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.
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.
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.
In Prasie of Shadows by Junichiro Tanizak (translated by Thomas J. Harper and Edward G. Seidensticker)
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.
E.1027 is small modernist house on the French Riviera that after many years of neglect has been restored and opened to the public. Two things make this building special, first it is a wonderful and early example of a modernist house and secondly its story illustrates the tension between integrity and reputation and what this can lead to.
This book reads as a follow on from the book The Eyes of The Skin by the same author. While The Eyes of the Skin is a beautiful text on the importance of the other senses, apart from touch, on design The Thinking Hand expands this observation and builds around the same themes to provide an overall theory of design practice and thinking emanating from the human body and all the senses.
Every chapter pretty much could stand on its own having their origins in separate essays. Each has its own closely argued references all given at the end of the chapter so although the writing is dense the argument is clear and it is fairly easy to go one chapter at a time.
I have enclosed the notes I took on each Chapter as I want to give a fairly detailed overview of the arguments presented. I hope this gives a good feeling for the style and substance of the arguments in the book. Then I will offer an overall conclusion. But in short I highly recommend this book and think it offers the design student much to ponder.
101 Things I learned in Architecture School by Matthew Frederick
A friend loaned this book to me and before I handed it back, long overdue, I thought I’d write a few things about it.
I read it through once at the beginning of my loan, then again many times just dipping in now and again when the book happened to appear on my radar as it did from time to time. This is how the book is really meant I feel as a small handbook of inspiration not as a read through.
A couple of things recently came up on my radar that coincided and that I thought I would write about.
Firstly was a list made by Patrick Collison called fast which is about projects which were made quickly enough to appear anomalous and impressive. This hyperlinked list is really nice and I have already spent some time clicking through and reading.
The Centre National d’Arts et de Culture George Pompidou or The Beauborg opened in 1977 designed by Renzo Piano and Richard Rogers with Ove Arup Engineers. Located in the center of Paris within 1km of the Louvre and Notre Dame Cathedral, it lies on the edge of the historic Marais quarter.
It Neighbours Les Halles one of the old Parisian indoor markets now demolished and replaced by the shopping center Forum des Halles itself partially demolished and rebuilt in 2018. Les Halles was previously one of the locations of the May ’68 uprisings. The authorities wanted to provide much needed cultural services and bring these as close to the people as possible. They also wanted to reinstitute a cultural relevance and importance for Paris in the fine arts that they felt had been lost to New York.
It was to embody the new pluralist cultural policies of the French state after Georges Pompidou became President. An Academic, he took over from General de Gaulle and took the project under his wing. It is a litmus test, therefore, for the way Architecture relates to culture as it is a building dedicated to bringing that culture to the people of Paris and it’s visitors.
If you want to really get a feel for Nordic Architecture, indeed to really get under the skin of the differences between Nordic Architecture and the rest of the world then this is the book to start with. Not only does it give a convincing picture of ‘Northerness’ but it paints a credible narrative of not only the primordial origins of Nordic Architecture but the differences between the Nordic countries too.