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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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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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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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ANTARCTIC RESOLUTION: DOCUMENTING A THAWING WORLD

Antarctic Resolution, a monumental new “1000 page study of Antarctica’s architectural, historical, ecological and climatic peculiarities” from Lars Müller Publishers, traces the history of the southernmost continent from the early “Heroic Age” explorers up through the present. The book sets out to map the world’s least-known continent in numerous ways: cartographically, to be sure, but also chronologically (in both human and geological scales) and sociologically. Via dozens of essays and hundreds of maps and photos, the book creates a multidimensional model of Antarctica, with contributions from a diverse group of experts in science, history, ecology, architecture, and even art and literature. The essays are grouped into thematic chapters with unusually vivid and evocative names for a science-focused book (“Antarctic Pie”, “Twenty-Six Quadrillion Tons of Ice”, “The Ideological Use of Relics”), which serve more as prompts for creative thought than strictly organizational designations.

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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ARCHITECTURE OF CHECHNYA AND THE NORTH CAUCASUS

THE FIRST GUIDE of its kind, Chechnya and North Caucasus: An Architectural Guidebook explores the diverse architecture of one of the former Soviet Union’s least-explored regions. The seven independent republics and two Russian territories that make up the relatively small North Caucasus region represent an incredible array of languages, cultures, religions, and traditions, and offer a correspondingly broad range of architectural highlights, from modernism and brutalism to traditional and Islamic-inspired hybrids.

John Peck
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DREAMING IN CONCRETE: CODY ELLINGHAM’S “DANCHI DREAMS”

ORIGINALLY FROM NEW Zealand, photographer Cody Ellingham traveled to Tokyo on a scholarship in 2012. He ended up staying for six years, and while exploring the country’s staggeringly vivid and varied cityscapes he began photographing danchi, the massive public housing projects built in the aftermath of WWII. Like many such postwar projects in both the Soviet bloc and Western Europe, danchi took a core utopian vision and expanded it into vast, blocks-long megastructures capable of housing thousands. And, as is also often the case with utopian architecture, the decades since have not always been kind to the buildings themselves and those who depend on them.

John Peck
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BEAUTY AND THE EAST: NEW CHINESE ARCHITECTURE

ALTHOUGH BY NEARLY any measure the explosive growth of China’s cities in recent decades has been unprecedented in world history, the real growth has not yet even begun: by some estimates, nearly half of all construction worldwide in the next decade will happen in China. But while the sheer scale of the country’s population and infrastructure will necessarily remain part of the discussion, there are signs that the true story of China’s cities in the 21st century will lie in smaller details. Beauty and the East: New Chinese Architecture, out now in Germany from gestalten (with a worldwide release on March 30), focuses on the country’s comparatively smaller-scale architectural projects such as museums, cultural centers, monasteries, and private residences. On the whole, the projects selected for the book represent the nascent Chinese Modernism that has emerged over the past two decades, with features such as raw concrete, whitewashed walls, and floor-to-ceiling windows standing alongside much older structures and forms.

John Peck
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