Noting new books at Architext
|HYBRID SPACE: NEW FORMS IN DIGITAL ARCHITECTURE|
Edited by Peter Zellner, Thames & Hudson, $75.
In our current editorial policy, foreign books are not examined by Architecture Australia. But the American editor of this volume, Peter Zellner, recently lived in Melbourne, studying for his M.Arch at RMIT and contributing to AA. The writer of the Foreword, Bart Lootsma, is a prominent Netherlands critic who visited Australia late last year and is keen to bring back friends like Rem. And half of Zellners highlighted architects Greg Lynn, Winka Dubbeldam, Morphosis, Ben van Berkel and Stephen Perrella have a feelings-mutal attraction to Australia after giving lectures here and associating with Australians back home. Given these connections, and our energetic scene at the moment, its astonishing that Zellner has ignored the digital architecture being conceived by Lab, Lyons and ARM, the Melbourne offices which are most out-there in contorted imagineering. Despite that grevious oversight, Hybrid Space does contain some amazing stuff from the likes of Marcos Novak, Decoi, Ocean and Oosterhuis. The books wacky graphics lay a superfluous and slightly irritating extra layer of confusion on the already chaotic illustrations, but if you take the time to navigate the project explanations, youll have an inteligent grasp of the range of ideas inspiring emerging candidates for the mantle of Le Corbusier. Another good thing is Zellners introductory essay where he lucidly puts readers in the picture about current architectural theories, buzzwords like topology, economic stimuli and the dangers of violent social upheavals
|E-TOPIA: URBAN LIFE JIM BUT NOT AS WE KNOW IT|
William J. Mitchell, MIT Press, $40.
Everyones an author these days, but how many are brilliant writers? Few architects take words dancing but exceptions include Bill Mitchell, the UMelbourne alumnus who is both the Dean of Architecture and Planning at MIT and a popular futurist. Following his 1980s volumes on The Logic of Architecture and (with the late Charles Moore) The Poetics of Gardens, Mitchell has been speculating during the nineties on life in the digital future. In this follow-up to City of Bits (published in 1994; just before the Netscape explosion), Mitchell has you flying around the planet to clarify the human implications of the next agendas: including all-pervasive asynchronicity, miniaturisation and metanets. If you caught City of Bits, youll notice that he now is less optimistic about the wonders of digitality. He is acknowledging the loss of privacy in telecommunications, promoting the need for regular face-to-face contacts and even resuscitating an alarming prospect: the death of the city. If that prospect worries you, an antidote is offered by The Economists Millennium Special Edition, which discusses 1000 years of tumultuous urbanism and asks: If pollution, traffic and the suburban shopping mall cannot kill the city, will teleworking and the Net? … Futurologists love to tell us so. Let them tell the birds. Theres a conversation, then
|RETHINKING THE SKYSCRAPER: THE COMPLETE ARCHITECTURE OF KEN YEANG|
Robert Powell, Thames & Hudson, $75.
During the seventies and eighties, Londons Architectural Association was a pressure cooker of imaginative and futuristic urban concepts and its graduates from that period are among the worlds best-equipped to redesign physical environments. In Asia, an outstanding example is Ken Yeang, principal of T.R. Hamzah & Yeang in Selangor, Malaysia (and an RAIA member) who has spent the nineties designing some of the planets most advanced and ecology-responsive skyscrapers. This monograph, assembled by former Singapore Architect editor Robert Powell, updates an earlier Powell text and looks like becoming the crucial volume on this practice. Yeang is firing at the moment, as his bioclimatic skycrapers, relying on cylindrical forms during the earlier nineties, now develop into green towers which are far more sophisticated and visually dissonant organisms. They breathe in extraordinary ways: via central voids rising to glazed roofs with air gaps, or through tubes thrust across the cross section at different heights, or with wing-walls channelling prevailing winds through transitional ventilation zones: with abundantly planted sky gardens helping to clean tropical smog. Yeangs sunscreens, too, are becoming much more expressive he sees them now as clothing floating around the body of the building; not as the usual clip-on appendages. This new approach offers him much potential for symbolic plays check the models of the Shanghai Armoury Tower, draped with mesh screens moulded like the chestplates of medieval Chinese warriors
|SYDNEYS CENTURY: A HISTORY|
Peter Spearritt, UNSW Press, $35.
Is there room for another book on Sydney? Its a question trepidaciously asked in the publishers press release for this history, written by the director of Monashs Key Centre for Australian Studies, because it closely follows at least four other substantial tomes: the heaviest being those by Lucy Hughes Turnbull ( Sydney: Biography of a City) and John Birmingham ( Leviathan). This paperback offers a few key differences: it sticks to the 20th century, so it doesnt get bogged down with Phillip and Macquarie, and its generously illustrated with fascinating memorabilia: cartoons, maps, real estate ads, charts and historical photos. These offer instant points of entry into Spearritts chronology from the 1900 plague and 1901 Federation, when Sydneys population was only 900 more than Melbournes, to the multi-cultural world city of today. His book also has a great deal of content of particular interest to architects: quotes from Leslie Wilkinson, records of architectural and conservation debates and bias towards land development issues