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.

New Books: The Art of Bar Design

Art of Bar Design_CoverIn this week’s batch of new recruits to the collection is this gem of a book, The Art of Bar Design, featuring a forward by  Natali Canas del Pozo and stunning photographs of each of the highlighted bars.  The book identifies four types of bars and the distinct styles within each category: cocktail bars, restaurant bars, nightclubs, and breweries and wine bars.

In the forward, Canas del Pozo writes about how “bars have historically been (even more so than The Art of Bar Design_The Abysschurches) the main interior spaces for people to gather and meet,” and bars must be physically inviting and be comfortable to people who are there for a variety of reasons (pg. 004).  The bars discussed in the book are located all over the world, from Hong Kong to Munich to Seattle.  There is a brief analysis written about each bar, but mostly Canas del Pozo lets the pictures have the final word.

Starting with cocktail bars, comfort and a sense of intimacy seem to be crucial to a good bar design.  It’s comfortable, where people can sit for hours during an evening out, but the finishes are also key.  The location is also key in designing some of those finishes, as in the case of the Blue Wave Cocktail Bar in Barcelona, which sits on the edge of the water in Barcelona’s port, and the backsplash behind the bar appropriately mimics seashells.  Similarly, restaurant bars are The Art of Bar Design_Opheliadesigned to have a welcoming warmth to them that blends in with the rest of the restaurant.  Everything here goes along with the meal experience, rather than the bar being the center of everything as in cocktail bars and nightclubs.  Some of the most opulent bars are at nightclubs. where the bar is frequently a statement piece that occupies much of a room.  One example in particular stands out: Ophelia in Hong Kong, where the decor features peacock feathers.  The nightclub as a whole is a spectacle and the photographs are stunning.  Finally, breweries and wine bars are places where the alcohol itself is highlighted.  The atmosphere is frequently laid back and epitomizes the culture of the brewery or winery.  Patrons are there purely to enjoy and sample the drinks, rather than socialize in the same way as at a nightclub.  And the bars at breweries and wine bars reflect that through their focus on the process of brewing and making wine (e.g. through display of wine barrels and the ability to see the brewery from the tap room).

This is a really interesting look at spaces that people often do not consider when out at restaurants and bars.  Depending on the purpose of the space, the location and size of the bar varies.  The bar is the heart of a nightclub and a cocktail bar, where people often go to socialize, whether with friends or to meet new people, and the bar must be reflective of that.  While at a restaurant or a brewery, the bar itself is an important part of the eating and drinking experience, but one that is not at the heart of the experience.  All the same, the design of the bar says a lot about the business, its culture, its audience, its taste, and what people do while there.  So next time you go out, whether to a club or a bar or a restaurant, notice how the bar is designed.  How well does it fit with the rest of the business?  Where is it located within the space, is it at the center of all with comfortable stools, or is it an aside where there is only space to stand?  What are the finishes like?  What kind of statement does it make about the space and the people who work and frequent there?  You’ll probably never look at a bar quite the same way again.

Southern Architect and Building News Project Update

Hello, People of the Blogosphere!  We’ve been very busy working on a number of projects this summer, one of which has been the Southern Architect and Building News digitization project.

Part of what’s so neat about this project is that we get to collaborate with other wonderful folks around the UT Libraries.  The downside of this is that it means we have to coordinate and make decisions together about the workflow, standards, and overall goals.  This does make it take a bit longer than if all the work were happening in-house here at the Library.

IMG_5243
Picking up digitized volumes of SABN!

So far, we have sent several batches of about 10 volumes over to our friends in Digitization Services to be scanned and ingested into the Data Asset Management System (DAMS).  They have input some metadata for us, but part of what we have to decide here at the Library is what our metadata schema will look like.  There is a lot of information we could include in our metadata, so we have to make some choices about what will be most meaningful to our end users and how much information it is realistic to enter for each item.

IMG_5257
Packed to go to PCL!

