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Throughout the month of June, we’re going to take a look at books. With any luck, you’ll find some time this season to devote to reading—and possibly writing—some well-crafted words. We’ve compiled a short list of (mostly) new titles to get the literary ball rolling.

Once summer is over, there are two noteworthy events to replenish your reading list. The NY Art Book Fair comes to PS 1 September 16-18. Organized by Printed Matter, the fair features artist-produced books that range from affordable to investment-quality. The 2016 Designers & Books Fair will be held on November 11-13; check for details.



Dance the Bauhaus

Torsten Blume

Seemann Henschel

While the Bauhaus is known worldwide as an avant-garde workshop for architecture, art, and design, some might be surprised to learn that the school also nurtured the study of dance as a means of investigating questions of form and space. Bearing names like Form Dance, Glass Dance, Metal Dance, Stick Dance, and Space Dance, the experimental choreography was performed during Bauhaus festivals, often accompanied by a band playing a mix of jazz and traditional German folk tunes—haus music, one might say.



The Architecture of Happiness

Alain de Botton


On Paul Goldberger’s list of must-reads for architects, this generously-illustrated book journeys through the philosophy and psychology of architecture and the powerful connection between identity and location. One of the root causes of both happiness and misery is the quality of the designed environment—and yet a concern for architecture is often described as frivolous, even self-indulgent. De Botton takes the thought that where we are heavily influences who we can be as his starting point, and argues that it is architecture’s task to stand as an eloquent reminder of our full potential.


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Twenty Over Eighty: Conversations on a Lifetime in Architecture and Design

Aileen Kwun and Bryn Smith

Princeton Architectural Press

A variant on the 40 Under 40-genre of talent-prognosticating, this book is a collection of intimate and often irreverent interviews with twenty architecture and design luminaries over the age of eighty. Revealing conversations with architects Denise Scott Brown, Stanley Tigerman, Ricardo Scofidio, Beverly Willis, and the late Michael Graves; urbanist Jane Thompson; product designers Ingo Maurer, Richard Sapper, and Jens Risom; graphic designers Seymour Chwast, Milton Glaser, and Deborah Sussman; critic Ralph Caplan, and others shed light on how and why these pioneers continue to shape their disciplines well into their ninth decade.



Nanotecture: Tiny Built Things

Rebecca Roke


Consider this a portfolio of the possible. Three hundred thought-provoking architectural works of diminutive size—including demountable, portable, transportable, and inflatable structures, as well as pavilions, installations, sheds, pods, and capsules—use new materials and methods to demonstrate that small-scale constructs can prove inspiring in their own right.


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A Burglar’s Guide to the City

Geoff Manaugh

FSG Originals

From the author of BLDGBLOG, this book offers an atypical perspective: How any building transforms when seen through the eyes of someone hoping to break into it. Chronicling nearly 2,000 years of heists and break-ins, the book draws on the expertise of reformed bank robbers, FBI agents, private security consultants, the LAPD Air Support Division, and architects past and present to analyze the strengths and vulnerabilities of a range of building types.



Picturing America’s National Parks

Jamie M. Allen

Aperture; co-published with the George Eastman Museum

To celebrate the centennial of the National Park Service, this book assembles some of the finest landscape photography in the history of the medium. Featuring the work of masters such as Ansel Adams, Imogen Cunningham, William Henry Jackson, Edward Weston, and Minor White, as well as contemporary artists such as Lee Friedlander, Stephen Shore, and Joel Sternfeld, this volume explores the role of photography in promoting national heritage, land conservation, and wildlife preservation.


And one to pre-order…


Never Built New York

Greg Goldin and Sam Lubell

Metropolis Books

Due in October, this follow-up to Never Built Los Angeles features nearly 200 proposals for bridges, skyscrapers, master plans, parks, transit schemes, amusements, airports, plans to fill in rivers and extend the island of Manhattan, culled from the past 200 years. Included are Frank Lloyd Wright’s last project, the Key Plan for Ellis Island; Buckminster Fuller’s design for Brooklyn’s Dodger Stadium, complete with giant geodesic dome; developer William Zeckendorf’s Rooftop Airport, perched on steel columns 200 feet above street level, spanning 24th to 71st streets and Ninth Avenue to the Hudson River; and Stephen Holl’s Bridge of Houses, which offered housing options from SROs to modest studios to luxury apartments along a segment of what is now the High Line.

Sneak Peaks

hill harbor

We wrap up our month-long look at nature and architecture with a look at one of the newest public parks in New York City. Designed by West 8 landscape architects, the Hills on Governors Island are scheduled to open on July 19—but we’ve got a secret to share with you. Over the course of Memorial Day weekend, free hardhat tours of the Hills will be offered. Hour-long tours will depart from Liggett Arch at 11am, 1pm, and 3pm on Saturday and Sunday. Leslie Koch, president of the Trust for Governors Island, will lead the 11am and 1pm tours both days. Hardhats and vests will be provided, and closed-toe shoes are required.



