"Book Briefs" are an ongoing series of posts with two- or three-sentence first-hand descriptions of some of the numerous books that make their way into my library. These briefs are not full-blown reviews, but they are a way to share more books worthy of attention than can find their way into reviews on my daily or weekly pages.
1: The Working Drawing: The Architect's Tool edited by Annette Spiro and David Ganzoni | Park Books | 2014 | Amazon
On the way to realization, any building or landscape must be documented with working drawings, the primary means of making the architect's design understandable to others, particularly the contractor. These drawings consist of plans, elevations, sections, details, and sometimes 3-dimensional representations, often with lots of notes explaining what is represented. All too often these drawings aren't as celebrated as the sketches that are a more immediate representation of a particular architect's ideas about a building or landscape. But this big book finds the art in 100 working drawings from the 13th century to present, giving architects something to pore over when drawing stair details and bathroom elevations gets them down – or when 3-d modeling software like Revit has them hankering for something more tangible.
2: Concrete: Photography and Architecture edited by Daniela Janser, Thomas Seelig, and Urs Stahel in collaboration with Eva Kurz, Therese Seeholzer, and Corinna Unterkofler | Scheidegger and Spiess | 2013 | Amazon
At first glance this hefty book with its chip board cover appears to document the building material concrete in architecture. Of course, the glassy building on the cover questions this assumption. The book is actually a catalog to an exhibition at the Fotomuseum Winterthur last year, an exhibition that asked: "To what extent does photography influence not only the way architecture is perceived, but also the way it is designed?" and "How does an image bring architecture to life?" "Concrete" therefore refers to making architecture "real" through the dissemination of images. The gratuitously illustrated book traces architectural photography from St. John's College in Cambridge in 1845 to a small, curated selection of recent images. The city is the means of exploring images of construction and even demolition in chapters on Zurich, Paris, Berlin, New York City, Calcutta, and others. The photographs are accompanied by scholarly texts that ask, for example, "how can the city be shown concretely?"
3: Jørn Utzon: Drawings and Buildings by Michael Asgaard Andersen | Princeton Architectural Press | 2013 | Amazon
Last year was a big year for Jørn Utzon, as the late Danish architect's Sydney Opera House turned 40 and people celebrated both the architect and his most famous building. It's not surprising that this historical monograph coincides with that anniversary, nor that it features the sails of the famous building on the cover. More surprising is the way professor Michael Asgaard Andersen focuses on Utzon's less celebrated buildings and unbuilt projects. Instead of being arranged chronologically, the projects are discussed thematically: Place, Method, Building Culture, Construction, Materiality, and Ways of Life. This tactic prioritizes both Utzon's intentions and the author's interpretations; the drawings and construction photos that reflect the book's subtitle tie together the chapters to make it a visual delight for architects and historians.
4: Hugh Maaskant: Architect of Progress by Michelle Provoost | nai010 publishers | 2013 | Amazon
It took ten years, but Michelle Provoost's historical monograph on Dutch architect Hugh Maaskant has finally been translated from Dutch to English. That is the same amount of time that the Crimson Architectural Historian devoted to investigating the work of the architect who did not build outside his home country. This extensive research shows in the incredibly thorough account of Maaskant's significant commissions and other projects, moving in a chronological yet overlapping fashion in chapters devoted to building types or individual projects. Provoost's heavily illustrated book is updated from the 2003 Dutch version with a new introductory chapter and a photo essay by Iwan Baan, many of them aerials showing Maaskant's buildings in their contexts all these decades later.
5: Building Together: Chipperfield Dudler, Gigon/Guyer edited by J. Christoph Bürkle, Alexander Bonte | Jovis | 2013 | Amazon
This slim book (just shy of 100 pages) documents a big project that is part of an even larger development. In 2007 architect Max Dudler won a competition to plan three parcels that were part of KCAP's Europaallee masterplan adjacent to main station in Zurich. Picking up on the planned access ways between parcels in KCAP's plan, Dudler broke down Parcel C into four buildings arranged around a courtyard and connected by bridge. He then brought in the architects that were runners up in the competition – David Chipperfield and Annette Gigon/Mike Guyer – to design one building each in a complex for UBS. Gigon/Guyer's mesh-and-glass contribution stands out from Dudler's and Chipperfield's rigid rationalism, but the ensemble works well in the spaces they create and the connections they make with each other, rather then as individual aesthetic or formal components. It goes without saying that it's also refreshing to see architects putting cooperation over ego.
6: Workscape: New Spaces for New Work edited by Sofia Borges, Sven Ehmann, Robert Klanten | Gestalten | 2013 | Amazon
"Business casual" is the name of the introduction to this collection of nearly 50 projects documenting what the editors call the "workplace revolution." More than just a glossy reference of office interiors and architecture projects around the world, the book documents a time when distinctions between work and personal life blur; when the spaces and surfaces of work spaces resemble living rooms; when companies fueled by technology expect long hours and employees expect comfort and perks. This sort of revolution could just as well happen without the input of design, but these projects show how important design is in creating environments that work well for both employer and employee in the 21st-century office.