The last batch of Southern Architect has been sent to PCL to be digitized, which is pretty exciting!  Once this is finished we will pick them up and they will join the rest of Southern Architect to await metadata entry!  Currently all the already digitized copies of Southern Architect are back at the Library, so once the paged content issues with the DAMS are fixed, we should be ready to go all-in on metadata!   

We’re slowly working our way through some of the issues with the DAMS.  This project is for the long haul, so it is going to take some time to get Southern Architect and Building News digitized and available online.  But, we also known what a special publication it is and how fascinating it is and its value to architectural history!  We can’t wait to keep working to make sure every one can see for themselves what makes Southern Architect so special and important!

The Volz & Associates, Inc. Collection: Born-Digital Initiatives at the AAA

One of the many structures VOH Architects worked on: the Littlefield House on the University of Texas at Austin campus.
One of the many structures VOH Architects worked on: the Littlefield House on the University of Texas at Austin campus.

Hello! My name is Abbie Norris, and I am the current digital archives Graduate Research Assistant at the Alexander Architectural Archives. My primary job is processing the born-digital content received in the Volz & Associates, Inc. collection. This collection contains the records of the Volz & Associates, Inc. architecture firm, which is focused primarily on preserving and restoring historic buildings and interiors. The collection showcases notable buildings from Texas and United States history and is an excellent resource to discover how much is needed to keep historic buildings authentic and alive.

A gray CD reading "Images for Volz: Elisabet Ney Museum, April 2007"
A sample CD from the collection. Born-digital archiving requires preservation two ways: retention of the original media and capture of the data for long-term storage.

The Volz Collection is significant to the Alexander for several reasons, but most importantly, it is the archive’s first large-scale born-digital accession. In addition to analog records and building materials, the collection includes roughly 450 floppy disks, 250 CDs, 90 zip disks, and one lone flash drive. These materials document the life of the firm from the early 1980s to the mid 2010s. So far, we have imaged over 100 filetypes representing everything from office files to construction reports to historic photographs. It’s a diverse array, and as the project moves forward, we’re faced with many questions about how best to provide access to researchers.

As diverse as the filetypes are the kinds of buildings included in the collection – though many are tied by one important identity. Volz  worked on buildings of many functions, styles, and preservation needs. While these buildings span the United States, the majority of them are located in Texas. Included are the Governor’s Mansion, the Alamo, the Lyndon B. Johnson Ranch, and the Alexander’s own Battle Hall. I love working with this visual representation of Texas history. Whether it’s by noticing design similarities between county courthouses or the way historic landmarks are used and maintained, the collection is an in-depth look into how architecture shapes our state and its identity.

Scaffolding covers a green dome atop a white tower.
Restoration underway on the Colorado County Courthouse dome. Photo credit: Volz O’Connell Hutson Architects, (http://voharchitects.com/projects/colorado-county-courthouse/).

In my four months of working with this collection, I’ve learned an incredible amount about both the intricacies of born-digital archiving and the breadth of work architects do. Through the frustration of software bugs and the triumph of imaging previously unreadable disks, this is a fascinating collection that provides many learning opportunities.

The next steps of the project are to finalize the creation of a finding aid for these born-digital materials and to determine methods of access once the collection is published. Check back here soon for collection updates and an in-depth look at the world of born-digital archiving at the Alexander Architectural Archives!

New Books: Constructing the Patriarchal City

Constructing the Patriarchal CityOne of our exciting New Books this week is Constructing the Patriarchal City: Gender and the Built Environments of London, Dublin, Toronto, and Chicago, 1870s into the 1940s by Maureen A. Flanagan.  Bringing together societal gender norms and architecture, Flanagan explores how gender dynamics influenced the primarily male-built environments in four cities, London, Dublin, Toronto, and Chicago.  The book examines the contrast between the more feminine private sphere and the male public, and how men made intentional efforts to design public spaces to limit women’s ability to maneuver outside the home.

