The following in an excerpt from Carter Wiseman’s Writing Architecture: A Practical Guide to Clear Communication about the Built Environment. The book considers the process, methods, and value of architecture writing based on Carter Wiseman’s thirty years of personal experience writing, editing, and teaching young architects how to write. This book creatively tackles a problematic issue that Wiseman considers to crucial to successful architecture writing: clarity of thinking and expression.
Some years ago, a writer for the Chronicle of Higher Education declared, “Too many architecture students can’t write.”  Those students have since gone on to become practitioners, and their inability to write is likely to have had seriously negative professional consequences. Robert Campbell, a Pulitzer Prize–winning architecture critic for the Boston Globe, condemned in Architectural Record much of what even the most prominent practicing architects write as “pretentious illiteracy.” He went on to attack their coded language as “ArchiSpeak”and warned that “sooner or later, architects (and planners and landscapers and urban designers) must convince someone to hire them or at least bless them with a grant. . . . Nobody is going to trust a dollar to a pompous twit.” 
Why do we make models? From sketch maquettes and detail tests to diagrammatic and presentation models, the discipline of physically crafting ideas to scale is fundamental to the architect’s design process. For architect and educator Nick Dunn, architectural models ultimately ”enable the designer to investigate, revise and further refine ideas in increasing detail until such a point that the project’s design is sufficiently consolidated to be constructed.” In Dunn’s second edition of his practical guide and homage to the architectural model, the significance and versatility of this medium is expertly visualised and analysed in a collection of images, explanations, and case studies.
The October issue of a+u introduces 14 recent works from around the globe. In particular, the issue is focused on architecture that emerged from the relationship with the urban structures or the developmental history of the site. Over time, they influence and transform the surrounding environment. Architects employ diverse “tactics” in order to create such architecture: collaborating with the residents, relating to the neighboring buildings and open spaces, diversifying the building’s programs, and employing intricate construction details. In this issue, we focus our attention on the process of conceiving the projects driven by various tactics. We invite our readers to look beyond a single building and examine the works’ possibilities to be used in a long span of time.
I was recently at a lecture at Rotterdam’s Nieuwe Instituut in which Dirk van den Heuvel mediated a discussion between Kenneth Frampton and Herman Hertzberger. Talking of those who contributed to the Dutch Structuralist movement, Hertzberger lamented the fact that so many have faded into obscurity: “if you make the mistake of not writing” he said, “you’re bound to be forgotten.” Accompanying design with the written word is at the core of good practice, not only because it lends design an elevated meaning by cementing it into a wider discourse, but also because it often uncovers the subconscious significance of the process of architecture.
LOBBY is an attempt from students of London’s Bartlett School of Architecture to anchor in-house research and external contributions in words, “creating both a space we lack and an action we desire.” Their new journal is also a response to the school’s current in-between state as they await their new building in temporary studio spaces. As such, LOBBY will serve as a platform for exchange and discussion in lieu of a physical lobbying space. The first issue explores the theme of Un/Spectacle, offering different layers, approaches, readings and perspectives on the topic of the ‘(un)spectacle’ of the everyday.
Articles on China’s building boom often highlight the property bubble, megalomaniac planners, governmental corruption and private graft, substandard building practices and the destruction of the nation’s cultural heritage.
In Mark #51, we interviewed four Chinese architects on four aspects of China’s building practices to reveal the mechanisms at the foundation of this unedifying image. Li Hu offers his thoughts on architecture, Liu Yuyang on urban planning, Li Xiaodong on aesthetics and Liu Jiakun on construction processes. What can we learn from their experience?
The following is an excerpt from Bill Schmalz’s book The Architect’s Guide to Writing.
The architecture, design, and construction professions are seen, by ourselves and by those outside the professions, as visual and tectonic fields. Architects and designers are trained as visual artists, using two- and three-dimensional means to depict buildings, spaces, and urban environments. We learn how to sketch; to build physical and digital models; and to draw plans, elevations, sections, and details. Similarly, contractors and construction managers are trained in scheduling, cost estimating, and the physical requirements of constructing buildings. These are valuable skills for us design and construction professionals at all stages in our careers. But for most of us, there comes a time when we need to write stuff, when written documents dominate our professional lives. Letters, proposals, reports, specifications, contracts, RFIs and RFI responses, meeting minutes, emails, and white papers are just some of the types of documents that we spend much of our time writing.
