New Book: Global Undergrounds

Dobraszczyk, Paul, Carlos Lopez Galviz, and Bradley L. Garrett, eds. Global Undergrounds: Exploring Cities Within. London: Reaktion, 2016. Print.

Global Undergrounds: Exploring Cities Within, edited by Paul Dobraszczyk, Carlos Lopez Galviz, and Bradley L. Garrett features short pieces from the authors and other experts discussing the world beneath cities.  True to the title, the book explores cities from Los Angeles to Pyongyang and everywhere between.

In the preface, Geoff Manaugh highlights that “we live amid interpenetrating systems of space, knotted topologies that do not immediately reveal Global Undergrounds Cover 4themselves but, instead, lurk in the shadows, under streets, below grade” (pg. 9).  He adds “sometimes the space itself is the heritage…it is history from below” (pg. 12).  From there, Global Undergrounds launches into discussion of how these underground spaces were used as homes and places of safety, as well as the representation in literature, and underground metro systems around the world.  For example, Alexandros Tsakos writes of the Cairo Metro: “[it] is now infused with fear of civil unrest, political violence, and revolution…the metro is notorious for its sexual discrimination…were these underground spaces truly a refuge from the turmoil above ground?” (pg. 217).  Tsakos highlights that while the underground world in Cairo is distinct from the city above, the problems and dangers above permeate the tunnels too.

Global Undergrounds provides a fascinating exploration of the spaces beneath cities around the world.  Everyday people walk past or even on covered manholes, sewage pipes, and storm drains, but many never think about the world beneath their feet.  They know it is there, but the attention remains on the high-rise buildings reaching for the sky above.  Little thought is given to the vast world below and the intrigues it holds.

New Books 1937 Edition

While undertaking research for an upcoming exhibit at the Architecture and Planning Library, Nancy Sparrow discovered an article in The Daily Texan from 1937 entitled, “New Art Books On Architecture Library Shelves” (Vol. 38, February 26, 1937, pg. 1, 3). She sent me a copy of the article, knowing how much I would enjoy reading it. The article listed 10 new titles to the Architecture Library. Curious to know if the books were still part of the collection, I did a bit of looking. I identified 9 of the 10; however, not all remain as part of the Architecture and Planning Library’s collections.

Two of the books are still part of APL’s onsite collections, so I decided to pull them from the stacks.

Hoffman, Malvina. Heads and Tales. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons: 1936. (General collection)

hoffmanThe 1937 article offers a brief description of the work. According to the author: In “Heads and Tales” Malvina Hoffman, American sculptress, tells of her experiences in following her career over the world. It contains photographs of sculpture and of life in various parts of the world, particularly in Africa (“New Art Books On Architecture Library Shelves,” The Daily Texan, February 26, 1937, 1 and 3, accessed 2/6/2917). Hoffman offers a biographical narrative documenting her work on the statues for the Hall of Man in the Field Museum in Chicago.  She writes of her commission –

Sudden vistas of remote islands and mysterious horizons flooded over my imagination – escape from city life, discovery of new worlds, conflict with the elements. Infinite new windows of life seemed to open before me.

What lay beyond those windows is set down in this book, which describes my adventures and experiences of “head-hunting” in the near and far corners of the earth – and how the hundred racial types in the “Hall of Man” of the Field Museum in Chicago were selected and modelled on the road. (Hoffman, Heads and Tales, 3).

Unaware of Malvina Hoffman or her work until today, I undertook a quick search in the catalog and jstor looking for recent scholarship about the artist. You might consider Marianne Kinkel’s book, Races of Mankind: the Sculpture of Malvina Hoffman or Rebecca Peabody’s article, “Race and Literary Sculpture in Malvina Hoffman’s Heads and Tales,” in the Getty Research Journal (vol. 5, 2013, 119-132).

 Lawrie, Lee. Sculpture. Cleveland, Ohio: J. H. Jansen, 1936. (Special Collections)

 APL has two copies of Sculpture, one in off site storage and copy two lawrieheld in Special Collections. The second copy was a gift by Arthur E. Thomas. While copy two was immediately accessible in Special Collections, the first copy is probably the new book identified in The Daily Texan.