Split into two parts, Flanagan uses Part I to cover the history of city planning and gender boundaries and norms.  Importantly, for much of history, women were considered the property of their fathers or husbands, and thus could not own property in their own right.  Yet, slowly, a “new urban single woman [emerged]: working in a factory by day, spending her money by night, unescorted and dancing with unfamiliar men” (pg. 47).  But there were also men who were becoming more mobile, and less attached to traditional views of masculinity, the “hardworking male who supported his family and obeyed the law” (pg. 47).  Tracking such shifts in society as well as the resulting changes in the architecture in London, Dublin, Toronto, or Chicago.  Housing was one of the major areas where gender dynamics were at play.  In one interesting example, a woman named Octavia Hill from London devoted her time to improving housing conditions in the city, focusing “on how a building was used by its residents and how people lived in the city, rather than how a building was designed, [which] clashed with the ideas of men building the model tenements” (pg. 33).  So, Flanagan shows how women contributed to architecture, even if many of those ideas were never implemented by the men who actually designed cities.

In Part II, Flanagan does in-depth case studies of the main gender-driven divides in London, Dublin, Toronto, and Chicago.  For example, in London, public toilets were a point of conflict, because “vestries had furnished public toilets for men, but most of them refused to do so for women,” or women had to pay fees for entering the facilities (pg. 124).  There was fierce opposition to women’s public toilets because it “would symbolize women’s right to be wherever, and whenever, they wanted in the city…[and] expressions against that…were gendered notions of women’s appropriate behavior,” and appropriate behavior did not include freedom in public spaces (pg. 125).  Even something as fundamental to human function as restrooms were used to control women’s movements around London.  Similar stories are included in the other case studies, showing how such intentional decisions by men were influenced by and reinforced gender stereotypes to ensure that women remained primarily in the private sphere.  Flanagan concludes that “the built environments of London, Dublin, Toronto, and Chicago have been historically and continuously reconstructed to exclude or obstruct women from equal movement into and through the city’s public spaces and to contain them as much as possible in the private place of the home” (pg. 262).  She also encourages architects, urban planners, politicians, and others involved in urban planning processes to acknowledge these patriarchal spaces and work to better include women’s voices in the efforts to reshape and adapt cities to contemporary needs.

For as long as the profession has existed, architecture has been one of the “good ole’ boy” clubs.  What is unique about Flanagan’s Constructing the Patriarchal City is that she shows how this ever-persistent patriarchy has been written into the built world, too.  Not only have women in the field of architecture often been granted limited opportunities for input (if any at all), but by shutting them out of the designing of cities, urban spaces are designed almost exclusively by and for males rather than as inclusive spaces.  In recent years, architecture and related professions have made an effort to increase their diversity, a worthy ambition, especially in light of Flanagan’s analysis of just how pervasive the patriarchy is in architecture.  When women, and other groups that have been shut out of the city planning process, are given the opportunity to influence architecture and planning, patriarchal cities become more navigable and inclusive to all.

Special Projects: Southern Architect and Building News

Southern ArchitectHere at the Architecture and Planning Library, we have long been obsessed with fascinated by our impressive collection of Southern Architect and Building News journals.  Printed from approximately the late 1880s to the early 1930s, Southern Architect was published to highlight the architecture and architectural news of the Southern United States, with similar content to American Architect.  Our Special Collections contains the largest known collection of Southern Architect ranging in date from 1892 to 1931.

The journal itself contains articles and advertisements relating to all things architecture in the South.  The articles include pieces on homes and buildings around the South, complete with drawings and/or photographs.  Taken together, Southern Architect documents trends in architecture, society, technology, and advertising that make it an important part of architectural history.

It has been a longtime goal of our Librarian, Dr. Katie Pierce Meyer, to digitize Southern Architect.  We’re so pleased that we have finally received funding to do so!  We are currently working with the Head of Digitization Services for UT Libraries, Anna Lamphear, and her team to digitize and make available on the UT work-in-progress Data Asset Management System.  Digitization Services is producing high quality, searchable scans of the journal and then uploading them to the DAMS.

The digitization is going much faster than we anticipated, so we are now in the process of adding further metadata on the digitized issues.  Part of that process is developing a workflow and a standard for our metadata.  Our Digital Initiatives GRA, Zach, Dr. Katie, and I are currently working on identifying the most important metadata attributes and creating a standard for us to follow as we all work on entering metadata.

