Category Archives: Uncategorized

Against simplification – Mark Foster Gage: Projects and Provocations

Cover photo Mark Foster Gage

New to our collection is this monograph on Mark Foster Gage and his ideologies especially “Object Oriented Ontology” and “Speculative Realism”. Gage can be called an anomaly as he started off at the University of Notre Dame learning classical architecture and turned into a leading avant-garde architect of the present day.

The book features an afterword by Peter Eisenman and divided into seven chapters that is loosely based on a particular theme. These are cut across by transcribed texts from interviews and conversations between the biggies in Architecture. I HIGHLY recommend reading the one in honor of Zaha Hadid along with Frank Gehry, Peter Eisenman, Deborah Berke and MFG.

For people who aren’t into extensive texts and reading (meh!) the book also offers a excellent collection of 3D visualized images that gives an insight into the architect’s mind. A cursory look at them is enough for us to understand what his design philosophy is all about. “The Tower for New York’s 57thstreet with mouth like balconies on giant wings or a retail space bedecked with a hundred faceted mirror, Gage’s work at once challenges expectations of what architecture might be and as well frequently fills one with a sense of excitement.”

Tower for New York's 57th street.
Tower for New York’s 57th street.

P.S: Did I tell you he 3D printed Lady Gaga’s outfit in collaboration with Nicola Formichetti in 2011?

Lady Gaga’s dress 3D printed by Mark Foster Gage.

This book is excellent if you love visual fodder, new design philosophies or Lady Gaga.

Medieval Mondays: Alhambra

Plans, Elevations, Sections and details of the Alhambra: From drawings taken on the spot in 1834.

This is one of those rare books that will be placed in a capsule for the future along with Monalisa and Klimts’ if the civilization is about to end.  Its cultural importance and documentation that follows military precision are the key factors as to why this book is forever in our special collection.

It covers the design and details of the Alhambra fortress and palace complex in Spain. This is a two-volume publication, with complete translations of the Arabic inscriptions and historical notice of the kings of Granada, Spain. It also consists of a detailed history from the conquest of the city by Arabs to the expulsion of the Moors. The second volume consists of detailed lithographs by Owen Jones and Jules Goury.

More importantly this is a book about friendship.  In 1834, after staying in Granada for 6 months, Jules fell victim to Cholera while documenting this book. Devastated by the loss, Ar. Jones took over to the publication of the project and further archived the palace.  Impressions of every ornament is meticulously taken either in plaster or unsized paper. These casts have been tremendously important for preparing drawings for this publication.

Plan of the Alhambra
Plan of the Alhambra

The site plan of the Alhambra shows the most significant spaces in the palace like the Court of Lions, Court of the Fish pond and the Hall of the Two sisters.


The Court of Lions

 This perfect portion of the palace is a parallelogram surrounded by portico with small pavilions at each end. This space consists of a hundred and twenty-eight columns. Due to the restoration works undergone by the court from time to time, the walls are defaced with several layers of whitewashing, beneath which it is still possible to see traces of the original coloring.

Details in the Court of Lions
Details in the Court of Lions


Court of the Fish Pond

Court of Fish pond
Court of Fish pond

This lithograph shows the view of the Fishpond from the Hall of the bark

Hall of the two sisters

This is a view taken from the Hall of the Two Sisters, looking towards the garden and a portion of the corridor which separates the Ventana from the Hall. “The lattice window gives light to the upper corridor, leading to the apartments appropriated to the women. It was through these lattices that the dark-eyed beauties of the Hareem viewed the splendid fetes in the hall below, in which they could only participate as distant spectators.”

The intricate details in the Hall of the two sisters.
The intricate details in the Hall of the two sisters.



The most common pattern that crops up in several halls are the interlacing lines done in plaster. It is remarkable both for their variety of designs and for the simple means by which they are produced. They are formed by two principles exhibited in the diagram.

"Because the fret is one of the simplest and most natural of decorative forms, it is one of the most widely spread, found from early times in most art forms and on all continents"-Britanicca encyclopedia.
“Because the fret is one of the simplest and most natural of decorative forms, it is one of the most widely spread, found from early times in most art forms and on all continents”-Britanicca encyclopedia.

