BUILD Book Review
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BUILD's quick, yet thorough review of the latest stack of design on their shelves.
[All photos by BUILD LLC]
There have been some exceptional books floating around the BUILD World Headquarters, and it’s an excellent time to share a backlog of our favorites. Some of them have been used for specific research purposes, while others were pure design inspiration, but all of them have been incredibly useful. These are the books that stay open on our desks, with bindings broken and pages bookmarked for reference. In our world, books should be used, not merely displayed. If you know us, you know that we like to organize our thoughts into tidy categories, and our books are no exception. Some time has passed since our last review, so the stack is bigger than usual (and sub-categorized). Here’s the quick-hit on 17 titles placed into four classifications.
Contemporary Architecture and Interiors Yearbook 4 by Wim Pauwels, $140
The vision of lifestyle advocated in this book may be unrealistically sparse, but the presentation of concept and detailing is informative, nonetheless. If you can resist being seduced by the dreamy images of the intensely minimal interiors, the book offers a wealth of ideas on cabinetry, materials, and furnishings. The book includes large scale floor plans of each of the projects.
Kerry Hill: Crafting Modernism by Oscar Riera Ojeda, $75
Thames & Hudson Ltd.
If you’re a disciple of the modern philosophy, this book belongs on your shelf (or better yet, open on your desk). Compiling over 30 years of work from Kerry Hill Architects, the book does an extraordinary job of capturing the warm, textured modernism the Australian firm has developed. The projects are big, bold examples of what is capable when clients give an architect the freedom to fully develop a design vision. The format is clean, featuring large photos, while also not shying away from white space on the page. The book includes small plans and sections, as well as concept sketches.
Louis Kahn: House of the Nation by Grischa Ruschendorf, $40
More a guide to architectural photography than design itself (unless you’re noodling on the detailing of 150’ tall concrete walls), the book is an extraordinary example of what can be accomplished when a single structure becomes the focus of a master-photographer. Measuring 11.5” wide by 15.2” tall, the full spread images allow the viewer to engulf themselves in the architecture of the National Assembly building in Dhaka by Louis Kahn.
Marte.Marte: Architecture 1996-2008 by MARTE., $70
This book is pure muse, but we love it anyway. While it might be possible to extract technical design ideas from the content, it serves a better purpose to excite the imagination. The book presents itself as a cryptic black box, and even the way it feels in the hand is foreign from any other book. Once opened, the images jump around, though there is an organization to the content, referred to as “acts.” Diagrammatic plans and elevations are sprinkled throughout.
Tropical Experience: Architecture + Design by Mark de Reus, $50
We recently interviewed Hawaii architect Mark deReus for ARCADE Magazine (stay tuned for the article), and working through his book was an enjoyable part of the homework. Filled with sun-bathed images, the projects reveal an architectural language seldom encountered by most of us mainlanders. Most fascinating is a delicate kit-of-parts which incorporates lava stone, sleek glass walls, and thatched roofs in a modern elegance. Skimming through the book is like taking a mini-vacation. The book includes site plans and perspective renderings.
Houses of Maine: Elliot + Elliott Architecture by Matthew Elliott, $40
Princeton Architectural Press
Full of real houses for real people, the book is small enough that it tucks easily into a messenger bag. The featured projects seem to be important examples of how architecture evolves and refines over the lifetime of a modern design firm. Because of Maine’s temperate climate (the books on tropical design only go so far here in Seattle), many of the design strategies covered are applicable to the architectural thinking here in the Pacific Northwest. The images do a nice job highlighting techniques for glazing and material textures. Site plans, floor plans, and elevations for each of the 6 projects are included.
Midcentury Houses Today by Lorenzo Ottaviano, $65
A wonderful book that covers the preservation, modernization, and re-appropriation of Connecticut’s collection of mid-century-modern residences. Even though some are works from the likes of Marcel Breuer and Phillip Johnson, the images are relatable overall, and the designs seem within grasp. Because the houses represented are at least half a century old now, the photos give a rare look at the weathering and wear of these projects. There is also an important enrollment tool created around the qualities of simplicity, openness, and sensitivity to site. The book includes diagrammatic site and floor plans.
Our House in the City: New Urban Homes and Architecture
by Sofia Borges and Sven Ehnmann and Robert Klanten, $60
Architecture as entertainment might be the best way to describe this book which includes 37 striking projects from around the globe (but mainly Japan). The projects aren’t necessarily pragmatic, or even sensible, but they give the design senses a needed stir. The book includes plans, elevations, and the occasional perspective drawing.