Unfortunately, we receive little training in our writing skills. True, our elementary school education may have given us the basics of English grammar and composition. In college, most of us had to fulfill liberal arts requirements that involved writing. But when we entered the profession, we were unprepared to deal with how much we would have to write, and how important it would be to our professional lives.
Blank Space’s first edition of Fairy Tales: When Architecture Tells a Story is a light-hearted reminder that communication is at the core of what all architects and designers do. The book is a collection of entries from the company’s first architectural storytelling competition, which was launched to reinstate a dialogue between architects and the public.
Fairy tales might seem like an odd genre of choice for this movement, but communication also lies at their core. According to the founders of Blank Space, Matthew Hoffman and Frencesca Giuliani-Hoffman, fairy tales are “relatable, yet sophisticated and nuanced, just like great architecture.”
For more on the whimsical collection, keep reading after the break.
EL CROQUIS, number 173, a monograph on MVRDV, is the third monograph produced by the publisher on this office established in Rotterdam. The current publication collects MVRDV‘s most significant works from 2003 to the present −presented in full with several construction plans, and a profusion of photographs and sketches. The monograph is prefaced by an interview with MVRDV by the architects Charles Bessard and Nanne de Ru, and a critical essay on their work by Aaron Betsky.
Among the buildings and projects featured the most remarkable ones are the Gemini Residences, the Parkrand apartment building in Rotterdam, the rooftop house extension Didden Village in Rotterdam, the Balancing Barn holiday house in Thorington, the Book Mountain in Spijkenisse, the mixed-use centre Glass Farm in Schijndel and the shopping centre Chungha Building in Gangnam.
Kinetic Architecture: Designs for Active Envelopes is a book about energy. We have written it to explore the new ways architecture has developed in the last decade to respond to the flow of energy, both natural and man-made, that primarily affects building performance and the comfort of the people in them. Buildings regulate energy flow in several ways, but in this book we explore the approaches that innovative architects, engineers, and consultants have taken with building envelopes, façades, and other types of enclosures that modulate the internal environment of architecture to various ends. Architects have expressed this regulation in ways both visible and invisible, using the media of air, water, and the thermal mass of a variety of materials, and often a combination of all three.
MagMag, a student-edited compendium of essays, projects and ideas from Glasgow’s Mackintosh School of Architecture, is now in its 39th edition. Following on from what has so far been a momentous year for the Mac, in which they’ve seen Steven Holl Architects’ new Seona Reid Building formally open and parts of Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s art school (along with a great deal of student work) devastated in a fire, MacMag39 is a celebration of the spirit of a school which is faced with a challenging question: how do they introduce and then reconcile the new alongside the existing against the backdrop of an academically rich, diverse and successful learning environment?
From the publisher. July issue of a+u is focused on retreats, in particular the places where people spend their free time. Retreats, where functional necessities are not the priority, portray the essential lifestyle that the residents desire. And, from there, an image of a house reflecting back the everyday emerges.
The sites abundant in nature present vast landscape to the residents. At the same time, they lack basic infrastructure, materials, or technology that would be readily available when designing a house in cities. Because of such shortages, architects are encouraged to put their experimental concepts into practice.
This issue explores how the ideal image of a house and architect’s experimental concept are unified and conceived as a retreat when the situation is “missing” something.
From the publisher. Since the mid-20th century, Japan’s postwar capitalism promoted home ownership, and extensive residential areas were developed around every major city for 70 years. Each area is an aggregation of individual houses – in other words an aggregation of different architectural characteristics and a mixture of residents with their own personalities.
Among the photographs of house exteriors published in the issues of Shinkenchiku and Jutakutokushu since 2001, we selected those that show the relationship between the home and its surroundings. In this issue, we feature the images with an analysis of what “Compositional Factor” of what “Element” has undergone what kind of “Manipulation”.
From the publisher. Between the late 19th century and early 20th century, Vienna was the epicenter of new architectural movements. Architects like Gottfried Semper, Otto Wagner, and Adolf Loos presented pioneering theories and expressions which influenced the world. Furthermore, cityscape of Vienna had been the subject of architects’ creation. They form the layers in Vienna’s urban structure, and architects who design in this city must interpret this structure and upon which further form new layers.
