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Friday, December 02, 2016

Book Review: Two WTC Books

9/11 Memorial Visions: Innovative Concepts from the 2003 World Trade Center Site Memorial Competition by Lester J. Levine
McFarland, 2016
Paperback, 248 pages

One World Trade Center: Biography of the Building by Judith Dupré
Little, Brown, 2016
Hardcover, 286 pages

At first blush it makes perfect sense to review these recently published books together. After all, each one addresses a major element – if not the two most important elements (or two of three if we consider Calatrava's Oculus) – of the sixteen-acre World Trade Center site. Further, it appears the publication of each book was timed to the annual anniversary of September 11th, in this case fifteen years after the terrorist attacks that destroyed the Twin Towers. A fair number of books on the original WTC came out in the years after 2001, followed by books addressing redevelopment and Daniel Libeskind's winning master plan. But these two books are the only recent ones I'm aware of on the architecture of the WTC site, so it makes sense to bundle them together.

That said, the differences between the two books – and their subjects – situate them as nearly polar opposites to each other. One is focused on the memorial, specifically the 5,200 memorial ideas that did not win the competition and therefore were not built; the other is about the realization of the site's most prominent tower, what has become the tallest building in the western hemisphere since its 2015 completion. Along these lines, one presents individual efforts to cope with a horrific act, while the other documents a design that results from collaboration: of architects, engineers, clients, and builders. And, of course, one is about making money while the other one is not. The content of each book reflects these differences.

[Spread from One World Trade Center, which was designed by DBOX]

Judith Dupré should be a familiar name to architects as well as laypeople who are fans of architecture, particularly tall buildings; her oversized book Skyscrapers: A History of the World's Most Extraordinary Buildings was first published in 1996 and was most recently revised and updated in 2013. (Fittingly, Dupré wrote Skyscrapers in the World Trade Center.) Although One World Trade Center does not approach the 18-inch-high paper size of Skyscrapers, it is nevertheless a big book – all the better to take in the large color photos but also the timelines and other parts of the book that pack lots of information onto the individual pages.

As the title makes clear, this is a book about One World Trade Center (1WTC). Nevertheless it contains chapters on the other parts of the WTC site: the National September 11 Memorial & Museum, 7WTC, towers 2-4WTC, the Transportation Hub, St. Nicholas, and Liberty Park, many of which the author discussed in her book talk at the Skyscraper Museum I attended back in June. With this extra content, the book is the most complete book on the rebuilding efforts to date, not just a biography of 1WTC. Regardless, people will buy this book because of its namesake subject – and they will not be disappointed.

Five of the book's twelve chapters are devoted to 1WTC. From these handful my favorites are "Evolution of the Tower's Design: 2003-2005," "Into the Blue: Designing One World Trade Center," and "Construction Timeline: One World Trade Center." The first and third are particularly helpful in our amnesiac age, since they remind us how the tower design changed from a Libeskind to an SOM, and how the nearly ten-year construction unfolded. Throughout, Dupré is very positive about the building (she likes it much more than I do), but that does not mean she isn't critical when warranted. A sidebar on the value engineering that stripped the spire of its cladding is a good case. Nevertheless, this is a biography that celebrates a building, one whose 2015 completion made it feel like the WTC site was finally closer to completion rather than closer to the destruction that warranted the project to begin with.

["Twin Piers" memorial entry by Charles Upchurch and Fred Bernstein | Image via]

While Dupré contends she was "the only writer given unfettered access to the Port Authority’s site and archives" for creating her book, Lester J. Levine, a management consultant and poet who lives in North Carolina, was at the mercy of an outdated website and many hours spent tracking down the authors of notable memorial submissions when it came time to collect a small fraction of the 5,201 entries to the 2003 World Trade Center Site Memorial Competition for his book. The winning memorial, "Reflecting Absence" by Michael Arad with Peter Walker, was completed on the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, so Levine's book doesn't exist to proffer a preferred alternative – a what should have been – for the site. Rather it tells the stories of the people who submitted designs that share some innovative ways of approaching memorials.

If a book can be judged by it cover, I was not optimistic about 9/11 Memorial Visions. It's hard to imagine the cover scheme, with glass panes suspended from two St. Louis Arch-esque structures, existing on the WTC site. Further, the quality of the renderings shows just how far we've come in the last dozen years when it comes to computer graphics. That said, I was amazed to find myself liking the book a lot – though not necessarily liking many of the 180-plus schemes that Levine chose to focus on. But there is something to be said for highlighting designs that are a strong departure from the minimalist, Maya Lin-inspired visions that now predominate when it comes to memorials. Like others, I'm drawn to abstraction over figuration in memorials, but who's to say I wouldn't like a memorial with lots of color, or one that was all about sound, or one based highly on technology if it were given the chance?

With Levine's focus on the stories behind the entries, it's the words in his book that take priority over the images. His laid back, conversational style makes the stories accessible, and it allows entry after entry to be read easily in order; it's like they are pearls on a string and he pulls the reader along one after the other. He groups similar approaches (color, sound, and technology, as mentioned, among others) into a dozen chapters, but all entries are unique. Yet what stands out above the variety of designs is the diversity of voices: architects and artists are represented but so are musicians, students, scientists, even a truck driver. The World Trade Center Site Memorial Competition was open to all, and with a major event so fresh in people's minds at the time, it became a means for all sorts of people to cope with the loss and its repercussions. So kudos to Levine for digging through the entries, discovering the voices behind a sampling of them, and prompting us to reconsider what memorials mean to people in the 21st century.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Today's archidose #932

Some more photos from my recent trip to Berlin, this time two housing projects by Bruno Taut that are part of UNESCO's "Berlin Modernism Housing Estates" listing. The photos were taken during an architectural tour, "Bruno Taut's Colorful Modernism," given by Carsten Sauerbrei of Berlin's architekTour B.

