Thursday, December 20, 2007

All I want for Xmas ...
I asked a couple dozen architects and preservationists what book they'd like to most give or receive this holiday season. A few of them took the time to jot down their favorites, which are listed below. I'd like to hear from you, too. Add your selections in the comments section.

Jim Dayton, James Dayton Design
I love Michelangelo's huge new monograph from Taschen. He was the master of all things. And he's still an inspiration. Architecture Now! 5, also from Taschen. (Taschen makes really good glossy books.)

I'm also inspired by movies. I love the documentary film Helvetica. We should all be as simple and elegant as these designers.

Other choices: Diller + Scofidio (+ Renfro): The Ciliary Function. This book highlights some of the best work in the world today.

Ecology of Fear: Los Angeles and the Imagination of Disaster, by Mike Davis. Mike has been writing ecological criticism for a long time, way before it became hip. This is scary stuff.

Carlo Scarpa: Architecture and Design.

David Adjaye: Making Public Buildings.

And most of all, The Simpsons Movie.

Bob Roscoe, Design for Preservation
In How Buildings Learn: What Happens After They're Built, Stewart Brand, also known as the creator of the Whole Earth Catalog, instructs us the materiality of those structures in which we spend so much of our time somehow seem to possess an animate ability to find ways to seek transformation into new uses. Is this a survival mechanism that buildings have, that can overcome the vicissitudes of time, weathering, whims of fashion, maladroit alterations, and human indifference to find ways (occasionally) that we can love them? For people who appreciate buildings for their accommodation, history and beauty, I don't recommend reading this book -- I demand it.

Geoffrey Warner, Alchemy Architects
I'm reading Memorial: A Novel, by Bruce Wagner.
It centers around some lucid and perverse "starchitect" observations. I checked it out at the library because I liked the cover (of course!) and laughed out loud at the internal dialogues that the main character had about Zaha Hadid and her kin.

John Dwyer, Shelter Architecture
I'd have to go with Geographies of New Orleans, by Rich Campanella. It's the only book I've ever read that really gives a full understanding of New Orleans, its relationship to Katrina, and the role of design in the Future Geographies of the city. A must read for any American citizen.

Charlene Roise, Hess, Roise and Company
How about the 2008 Minnesota Historic Architecture Calendar? OK, so it is not a book, but with a gorgeous photo of a wonderful historic building every month, it is indeed a gift that keeps giving. There are two photos of the Washburn A Mill that I really like. One was taken by John Stark, before it was renovated, with re-bars sprouting from the tops of freestanding columns like a bad-hair day. The other, by Pete Sieger, is a straight-on shot of the ragged wall of the old mill with the sleek curtain wall behind; it is a masterful photo of a masterful rehab that combined an elegant modern design with the rusticated remnants of a nineteenth-century monument. I look at those photos and rejoice that the building was saved.

Beth Nelson, Alchemy Architects
I recommend The Smallest Book in the World, by Joshua Reichert and Planned Assault: The Nofamily House, Love/House, Texas Zero, by Lars Lerup. Both are beautifully produced -- as great as "objects" as they are content-wise. The tiny one is just ridiculously cool; I don't know what else to say about it (Did you see the picture of the tweezers holding the book? INSANE!). The Planned Assaults book is one you can read over and over again and find something new each time. It's so clever, but in a perverse, devious way that particularly appeals to weirdo architects. So I guess the first one could be a "give" or a "receive," but the second is more of a "receive," or "give, but mostly to other architects."

Jennifer Yoos, VJAA
My new favorite coffee table-type design books this year are Naoto Fukasawa (pictured at left) and Structure As Space: Engineering and Architecture in the Work of Jurg Conzett and Partners. Naoto Fukasawa is a designer of products and environments -- formerly with Ideo, plusminuszero and then Muji. His work is beautiful and he sees function as intuitive and sometimes humorous.

Two other recent favorites: In the Bubble: Designing in A Complex World by John Thackera and Taking Shape: A New Contract Between Architecture and Nature by Susanna Hagan.

Bryan Carpenter, Alchemy Architects
Bernd & Hilla Becher did a number of photographs of "Typologies," (grain elevators, water towers, blast furnaces. ..) all industrial structures of the past century. The interplay of the collective images, the starkness of the black and white photographs, and scale of project and body of work is truly mesmerizing. They are not "architecture" books per se, but any fan of architecture will enjoy this body of work.

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