June 2014 issue of a+u introduces the theories and their expressions of architecture in Vienna, and their transition from the pre-modern to the modern to the present, through 60+ newly-photographed works, two essays on “transformation of architectural expression through building facades” and “recent developments for urban expansion zones”, and interviews with contemporary architects.
In Urban Design for an Urban Century: Shaping More Livable, Equitable, and Resilient Cities (2nd Edition), by Lance Jay Brown, David Dixon, historical trends and practices are used to explain current theories of urbanism. The following excerpt illustrates one such historical trend, detailing exactly how the advent of railroads and skyscrapers following the Industrial Revolution radically changed the urban landscape.
Before the Industrial Revolution, forces such as trade, agriculture, and defense determined the shape of cities in North America and Europe, whether planned or unplanned. How far a person could reasonably walk and the requirements of carts, wagons, and herds of animals heavily influenced the layout and dimensions of city streets regardless of the form the larger city took. Defensive strategy and technology also dictated form, but the resulting walls — and the need to guard them — often imposed smaller footprints than cities might otherwise have produced.
Clocking in at just under six hundred pages, Neeraj Bhatia and Mary Casper’s The Petropolis of Tomorrow (Actar, 2013) presents a series of dueling monstrosities—land and sea; ecology and industry; isolation and circulation—at the hard-edged site of their collision. The product of an intensive research studio directed by Bhatia at the Rice School of Architecture, Petropolis documents and explores Brazil’s rapidly developing network of offshore petroleum and natural gas drilling infrastructures as a site ripe for the deployment of architectural expertise and imagination. Conducted as part of a broad collaborative research investigation on resource extraction urbanism initiated by the South America Project (SAP), the studio, as introduced by SAP Co-Director Felipe Correa, is a speculative experiment that “tests an extreme scenario” with the aim of identifying “new hybrids between industry and urbanism for an alternative twenty-first century extraction town.” Complementing the studio work, the editors have marshaled an impressive array of text and photo contributors whose essays offer distinctive takes on the book’s three thematic threads: archipelago urbanism, harvesting urbanism, and logistical urbanism.
The following is an excerpt from The Landscape Imagination: The Collected Essays of James Corner 1990–2010 by James Corner. In this passage, Corner discusses the work of John Dixon Hunt, and the qualities of Hunt’s work that he seeks to incorporate into his own (including his firm’s - James Corner Field Operations - redesign of the New York High Line).
Over the past two decades, James Corner has reinvented the field of landscape architecture. His highly influential writings of the 1990s, included in our bestselling Recovering Landscape, together with a post-millennial series of built projects, such as New York’s celebrated High Line, prove that the best way to address the problems facing our cities is to embrace their industrial past. Collecting Corner’s written scholarship from the early 1990s through 2010, The Landscape Imagination addresses critical issues in landscape architecture and reflects on how his writings have informed the built work of his thriving New York based practice, Field Operations.
trans magazin, a semi-annual journal published by the Department of Architecture at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology ETHZ, seeks to address “issues in architecture and urban development from a variety of perspectives.” Managed by an independent student editorial team since 1997, the publication studies and discusses humanities, politics, philosophy and the arts. It is “a platform for interdisciplinary discourse” packaged in a beautifully printed, weighty periodical.
The following is an excerpt from Carey Clouse’s Farming Cuba: Urban Agriculture from the Ground Up, which explores Cuba’s impromptu agricultural development after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, and the challenges that development poses for modern day architects and urban planners.
Following the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, Cuba found itself solely responsible for feeding a nation that had grown dependent on imports and trade subsidies. With fuel, fertilizers, and pesticides disappearing overnight, citizens began growing their own organic produce anywhere they could find space, on rooftops, balconies, vacant lots, and even school playgrounds. By 1998 there were more than 8,000 urban farms in Havana producing nearly half of the country’s vegetables. What began as a grassroots initiative had, in less than a decade, grown into the largest sustainable agriculture initiative ever undertaken, making Cuba the world leader in urban farming. Featuring a wealth of rarely seen material and intimate portraits of the environment, Farming Cuba details the innovative design strategies and explores the social, political, and environmental factors that helped shape this pioneering urban farming program.