Museum of Modern Art, much as Johnson himself did. Atlas of Brutalist Architecture Phaidon Editors Phaidon Press MSRP $150.00 More than just the ultimate coffee table book, the Atlas of Brutalist Architecture claims to be a final compendium on built, and demolished, brutalist structures. At a whopping 10 by 14 inches, the atlas features 878 buildings from 798 architects across 102 countries, reproduced in high-contrast black and white photos. The oversize collection puts each building’s distinctive shape front and center and creates a study of form across the entire Brutalist movement. Cocktails and Conversations: Dialogues in Architectural Design AIA New York $25 in-person pickup, $30 shipped For the last six years, the New York chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) has been hosting a Cocktails and Conversations series, treating guests like Tod Williams and Billie Tsien, Signe Nielsen, and Daniel Libeskind to custom-crafted cocktails and engaging them in conversation about the state of architecture. In Cocktails and Conversations (the book version), AIA New York has reproduced all of their dialogues since 2012 and included the accompanying cocktail recipes. Ever want to drink like Morris Adjmi or Charles Renfro? Now you can. And keep an eye out for moderating appearances from AN’s William Menking and Matt Shaw. Exhibit A: Exhibitions That Transformed Architecture, 1948-2000 Eeva-Liisa Pelkonen Phaidon Press MSRP $79.95 In today’s world of constant architectural biennales, biennials, showcases, retrospectives, and pop-up shows, it’s fair to say that exhibition architecture is a language all of its own. In Exhibit A, Pelkonen charts a decade-by-decade breakdown of the 80 most important shows from 1948 to 2000 in a lavishly illustrated compendium. The book’s scope is worldwide, tracking the evolution of exhibition architecture as well as how that language eventually bled back into the architectural mainstream. Syria Before the Deluge Peter Aaron Blurb $149.00 Architectural photographer Peter Aaron is no stranger to capturing the essence of a building, a task he took up whole-heartedly during a 2009 tour through Palmyra, Aleppo, Damascus, and other important archeological sites throughout Syria. Unfortunately, as Aaron notes, those places are all notable today for having been totally destroyed, with most of their ancient treasures lost, looted, or inaccessible. Using an infrared camera, Aaron shot ancient ruins and modern Syrian cityscapes in vivid black-and-white, capturing both a long-gone world and contemporary life in a place that would soon after be changed forever. Michael Webb: Two Journeys Edited by Ashley Simone Lars Müller Publishers MSRP $45.00 As Peter Cook noted in his review of Two Journeys, Michael Webb’s life, much like the book itself, is rich in anecdote and nuance. The biography celebrates Webb’s life as a polymath who dabbled in art, drawing, and design in equal measure, painting the founding Archigram member as more of an eclectic inventor than architect. Two Journeys is an exercise in showing, not telling, using Webb’s work and particularities to paint a fuller picture of the man himself. Much like the gathering held to celebrate the launch of the book itself, Two Journeys is full of fond memories about Webb from his contemporaries and friends. Archigram - The Book Warren Chalk, Peter Cook, David Greene, Reyne Banham, Michael Sorkin, Michael Webb Circa Press November 14, 2018 MSRP $135.00 Functional meets fun in this comprehensive retrospective of London’s most famous avant-garde design collective. Archigram’s theoretical work paved the way for some of the most influential works of the late-twentieth century, including the Centre Pompidou, and the group was ultimately recognized for their contributions with a RIBA Gold Medal in 2002. Archigram, designed by member Dennis Crompton and featuring essays from all of the collective’s members, is as psychedelic and forward-thinking as the work contained inside. The large-format monograph is a celebration of the collective’s 14 years together and includes well-known projects such as the Living City as well as lesser-known projects and concepts. With the advantage of time and foresight, the collection puts Archigram’s ‘60s and ‘70s work in an entirely new context.
