Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Today's archidose #771

Here are some photos of Highway A-16 Tunnel Section 4-5-6 (1998) in St. Ursanne, Switzerland by Renato Salvi and Flora Ruchat-Roncati, photographed by Trevor Patt.





Update 07.31: Photos of the Glovelier entrance, also photographed by Trevor Patt:





To contribute your Flickr images for consideration, just:
:: Join and add photos to the archidose pool, and/or
:: Tag your photos archidose

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

New Blog: Unpacking My Library

Last week I started a new blog, titled Unpacking My Library. It's basically a weeding out of books from my ever-growing library by writing briefly about one of them every day. The latest post from the new blog will show up in the left column here. Read more about the Unpacking My Library blog below.

[Unpacking My Library, the book; the first post on my new blog]

About Unpacking My Library:
Although the title of this blog is taken from Walter Benjamin's well-known essay from Illuminations, "Unpacking My Library: A Talk about Book Collecting" (PDF link), my goal is personal rather than intellectual.

I have a lot of books (over 1,200 cataloged on LibraryThing) but not enough room for them, so to help me determine what books to keep and what books to give away (or sell) I'm going through my books one by one to try to determine the value each holds for me.

So at the rate of roughly one book per day I'll be highlighting one book from my library with a photograph, a description of where I got it, some words on its value (or lack thereof), and a star rating. Books will be labeled by subject, publication date, author and other keywords, but suffice to say most of the books are on architecture and related subjects.

So hopefully this exercise will help determine if a book is worth keeping or passing on to another reader for their own library. And hopefully whoever happens to read this blog will discover some books of interest in the process.

Monday, 28 July 2014

St. Mark's New Home

St. Mark's Bookshop, a staple near Cooper Union since the late 70s, was in the news a few years ago when the school – its landlord – raised rent for the sizable space to over $20,000/month. The store successfully got a rent reduction, but it started looking for a new, smaller location shortly thereafter, according to DNAinfo. That new location is 136 East Third Street in the East Village, in a just-opened space designed by Clouds Architecture Office.

[Images courtesy of Clouds Architecture Office]

I haven't ventured to see the store in person, but the photos of the space make me want to head over there right away. White bookcases peel away and undulate in plan to contain a bathroom and office space on one side of the store (see plan at bottom) and free up space in the middle for events.

I especially like the section of the bookcases, which are angled at the bottom to allow for easier browsing by standing patrons.

I've updated my NYC Bookstores post to reflect the new location of St. Mark's Bookshop.

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Galeria Melissa + SOFTlab

Yesterday I found myself in SoHo so I stopped by Brazilian shoemaker Melissa's store on Greene Street to check out a colorful installation by SOFTlab.

Galeria Melissa + SOFTlab

Called We Are Flowers, to coincide with a collection from Melissa of the same name, the installation consists of over 20,000 translucent flowers attached to a suspended frame (a mylar net) that billows from the front to the back of the store.

Galeria Melissa + SOFTlab

The translucent pieces overlap to blur any distinct blue, red, orange, green or yellow pieces, bringing the installation close to what SOFTlab describes as "the enchantment of a vibrant hanging garden."

Galeria Melissa + SOFTlab

In the middle of the store the arches stay above shoppers' heads, but at the back of the store it descends into the basement level.

Galeria Melissa + SOFTlab

Here it is like a vortex of color...

Galeria Melissa + SOFTlab

as if the (underused, I feel) elliptical yellow space is drawing all of the petals to the light at the bottom.

Galeria Melissa + SOFTlab

While the effect of being underneath a canopy of colorful flowers is nice...

Galeria Melissa + SOFTlab

the play of light and color and form on the white walls is a great effect that unites installation and store/wrapper*.

Galeria Melissa + SOFTlab

*Melissa's NYC flagship store was realized in 2012 by designer Domingos Pascali and Edson Matsuo in collaboration with MW Arquitetura and Eight Inc.

Friday, 25 July 2014

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Book Review: Two Tschumi Titles

Notations: Diagrams and Sequences by Bernard Tschumi
Artifice Books on Architecture, 2014
Hardcover, 304 pages

Tschumi Parc de la Villette by Bernard Tschumi
Artifice Books on Architecture, 2014
Paperback, 240 pages

This summer appears to be a busy time for 70-year-old architect Bernard Tschumi, at least in terms of exhibitions and publications. He has a major retrospective at the Centre Pompidou in Paris (closing July 28), an exhibition at the FRAC Centre (until October 8), and no less than three books are being released, one of them from the Pompidou on the retrospective and two of them from the publisher Artifice Books on Architecture; the latter books are discussed here.