This project is still in its early stages, so that’s all I can say for now about it.  But, we’re really excited about finally getting Southern Architect digitized and making it accessible, and we hope you’re excited too!  Stay tuned for more news on this awesome project!

 

New Books: Why Are Most Buildings Rectangular?

Why Are Most Buildings Rectangular?Why Are Most Buildings Rectangular?  New to our humble little abode this week is Philip Steadman’s Why Are Most Buildings Rectangular?  And Other Essays on Geometry and Architecture.  Bringing together “a dozen of Philip Steadman’s essays and papers on the geometry of architectural and urban form, written over the last 12 years…[with] two larger themes: a morphological approach to the history of architecture, and studies of possibility in built form” (pg. i).  Steadman explores a number of different topics in the book, including different types of buildings (e.g. penitentiary, department store buildings, multi-story garages), the role of energy and urbanism in the built form, mapping the built world, and architectural theory.  For our purposes, the most interesting question posed in the book, one which is discussed in many architecture classes at UT’s School of Architecture, is “why are most buildings rectangular?”  It is a simple enough question with a complicated answer.

At the beginning of this titular essay, Steadman explains that what he means by asking “why are most buildings rectangular” is “why is the geometry of the majority of buildings predominantly rectangular?” (pg. 3-4).  He also asks why buildings are vertical, reasoning that a good deal of this “has much to do with the force of gravity…[since] floors are flat so that we, and pieces of furniture, can stand easily on them” (pg. 4).  Steadman lists three main hypotheses that he received from his mathematician and architect colleagues as to why buildings tend to be rectangular: the first suggests that architectural instruments “make it easier to draw rectangles than other shapes,” and the same is true of more ancient tools, though Steadman notes that buildings were rectangular even before these tools were invented, so the explanation is inadequate; the second theory is that the answer lies in “western mathematical conceptions of three-dimensional space – with the geometry of Euclid, and with the superimposition onto mental space of the orthogonal coordinate systems of Descartes,” but again, Steadman questions “what about all those rectangular buildings produced in non-western cultures…who had absolutely no knowledge of western geometrical theory?”; and the final theory argues that “the cause is to be found yet deeper still in our psychology, and has to do with the way in which we conceptualize space in relation to the layout, mental image and functioning of our own bodies” and our creation of two axes of vision, the same way our eyes, legs, arms, and ears have “bilateral symmetry” (pg. 5).  Steadman calls this last hypothesis “very hypothetical,” but acknowledges that, if true, it would explain the human preference for rectangular buildings throughout time and space, unlike the other two (pg. 6).

Steadman next explores examples of non-rectangular architecture, including Mongolian yurts, Mandan earth lodges, and Neolithic Japanese shelters.  Additionally, many religious structures are not wholly rectangular, but feature some kind of circular plan in the midst of it, or it comes to the shape of a cross.  Similarly, ships are not rectangular.  Steadman notes that the idea of buildings as being rectangular is shifting, frequently referring to Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, describing it as more “free-form.”  But, Steadman concludes, in “certain classically planned buildings with many rectangular rooms…there can be spaces deep in the interior, such as central halls, whose plans are circular, polygonal or elliptical” (pg. 9).  So even though spaces blend different geometric shapes, it often comes out to the same thing: a rectangle.  Steadman also examines the impact of “packing,” where shapes are stacked together, like squares among rectangles or octagons.  By considering the geometry of these patterns, Steadman argues that the flexibility of the rectangle as a shape in fitting with other shapes is likely part of why it is a fundamental part of architecture.

Why Are Most Buildings Rectangular? concludes with Steadman pondering why homes transitioned from primarily circular one-room spaces to rectangles.  He notes the easy construction of circular homes and their self-supporting nature as assets.  But, Steadman argues, ” with increasing wealth there would be a change, at some point in time, from single-room to multi-room houses,” making the circular home less practical (pg. 17).  Though rectangular structures make the tight packing of spaces efficient and easy (perfect for more urban settings), Steadman predicts that more architects will drift away from rectangularity.  To them, “the rectangular discipline imposed by the necessary constraints of the close packing of rooms…to be an irksome prison, and they try to escape from it” (pg. 17).  Instead, many architects lend their talents to designing spaces that can be treated more creatively, more “sculpturally,” allowing them to play more with geometry than they could otherwise (pg. 17).

