1984 by George Orwell Review and Book Notes

1984 by George Orwell

1984 is one of the most Influential Books of the 20th Century. A warning to the human race in which a society founded on hatred is created.

War is Peace. Freedom is Slavery. Ignorance is Strength.

Introduction

1984 was written mostly during 1948 by George Orwell set in a future in which a totalitarian state completely controls the lives of its subjects. The book went on the become a kind of touchstone with which to criticise totalitarian ideas on both right and left.

It’s immense influence is easy to show by reference to the number of terms it coins which have come into common use in the English language;

  • Big Brother
  • Thought Police
  • Room 101
  • Newspeak
  • Doublethink
  • thoughtcrime

Orwell probably is responsible for the the term Cold War so he is a keen observer of post war politics and in many ways predicted the shape of the second half of the 20th century he is an important figure and the book 1984 is a key reason for this.

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Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino Review and Booknotes

Introduction

The Book Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino is a classic modernist novel yet has had a widespread popularity that elevates it above most books of its type and has come to have an enduring influence among artists and architects.

It’s a staple for architecture students and architects alike, but why is it so popular and what’s so interesting about it? After all it may not seem on first sight to be particularly relevant to the practice of architecture as although it proports to be about cities it’s actually a magical realist book whose cities are dreamlike creations. A post modern novel with little plot and seemingly a much more poetic dreamlike quality.

But on starting to read and being drawn into the novel I think it becomes apparent why this has become such a touchstone for creative thinking about design and cities and why many architects love it so much, me included.

Before the review I will give some background and have a more detailed look at the structure of the book. This I feel is really important because of the way the book was written. The structure of the book in fact, is an integral part of the beauty of its beauty.

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A Pattern Language by Christopher Alexander: Review and Notes

A fantastic Guidebook to design thinking which if you use it as an aide rather than a Bible will educate and enrich your designs. Would love to see an updated New Edition.

Introduction

A Pattern Language: Towns, Buildings, Construction by Christopher Alexander, Sara Ishikawa, Murray Silverstein, Max Jacobson, Ingrid Fiksdahl-King, Shlomo Angel

A Pattern Language came out in 1977 authored by Christopher Alexander with some of his students Sara Ishikawa, Murray Silverstein, Max Jacobson, Ingrid Fiksdahl-King, Shlomo Angel.

At the time I believe Christopher Alexander was teaching Architecture at Berkley and the first group of books he wrote sprung from his teaching, research and designing there. It is one of a series of Books by Alexander but A Pattern Language is his most widely read work.

Alexanders books principally A Timeless Way of Building, A Pattern Language and The Nature of Order have inspired a following not just in Architecture but in other fields also principally Computer Science where his work is more influential than in Architecture.

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Experiencing Architecture by Steen Eiler Rasmussen Review and Book Notes

A classic architectural theory book, easy to read with some unique insights but with a couple of large flaws.

Introduction

Experiencing Architecture by Steen Eiler Rasmussen was a standard text in architectural schools and also for me when I began my studies more years ago than I care to remember.

It was on my reading list as a student and it was one of the first books from the course that made an impact on me. So I was interested to come back to this book after many years and reread it.

Below you will find an introduction, summary and review with a set of notes by chapter for those that want to get into the weeds with detail!

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Lost Japan by Alex Kerr

LostJapan: Last Glimpse of Beautiful Japan Paperback by Alex Kerr

Introduction

Lost Japan is a headfirst dive into Japan and its culture. Written by an American whose heart was captured by Japan from an early age and has spent his life getting to know it. So much so that the articles he assembled this book from were originally written in Japanese and translated from the Japanese not by Kerr but by another writer (Bodhi Fishman).

I think this is an important thing to notice about the book, that this is a book about Japan meant for the Japanese themselves. Its also semi-autobiographical telling the authors life through his discovery of Japan.

I believe Lost Japan has barely ever been out of print in English since it was published. It’s insightful, opinionated and hard to put down. Moreover if you read and liked In Praise of Shadows (Chapter two nods at the book), you will find a collection of articles in the same vein but perhaps more accessible and which brings our view of Japan a little more up to date to the beginning of the 2000’s.

So I recommend this book wholeheartedly see below for a few notes and some of the key ideas running through this book.

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Cosmoform

I love a good architectural zine and Cosmoform from Phibsboro press is the latest I have. It is a short essay about the building Met Éireann by Liam McCormick in Dublin.

I found out about it by listening to the podcast What do Builidngs Do All Day? Episode 6 Cosmoform an Architectural Podcast by Emmett Scanlon in which he was talking to the creators of the Zine Cormac Murray and Eamonn Hall.

The Building

Met Éireann (photograph by William Murphy)

The Building is Irelands’ Met Office HQ. Finished in 1979 it brought together the different Meteorological departments under one roof for the first time. The most striking thing about it is that it’s a truncated pyramid. Like a modern ziggurat it sits along a leafy brick Victorian suburb in Dublin.

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Ways of Seeing by John Berger Book Notes and Review

Adapted in 1972 from a TV series this book revolutionised visual criticism and remains in print today some fifty years after it was written. It challenged conventional art criticism in a startlingly bold way and changed art criticism forever. Although it deals mostly with painting and photography some of the cultural criticism is I believe relevant to Architecture. It’s key arguments seem ever more urgent in the image hunger age of the internet. I think anyone interested in Architecture or Design or even mass media should read this book. Below is a summary and set of book notes with short review.

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Architecture: A Very Short Introduction by Andrew Ballantyne Review and Notes

Architecture: A Very Short Introduction by Andrew Ballantyne

A short Disclaimer

I studied at Newcastle University in the 90’s and Andrew Ballantyne was one of the lecturers there. He never took a project or taught a module I was in but I heard him talk and lecture many times. I remember him well, and would mark him as one of the better teachers I encountered in my education.

A Quick Overview and Introduction

What is Architecture and how can we start to build up a foundation of knowledge with which to understand Architecture better? Architecture: A Very Short Introduction by Andrew Ballantyne answers the first question. The second question requires a framework to be built up in order to apply an order to your understanding and this book will do that too in a clear and unfussy way.

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Delirious New York By Rem Koolhaas: The Film Version (and Review)

Delirious New York: A Retroactive Manifesto for Manhattan by Rem Koolhaas

Opening shot / A black limousine pulls up in front of a glass skyscraper in Manhattan. The camera is so close to the base of the tower that it appears to go up forever disappearing into the clouds. The light bouncing off the plain glass elevations as though all the glass was reflected back, the only articulation of the building are the reflections of the clouds in the sky. Out gets Edward Norton the famous Hollywood actor, director, writer, polymath he is shown limping into the building.

The book Delirious New York was written in 1978 and pushed OMA and Rem Koolhaas into the spotlight where they have never been out of since. This book helped OMA became the architectural office probably with the most influence in the Architecture scene from the 90’s into the 2000’s.

Delirious New York is a retroactive manifesto of the Skyscraper and for New York City. The birth of which occurred around 1910 and its death some thirty years later. The manifesto is an unconscious programme embarked on in the city during its massive growth which only now Delirious New York properly reveals.

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In Praise of Shadows by Junichiro Tanizak

In Prasie of Shadows by Junichiro Tanizak (translated by Thomas J. Harper and Edward G. Seidensticker)

Review

A beautiful book about Japanese aesthetics and the love of perception in the shadows at the edge of darkness.

This book is short and sweet and at well under eighty pages it flits between more weighty subjects of Shadows, Color and Architecture with seemingly more trivial ones, Japanese toilets, paper, wiring Japanese homes among the many.

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