Architecture Now! Houses. Vol. 3 by Philip Jodidio, $60
A piece of pure eye candy, this title contains everything from gritty, down-to-earth dwellings to ridiculously exotic private museum-residences. With the sheer diversity of work represented, there’s an abundance of design data to draw from and enough architectural exploration to lose oneself in the pages. It’s also a collection of work that contemporary architects should be familiar with. The book includes a range of drawing types to accompany the images.
Houses in Finland by Harri Hautajärvi, $65
While it covers 33 different projects, the book is small and easy to digest. Funkier than most stream-lined Scandinavian architectures, the projects tend to focus on some of the more unusual and lesser known examples of residential Finnish design. The applications are down to earth and the design ideas are plentiful. The book includes site plans and diagrammatic floor plans.
Housing+ by Ulrike Wietzorrek, $90
This exquisite book should include a warning label on the cover that reads: “DO NOT ATTEMPT THIS IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.” While the multi-family housing examples featured here are architecturally stimulating, they don’t relate to the financial equations of a developer-driven market. Of the 67 projects, the majority hail from Europe, with two outliers located in the U.S. So, fair warning to our fellow stateside architects, take this book with a grain of salt. That said, a trove of robust images, inspiring design, and meticulous drawings await the reader. The book includes site plans, diagrammatic floor plans, and elevations.
Collective Housing by Sandu Cultural Media, $50
Similar to the concern mentioned in the review above, of the 47 projects featured in this book, North America’s only entry is located in Mexico. The material includes all the right names and covers plenty of fresh design moves but, alas, the projects seem to operate in an exclusive economic environment. The book includes site plans, floor plans and elevations.
Architecture in Northern Landscapes by Todd Saunders, $70
Todd Saunders’ book is important in that it documents a modern way of thinking about design in northern landscapes, but also sheds light on the diversity of environments within this geographical category. Dozens of striking projects range in location from the lush forests of British Columbia, and the unforgiving tundra of Newfoundland, to the dramatic fjords of Norway. The projects present a compelling case for a simple, rugged architecture that still pushes the modern agenda. The book includes diagrammatic plans and sections as well as the occasional process sketch.
Northern Delights: Scandinavian Homes, Interiors and Design by Emma Fexeus and S. Ehmann, $60
While the projects in the book are architecturally compelling, we tend to use the content more as a resource for furnishings and feel. The book does about as good of a job as one could expect with the lived-in image without losing the curation. At the same time, there is an admirable effort toward the weathered and used. Classic Danish furniture is covered, as well as a push for many new pieces by the current generation of Scandinavian designers. Best of all, it’s a client-friendly book that easily enrolls people in the warm modernism we like to foster.
Simply Scandinavian by Sarah Norman$30
Ryland Peters & Small
While it’s a fluffy book, the images are a healthy dose of hygge. While some of the images step alarmingly close to country cottage, there are just enough hints of modernism to keep our interest. What the book does extremely well is demonstrate the furnished Scandinavian lifestyle. With tables set, vases flowered, and the occasional tchotchke out on display, the book illustrates a level of reality that we respect. It’s also full of just good, plain Scandinavian design items for the home.
Sourcebook of Scandinavian Furniture: Designs for the 21st Century by Judith Gura, $60
W. W. Norton & Company
This book is just as the title suggests and it’s a requirement for any office promoting design work with Scandinavian sensibilities. With ten straight-forward categories, the material covers everything from the Poul Kjaerholm PK-22 Chair to Alvar Aalto’s Tea Trolley. The book includes a disk with an image file for each of the pieces.
The Best American Infographics 2014 by Gareth Cook, $20
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
This annual edition will provide page after page of pure bliss for the infographic nerd, giving the reader a binge-worthy buffet of the most provocative and influential informational graphic languages from the past year. The material ranges from the serious (mapping the death toll of Mt. Everest) to the satirical (diagramming the evolution of Justin Bieber). Filled cover to cover with intelligent and beautiful orchestras of images, this book belongs in the collection of anyone design-minded. But also anyone with a coffee table.
A QUICK NOTE: We adamantly support local bookshops and are loyal supporters of urbanism and community. We encourage you to vote with your money and support exceptional book stores like Peter Miller Architectural & Design Books and Supplies in Seattle, Powell’s City of Books in Portland, William Stout Architectural Books in San Francisco, Hennessey+Ingalls Art & Architecture Bookstore in Los Angeles, and many more around the country that foster culture and community.
A QUICK DISCLAIMER: We don’t read all of these books from cover to cover, as we’re busy designing and building things most days. Our reviews are based on a variety of aspects such as how we use the books in our office and how often they end up open on our desks (as opposed to passively sitting on the bookshelf). The reviews are often based on skimming the books or mining them for specific information. We’re not professional writers or book reviewers; we’re just architects that can’t stop talking about architecture. Got a book suggestion or want to be involved in the play by play? Connect with us on Twitter and Instagram.
Cheers from Team BUILD