To review this massive book, make an appointment with our special collections department of Architecture and Planning Library.

New Books: January Edition

New books newsletter is back a second time this month! Surprisingly, both the books kind of belong to a similar category: Social Design. These books give an in-depth look into designing, especially, addressing social issues of  our times.

Design Solutions for Urban Densification by Sibylle Kramer

Design solutions coverStudies show that about 3 million people move to the cities every week! Apart from the privilege of having SoulCycle at every corner, cities provide better education, infrastructure and more importantly, culture. Therefore, getting our cities right should be the order of the day. There are two ways to do this, one is getting on to the suburban craze of “sprawl” (ugh! Boring!) or retrofitting our inner cities to suit the incoming populace. This book deals with the latter.

This essentially means that “even the smallest building gaps are closed, peripheral block buildings are complemented, small buildings are replaced by larger ones, living spaces are created by reuse, plots are divided and inner courtyards are used for construction.” If you’re good at Tetris, you will probably be good at this urban retrofitting thing. One such example is the Cordoba-Reurbano Housing building in the historical La Roma neighborhood of Mexico City. As a part of an urban recycling initiative, it adds on a succession of terraces and built residential volumes on top of a historic building.

Design Solution for Urban Densification presents 41 outstanding projects of urban redensification that illustrate the different approaches adopted by architects and planners to build for the cities today. Explore a range of amazing and surprising unconventional buildings and creative solutions across the entirety of the book with graphical plans and detailed sections and of course lots of beautiful photo spreads.


Social Design: Participation and Empowerment by Claudia Banz, Michael Krohn and Angeli Sachs

Social design coverSocial Design talks about designing for the society… with the society, addressing complex social issues of our times through the perspective of interdisciplinary design. It addresses 25 international projects that represent unique solutions and tackle the redesign of social systems. The projects range a wide breadth of topics from creating human scale neighborhoods in China  to sustainable weaving communities in Ethiopia. These are framed by three essays that talk about Social design in the past and present, it’s job in education/ research and the concept of plan making  in shaping socially conscious societies.

Paper emergency shelters for UNHCR Shigeru Ban. Byumba Refugee camp, Rwanda
Paper emergency shelters for UNHCR Shigeru Ban. Byumba Refugee camp, Rwanda
Antonio Scarponi's Teh Campo Libero (The innocent house) was designed for Italian organization, Libera. This mobile, self sufficient and reversible pavilion is a tool in this process.
Antonio Scarponi’s Teh Campo Libero (The innocent house) was designed for Italian organization, Libera. This mobile, self sufficient and reversible pavilion is a tool in this process.

Some of the feature projects include Fairphone, 10,000 Gardens for Africa (Slow Food Foundation), Paper emergency shelters for UNHCR by Shigeru ban among a few.

Friday Finds! The Eyes of the Skin: Architecture and the Senses

Eyes of the the skin- cover“A meaningful architectural experience is not simply a series of retinal images. the ‘elements’ of architecture are not visual units or Gestalt; they are encounters, confrontations that interact with memory.”

We see an architectural marvel and the first thing we do is record it. We sketch, we take pictures, we remember how it looks. But do we feel it? Sense it? Smell it? “The inhumanity of contemporary architecture and cities can be understood as the consequence of the neglect of the body and the senses, and an imbalance in our sensory system.” This book challenges the hegemony of vision and the ocular-centrism of our generation. Pallasmaa calls it the violation of the eye, he goes to the extent of calling it the Narcissistic and Nihilistic eye.

Above: The eye of the camera, detail from the film, The man with a movie camera.  Below: Regardless of our prioritization of the eye, visual observation is often confirmed by our touch. Caravaggio, The incredulity of St.Thomas.
Above: The eye of the camera, detail from the film, The man with a movie camera.
Below: Regardless of our prioritization of the eye, visual observation is often confirmed by our touch. Caravaggio, The incredulity of St.Thomas.