Posts tagged with "Mark Lamster":
In The Man in the Glass House, released today, author Mark Lamster puts some meat on the bones of rumors of Philip Johnson’s many muddled improprieties. “I’m a whore,” Johnson was known to proclaim, and from his curation of the first show on modernism at the Museum of Modern Art in 1932 to his willingness to let Donald Trump "Make Philip Johnson Great Again" (after the architect’s falling out with the partners that launched his second coming as a postmodernist), Johnson has proved to be American architecture and design’s most storied strumpet. He played whatever role he wished without much consequence. A gossip but also an intellectual, it is easy to picture Johnson among today’s Elon Musks or Kanye Wests, a man of power fueled on provocation, publicity, and greasy alliances with often hollow reasoning and confusing motivations. Would he quote this and retweet it? Absolutely. Most sensational is Johnson’s interest in the Nazis, beginning in the early 1930s with an excitable viewing of a Hitler Youth rally in Berlin, continuing with an essay titled Architecture of the Third Reich, and the design of a grandstand for a noted anti-Semitic Catholic Priest. While in Germany in the late 1930s, Johnson dined with Nazi financiers, telling the FBI later that the meals were “purely social.” Johnson hoped that the Nazis would jump on his idealized design agenda, but he would ultimately be unsatisfied by their disinterest. In the 1950s, Johnson would denounce his association with the Nazi party and partially atone for it by designing Israel's Soreq Nuclear Research Center and later the Kneses Tifereth Israel Synagogue and forgoing his fee, a hollow gesture considering Johnson’s lifelong wealth. He would later justify his attraction to the Nazis in sexual terms, having more to do with his homoerotic fascination of their uniforms than their ideology. AN has compiled the following quotes from The Man in the Glass House that provide insight into his Nazi past: "The Nazis were 'Daylight into the ever-darkening atmosphere of contemporary America.'” Philip Johnson, pg. 165 “Submission to an artistic dictator is better than an anarchy of selfish personal opinion.” PJ, pg. 93 “Later he would rather unconvincingly justify his attraction to the Nazis in sexual terms, as a kind of homoerotic fascination with the Nazi aesthetic: all those chiseled blond men in jackboots and pressed uniforms. It was easier to whitewash sexual desire than the egregious social and political ideas that truly captivated him.”Mark Lamster, pg. 114 PJ on witnessing bombings in Poland: “the German green uniforms made the place look gay and happy.” PJ, pg. 179 “At the time he believed, however naively, that National Socialism might still be reconciled with modernism. He outlined this position in an essay, 'Architecture in the Third Reich,' that Lincoln Kirsten published in the October 1933 issue of Hound & Horn. Johnson conceded that the Bauhaus was 'Irretrievably' tarnished by its association with Communism, but suggested Mies was an 'apolitical figure who would satisfy the new craving for monumentality' while proving that 'the new Germany is not bent on destroying all the modern acts which have been bent up in recent years.' Hitler’s racist and menacing rhetoric, that he might be bent on destroying more than just modern art, was left unmentioned.” ML, pg. 118 “Johnson hoped that the Nazis would come around to the monumental power and abstract beauty of the Miesian aesthetic, and in that wish he would always be disappointed.” ML, pg. 94 “When interviewed in 1942, Johnson’s former secretary Ruth Merrill told the FBI that Johnson believed 'the fate of the country' rested on his shoulders, and that he wanted to be the ‘Hitler’ in the United States.” ML, pg. 139 “Johnson would later admit to the FBI that he attended American Nazi Party rallies at Madison Square Garden, and became a financial benefactor of the Christian Mobilizers, an anti-Semitic organization of street brawlers.” ML, pg. 169 “We seem to forget, also, that we live in a community of people to which we are bound by the ties of existence, to some of whom we owe allegiance and obedience and to others of whom we owe leadership and instruction.” PJ, pg. 163 “A more plausible scenario is that Johnson was exchanging information on the activities, politics, and membership of American fascist circles, and discussing the means by which the Germans might disseminate their propaganda. According to records captured after the war, the Nazi diplomats were specifically interested in obtaining mailing lists and names of individuals who might be sympathetic to their cause…Johnson, who had built a network of nationalist supporters in both Ohio and New York, was in a position to deliver precisely that type of material. Indeed, Johnson had been keeping confidential lists of would-be supporters since April 1934, when he instructed his private secretary, Ruth Merrill, to take names at the first fascist gathering at the duplex apartment he shared in New York with his sister.” ML, pg. 165
As Christopher Hawthorne moves on from the Los Angeles Times and as new forms of criticism proliferate, we asked the architecture community what the role of the critic is today, and what it might be missing. What do you see as the role of the critic in architecture today? Why is it important? What aspects of architecture are not being addressed today by critics? What are the problems with criticism today? Here are the responses we received from critics across the country and abroad. This article was originally published in our May print issue. Stay tuned for further perspectives from practitioners, emerging architects, and scholars. Mark Lamster The architecture critic of The Dallas Morning News and a professor at the University of Texas at Arlington. His biography of Philip Johnson, The Man in the Glass House, will be out this November. “I think there was a sense, in the 1990s and early aughts, that criticism had become too absorbed with signature buildings