Like Hoffman, Lee Lawrie offers Sculpture as documentation of his work. He provides 48 plates and a brief introduction, which he uses to express his opinion about modern sculpture. He concludes –

Also it is not meant that a sculptor cannot be a creator. Although no new ways of designing and modelling are available, the personal characteristics that stamp each sculptor’s work, when applied to an original theme and architectural problem, make it a creation. What will be done when the sculptors have full play with the tremendous and dramatic themes that are to be recorded of our age and scene can only be imagined. The opportunity for this expression will no doubt bring forth works equal to those of the great monuments of the past. (Foreword, pg. 2)

While not familiar with Lawrie by name, I did recognize his work as I looked through the plates – more familiar with the buildings themselves. While a contemporary of Hoffman, I was struck by their stylistically different approaches to sculpture rather than those governed by medium or type.

Friday Finds: Architecture, Nature, and Magic

As always, part of the joy of Fridays are Friday Finds! In the hot seat today is W.R. Lethaby’s Architecture, Nature, and Magic.  The book was originally published in 1892 under the name Architecture, Mysticism, and Myth, though Lethaby rewrote (and renamed) it in 1928 for The Builder. Lethaby - Cover Page This book is a 1956 compilation of the articles from The Builder.  Lethaby writes that “at the inner heart of ancient building were wonder, worship, magic, and symbolism,” forming part of his main thesis that “nature…was the source of much of what is called architectural decoration…[and] thought of magical properties generally had a very wide and deep influence on the development of ancient building customs” (pg. 16).

Architecture, Nature, and Magic is organized geographically, with close attention paid to chronology, as well.  For example, in the chapter on the Far East, Lethaby traces the history of the tope, “a circular monument like a half sphere, or taller, usually having a spire-like erection on the top” (pg. 66-67).  Originally, “topes were either erected to the celestial Buddha or over relics and sacred sites,” while “later topes in farther Asia are understood to be the imitations of the celestial mountains” (pg. 67-69).  Lethaby then moves chronologically and intertwines cultural mythology with the architecture of the region, as well as the evolution of architectural features.  He follows this essential formula in the other chapters, including discussions of Egypt, Western influences, temples, palaces, and more.

Lethaby concludes that “all the arts had their origin in efforts to satisfy the needs of the body and the mind…the greater buildings were not Lethaby - pageonly for ritual purposes, but they themselves were embodied magic” (pg. 147).  He makes a fascinating argument that without this magical element, humans would have been satisfied with architecture only serving their immediate physical needs.

What inspired people to build beautiful structures when a simple one would suffice?  For all its practicality, there is an artistry and focus on aesthetics in architecture that goes beyond the utility of the structure.  This desire for beauty is a human phenomenon, spanning time and geography.  Why?  There is likely no one answer, if indeed there are any at all.  Maybe there is something inexplicable that drew early architects to aim for more than functionality – perhaps their ideas needed just a touch of magic.

New Book: The Ten Most Influential Buildings in History

Unwin, Simon. The Ten Most Influential Buildings in History: Architecture’s Archetypes. New York: Routledge, 2017. Print.

Unwin - Book CoverDr. Simon Unwin’s newest book, The Ten Most Influential Buildings in History: Architecture’s Archetypes, identifies ten architectural archetypes that have influenced and inspired architects for centuries.  The ten archetypes are standing stone, stone circles, dolmen, hypostyle, temple, theatre, courtyard, labyrinth, the vernacular, and ruin.

Unwin writes in the introduction that “this book is about architecture’s ancient underpinnings…[and] brings the past (in some cases the very ancient past) into the present to find ideas that have influenced architects through history and explore how those archetypal ideas remain relevant now” (pg. 5).  He begins with a brief overview of the basic elements of architecture before devoting the remainder of the book to the ten archetypes.  In these sections Unwin goes into great detail on the architecture, history, and present day applications of the archetypes.  For example, in his chapter on hypostyle halls, Unwin discusses the architectural purpose of the columns to support the ceiling before explaining that the “hypostyle is an analogue of the forest…[and] a place without hierarchy,” as well as a place for wandering without any specified direction (pg. 97).  He gives examples of Egyptian and Persian hypostyle halls, describing the functionality and style of the halls, followed by some examples of architectural work today inspired by the hypostyle.

Unwin highlights these ten archetypes that have stood the test of time.  He succinctly covers vast amounts of architectural history and provides analysis, explanation, and drawings to highlight the influence and importance of these archetypes.  Unwin provides the necessary foundation for architects to be knowledgeable and think critically about the architectural features from the past on which they sometimes rely for inspiration.

Drop in to the library to see more of this week’s new books!