As if we actually need to convince you to read this book. We are sure most of you have already read it. And if not, you are missing out on realizing architecture to its full potential. This polemic book on architectural philosophy and teaching, was first published in 1996 as an extended essay to Questions of perception: Phenomenology of Architecture written by Steven Holl, Pallasmaa, and Alberto Pérez-Gómez. The eyes of the skin is broken down into two neat essays, the first runs us through the historical development of ocular-centric paradigm in western culture, starting from the Greek civilization and its effect on the architecture today. Part two examines the function and presence of our other senses in experiencing architecture and how they could potentially bring us to building spaces that are integrated and personable.

Now imagine the picturesque ancient towns of Croatia and the busy, dense streets of Malta. Compare it to the function-first, grid-locked planning of New York or Chandigarh. Yes, there is a reason why most people choose the former for vacations. These are the spaces of intimate warmth, of participation and integration, catering to all the senses of the body; smell, taste, touch, sound and of course vision.  “The authenticity of architectural experience is grounded in the tectonic language of building and the comprehensibility of the  act of construction to the senses. We behold, touch, listen and measure the world with our entire bodily existence, and the experiential world becomes  and articulated around the centre of the body.”

Above: Le Corbusier’s proposed skyline for Buenos aires – a sketch from a lecture given in Buenos aires in 1929. Below: The hill town of Casares in southern Spain.
Above: Le Corbusier’s proposed skyline for Buenos aires – a sketch from a lecture given in Buenos aires in 1929.
Below: The hill town of Casares in southern Spain.

We highly recommend it if you just started getting into the whole architectural philosophy readings. It is a particularly interesting book to start off with and debate over as well as most don’t really accept this idea of Pallasmaa’s. A good book to get some really romanticized quotes about architecture and planning for your class essays.

New Books: A newsletter

Meeting nature Halfway: Architecture interfaced between Technology and environment by Multiple Authors

Meeting nature halfway cover
“Architecture, as design of artifacts, buildings, landscapes, cities and organizations, is the central battlefield where new relationship to nature is established”

New in our stacks is this little book on sustainability focusing on research of synthetic ecosystem particular to the Alpine region of Innsbruck. It is written by various trailblazers in the field of experimental architecture and showcases a few of their breakthrough projects. All the projects covered are linked back to the Institute for Experimental Architecture of University of Innsbruck and gives an overview of their design and research culture.

Preparation of the FrAgility show, an agile robotic fabrication methods with fragile materiality.
Preparation of the FrAgility show, an agile robotic fabrication methods with fragile materiality.

“The book shows different approaches united through a shared interest in developing a new relationship between architecture and nature. “

It is cleverly classified into three categories based on the classes of camera lenses. Wide angles, to give an inclusive and expansive view of the research. Portrait, to highlight and isolate the subjects from potential noisy background. Lastly, Macro lenses, to focus on smaller details or prototypes.  From adaptive self-regulatory ecologies that build based on collective interaction between buildings, to self crystallising ice structures, the future of architecture 2.0 is imagined and reimagined throughout the book.


In Statu Quo: Structures of Negotiation edited by Ifat Finkelman, Deborah Pinto Fdeda, Oren Sagiv, Tania Coen Uzzielli.

 In statu quo cover“The combination of historical events, myths and traditions has created a multiplicity of conflicts between competing religions, communities and affiliations regarding the ownership and rights of use of places and monuments. In turn these conflicts have led to the formation of an extraordinary concentration of intricate spaces, fragmented and stratified both historically and physically”

Love reading about Architecture, religion and politics? Then this is a book for you! Published as a part of the Israeli Pavilion at the 16thAnnual Biennale in Venice, the book traces the complex and delicate mechanism of co-existence, established in the 19thcentury, called the Status Quo. This has been described by chronicling five Holy sites situated in Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Hebron. The five featured sites being, The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Western Wall Plaza, Ibrahimi Mosque, Rachel’s Tomb and Mugrabhi Ascent.

Panoramic view of the Western Wall, the Temple Mount with mosques of Omar and Al Aqsa and Mt. Scopus int he background on Jerusalem day, Old City, Jerusalem, 1971.
Panoramic view of the Western Wall, the Temple Mount with mosques of Omar and Al Aqsa and Mt. Scopus int he background on Jerusalem day, Old City, Jerusalem, 1971.