The ten-acre site features four hills, built of recycled construction materials and fill. Grassy Hill is a 25-foot-high slope overlooking the island’s new and historic landscapes, as well as the Manhattan skyline. Slide Hill, rising up 40 feet, is home of four twisting slides, including the longest one in New York City. Rachel Whitehead’s Cabin has been installed on Discovery Hill, another 40-foot mound. Overlook Hill provides both fully-accessible paths and a granite-block scramble to its 70-foot summit, where panoramic views of harbor and city can be enjoyed.

Architecture in Bloom

In an extension—logical or otherwise—of last week’s post on green architecture, today we’re taking a look at buildings that cite nature as a design influence, as well as at a few structures whose purpose is to provide shelter for collections of exotic fauna.


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An abstracted lotus blossom gives form to the ArtScience Musuem in Singapore by Moishe Safdie.


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At the other end of the design spectrum, 505 Studio‘s Lotus Building in Wujin, China offers a slightly more representational visage.



Built in 1986 in New Dehli, the Lotus Temple by Fariborz Sahba conforms to the Bahá’í precept requiring religious structures to have a plan based on a nine-pointed star.



Turning from architectural metaphors to buildings actually designed for botanicals, we have the Howard P. Rawlings Conservatory in Baltimore. Opened in 1888, it’s the second oldest glass-and-steel-framed structure still in use in the US.



On the grounds of Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna, Franz Segenschmid designed the Palm House in 1882. The glazing was largely destroyed during World War II; following five years of reconstruction, the building reopened in 1953.


jewelbox st louis

A curious bit of Art Deco in St. Louis, MO, the Jewel Box greenhouse was designed by city engineer William C.E. Becker. Built in 1936, the project was largely funded by the WPA. A 2002 renovation included new HVAC systems.



In Adelaide, Australia, the Bicentennial Conservatory was designed by Guy Maron in 1988. The curved structural steel and the aluminum-framed glazing units were prefabricated, then assembled on site.

Going for the Green

The showers of April have continued—all too vigorously, for some tastes—into May. While this soggy state of affairs can dampen the human spirit, it’s great weather for green architecture. Here’s a mix of built and conceptual projects that we find particularly uplifting on rainy spring days.


henning larsen moesgaard

The Moesgaard Museum by Henning Larsen Architects features a green roof that insulates the interior while shielding objects on display from direct sunlight.



A cell-like construction system is at the heart of the Re-Generator Skyscraper, a proposal by Gabriel Munoz Moreno to revive the wetlands of Hangzhou, China.



W Architecture and Landscape Architecture created a 32-foot by 55-foot green wall at the Prudential headquarters in Newark, New Jersey.


stadel museum

A green grid of circular skylights at the Stadel Museum in Frankfurt, Germany forms the “roof” of the underground expansion of the galleries, designed by Schneider + Schumacher.


espace bienvenue

Environmental scientists at Espace Bienvenue enjoy the view of a rooftop garden designed by Jean-Philippe Pargade.



Baubotanik utilizes living plants as the load-bearing systems in small constructions such as pavilions, towers, and walls. For architects accustomed to wielding complete control over a project, the serendipity of working with natural forces could be a bit challenging.


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Developed by Arup, a proposal for the eco-city of Wanzhuang, China explores a situating a cluster of villages around a shared town center as a solution for the country’s urban-rural gap.


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To mark the upcoming 50th anniversary of Expo 67 and Buckminster Fuller’s Biosphere, Studio Dror envisions a companion dome, netted with vegetation, on Montreal’s St. Helen’s Island.

Taking Stock

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With tax filings now in the rear-view mirror, it’s possible to have some perspective on the current state of AEC industries. Kermit Baker, the inestimable chief economist for the AIA, offers a positive look forward and back for the architecture business:

2015 was a great year for nonresidential construction activity and generally a good year for revenue at architecture firms. Overall, almost two thirds of firms reported that they met or exceeded their expectations for profitability for the year, with over 40% exceeding expectations. Firms that met their profitability expectations listed “ability to negotiate fees” as the most important factor in achieving these results, followed by their ability to attract new clients and new business, ability to manage existing projects, ability to attract qualified staff and experienced firm leadership, and ability to manage firm overhead costs like rent and health care contributions.

