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Charles Eames' Advice for Students

Few in the twentieth century straddled the demarcation between design and architecture as effortlessly – or as successfully – as Ray and Charles Eames. For the Eameses, the distinction was artificial and unhelpful; useful creative thought emerged from a process-based method of problem solving, design solutions addressed and resolved specific needs, and success could be effectively measured by an object’s ability to do its jobs. But while the Eameses were famously weary of design’s historical tendency toward “creative expression,” their work exhibited none of the abject sterility threatened by a devotion to extreme functionalism. They found that delight was itself utilitarian, and an object’s capacity to produce pleasure for its user allowed for the consideration of aesthetics as one metric of serviceability. From this belief in the unity of performance and perception emerged some of the century’s most iconic designs: Case Study House #8, the Molded Plywood Lounge Chairs, and the 670 & 671 Eames Lounge and Ottoman.

The forthcoming An Eames Anthology, edited by Daniel Ostroff and published by Yale University Press, chronicles the careers of Ray and Charles Eames in their pursuits as designers, architects, teachers, artists, filmmakers, and writers. As Ostroff attests, with over 130,000 documents archived in the Library of Congress, the Eameses were nothing if not prolific; this volume, accordingly, is not comprehensive so much as representative, curated to reflect the breadth of interests and accomplishments of the pair.

In preparation for a 1949 lecture at the University of California, Los Angeles on “Advice for Students,” Charles made the following notes on inspiration, methodology, and career strategy. They are excerpted here from An Eames Anthology:

Las Vegas vs The Landscape: Photographer Michael Light Exposes the Terraforming of the American Dream

“Barcelona” Homes and the Edge of Lake Mead Recreation Area, Lake Las Vegas, Henderson, NV; 2011. Image © Michael Light, Lake Las Vegas/Black Mountain
“Barcelona” Homes and the Edge of Lake Mead Recreation Area, Lake Las Vegas, Henderson, NV; 2011. Image © Michael Light, Lake Las Vegas/Black Mountain

“Nestled into the desert landscape that defines Nevada’s visage,
Ascaya feels as if it were shaped by the elements.
[...]
Where stone rises up to meet the sky, there is a place called Ascaya.”
 - The Ascaya promotional website

Not quite, according to Michael Light’s soon-to-be released book, Lake Las Vegas/Black Mountain. Covering the advance of suburban Nevada into the desert, this two-part book looks at Lake Las Vegas, a then-abandoned victim of the 2008 real estate crash which has since emerged from the other side of bankruptcy, and nearby Ascaya, a high end housing estate that is still in the process of being carved into Black Mountain. Light’s photography doesn’t so much question the developers’ summary as it does, say, blast it, scar it, terrace it and then build a large housing development on the remains. Featuring beautifully composed aerial shots of the construction sites and golf courses covering the desert, the book is a clear condemnation of the destructive and unsustainable development in Nevada. Much more than that, though, Light is highlighting a wider philosophy behind developments like Ascaya and Lake Las Vegas that fundamentally fail to connect American society with the American landscape in a non-destructive way.

Sun City” Hiking Trail Looking Southeast, Unbuilt “Ascaya” Lots and Black Mountain Beyond, Henderson, NV; 2010. Image © Michael Light, Lake Las Vegas/Black Mountain Unbuilt “Ascaya” Lots and Cul De Sac Looking West, Henderson, NV; 2011. Image © Michael Light, Lake Las Vegas/Black Mountain Gated “Monaco” Lake Las Vegas Homes, Bankrupt Ponte Vecchio Beyond, Henderson, NV; 2010. Image © Michael Light, Lake Las Vegas/Black Mountain “Roma Hills” Homes And Foreclosed “Obsidian Mountain” Development, “Ascaya” Lots Beyond, Looking South, Henderson, NV; 2012. Image © Michael Light, Lake Las Vegas/Black Mountain

Head in the Clouds with SOILED's 5th Issue

Self-described as "a periodical of architectural stories that [makes] a mess of the built environment and the politics of space," SOILED zine's 5th issue has been released, abounding with tales of the aerial. Entitled Cloudscrapers, the issue is the second in a series of limited-edition, locally produced publications by CARTOGRAM Architecture.

a+u 534: Caruso St John Architects

From the publisher. a+u March 2015 is a special issue on London and Zurich based Caruso St John Architects, led by Adam Caruso and Peter St John.