Rife with pictures, sketches and newspaper articles, the book sets the mood by detailing their history, rise of religious conflicts, controversy and the resulting ad hoc political solutions that redefined these spaces. More importantly the reading allows us to look at architecture beyond its order, form, immutability it usually stands for, to making it a palimpsest charged with the status of “permanent temporariness”



Art Deco Chicago: Designing Modern America edited by Robert Bruegmann

 Art Deco: “Works that Art Deco Coverembrace naturalistic, geometric or abstract surface decoration, and those that have no surface decoration but whose forms are themselves decorative”

What does Metropolis and The Great Gatsby have in common? The stunning portrayal of visual style during the time, Art Deco. As the name suggests the book consists of architectural and design entries, each belonging to a broad current of Art Deco style that originated in the early 20thcentury focusing in the Chicago area. The book consists of carefully curated pictures and illustrations of architecture, industrial, fashion, product and graphic designs that embraced Art Deco expression. The book explores architects and designers beyond Sullivan, Wright and Mies to underdogs like interior designers Marion Gheen, Rue Carpenter and forgotten Industrial designer John Bollenbacher.

The exuberant lobby decorations at One North LaSalle embody classic Art Deco style. Architects: Vitzhum and Burns.
The exuberant lobby decorations at One North LaSalle embody classic Art Deco style. 

The heart of the book consists of 101 “Key Designs” commissioned, designed, distributed in the Chicago region between 1910 to 1950, the peak of Art deco movement. It also includes five thematic essays detailing the development and particular character of Art Deco in Chicago, to the way Chicagoans rediscovered the work that we now call Art Deco.

Friday Finds: Founders and Frontiersmen

Robert G. Ferris’ 1967 book Founders and Frontiersmen: Historic Places Commemorating Early Nationhood and the Westward Movement, 1783-1828 explores the early years of the United States, providing a history and analysis of how more can Founders and Frontiersmenbe learned about the men and the nation from the architecture.  Ferris seeks to provide a survey of historic sites in the U.S., and hopes “that citizens will use the volumes in this series to seek out and visit sites of interest to them” in order to help encourage preservation (Pg. xii).

Ferris begins the book by providing historical context to better understand the sites he uses as examples in the second part of the book.  The historical overview is crucial for making readers understand why the sites Ferris discusses are important and worthy of preservation.  The vast majority of the book is spent on the sites themselves, with some attention to what is learned from each one and how it contributes to American history, as in the case of Harpers Ferry National Historical Park in Maryland.  Ferris gives a broad and short description of the history, as well as explaining the park itself and the surrounding area.  Interestingly, Ferris leaves out some important elements from the story of Harpers Ferry: he denounces John Brown as only a man “who conceived himself as an instrument of providence…[and] led a violent raid on the town that helped goad the Nation closer to civil war” (Pg. 162).  While what Ferris said isn’t untrue, it leaves out important parts of the story.  John Brown did believe he was given divine permission to murder, specifically he believed it was time to bring the struggles over slavery to a head. Brown was, in fact, a fierce abolitionist who then turned to murder to try to achieve his goals.  There are some instances like this throughout Founders and Frontiersmen, where Ferris provides his own interpretation without presenting the full story.  This is less surprising, especially in the case of Harpers Ferry, when considering the book was published at the height of the Civil Rights Movement and fear of similar violence over race reached a zenith.  But overall, Ferris’ overviews are useful and provide that information which best adds to his argument for preservation.

