Thursday, May 3, 2012

Five Interesting Recentish Books from Our Architecture Section.

The Heights: Anatomy of a Skyscraper, by Kate Ascher (Viking).
Folks who like tall buildings will drool over this everything-you-ever-wanted-to-know guide. From pouring a foundation to managing the hvac to labeling all the folks on the construction crew, Ascher's book is filled with technical detail to the degree that it would appeal to a professional, yet written in easy-to-understand language such that an amateur aficionado like myself can rest easy as I learn how a building is protected from lightning, for example.

Building Tall: My Life and the Invention of Construction Management, by John L. Tishman with Tom Shachtman (University of Michigan).
OK, now we're getting a bit technical, but for folks like me who spent a lot of time in New York, these mostly New York towers are like family. The Tishmans were the construction managers for the World Trade Center. They weren't limited to New York, as they also helped build The Hancock Tower in Chicago. But the building that is closest to my heart is the Tishman Building itself, their headquarters on 666 Fifth Avenue. Not only did I work there for most of my four years in publishing, My mom and I always used the Tishman subway entrance when we visited Manhattan, eating at the Stouffers restaurant on several occasions, and later browsing the B. Dalton.

Rethinking a Lot: The Design and Culture of Parking, by Eran Ben-Joseph (MIT).
Now that I am a regular car user, I think a lot more about parking. I become quite irritated when the spaces in lots are too narrow, and become exasperated by poorly thought-out entrances and exits, which seem destined to be the source of accidents. City planner and urban designer Eran Ben-Joseph seems less concerned with what works and what doesn't than a philosophical transformation of space. Can parking lots be repurposed as markets during down time? Can solar panels offer shade and also generate energy? But alas, he doesn't seem to touch on my favorite contraption--the parking lot lifts of my youth that would raise a car up and allow another to park underneath.

High Line: The Inside Story of New York City's Park in the Sky, by Joshua David and Robert Hammond (FSG).
Speaking of transformations, there is none so awe inspiring as the train line running along the west side of Manhattan that was transformed into what is now considered to be one of New York's top scenic wonders. The High Line book is written as a conversation between David and Hammond, who as neighborhood activists, were able to overcome government red tape and corporate hankerings for this very valuable property to make this happen. Wow!

And if you want more pictures, we also have On the High Line: Exploring America's Most Original Urban Park, Annik LaFarge and Nick Darke. (Thames and Hudson).

The Great Builders, edited by Kenneth Powell (Thames and Hudson).
Speaking of Thames and Hudson, and bringing it all back home to the architects who have shaped our world, this beautiful volume collects essays from Brunelleschi to Calatrava. From Sinan, master architect of the Ottoman Empire to modern superstars Norman Foster and Frank Gehry, and lots of folks in between (Le Corbusier, Frank Lloyd Wright, Louis Sullivan). My only issue with the book is the lack of women, but you know what they say about people professionally obsessed with big buildings.*

This blog post is dedicated to the memory of our friend Shel Segel, husband of Boswellian Beverly. Consider contributing in his memory to:

Wisconsin Architects Foundation
321 South Hamilton Street
Madison, Wisconsin 53703.

*Note: I don't know what they say, but I'm sure they say something.

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