by the architectural jet-set, mainly because that was what was coming out of the New York Times under Herbert Muschamp. But over the last decade or so, the field has expanded to address a broad spectrum of urban issues, as it should if it’s going to keep the public engaged. The irony here is that the backlash to the era of ‘starchitecture’ (and I hate that term) has meant a certain vilification of and disregard for the discipline. So I think it’s important to celebrate quality architecture and to make clear how important it is to making places that can improve people’s lives every day.” Alexandra Lange The architecture critic for Curbed. Her newest book is The Design of Childhood: How the Material World Creates Independent Kids. “These questions, and this debate, make me tired. What other critics are asked to justify their existence time and again? I believe my work is valuable, and I choose to believe an ‘architecture critic’ can write about almost anything at the intersection of design and the public. The problems of criticism are the problems of journalism: lack of resources, a flocking to the popular, and lack of diversity.” Witold Rybczynski Architecture critic for Slate, WigWag, and Saturday Night. His latest book is Now I Sit Me Down. “I’ve always thought that journalistic architectural criticism was an odd bird. Compared to restaurant, book, or theater reviews, reviews of buildings have little immediate effect on the public. Once a building is built, it’s there, for better or worse, and we must learn to live with it. In any case, reviews based on press kits, guided tours, or interviews with the architect are unlikely to yield profound insights. Theoretically, reviews of as-yet-unbuilt work might be more influential. The problem is that critics generally don’t have the information, resources, or time to make considered judgments. These limitations are compounded when criticism is driven by the need to produce up-to-the-minute newsworthy copy. Having said that, writing about architecture can be valuable. Buildings last a long time, and it’s useful to reflect on their utility—what works and what doesn’t—and their meanings in our lives. Of course, this is best done in the fullness of time, decades after the building opens, when the sharp corners have been knocked off, so to speak. The result is more like cultural observation than reporting. A word about the internet, whose many architectural websites have resulted in a boom in architectural criticism. Sadly, it has also produced more hurriedly written, harshly polemical, and poorly researched prose than ever before.” Frances Anderton Writer, curator, and host of DnA: Design and Architecture, a weekly radio show broadcast on KCRW public radio station in Los Angeles. “It was easier to be a critic when you were crusading for modernism, or another -ism, from a podium at a highly-regarded publication. Whether that ultimately gave society better buildings is an open question.” Barry Bergdoll Meyer Schapiro Professor of Modern Architectural History at Columbia University and curator in the Department of Architecture and Design at the Museum of Modern Art. “The role of the architecture critic has not shifted in its most vital importance since the first evidence of it as a professional activity commanding respect and authority in the public sphere with articles criticizing the urban policies of Louis XV in Paris in the mid-18th century. Namely, the architecture critic sets out to forge a bridge between the professional activity of the designing architect and the role of a citizenry by having an informed opinion about the changing environment in which they live. Of course, like an art critic, the architecture critic can contribute to the acclaim of a specific designer; but that is only the beginning of the capacity of the architecture critic to form public opinion. The role is not precisely the same for a critic writing in a publication—printed, broadcast, or on the internet—that primarily serves the profession, and the unfortunately much smaller set of architectural criticism that is aimed at the general public. The paradox nature of architecture is that it is the most omnipresent of art forms and yet the one that the non-professional audience often has the least capacity to judge. This puts a huge responsibility on the shoulders of the ever-rarer figure of the architecture critic with a broad mandate, namely the shockingly small handful of critics writing in the daily press of national and local record. Here the critic serves to educate at once public and public officials. It is the role of the critic to raise the issues that matter, to frame them in a way that both voters and elected officials and private sector actors in shaping the public realm can understand not only what is at stake but the vital relationship between intelligent design and enhanced environments. It is the difficulty of this task that makes so many nostalgic for a handful of legendary figures like Ada Louise Huxtable at the New York Times or Allan Temko of the San Francisco Chronicle, brilliant writers and thinkers whose texts were easy of access and whose capacity to craft public opinion inspired admiration, awe, and even fear where needed. Few critics are able to achieve the needed balance between the appreciation of the formal invention of architecture and the public issues at stake in most projects.” Oliver Wainwright Architecture and design critic of The Guardian. “The role of an architecture critic is not simply to critique architecture, providing an opinion on the quality of the latest buildings, but to unpick and expose the planning policies, funding sources, and political agendas that shape the built environment and frame projects in their wider societal contexts. Architectural publishing is facing a number of hurdles, not least in the dwindling number of advertisers paying ever less for space in magazines with shrinking circulation figures, wounded by the rise of free online content. Magazines are increasingly reliant on sponsored