Bookshelf

Immaterial World:
Transparency in Architecture

WRITTEN BY Marc Kristal
DESIGNED BY Claudia Brandenburg
THE MONACELLI PRESS, 214 pp., $45

The author, a frequent Metropolis contributor, uses transparency
as a way of looking at a wide range of contemporary architecture. “Physical transparency in design is one of the most comprehensible of concepts because a building is, at root, openings and walls—transparency and opacity in alter-nation,” he writes in the book’s introduction. The premise is broad enough to include everything from Renzo Piano’s California Academy of Sciences, in San Francisco, to the XSmall House, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, designed by UNI. The book’s 25 projects are well chosen, Kristal’s writing is lucid and lively, and Claudia Branden-burg’s clear, unobtrusive design packs a wallop, deftly underscoring the theme. —I.H.

Kevin Roche:
Architecture as Environment

WRITTEN BY Eeva-Liisa Pelkonen
DESIGNED BY Pentagram
YALE UNIVERSITY PRESS, 268 pp., $65

Roche began his illustrious career at age 19 by designing a piggery
for a thousand of his father’s pigs. Seven years later, he found himself studying under Mies van der Rohe at the Illinois Institute of Technology. Roche made his way to the studio of Eero Saarinen, where as the master’s right-hand man he helped create some of the seminal buildings of the modern age. Following Saarinen’s untimely death in 1961, Roche and his part-ner, John Dinkeloo, completed a number of those iconic projects, eventually establishing an important firm in their own right. To tell this compelling story, the book intersperses photographs of Roche’s buildings with essays (including one by the architect himself) and an illustrated timeline of his work. —K.Y.

Julius Shulman Los Angeles:
The Birth of a Modern Metropolis

WRITTEN BY Sam Lubell and Douglas Woods
DESIGNED BY Volume Inc.
RIZZOLI, 240 pp., $60

The legendary photographer probably had as much to do with creating the mythology of modern L.A. as anyone on the planet, so the book’s subtitle is perfectly apt. Although some old favorites, such as the Eames House and Pierre Koenig’s Case Study House No. 22, do appear here, this sumptuous book is not a greatest-hits collection. Instead, it’s a beautiful, bitter-sweet, almost rueful tribute to a vanished city. Think of it as Shulman’s Lost Los Angeles. The book opens with an honest and engaging foreword by his daughter, Judy McKee. This is followed by more than 200 pages of images, which testify to Shulman’s singular genius and the nearly untrammeled beauty of midcentury L.A. Sadly, both are now gone. —I.H.

Helvetica and the New York City Subway System
WRITTEN BY Paul Shaw
DESIGNED BY Paul Shaw and Abby Goldstein
THE MIT PRESS, 131 pp., $39.95

“As any New Yorker—or visitor to the city—knows, the subway system is a labyrinth,” Shaw writes in an introductory essay on the history of the signage of New York City’s subway system. The author, who has designed or codesigned 18 fonts, takes us from the typography originally used by each of the three independent transit systems (the lines were combined in 1940) to their eclectic mingling today. Keenly written and filled with comprehensive visual documentation, Helvetica looks at the history of one of the greatest cities in the world from the vantage of its gritty (but usually dependable) public-transportation system and the signs that lead us into and out of it. —K.Y.

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