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TOUCH WOOD: LIVES AND AFTERLIVES OF TREES

AS THE CURRENT century plays out and the need for sustainability in architecture becomes more urgent, it is increasingly important to take the full life cycles of buildings into account. It is not enough for a building’s post-construction existence to meet base levels of energy efficiency; the materials and processes used to build it, as well as the source of those materials, must be sustainable as well. As resources go, wood is unrivaled its potential to either dramatically raise or drastically lower the carbon footprint of buildings, both before and after they are completed.

John Peck
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INVENTING GREENLAND

WITH A TOTAL population of 56,000 spread across a landmass twice the size of all other Nordic countries combined, Greenland’s overall density hovers at just over zero. The precursors to Greenland’s modern-day inhabitants were settlers both indigenous and European, dating back millennia and including the Saqqaq, Independence I-II, and Dorset cultures, as well as the Greenlandic Vikings who settled in the far south in 982 (led by Erik the Red). All these prior cultures and settlements, however, disappeared, leaving only archaeological records.

John Peck
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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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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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OLD IS NEW: ARCHITECTURAL WORKS BY NEW MATERIAL RESEARCH LABORATORY

The architectural firm Shinsoken (“New Material Research Laboratory”), founded in 2008 by artist Hiroshi Sugimoto and architect Tomoyuki Sakakida, takes as its mission statement the paradox inherent in its name:

Notwithstanding its name, New Material Research Laboratory examines materials from ancient and medieval times and focuses its activities on reinterpreting and reimagining the use of these materials in the present.

Old is New, from Lars Müller Publishers, documents the studio’s impressive body of work from the past 13 years. In texts arranged geometrically alongside a generous spread of interior and exterior photos, the studio’s founders discuss their approach to architecture and design, giving particular attention to the use of old (or even ancient) materials and traditional techniques.

John Peck
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STATISTA: TOWARDS A STATECRAFT OF THE FUTURE

IMMEDIATELY UPON ITS completion in 1970, Berlin’s Haus der Statistik (which stood north of Alexanderplatz in the shadow of the just-built Fernsehturm) took its place as one of the central organs of the GDR state apparatus. With the collection of data and statistics for all of East Germany as its goal, the eleven-story complex housed numerous bureaucratic units, including several floors of Stasi offices. Its street-level businesses were the ultimate in urbane GDR style, hosting two lounges (Jagdklause and the fabulously named Mocca-Eck), a hunting/fishing shop, and Natascha, a boutique offering the latest Soviet imports.

John Peck
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PHANTOM ARCHITECTURE OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA: GHOSTS OF THE NATIONAL TRAIL

THE STRETCH OF road between Goffs and Amboy, California, has been around for over a hundred years, and in that time it has been known by many names. It initially formed a part of the National Old Trails Road, a primitive, mostly unpaved cross-country route that predated the establishment of the US highway system. In the late 1920s it was incorporated into Route 66 and under this designation it served for decades as the main thoroughfare through the Mojave desert.

Jesse Simon
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