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.
The Großer Heineberg is a 56-meter hill in Potsdam-Bornim (peak at 52.435010, 12.988588, map below). After WWII it was used as a dump for building materials, and while the vegetation has generally made a comeback the soil is still filled with pieces of brick, tile, and glass, with larger piles of rubble appearing frequently.
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.
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.
Urlaubs(t)räume des Sozialismus, new from Wasmuth & Zohlen, explores the unique architectural history of East Germany’s vacation centers. The book starts by framing the concept of “vacation” in the DDR as being something fundamentally different from what it was in the West: in the latter, vacations were seen as an escape, a chance to “get away” from everyday routines and problems; in the former, they were an integral part of life, built into the yearly rhythm alongside work, school, and sick leave. The idea that regular vacation time was a right of every family was declared with the founding of the DDR in 1949, and throughout its four-decade history, the government created a vast infrastructure designed to bring industrial efficiency and simplicity to the process of planning one’s holidays.
BLUE CROW MEDIA IS a London-based publisher of maps, specializing in modernist and brutalist architecture worldwide. The maps are beautifully designed in a classic-modernist aesthetic, and take particular care in their choice of typefaces. The latter point is especially evident in the numerous bilingual maps, many of which use non-Latin scripts including Cyrillic, Georgian, and Hangul. In these maps, both languages get equal space in the layout, sending a clear message that they are intended for locals as well as tourists.
CHERNOBYL: A STALKER’S GUIDE, new from Darmon Richter and FUEL Publishing, is an impressive hybrid: part travelogue, part memoir, part essay. The book weaves together numerous strands of history, mythology, and ecology that intersect at Chernobyl, ranging from Prometheus as an atomic Marxist saint to pop-cultural references like the Fallout games and HBO’s Chernobyl to mushrooms as a potential solution nuclear waste solution. Richter, who has spent decades exploring and writing about what he calls “ideological architecture” (which often, but by no means always, focuses on Communist-era buildings) does an impressive job of unifying these numerous trajectories, resulting in a highly focused and immensely readable study of a fundamentally misunderstood place.
IN THE MONTHS and years following the collapse of the Soviet Union, countless Communist-era monuments and statues have been toppled, dynamited, or otherwise destroyed. The process continues today, and is particularly accelerated in former Soviet states such as Ukraine, where clashes between pro-Russian activists and Ukranian nationalists often center around (literal) concrete representations of the country’s former occupier.