Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Book - Reading and Writing Architecture


There are new books out on architecture. However this round is on three architecture reading books. Those are not he type of books with a lot of photographs documenting buildings and situations.

Reading architecture is sort of a special area of architecture. In this field architects tend to fall into two groups, the ones that look at books an the ones that read books. There are probably better definitions for such a grouping but this one suits the purpose.

Picture books are quick and easy, it dosen't take a lot of effort and it is simple to jump in and out. They serve well as inspiration as well as reference.

But lets start this slowly and gentle with a Lars Mueller Publisher publication 'Patterns and Structure - Selected Writings' by Guy Nordenson. You can't miss it, as soon as you pick it up, even in the paperback version the structure sits on the cover. It has a real good feeling to it. You get to feel the structure not only read about it.

The book presents collected writings by Guy Nordenson, the structural engineer and professor of architecture and engeniering at Princeton University, covering the period 1972 - 2008. Nordenson writes in a very accessible way about the broader field of engineering and architecture and eventually also commenting on exhibitions and the popular debate around planning. This provides a great insight in a span of 35 years of productive work and extends a personal view to an entire discipline.

The content is structured in five categories inspired mainly by engineering topics, Seismic Design, Pattern and Materials and Tall Buildings. However the two chapters, on Design and Collaborations already point to a open discussion where Nordenson engages beyond his own discipline and starts to build up the connections.

Exactly these bridges between disciplines is what we benefit from, now 30 years on. The built environment has become tremendously complex and planning has become interwoven and interrelated to an extend were disciplines are no longer useful as units. In Nordenson's writings we can also find the built up to this and might be stating to understand were we are at now.

In this sense from 'Patterns and Structures' to interdisciplinary planning and building processes over the past 35 years.

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Journeys is a new Actar publication by architects for architects on 'How traveling Fruit, Ideas and buildings Rearrange our Environment'.

The core topic here is migration, traveling and movement. The different authors explore these topics in different ways and aspects, painting a rich picture with a lot of details and depth.

Even though the context is set rather fictionally and ephemeral the applied methods of documentation and analysation make this publication rather present and real. The documented examples range from knowledge transfer, reconfiguration of communities, and vagabonding seeds to animal species migration.

Pulling a structure across the ice to Conche, Newfoundland
Image taken from CCA / There are new books out on architecture. However this round is on three architecture reading books. Those are not he type of books with a lot of photographs documenting buildings and situations.

Very exemplar is the story the great reconfigurations and movements in Newfoundland around 1965 where communities moved and took their houses with them. Not every body can take their house with them jsut like this, but locally the architecture has adapted to the need to follow fish populations to remote locations in order to keep fishing and has evolved into a rather flexible construction. THis enabled families to pull their house across the ice or even float it across the bay.

Journeys is a riche collection of aspects and stories around movement from leaving to arriving, from take along to leaving behind. The publication accompanies the exhibition with the same name at the Canadian Centre for Architecture (CCA). It is still on, the dates are 20 October 2010 to 13 of March 2011 in case you are in Montreal during this time. Have a look at the preview below.


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Now we are all warm and can take on the third and definitely heaviest book of the three readings. Cognitive Architecture is a new 010 Publishers book edited by Deborah Hauptmann and Warren Neidich. It goes with the subtitle 'From Biopolitics to Noopolitics. Architecture & Mind in the Age of Communication and Information'. Basically this subtitle means it is critically commenting the current debate in the field.

However the current debate is very complicated and divers since none can agree on some topics and theories, everybody has an individual view. This is probably a result of the communication and information age could be the assumption and in this sense the title says it al.

There is more to this and the 588 volume focuses on the body-mind-world discussion with respect to the whole range of thinker and theorists that have already set out cornerstones of this debate. This ranges from the Foucauldian discourse of biopolitics and power to the dualism of Cartesian and Spinozan philosophy and from the Deleuze to Debord or Cage.

The essays are group in the topics Plasticity and Potentiality, Epigenic Reconfigurations, Administering Atention, The Noo-Sensorium and Capitalism and the Mutating Intellect.

Putting all these important, but last century philosophers first does however not mean that the discussion here is directed backwards. Rather the important names are a starting point as well as an anchor point for exloring new teritories. As the title outlines Facebook and Twitter play a similarly important role as Neuroscience, Wexler and edible Architecture.

The book origines in a conference helt at the Delft University of Technology in 2008 and presents the current discurse on cognitive architecture in a very specific and scientific context, but is therefore definitely presenting the latest of this current discusion.

And this discussion is definitely very broad as a lot of development and research currently focus on the self and through virtual gadgets on the mind. The mind-body discussion this publications focuses on is something that the whole location information community is about to explore, just that they don't know yet. The way the physical body experience related to the mental and the presented virtual interaction is definitely theoretically guiding the spatial discussions about the cities we live in the coming years.

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To conclude on the rather suggestive introduction the description given does not suite very. THe three books here demonstrate, that text boks serve well as inspiration, especially long term, ready is as much effort as you make it to be and jumping in and out is no problem especially with edited books. So no more excuses get to read more.


Nordenson, G., 2010. Patterns and Structure: Selected Writings 1973-2008: Selected Writings 1972 2008, Lars Muller Publishers.

Borasi, G. ed., 2010. Journeys: How Travelling Fruit, Ideas and Buildings Rearrange Our Environment, Barcelona: Actar.

Hauptmann, D. & Neidich, W., 2010. Cognitive Architecture: From Bio-politics to Noo-politics: architecture & mind in the age of communication & information, Rotterdam: 010 Publishers.

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