Steadman’s answer to “why are most buildings rectangular” is both philosophical and mathematical.  He questions how much of it has to do with human So, is rectangularity such a bad thing?  Is it good?  Or is it just tradition?  Perhaps modern architecture is moving away from rectangularity towards a more geometrically open style.  And yet blending and playing with geometric shapes is nothing new: ancient churches feature ovals and octagons as well as rectangles, and Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello features octagons and triangles within its rectangular frame.  But architects are challenging rectangularity in structures in new ways and adapting to new technologies and societal needs.  As the built world continues to expand and change, we can expect to see architects having more fun with geometry than ever before.

New Books: Too Good To Choose From…

We have a slight problem, though it is the best kind of problem for a library to have: this week’s batch of new books are simply too good to pick from, so we’ll cheat and highlight several!  We have been getting some fantastic books lately about the intersection and symbiotic relationship between culture and architecture, but we’ve also noticed a lot of more philosophical and historical texts coming into our collection.  So here’s a few of the new books that are coming into the Library this week that emphasize these themes, and a few that don’t.

Building From Tradition: Local materials and Methods in Contemporary Architecture by Elizabeth M. Golden

Building from Tradition examines the recent resurgence of interest in the handmade building and the use of local and renewable materials in contemporary construction. In the past, raw materials were shaped to provide shelter and to accommodate the cultural, social, and economic needs of individuals and communities. This is still true today as architects, engineers, and builders turn once again to local resources and methods, not simply for constructing buildings, but also as a strategy for supporting social engagement, sustainable Building From Traditiondevelopment, and cultural continuity.  Building from Tradition features global case studies that allow readers to understand how building practices—developed and refined by previous generations—continue to be adapted to suit a broad range of cultural and environmental contexts. The book provides: a survey of historical and technical information about geologic and plant-based materials such as: stone, earth, reed and grass, wood, and bamboo; 24 detailed case studies examining the disadvantages and benefits to using traditional materials and methods and how they are currently being integrated with contemporary construction practices.”

New Islamist Architecture and Urbanism: Negotiating Nation and Islam Through Built Environment in Turkey by Bulent Batuman

New Islamist Architecture and Urbanism claims that, in today’s world, New Islamist Architecture and Urbanisma research agenda concerning the relation between Islam and space has to consider the role of Islamism rather than Islam in shaping – and in return being shaped by – the built environment.  The book tackles this task through an analysis of the ongoing transformation of Turkey under the rule of the pro-Islamic Justice and Development Party.  In this regard, it is a topical book: a rare description of a political regime’s reshaping of urban and architectural forms whilst the process is alive.  Defining Turkey’s transformation in the past two decades as a process of “new Islamist” nation-(re)building, the book investigates the role of the built environment in the making of an Islamist milieu.  Drawing on political economy and cultural studies, it explores the prevailing primacy of nation and nationalism for new Islamism and the spatial negotiations between nation and Islam.  It discusses the role of architecture in the deployment of history in the rewriting of nationhood and that of space in the expansion of Islamist social networks and cultural practices.  Looking at examples of housing compounds, mosques, public spaces, and the new presidential resident, New Islamist Architecture and Urbanism scrutinizes the spatial making of new Islamism in Turkey through comparisons with the relevant cases across the globe: urban renewal projects in Beirut and Amman, nativization of Soviet modernism in Baku and Astana, the presidential palaces of Ashgabat and Putrajaya, and the neo-Ottoman mosques built in diverse locations such as Tokyo and Washington D.C.”

