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ROBOTIC LANDSCAPES: DESIGNING THE UNFINISHED

AT OUR CURRENT moment in third decade of the 21st century, the relationship between technology and conservation could generously be described as uneasy: decades of greenwashing have seen the goodwill behind formerly sound words like “eco”, “organic”, and “autonomous” erode like so much sand. Current technological advances, from electric / autonomous vehicles to drones to the self-perpetuating slurry of metaverse and NFT content, pay occasional lip service to the impending wave of climate catastrophes, while rarely working to counteract it, and in some cases even accelerating it.

John Peck
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JUNKSPACE IN PASTEL: GEORGE BYRNE’S “POST TRUTH”

ORIGINALLY HAILING FROM Sydney, Australia, photographer George Byrne traveled extensively before finally settling in Los Angeles. The city became both his home and his subject (to the point of near-exclusivity, with rare exceptions made for Miami), and over the past decade he has developed a distinctive style and method, in which he digitally edits, alters, and blends photos into seamless, uncanny portmanteaus. The end result is a dreamlike series of bright, colorful locales that do not quite exist in the real world, appearing temporarily abandoned or forgotten, equal parts idyllic and abject.

John Peck
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INTERVIEW: JAMES J. CONWAY OF RIXDORF EDITIONS

FOUNDED IN BERLIN in 2017, Rixdorf Editions is an independent press dedicated to publishing neglected German texts of the late 19th and early 20th century in new English translations. In focusing on previously untranslated works of the pre-Weimar “Wilhelmine” era, the press sheds light on a literary era that is often overlooked, despite having produced writing as startlingly creative and groundbreaking – if not more so – than the more famous movements that would follow.

John Peck
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TOSHI OMAGARI DISCUSSES “ARCADE GAME TYPOGRAPHY”

IN-GAME TYPOGRAPHY of the arcade age played a role similar to that of neon signs in decades prior: to grab the attention of passersby, define brands and products, and above all make a unique aesthetic statement within the limits of its technology. Arcade games had to not only stand out in dark rooms and corridors, they had to compete side-by-side against other games, and along with eye-catching cabinet designs and sound blaring through speakers, a game’s onscreen display – called “attract mode” – was its primary means of drawing in paying customers. Typography played an essential role in drawing in players and convincing them to spend that first quarter – and after they had done so, in displaying essential information, providing encouragement, and keeping score. For those with enough skills, the experience of entering one’s initials on a semi-permanent High Score screen provided the ultimate type-based endorphin rush.

John Peck
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ARCHITECTURAL GUIDE: MOON

ARCHITECTURAL GUIDE: MOON, published to broadly coincide with the 50th anniversary of the first manned lunar mission, is a fascinating hybrid of various types of reference guide. From its first pages, the book fully commits to addressing the contradiction contained in its title: namely, how can one discuss the “architecture” of a place that is not just currently uninhabited, but could remain so indefinitely? While other entries in DOM’s Architectural Guide series are organized by region, the Moon guide is, understandably, instead chronological – after all, with most existing structures on the Moon having been built with little to no idea where they would eventually end up, the book can be forgiven for suspending the idea of architecture as a site-specific practice in this case.

John Peck
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SURVEY: ARCHITECTURE IN PEN AND INK

Survey, the newest addition to Park Books’ ongoing Architecture Iconographies series, is an examination of architectural drawings, paintings, maps, and photographs from the last five centuries. Rather than attempting to showcase the full range of images from such an eventful and prolific epoch, the book chooses instead to present its subject via six essays, each of which focuses on a single architect or scholar. Through these essays – which mostly focus on 18th-19th century drawings of classical architecture, many of them from the UK’s Drawing Matter collection – the book makes the argument that surveys are not just visual renderings of buildings, but also an integral part of the way those buildings are perceived and understood.

John Peck
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ORTHODOX CHIC

The post-Soviet architecture of Ukraine is a complex and often fraught subject we’ve frequently explored on this site. Kyiv’s Osnovy Publishing is at the forefront of documenting the Soviet architectural legacy, as well as its newfound vernacular architecture, via numerous books that illustrate the patchwork approach to building and city planning in Ukraine since 1990. Its Chic series in particular – which began with 2019’s Balcony Chic, and now continues with Orthodox Chic – offers a deadpan view of the motley, often improvised constructions that define the modern Ukrainian cityscape.

John Peck
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ARCHITECTURAL GUIDE JAPAN

HISTORY, WHETHER THROUGH its presence or its absence, informs the architecture of modern Japan to a much greater degree than it does in many other countries. One one hand, the country’s millennia-long political, religious, and artistic history permeates its architectural culture to a tremendous degree, serving as an endless wellspring of inspiration and guidance for successive generations of architects and designers. On the other, Japanese architecture since 1868 (the beginning of the Meiji era that defines “modern” Japan) and especially since WWII has countless examples of structures that eschew homegrown traditions in favor of European and global styles, with some architects pursuing a specifically futurist and ahistorical aesthetic. The unprecedented building boom of the postwar period saw Japan emerge as a relentlessly forward-looking and technology-oriented society, with emerging megacities expanding at a breakneck pace.

John Peck
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