advertorials, lucrative awards programs, and other commercial partnerships to stay afloat, while many national newspapers have given up on covering the subject—of the eight national broadsheet papers in the UK, only three now have a regular architecture critic.” Justin Davidson Author and architecture and classical music critic for New York magazine. His latest book is Magnetic City: A Walking Companion to New York. “Construction always involves tradeoffs and often emerges from an adversarial process, fueled by agendas that are both overt and hidden. The reporter/critic is in a unique position to ask questions of all sides, absorb the technical detail, and pass on to the public a point of view that is backed up by clarity and explanation. My hope is that when readers don’t agree with me, at least they know why. In order to be effective, architecture critics have to look beyond architecture. I got into this business because I loved writing and I loved beautiful buildings. The deeper I dive, the more aware I am of the overlapping areas of expertise that get called into play every time the easy equipment shows up: finance, planning, zoning, activism, preservation, politics, performing arts, engineering, retail, gentrification, transit, industry, the waterfront, housing policy, climate change, social history, literature, psychology, acoustics, and more. I’m gratified to see that critics for general interest publications (as opposed to specialized ones) have a broad sense of their field. It’s rare these days to see a review that focuses on the building as aesthetic object, the exemplar of a style, or the incarnation of a theory. I also think that most critics consider themselves reporters, too, which is essential. What’s missing is numbers: every city builds, people in every city live and work in works of architecture, and yet the number of papers that cover this crucial element of local news is tiny. The perception that architecture is a specialist’s turf - and therefore of little interest to most readers - is contradicted by the passionate feelings that so many residents have (and express!) over what does and doesn’t get built in their community. The other thing that’s missing is a willingness to revisit buildings a year or two or more after they’ve opened to see how they fare in the real world. Too often, we see buildings in their pristine (or even incomplete) state, empty and theoretical. When I first visited the Whitney, for example, I missed a lot of the basic circulation and functionality problems that materialized later. I didn’t notice how maddening the coat check system was until I saw 100 people trying to check their coats at the same time.”
Since arriving in North Texas to take up the job of Dallas Morning News architecture critic, Mark Lamster has been under a trial by fire, suffering scrutiny and criticism for everything from his Yankee origin to his unsympathetic take on the city’s built environment. Well, local opinions seem to be warming a bit to the sharp-tongued scribe. In a recent piece in the Dallas Observer, Charles Schultz went so far as to praise how quickly Lamster has come to understand Big D’s development landscape and the insider track around its so-called zoning regulations. Schultz even showed a little contrition for a previous quip: “I apologize for calling him ‘Mark Lamster, New York Pinhead’ when he first showed up.”
Mark Lamster, Dallas Morning News architecture critic and responsible citizen, chastised the Dallas community for its poor attendance at an April 9 James Carpenter lecture. The 2004 MacArthur Fellow, who was speaking at the Dallas Center for Architecture about his newest installation at the Cotton Bowl, shed light on his genius to a paltry audience of 10. Ten, that is, if Carpenter included himself in the head count. In an open letter to Dallas architects, Lamster expressed his dismay at the poor showing, calling out the large corporate firms especially for neglecting their responsibility to the intellectual community. If Lamster’s cantankerous contentions nix him from a cocktail party or three, previous experience says he will not care. Last November, Lamster tweeted a cheeky “Thanks!” in response to a snarky Texan’s attack on the Brooklyn writer’s roots.
Flummoxed Lenox. Inspired by a Gothamist post about hidden rooms in the Frick, Mark Lamster digs a bit deeper and shares his knowledge of the site when it was occupied by the old Lenox Library. "...sober, imposing, and correct, much like the man who designed it, Richard Morris Hunt," he says of the old edifice, before delving into the curious history of the Hunt memorial across the street. Boulevard Blues. Brownstoner is still hammering away at a bleak streetscape along 4th Avenue in Brooklyn, where first floors of the new residential buildings leave a lot to be desired. The site reports that City Planning may be looking at measures to fix mistakes from 2003 upzoning and bring more life onto the street. While they're at it, perhaps they can tap the DOT to add some green to the median. House vs. Home. A kinder and gentler Peter Eisenman emerged from nearly 20 years of Jungian analysis, the architect tells The Washington Post. Far from the heady world of theory ("I was a cerebral cat"), Eisenman returns to the world of bricks and mortar. The change helps him expound on the differences between a house and home. Tick Tock. The clock is ticking for the Brooklyn Bridge Park to make a decision on how to pay for maintaining the park, reports Crains. “If we don't have a financial model, we won't be able to proceed with construction,” BBP President Regina Myer tells the paper.
In this week's Friday review, Mark Lamster parses Don Argott's new documentary The Art of the Steal, a film that critiques the relocation of the Barnes Foundation from suburban Merion, Pennsylvannia to downtown Philadelphia. Whatever your view of the move, the trailer makes the film look like stimulating viewing. Opens tonight in New York and Philadelphia and On Demand. In select cities nationwide beginning March 12.