Falkenberg Garden City (1913-1916):
Bruno Taut's Colorful Modernism
Bruno Taut's Colorful Modernism
Bruno Taut's Colorful Modernism
Bruno Taut's Colorful Modernism

Hufeisensiedlung (1925-1930):
Bruno Taut's Colorful Modernism
Bruno Taut's Colorful Modernism
Bruno Taut's Colorful Modernism
Bruno Taut's Colorful Modernism
Bruno Taut's Colorful Modernism
Bruno Taut's Colorful Modernism
Bruno Taut's Colorful Modernism
Bruno Taut's Colorful Modernism

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

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Today's archidose #931

Here are a few photos of the Staatsgalerie Stuttgart (1984) by James Stirling Michael Wilford and Associates, taken by me (on my smartphone) on a recent trip to Stuttgart, Germany. See more photos in my Flickr set on the building.

Staatsgalerie Stuttgart
Staatsgalerie Stuttgart
Staatsgalerie Stuttgart
Staatsgalerie Stuttgart
Staatsgalerie Stuttgart
Staatsgalerie Stuttgart
Staatsgalerie Stuttgart
Staatsgalerie Stuttgart
Staatsgalerie Stuttgart
Staatsgalerie Stuttgart
Staatsgalerie Stuttgart

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

Friday, November 25, 2016

2016 Holiday Gift Books

This year I'm highlighting 32 books by the same number of publishers, arranged alphabetically by publisher – from Actar to Yale University Press. Titles and covers link to Amazon for easy gift-buying.

MCHAP Book One: The Americas
Edited by Fabrizio Gallanti

Artifice Books on Architecture
A Guide to the Dirty South—Atlanta
By Jennifer Bonner

Bella Figura Publications
Dream of Venice Architecture
Edited by JoAnn Locktov, photographs by Riccardo De Cal

Experimenting Landscapes: Testing the Limits of the Garden
Edited by Métis International Garden Festival, Emily Waugh

Architectural Guide Berlin
By Dominik Schendel

eVolo Skyscrapers 3: Visionary Architecture and Urban Design
Edited by Carlo Aiello

The Hinterland: Cabins, Love Shacks and Other Hide-Outs
Edited by Gestalten

gta publishers
Residential Towers
Edited by Annette Gigon, Mike Guyer, Felix Jerusalem

Harper Wave
The Well-Tempered City: What Modern Science, Ancient Civilizations, and Human Nature Teach Us About the Future of Urban Life
By Jonathan F. P. Rose

Hatje Catz
Kunstmuseum Basel, New Building
Edited by Kunstmuseum Basel, Bernhard Mendes Bürgi

Images Publishing
Interior Landscapes: A Visual Atlas
By Stefano Corbo

Island Press
People Cities: The Life and Legacy of Jan Gehl
By Annie Matan, Peter Newman

Lars Müller
The Building
Edited by José Aragüez

Laurence King
100 Years of Architecture
Alan Powers

Little, Brown and Company
One World Trade Center: Biography of the Building
By Judith Dupré

Metropolis Books
Never Built New York
By Greg Holding, Sam Lubell

The MIT Press
Thirtyfour Campgrounds
By Martin Hogue

The Monacelli Press
Toward an Urban Ecology: SCAPE / Landscape Architecture
By Kate Orff

ORO Editions
A New Look at Humanism: In Architecture, Landscapes, and Urban Design
By Robert Lamb Hart, with drawings by Albrecht Pichier

Oscar Riera Ojeda Publishers
The Legacy Project: New Housing New York. Best Practices in Affordable, Sustainable, Replicable Housing Design
Edited by Nathan Jerry Maltz, Oscar Riera Ojeda

Park Books
The Difficult Whole: A Reference Book on Robert Venturi, John Rauch and Denise Scott Brown
Edited by Kersten Geers, Jelena Pančevac, Andrea Zanderigo

Mid-Century Modern Architecture Travel Guide
By Sam Lubell, with photographs by Darren Bradley

100 Years, 100 Buildings
By John Hill (yes, me)

Princeton Architectural Press
Manual of Section
By Paul Lewis, Marc Tsurumaki, and David J. Lewis

Building Chicago: The Architectural Masterworks
By John Zukowsky

The Future Architect's Tool Kit
by Barbara Beck

Lightfall: Genealogy of a Museum: Paul and Herta Amir Building, Tel Aviv Museum of Art
By Preston Scott Cohen, Eran Neuman

Julius Shulman: Modernism Rediscovered
By Hunter Drohojowska-Philp, Owen Edwards, Philip J. Ethington, Peter Loughrey

Thames and Hudson
The Experience of Architecture
By Henry Plummer

University of Minnesota Press
The Rule of Logistics: Walmart and the Architecture of Fulfillment
By Jesse LeCavalier

Designing the Rural: A Global Countryside in Flux
Edited by Joshua Bolchover, John Lin, Christiane Lange

Yale University Press
Centre Pompidou: Renzo Piano, Richard Rogers, and the Making of a Modern Monument
By Francesco Dal Co