The economy is looking reasonably healthy, and for the first time in many years the construction sector is one of the bright lights in the economic outlook. New single-family housing construction, in particular, is poised for healthy growth. Though single-family housing starts have seen solid gains in recent years, they still are less than half of levels seen prior to the downturn. The importance of the construction sector to the economy can be seen in the employment figures. On net, construction has added 220,000 payroll positions over the past two quarters, accounting for almost 15% of total job growth in our economy over this period even though construction accounts for only about 5% of payroll positions nationally.

In 2016, after a slight decline in January and a weak recovery in February, architecture firms were reporting healthier business conditions in March. The AIA’s Architecture Billings Index (ABI) was 51.9, reflecting the strongest month-to-month growth since last October. New project inquiries, at 58.1 for the month showed somewhat slower growth than the February reading, while the new design contracts index of 51.8 showed a very modest acceleration from the 51.7 reading in February.

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Show Me the Money


As the time to pay the piper (aka Uncle Sam) approaches, just about everybody could benefit from a bit of psychological pick-me-up. To that end, we’ve rounded up a curious selection of architecturally-oriented currencies from around the globe. Hopefully, their finely-wrought renderings will help buoy your spirits—if not your savings account. Which raises the question: What buildings—or architects—would you like to see immortalized on a bank note?



Alvar Aalto appears on the old, pre-Euro Finnish markka.



The Swiss honor Le Corbusier on their 10 franc note.



Snøhetta won a competition to design the verso of the Swedish kroner; its pixelated compositions are expected to go into circulation next year.



Kazhakstan’s tenge bills feature a rather fantastic communications tower.



An uninspiring example of Soviet-era design graced the former Yugoslavia’s dinar. Note the denomination: 500,000,000,000. (Yes, inflation was an issue.)



For its leva, Bulgaria opts for a deconstructivist overlay approach.


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What may be the ultimate statement of fiduciary pride comes from an unlikely source: Lithuania. Located in the city of Kaunas, this ten-story office building is wrapped in more than 4,500 pieces of frit glass that depict an ornate 1926 banknote. Architect Rimas Adomaitis worked with the Dutch company Glass Printing International on the design, fabrication, and installation of the facade.

Meaningful Contributions



It’s April, and thoughts turn to taxes—and charitable giving. While it’s too late to reap the benefits of a deduction to eligible organizations in the current filing season, supporting worthy causes throughout 2016 will pay off in both fiscal and feel-good ways. Here, we share a few design-oriented non-profit entities that are deserving of recognition. FLW would approve.


Design Industries Foundation Fighting AIDS (DIFFA) is one of the country’s largest supporters of direct care for people living with HIV/AIDS and preventive education for those at risk. Merging care and commerce, supporters of DIFFA come from all fields of fine design and the visual arts, including architecture, fashion design, interior design, photography, and consumer product design.

With fundraising efforts bolstered by strategic partnerships and unique events showcasing innovation and creativity, DIFFA has mobilized the immense resources of the design communities and granted over $41 million to hundreds of AIDS service organizations nationwide.

Founded in 1984, DIFFA grants funds to organizations which fight AIDS by providing preventive education programs targeted to populations at risk of infection, treatment and direct-care services for people living with HIV/AIDS, and public policy initiatives which add resources to private sector efforts.


The International Committee for Documentation and Conservation of Buildings, Sites, and Neighborhoods of the Modern Movement (DOCOMOMO) promotes the study, interpretation and protection of the architecture, landscape and urban design of the Modern Movement. It promotes the exchange of knowledge about this important legacy which extends from the planned city and the iconic monument to the house next door.

Docomomo is an international organization, with chapters in 69 countries. It is an important presence in conservation and in architectural culture, worldwide, working in partnership with other international organizations, national governments, and regional and national associations.

The United States branch is organized in regional chapters and friend organizations throughout the country, from east coast to west coast and from the Gulf of Mexico to Minnesota. Chapters sponsor educational programs and tours, provide technical assistance on the preservation of Modern Movement buildings, conduct research and surveys that support a nationwide register, publish newsletters, and advocate for threatened sites.


The Urban Design Forum comprises leading developers, architects, planners, builders, public officials, scholars, lawyers, and journalists that have demonstrated a commitment to building great cities. Founded in 1979, and headquartered in New York, Fellows of the Forum hail from over fifty cities across the United States and around the world.

The Board of Directors invites a select group of distinguished leaders of urban design, planning and development to participate each year. Candidates are nominated for their significant contributions to the fields of urban design, planning and development; standing among his or her peers; and ability to participate actively in Forum programs.

Marching Forward, Part 3

Wrapping up our March coverage of women in the AEC industries, we’re featuring Fiona Cousins, a mechanical engineer and Principal with Arup. Here, she writes about the price of leadership in the contemporary workplace.

What is “all” after all?