Producing Non-Simultaneity: Construction Sites as Places of Progressiveness and Continuity edited by Eike-Christian Heine and Christoph Rauhut

Producing Non-SimultaneityProducing Non-Simultaneity discusses how the processes of modernization, driven by globalization and market forces, change the political, economic, and technological conditions under which architecture is realized.  The book looks beyond the rhetoric of revolutionary innovation, often put forward by architects and engineers.  It shows how technological change during the last 200 years was only possible because traditional skills and older materials persisted.  The volume argues that building sites have long been showcases of non-simultaneities.  Shedding light on construction of the past and exploring what may impact construction in the future, this book would be a valuable addition for students, research and academics in architecture, architectural history, and theory.”

Where Alvaro Meets Aldo by Hatje Cantz

“As a response to the 2016 Venice Architecture Biennale challenging theme, Portugal presented a site-specific pavilion occupying an urban front in physical and social regeneration at the island of Giudecca.  The pavilion exhibited four notable works by Alvaro Siza on Social Housing – Campo de Marte (Venice); Schilderswijk (The Hague); Schlesisches Tor (Berlin); and Bairro da Bouca (Porto) – revealing his participatory experience with the local inhabitants, and his peculiar understanding of the European city and citizenship.  Those projects have created true ‘places of neighborhood,’ an important subject oWhere Alvaro Meets Aldof the current European political agenda, towards a more tolerant and multicultural society.  This book reveals the curatorial experience that supported the display of those works in the Venice Biennale, including unusual images of Alvaro Siza’s recent visits to those four neighborhoods; but also the major social and urban changes which took place in there: processes triggered by immigration, ghettoization, gentrification, and touristification of cities.”

Architectures of Sound: Acoustic Concepts and Parameters for Architectural Design by Michael FowlerArchitectures of Sound

“Architects are used to designing visually.  To help them expand their basic design tools, this book explores the interactions between sound, space, hearing, and architecture.  To this end, the author uses contemporary and historic buildings and projects, but also fictional, philosophical, and theoretical approaches – the idea is not only to define sound as a source, but also as an instrument of architectural space.  By further introducing a meta-theory of critical listening, the author encourages designers to acoustically test their projects and contribute to their designs with auditory input from the very first stages of the design process.”

Building the Architect’s Character: Explorations in Traits by Kendra Building the Architects CharacterSchank Smith and Albert C. Smith

“An understand of architects’ character traits can offer important insights into how they design buildings.  These traits include leadership skills necessary to coordinate a team, honest and ethical behavior, being well educated and possessing a life-long love of learning, flexibility, resourcefulness, and visionary and strategic thinking. Characteristics such as these describe a successful person. Architects also possess these traits, but they have additional skills specifically valuable for the profession. These will include the ability to question the use of digital media, new materials, processes, and methods to convey meaning in architectural form.  Although not exhaustive, a discussion of such subjects as defining, imaging, persuading, and fabricating will reveal representational meaning useful for the development of an understanding of architects’ character.  Through the analogies and metaphors found in Greek myth, the book describes the elusive, hard-to-define characteristics of architects to engage the dilemmas of a changing architectural landscape.  Building the Architect’s Character: Explorations in Traits examines traditional and archetypal characteristics of the successful architect to ask if they remain relevant today.”

Trajectories of Conflict and Peace: Jerusalem and Belfast Since 1994 by Scott A. Bollens

“This book is about trajectories of urban conflict and peace in the politically polarized cities of Jerusalem and Belfast since 1994 – how Trajectories of Conflict and Peacesometimes there has been hopeful change while at other times debilitating stasis and regression.  Based on extensive research, fieldwork, and interviews, Scott Bollens shows how seeking peace in these cities is shaped by the interaction of city-based actors and national elites, and that it is not just a political process, but a social and spatial one that takes place problematically over an extended period.  He intertwines academic precision with ethnography and personal narrative to illuminate the complex political and emotional kaleidoscopes of these polarized cities.  With hostility and competition among groups defined by ethnic, religious, and nationalistic identity on the increase across the world, this timely investigation contributes to our understanding of today’s fractured cities and nations.”

Blog from the University of Texas Architecture and Planning Library