Bookshelf

 
ON ARCHITECTURE:
COLLECTED REFLECTIONS ON A CENTURY OF CHANGE

BY Ada Louise Huxtable
Walker & Company, 288 pp., $27

Before Huxtable established the architecture beat at the New York Times in 1963, the paper would run stories on major new buildings without even mentioning the architect—“It was as if the buildings sprang out of the ground, anonymous,” she said in a 2005 interview. Things have certainly changed in the subsequent four decades, but throughout it all, Huxtable, now 87, has remained the consummate chronicler of American architecture. Reading the dozens of reviews and essays collected here is both a lively history lesson and a primer on how to write a good sentence. Huxtable on Fallingwater: “The effect is not of nature violated but of nature completed—a dual enrichment.”

 
MORE MOBILE: PORTABLE ARCHITECTURE FOR TODAY
EDITED BY Jennifer Siegal
DESIGNED BY Jan Haux
Princeton Architectural Press, 144 pp., $24.95

A sequel to 2002’s Mobile, this slim paperback surveys the latest compact, lightweight, portable designs for the “new nomadism.” It’s a disparate selection. There are art projects by Studio-Orta and Andrea Zittel, a prototype Martian cruiser for the European Space Agency, a couple of prefab homes, four shipping-container projects, and several variations on the tent (tree tents, birthing tents, an inflatable tent for extreme environments). My personal favorite is N55’s Snail Shell System, a plastic wheel just big enough for one person to crawl inside. Although it’s intended mainly as shel­ter, those of us with social-anxiety issues might want to roll one around at parties.

 
MEADOWLANDS
BY Joshua Lutz
powerHouse Books, 108 pp., $50

A 32-mile stretch of swampy semiwilderness traversed by the New Jersey Turnpike and slowly being overrun by sprawling development, the Meadowlands seems like a natural subject for photography. In his first monograph, Lutz delivers both the images that you would expect—scenes of natural beauty butting up against Garden State infrastructure—as well as some more surprising shots. We glimpse a grimy bathtub scoured with turquoise Comet; two sullen employees of a medieval-themed dinner theater; and an uncertain-looking young couple embracing in a kitchen. Lutz writes in a brief afterword that it’s the area’s “loneliness and solitude” that keeps bringing him back: “Not unlike a neglected child, the Meadowlands has grown up without guidance, constantly unsure of what the future holds.”

 
ARUP ASSOCIATES: UNIFIED DESIGN
EDITED BY Paul Brislin
DESIGNED BY Arup Associates
John Wiley & Sons, 208 pp., $45

When Arup Associates was formed in 1963, it was intended to be a niche practice centered on the idea of “total design.” Today, Arup is one of the biggest and most prolific engineering firms in the world, with more than 90 offices in 37 countries; it claims to have, at any one time, 10,000 projects (!) running concurrently. But as Unified Design shows, the company hasn’t lost sight of the holistic approach. With essays and case studies, the book lays out Arup’s quest for sustainable, research-driven solutions that put people first, creating a “radical wholeness” in projects as diverse as a foot­bridge, a soccer stadium, and a village school in the remote Himalayas.

 
JEAN NOUVEL BY JEAN NOUVEL: COMPLETE WORKS 1970–2008
EDITED BY Philip Jodidio
DESIGNED BY Jean Nouvel
Taschen, 898 pp., $700

In the introduction, Jodidio writes of the recent Pritzker laureate: “At his best, he walks the fine line between a powerful gesture and functional design.” Luckily, this career retrospective manages a similar feat. More than five years in the making, the limited-edition two-volume set comes in a Plexiglas case designed by Nouvel himself; supposedly, it is reminiscent of the translucent facades often seen on his buildings. (It is pretty cool.) But inside this “powerful gesture”—which will run you a mere $700—is a cleanly designed monograph with lots of gorgeous color spreads of Nouvel’s buildings, and little of the portentousness that often weighs down these massive books.

 
INSTANT CITIES
BY Herbert Wright
DESIGNED BY Julia Trudeau Rivest
Black Dog Publishing, 240 pp., $65

For the purposes of this book, an “instant city” is not only one that has seemed to materialize overnight—like, say, Dubai—but also one that has left “dramatic change” in its wake. That definition encompasses a heck of a lot of cities; to create some order, the book has seven sections, which explore concepts like fantasy and reality, or utopia and dystopia. The best moments are in the mini­chapters by contributing writers, who benefit from a narrowness of focus. Anthony Vidler examines architecture in cinema, and Shumon Basar delivers a self-help manifesto, “12 Ultimate Critical Steps to Sudden Urban Success.” (Number Two: “Already possess signifi­cant wealth.”)

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