The issue features 19 works with a focus on their recent renovation works including the Tate Britain, Millbank Project in London, Chancel at St Gallen Cathedral in Switzerland, and Liverpool Philharmonic Hall with its first stage recently completed.
The latter half of the issue features their on-going projects in Switzerland, Germany, Belgium, and France including Bremer Landesbank and Lycée Hotelier de Lille.

Opening essay, by former editor-in-chief of AMC magazine Dominique Boudet, surveys Caruso St John's early to recent works. The essay by Jay Merrick, the architecture critic of The Independent, gives us the details of the Tate Britain's renovation work. Third essay by Adam Caruso talks about his and Peter St John's method of working with references.

Havana Revisited: Postcards of the Cuban Capital Through the Years

Thanks to its privileged position as a gateway to North America and Cuba's unique political history, the architecture of the City of Havana has a rich and layered quality rarely found. In a new book edited by Cathryn Griffith, "Havana Revisited: An Architectural Heritage," this history is explored in detail through 12 essays by renowned architects, historians, scholars, preservationists, and urban planners in both Cuba and the United States and a selection of 350 color images comparing historic postcards with the city of today. The following text is the book's introduction, written by Cuban architect, urban planner and critic Mario Coyula (1935-2014).

Havana’s modest beginnings came in the sixteenth century, as the springboard for Spain’s conquest of America. When the port became the obligatory last American stop for Spanish ships making their return voyages to Europe, its significance grew until Havana had become the most important city in the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean. From the beginning, it was a settlement oriented toward providing services, especially that of protection. Hence, Havana became home to the most formidable system of defensive fortifications in the colonial Americas.

Behind the Lines by TYIN Tegnestue

Andreas Skeide's Behind the Lines by TYIN Tegnestue details the lifelong journey of architects Yashar Hanstad and Andreas Gjertsen, following their story from their start as students to their transition into professional architecture. The book looks at the logic behind the formation of TYIN Architects and eleven of the resultant projects, highlighting both the successes and the failures along the way. The following is a series of excerpts from the book detailing pivotal moments in their careers.

Solid Wood: The Rise of Mass Timber Architecture

Largely overlooked in the development of Modernism, timber architecture is making a comeback in the 21st century with the success of designers such as last year's Pritzker Prize winner Shigeru Ban, and the push toward timber towers from large influential firms such as SOM. In the following extract, author Joseph Mayo introduces his new book, "Solid Wood: Case Studies in Mass Timber Architecture, Technology and Design," which examines the rise of mass timber design through historical analysis and contemporary case studies.

Few books have addressed the use of wood in large, non-residential buildings. While light frame construction and residential resources are common, little has been written about the use of wood in taller, urban, commercial and institutional buildings. Solid Wood presents a survey of new timber architecture around the world to reveal this construction type’s unique appeal and potential. Not surprisingly, enthusiasm for solid wood architecture (also known as mass timber architecture) and engineering is now growing rapidly among a new generation of architects and designers.

Elements of Venice

The following is an excerpt from Giulia Foscari's Elements of Venice, a book that applies the dissection strategy Rem Koolhaas explored in "Elements of Architecture” at this year's Venice Biennale. The book aims to demystify the notion that Venice has remained unchanged throughout its history and addresses contemporary issues along with strictly historical considerations. Read on for a preview of Elements of Venice, including Rem Koolhaas' introduction to the book. 

Light Matters: Le Corbusier and the Trinity of Light

For his three sacred buildings, Le Corbusier has played masterfully with orientation, openings and textures to create kinetic architecture with daylight. His pilgrimage chapel at Ronchamp, the monastery of Sainte Marie de La Tourette, and the parish church of Saint-Pierre in Firminy reveal distinctive and individual approaches that each render contemplative spaces with light. In his book “Cosmos of Light: The Sacred Architecture of Le Corbusier,” Henry Plummer, Professor Emeritus at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, has analysed these projects with outstanding photographs taken over 40 years and brilliant writing.

Read on for more about how Le Corbusier created his cosmos of light.

Corridor to atrium cadenced with sunshine in late morning. Monastery of Sainte Marie de la Tourette, Éveux-sur-l’Arbresle, France. Image © Henry Plummer 2011 Upward view into scoop at sunrise. Chapel of Notre Dame du Haut, Ronchamp, France. Image © Henry Plummer 2011 Golden light on altar wall. Church of Saint-Pierre, Firminy, France. Image © Henry Plummer 2011 Upward view of fissure and brise-soleil, on overcast day. Chapel of Notre Dame du Haut, Ronchamp, France. Image © Henry Plummer 2011

a+u 532: Latin America, 25 Projects

a+u 532 issue introduces 25 recent works built in Latin America.