Founders and Frontiersmen makes a compelling argument for the importance of these historic places, and thereby argues effectively for their continued preservation.  Ferris provides a fantastic overview, showing that the early United States was chaotic – a young nation finding its way in an experimental form of government, freshly broken away from the superpower of the day.  Many colonists fought for independence and the promise of a greater destiny in the American Revolution.  Ferris explains how that destiny then translated into the idea of Manifest Destiny: the notion that the United States was meant to expand westward.  But despite all this spirit and belief in American greatness, some of the architecture, particularly that of the capital city, is inspired by foreign buildings, a fact which Ferris hints at but never fully states. Greek elements are clear in the Capitol building, as well as in Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello.  Yet there are uniquely American elements to each building, too.  The octagonal shape of Monticello  is distinctive and representative of Jefferson’s own tastes.  How did Americans go about adapting and developing their own architectural styles? Did the idea of Manifest Destiny aid in this? What role did climate, materials, and social needs play in developing frontier architecture?  Ferris never satisfactorily answers these questions, and he never fully admits that Americans have a habit of borrowing and building upon the work of others.  The idea of democracy itself was originally Greek, but the Founding Fathers adapted it to a new situation; the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution borrowed ideas from British philosophers John Locke and Thomas Hobbes.  But in spite of this, no one would say that the Constitution or the Declaration are anything but American documents.

In the popular musical Hamilton, Alexander Hamilton says at one point, “I’m just like my country, I’m young, scrappy, and hungry, and I’m not throwing away my shot.”  Though Hamilton is a piece of historical fiction intended for Broadway, there is some truth to this statement. The Founding Fathers and the frontiersmen had to be, if not young, then at least “scrappy” and “hungry.”  These were men who took on the British army and (after many losses) won and then built a nation.  Frontiersmen faced harrowing experiences themselves while seeking to fulfill the idea of Manifest Destiny – starvation, an unyielding geography and climate, or Native Americans who were understandably mistrustful of Americans – yet they kept moving West until they hit the Pacific Ocean.  The early United States took elements of other nations’ architecture, culture, philosophy, and made it their own, so much so that now democracy, the Capitol, and the frontier house are strongly associated with the narrative of the United States. The Founding Fathers and the frontiersmen refused to throw away their shot: they adapted and created buildings, governments, and ways of thinking about American destiny that, though perhaps not entirely American in origin, are now closely intertwined with the American consciousness.  Today, Americans are known for their creativity, tenacity, and innovation, in part because of United States history and belief in itself; contemporary generations have shown themselves to be just as scrappy, just as hungry, and just as unwilling to throw away their shot at shaping the American narrative, landscape, and destiny as those who came before.

New Books for Winter Reading

First, I would like to call attention to William Allin Storrer’s two new books on Frank Lloyd Wright that just arrived – Frank Lloyd Wright: Creating American Architecture and Frank Lloyd Wright: Designing Democratic America. Storrer notes in both works, “It is, too, a personal memoir and distillation of what my 66 years ‘with Frank Lloyd Wright’ has come to mean to me” (Designing Democratic America, IV; Creating American Architecture, III). Each work focuses on domestic architecture – Creating American Architecture specifically on Wright’s Prairie architecture and Designing Democratic America on his Usonian designs.

Storrer, William Allin. Frank Lloyd Wright: Creating American Architecture. With D. Dominique Watts and Rich Johnson. Traverse City, MI: WineWright Media, 2015. Storrer, William Allin. Frank Lloyd Wright Designing Democratic America. Traverse City, MI: WineWright Media, 2015.

The other two books I selected to share pertain to cities – Chicago and Florence, though they will be of interest to  historians, architects, and urban planners.

Betancur, John J. and Janet L. Smith. Claiming Neighborhood: New Ways of Understanding Urban Change. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 2016.

betancurBetancur and Smith examine Chicago as a case study for understanding the history and future of neighborhoods. They write:

We argue that current theories – the tools used by academics and policy makers to explain how and why neighborhoods change – limit our ability to interpret what is actually happening while at the same time advancing in a veiled form a specific position or point of view and mandate. In particular, long-standing assumptions about what a neighborhood is and its importance in our lives rely on an image from the past that never existed and ignores or hides the realities on the ground. (pg. vii)

Atkinson, Niall. The Noisy Renaissance: Sound, Architecture, and Florentine Urban Life. University Park, PA: The Pennsylvania State University, 2016.

