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Showing posts from April, 2016

Book Review: Architectural Agents

Architectural Agents: The Delusional, Abusive, Addictive Lives of Buildings (2015) by my undergraduate architectural history professor, Annabel Jane Wharton, is an imagining of what it means when we say that buildings "act" or "do things" in the world.  Architects and architectural historians like to think that buildings are active -- taking roles in the built environment, shaping human action -- but if pressed, we might not be able to say exactly what we mean by that.  Of course buildings don't move or act in a traditional sense, we'll say.  But they can enable, or conversely, proscribe limits to, human action.   In her introduction, Professor Wharton goes further, exploring the agency of buildings as grounded in their unique, embodied, historical characteristics, which allow them to have distinct social and political effects.  Wharton writes,

"Now, as in the past, buildings may be immobile, but they are by no means passive.  [...]  [M]ost buildings, …

Book Review: A Country of Cities

A Country of Cities is the book I think we should all send our parents, to help them understand what it is we are facing as a generation when it comes to climate change, land use, changing lifestyles, urbanism, sustainability, etc.  Vishaan Chakrabarti, partner at SHoP Architects in New York and a GSAPP professor of real estate development, has put together a fully-researched and attractively illustrated book that breaks down urbanism into simple illustrations explaining how the US came to be a nation of "highways, hedges, and houses," and how he thinks we should instead work toward a country of cities, of "trains, trees, and towers," to use his phrase.  The book is a polemic, an unabashed argument for greater density in our cities, fewer cars, and, most importantly, fewer subsidies for the suburbs, which he argues is the one of the biggest reasons we Americans are as sprawling, land-wasting, and unsustainable as we are.

The first part of the book lays out the hist…