Featured architects include: Rafael Iglesia, Antón García-Abril and Ensamble Studio, Paulo Mendes da Rocha, Brasil Arquitetura, Rojkind arquitectos, Una ArquitetosAlejandro Aravena | ELEMENTAL.

CIAM 4 and the "Unanimous" Origins of Modernist Urban Planning

Held in 1933 on a ship in the Mediterranian, the fourth CIAM congress and Le Corbusier's subsequent Athens Charter (La Charte d'Athenes) are widely regarded as a defining period in Modernist urban planning, a moment when architects came to an agreement on what the future of our cities should look like. But how correct is this interpretation? Edited by Evelien van Es, Gregor Harbusch, Bruno Maurer, Muriel Perez, Kees Somer and Daniel Weiss, a significant new 480-page book, "Atlas of the Functional City - CIAM 4 and Comparative Urban Analysis" examines the congress in depth. In the following excerpt from the book's introduction, Daniel Weiss, Gregor Harbusch and Bruno Maurer examine the commonly accepted history of the congress, finding that support for the underlying principles of Modernism was perhaps not so unanimous after all.

Architecture as Instrument: The Role of Spielraum in the Work of Barkow Leibinger

Founded in 1993, Berlin-based practice Barkow Leibinger has become known for a research-based approach to design that fully explores the possibilities offered by tools, fabrication techniques and materials. In the following essay, adapted from his contribution to Barkow Leibinger's monograph Barkow Leibinger: Spielraum, art critic Hal Foster examines the historic context of the practice's work and the influences that have shaped their production.

One origin myth of modern architecture involves the voyaging of German designers like Walter Gropius to North American cities such as Buffalo, where they first saw in situ the industrial structures, such as grain elevators, that they had already proposed as models for functionalist buildings in Europe. The partnership of Frank Barkow and Regine Leibinger is a new variation on this old theme of international encounter: in the late 1980s the American Barkow and the German Leibinger met at the Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD, where Gropius had once presided as chair). In the literature on the office, this encounter is taken as a primal scene: Frank Barkow, the rangy man from Montana, impressed by the huge infrastructural projects and the great land art of the American West (e.g., hydroelectric dams, in the first instance, Spiral Jetty by Robert Smithson, in the second), meets Regine Leibinger, the sophisticated daughter of the innovative director of TRUMPF, the designer-manufacturer of laser-cut tools based near Stuttgart (which is also where a classic of European modernism, the Weissenhof Siedlung, is located). After training at the GSD, under the chairmanship of Rafael Moneo, the two young architects set up a practice in Berlin, in 1993, at a time when the new Europe came to represent what the old America once did: an expanded horizon for ambitious building.

Courtesy of Barkow Leibinger Courtesy of Barkow Leibinger Courtesy of Barkow Leibinger Courtesy of Barkow Leibinger

From Formalism to Weak Form: The Architecture and Philosophy of Peter Eisenman

Despite his significant impact on architecture through both built and theoretical works, most studies of Peter Eisenman's career focus on either one aspect or the other. In “From Formalism to Weak Form: The Architecture and Philosophy of Peter Eisenman,” Stefano Corbo attempts to redress this balance, connecting themes in the design and the theory of the influential architect across the many stages of his 50-year career. The following is an excerpt from the book's introduction, giving a brief overview of the chronology of Eisenman's career and the ideas that have influenced him over time.

All of the different moments characterizing Eisenman’s trajectory imply different phases, different projects, different programmatic manifestos and, above all, an evolving notion of form. To approach the complexity of his discourse means dealing with form in all its declinations: formalism, de-composition, deconstruction, and weak form. Each of them has constituted the mutant epidermis of Eisenman’s theoretical corpus, based on philosophical references and provocative statements.

Thanks to his ability to connect with the cultural tendencies of the time, Eisenman has explored different territories: first, structuralism and Chomsky’s linguistic theory; successively, Derrida and Delueze’s post-structuralism, passing through the influence of Colin Rowe’s formalism, and his recent interest in the return to autonomy as theorized by Pier Vittorio Aureli. At the same time Eisenman has always played a central role in influencing and manipulating the American architectural debate, due to his propagandistic activity, first with the IAUs (Institute for Architecture and Urban studies), and then with the magazine Oppositions.