I am particularly excited about Niall Atkinson’s book on Renaissance Florence.  While I was not anticipating his work, I find medieval and Renaissance Florence incredibly engaging and it is always one of my favorite sections to teach. I am curious how The Noisy Renaissance will either act as a companion piece to Marvin Trachtenberg’s Dominion of the Eye: Urbanism, Art, and Power in Early Modern Florence by enhancing our understanding of Renaissance Florence or perhaps challenge Trachtenberg’s interpretation of the city experience. Atkinson writes:

The Renaissance city was by no means a quiet place. In a variety of ways atkinsonit spoke directly to its inhabitants, who, irresistibly, were drawn to speak back. With its buildings and spaces, walls and gates, doors and windows, it facilitated and obstructed the flow of information, the dissemination of official messages, the telling of stories, the performance of music, the rhythm of prayer, the trade in secrets, and the low-frequency murmur of rumors, lies, and gossip. The built environment was not a stage upon which a discordant urban drama played out, but the very medium that gave that drama form, shaped its meaning, and modulated its towns. The city expressed the most compelling aspects of its design when people danced on its surfaces, crowded its spaces, poked holes in its walls, and upended its hierarchical organizations. And it is through these exchanges that we can learn a great deal not only about how contemporaries understand the buildings and spaces that surrounded them, but how they participated in a collective dialogue that continually reinforced, undermined, and reconfigured architectural meaning (pg. 4).

Explore UT at the Architecture and Planning Library

Explore UT,  that carnival of an open house, that invasion of miniature wide eyed students and their exhausted parents,  whose scale rivals the world’s fair, will be held on campus one month from today on Saturday March the 5th.  In order to do our part to help recruit some new students for the university and the School of Architecture, we at the Architecture and Planning Library have prepared a few quasi educational sideshows. There will be materials for coloring, a game to test your knowledge of fictional architecture, and a clown who will show you how to make a simple book. The activities will be held in the library’s reading room in Battle Hall from 11-5, except the book making which will be held from 12-3.  If you don’t care for activities, then the classical beauty and grandeur of Battle Hall should be reason enough to pay us a visit, and should also be far more compelling to an impressionable young student than any game could be. Come explore our library!




Stuff and Things: Bethlehem Steel

Bethelem_SpecialCollectionsWhile in Special Collections last week, I happened to look up and I caught sight of the word “Bethlehem” on one the supporting beams.  And then I got super excited, which may not be everyone’s reaction.

Prior to the Architecture and Planning Library, I worked at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, PA. Whenever I told people that I lived in Bethlehem, their reaction was usually: Oh like Mad Men.

If you are familiar with the episode, New Amsterdam (Season One), you might remember that Bethlehem, PA was home to Bethlehem Steel.  And I am madly in love with the factory ruins. The history of the steel mill is complicated, and I am an outsider. However, I care very deeply about the town and the factory. BSteel_LogoI recognize, however,  that my appreciation for the site comes from a different place than those that worked at the steel mill and lived in Bethlehem while it was in operation.  Whenever the weather was good, I would  walk home from the university and cross the New Street Bridge to the north side of town. I often would pause for moment, captivated by stacks. Occasionally, they would be artfully illuminated at night and would glow the like the Emerald City in the Wizard of Oz.

If you are intrigued by the photos, Lehigh University Libraries has two projects that seek to document the history associated with the steel mill and Bethlehem, PA. The first is Beyond Steel: An Archive of Lehigh Valley Industry and Culture. The second is Still Looking for You: A Bethlehem Place + Memory Project. Or feel free to stop by and chat about the projects and the site.

Online Exhibit Coming Soon

APL  and the Alexander Architectural Archives are working on a mini online exhibit to highlight some of the travel watercolors produced by Charles W. Moore. The exhibit will be hosted here on Battle Hall Highlights.  As part of the exhibit, we would like to include current SOA faculty and student work as it relates to your travel experiences. A submission might include a drawing, sketch, excerpt from a travel journal, watercolor, or photograph.

If you would like to contribute to the exhibit please send the image with your name, year if you are a student, and caption as you would like it to appear to jaberle[]. The deadline for submission is August 14, 2015. By submitting your work, you are granting APL the right to publish your work on Battle Hall Highlights.