[Page from Notations on The Manhattan Transcripts]

In the preface to Notations, a collection of Tschumi's drawings on over 40 projects, the architect clearly states he never uses the word "sketch," only "notation." The difference may seem negligible, but it has as much to do with attitude as with semantics. For Tschumi sees his drawings – done with his sketchbook (notationbook?) balancing on his knee rather than flat on a table – as "a form of notating the mind's activity." The combination of drawing in a relaxed manner anytime and anywhere (in a taxi, on the subway, by the pool) and seeing drawings as a way to articulate thoughts (get them out of the mind and onto paper) leads to a prioritization of idea over aesthetics. Hence notation, like a shorthand for ideas and concepts, over sketches, often associated with envisioning what a piece of architecture looks like.

[Page from Notations on The Sequential House]

Of course Tschumi's choice of words applies most clearly and directly to his early projects, such as The Manhattan Transcripts (top image) and The Sequential House (image above), where their theoretical and not-to-be-built nature allowed some freedom in terms of form and representation. But things changed (in more ways than one) with Tschumi winning the 1982 competition for the Parc de la Villette in Paris. In terms of drawings, we see the notations describing the three-part concept of points, lines and surfaces, as well as how events unfold cinematically along the park's promenade (image below)...

[Page from Notations on Parc de la Villette]

But further elaboration, particularly in concern to the red folies that dot the park (image below), follows, and here we see Tschumi using drawings like other architects, to flesh out ideas of form and appearance. Tschumi is aware of this, as he states in the preface that the book "is not intended to celebrate the fetishism often associated with the architectural sketch, but rather to demonstrate the conceptual sequence that makes up the architectural project."

The more than 300 drawings that convey this conceptual sequence are arranged chronologically – by start date of each project, it should be noted. There is a consistent hand throughout the book, though it is a bit more relaxed in the later projects, perhaps inadvertently expressing the reliance on younger architects in Tschumi's New York/Paris offices to flesh out the architectonic details beyond the parti stage. Whatever the case, very few architects will have their sketches/notations put into book form, and this one is as strong an argument for hand drawing as any "fetishistic" account of the still important skill.

[Page from Notations on Parc de la Villette]

There are 40-odd more projects in Notations, but whatever buildings Tschumi has subsequently been able to pull off in his career, he will always be known for Parc de la Villette (is it any wonder red defines the architect, his website, his publications, etc.?). Completed in its entirety 16 years (!) after winning the competition in 1982, the park can be considered 15 years old or 30, depending on one's view. Tschumi's ideas, while harking back to Constructivist architecture, were definitely a departure from the Postmodernism prevalent at the time of the competition. But 16 years later the "style" of Deconstructivism and the influence of Jacques Derrida's Deconstruction had waned, making the park as much a relic of its time as a forward-thinking "urban park" for the late 20th century and beyond.

[Page from Parc de la Villette with winter photo]

The book, which takes on a large, square shape akin to the grid of the folies and the red panels that cover their surfaces, is arranged conceptually rather than chronologically. The book is not so much a story about the project's realization (there are no troubled politics or construction photos – well, only three small ones – to be found) but a narrative of its ideas. Chapters are, for example, "Points Lines Surfaces," "Systems and Superpositions," "Concept of the Folie," and "Cinematic Promenade."

[Page from Parc de la Villette with notations of points, lines and surfaces]

A good chunk of the book is devoted to the red folies – the points – each one labeled (L2, L3, etc.) and documented with a photograph, plans and elevations. Each one also includes information on how it is used, something that gets at the original Deconstruction-inspired idea of the park, where meaning (program) is not absolute. A given form does not have a given program (and vice versa) in Tschumi's park, so some of them evolve over time, such as N6, which initially served as a gardening center, and subsequently was used as a restaurant, children's workshop and now park offices.

[Page from Parc de la Villette with renderings of a couple folies]

The voluminous collection of drawings, renderings, photographs and essays (by Anthony Vidler and Jacques Derrida) makes the book a similar document to Notations. It "demonstrate[s] the conceptual sequence that makes up the architectural project," but in this case on one career-making and -defining project rather than many projects over a long career.

[Page from Parc de la Villette with fireworks designed by Tschumi]