Courtesy of Stefano Corbo Courtesy of Stefano Corbo Courtesy of Stefano Corbo Courtesy of Stefano Corbo

Ten New Findings From the Sciences that Will Revolutionize Architecture

In their latest book Design for a Living Planet: Settlement, Science, and the Human Future, Michael Mehaffy and Nikos Salingaros examine recent developments in science that will inform and possibly even radically alter the future of architecture. The following is an adapted series of excerpts that summarizes the content of the book.

Architecture has always concerned itself with the future, and with the implications of findings from the sciences — as well as their practical applications to architectural craft. Today we do indeed see very exotic computer-designed aesthetic surfaces, splined forms, and generative schemes. To a non-scientist, this work might appear ultra-scientific and “modern”. We also see the symbolism of a turbulent, fractured Universe, wherein old ideas of meaning are facing anguishing post-modern challenges.

But from a modern physicist’s perspective, this architecture is still mired in the past.

Making Complex Systems Visible: “Between Geometry and Geography” Carefully Uncovers the Layers of Mexico City

I always book a window seat when flying into Mexico City. It guarantees exposing the traveler to the exhilarating immensity of the city and the valley that barely contains it: a blunt encounter of geometry and geography indeed. Braving traffic I arrive to my hotel in the historic center and the first morning, over breakfast and with those aerial images still fresh in my mind, I invariably marvel at the fact that I have just had a hot shower and that I am enjoying, as usual, excellent huevos rancheros. "How did these eggs get here?" I wonder. The thoughts quickly dissipate as one is engulfed by the many renowned attractions of Mexico City.

Felipe Correa and Carlos Garciavelez Alfaro have chosen not to be distracted. Their book, “Between Geometry and Geography: Mexico City”, is an ambitious portrait of Mexico City that avoids reading the city through the singularities of its monuments. They have produced instead a stunning graphic biography of the metropolis, focusing on the infrastructures that have shaped the city and make it function today and speculating on opportunities for future multifunctional infrastructures.

Courtesy of Felipe Correa and Carlos Garciavelez Alfaro Courtesy of Felipe Correa and Carlos Garciavelez Alfaro Courtesy of Felipe Correa and Carlos Garciavelez Alfaro Courtesy of Felipe Correa and Carlos Garciavelez Alfaro

ARQ DOCS: Pier Vittorio Aureli

Courtesy of ARQ Ediciones
Courtesy of ARQ Ediciones

Published by the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile as part of their ARQ DOCS series, "Pier Vittorio Aureli" features two in depth interviews with Aureli, the high-profile Italian theorist and co-founder of design and research studio DOGMA. The book's introduction, written by Emilio De la Cerda is excerpted below.

The work of Pier Vittorio Aureli constitutes a rigorous effort of thought regarding architectural discipline and the political dimension enclosed by the specificity of form. It is an approach focused on the power of the project, a speculative but delimited tool, which allows overcoming the paralysis of diagnosis and the abuse of diagrams, in order to establish a decisive commitment with the concrete reality of the city.

This line of thought, which is introduced here through two interviews conducted in 2010 and 2012 by Felipe De Ferrari and Diego Grass —architects and professors in our school—recognizes the profound historical and collective tradition of architecture, showing itself distant from those conceptions that see both creativity and the subjective originality of form as a sort of ethical manifest. Far from celebrating authorial genius, Aureli insists in the inseparable link that exists between architectural production and the cultural realm in which it develops.

MARK Magazine #53

MARK #53  surveys American low-income housing from coast to coast. Michael Webb provides the historical and cultural context for some recent success stories in affordable development and presents three buildings in California designed by Kevin Daly Architects, OJK Architects and Planners, and Rob Wellington Quigley.

Larger low-income developments in New York and Los Angeles, by David Adjaye and Michael Maltzan respectively, speak to overcoming the challenge of aesthetic innovation on a tight budget. In the southern and western states, we find the Rural Studio at Auburn University and Design Build Bluff at the Universities of Utah and Colorado tackling the low-income housing issue outside the city, realizing rural homes for less than €20,000 each.

Then, it’s time for dinner and a show. Tour MVRDV’s mixed-use Markthal, a food paradise for casual grazers and sit-down diners alike, before talking with Jan Versweyveld, who designed the scenography for a stage adaptation of The Fountainhead.

JA96: Yearbook 2014

JA96 takes a retrospective look at the architecture of 2014. 83 projects were chosen to present the best of Japanese architecture, including works by Kazuyo SejimaKengo Kuma, Toyo Ito, Tadao Ando and Shigeru Ban.

The issue also features a roundtable conversation between Tomohiko Yamanashi, Satoru Ito and Akihito Aoi about the current architectural design and decision-making.