I’ve spoken to many people about the notion of “having it all” both to satisfy my own curiosity and in preparation for speaking publicly about the role of women in construction.

I think that there are two things that professional women think of, apart from their jobs, when they think about having it all: First, the conventional expectation that no woman is fulfilled unless she has children of her own, and the consequential mountain of expectations that we all bring to what good motherhood means. This is often linked to expectations on the role of “wife.”

Second, there is plenty of research that backs up a nagging suspicion that strong, assertive female leaders are not as well-liked by their colleagues as are strong, assertive male leaders; somehow, there’s something unfeminine about the whole enterprise of leading. This is a double-bind: You have to be strong to be a leader, but if you are not well-liked, you will soon find your head bruised by impact with the glass ceiling.

Another frequent answer that gives us a clue about how we manage to “have it all” is that people feel it is possible to have it all, just not all at once.

Much of the corporate and social narrative around this subject suggests that we need to achieve a better work-life balance, as if work is not a part of life. My firm’s ethos is pretty clear on this: Work and life are not inseparable, and satisfying work is a part of life, and deserving of the type of attention and care that you put towards the rest of your life. This is often not about the particular job that you hold, but what you think the purpose of your work is.

I would argue that to be a good leader you need to be happy and fulfilled, and the ingredients of such a life will be different for different people. The work-life dichotomy is too simplified. There is a good deal of literature that suggests that achieving balance means paying attention to work, to home, and to some other thing, described in some cases as the “third place.” The crux of the argument is that everyone needs somewhere where they don’t have to work so hard, where there are no chores, where the stakes are lower, where you are reminded that you are yourself. For me, just one “third place” is nowhere near enough to support creativity and generate joy; I can think of at least four activities that feed my soul.

Whether you choose to view life as a balance between work and life or between work, home, and other activities, it is important to remember that to be good at what you do needs you both to be skilled and to have an assignment that allows you to apply your skill. We come to leadership by making choices, and I believe that we will be most successful—at everything—when our chosen activities support both our personal well-being and our professional lives.


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Fiona Cousins is Principal of Arup, the preeminent provider of interdisciplinary engineering, consulting, and design services. A mechanical engineer, she leads the sustainability team in the New York office. She also directs technical investments for Arup’s Americas Region and is a member of the Arup Americas Board.

Marching Forward, Part 2

Continuing our March focus on women in the AEC industries, we’re featuring Esther Sperber, a New York City-based architect who has written about the relationship between architecture and psychoanalysis.

I knew little about the work of an architect when I applied to architecture school, but I clearly remember my excitement when I discovered the design process in my first studio projects. Now, after twenty years of practice, I can better articulate what is unique and fascinating to me about the field of architecture.

As architects, we are tasked to create physical solutions to complex problems; buildings that respond to the urban context, social structures, functional needs, environmental conditions, financial limits, and more. Architecture synthesizes these challenges and creates spaces that expand the range of human and social experiences.

We inherited the Romantic image of the “architect” as a lone autonomous genius. This view of creativity ignores other models of inventions which thrive through collaboration, leadership, and negotiation, design methods that often exclude women and the ways in which firms and partnerships practice.

I am interested in a deeper understanding of the design process, one which acknowledges the centrality of interpersonal processes, which I call “relational creativity.” At my firm, we strive to foster a collaborative creative process in which the wishes and needs of the client, users, engineers, city officials, and architects shape a successful, innovative solution.

Esther Sperber

Esther Sperber founded Studio ST Architects in 2003. Previously, she was with Pei Partnership Architects, where she worked closely with I.M. Pei. Born and raised in Jerusalem, she studied architecture at the Technion in Haifa and at Columbia University in New York City.

Marching Forward

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Cynthia Kracauer (Photo courtesy Archtober)

Welcome to March, which brings us unpredictable weather, a seemingly endless college basketball tournament, and Women’s History month. We’ve asked several luminaries in the AEC fields to share why they pursued a career in these industries. This week, we’re honored to feature Cynthia Kracauer, Managing Director of the Center for Architecture and the festival director for Archtober: Architecture and Design Month NYC.

What drew me to the practice of architecture?

“Flow” is the short answer.

My father was in the Navy and we moved every eighteen months until I was ten. From place to place I carried with me a pocket-sized cadre of fabric creatures, mice and squirrels, that I made by cutting fingers off my white gloves and snipping fluffs of aqua fur from Mother’s shearling bedroom slippers. I stuffed the fingers with cotton, made felt feet and ears and whiskered the faces with thread pulled through the pointed noses. Blanche, the white mouse, and Sibyll, the aqua squirrel, were my best friends and I created elaborate houses for them from cadged shirt cardboards and discarded packing boxes. Countless solitary hours were spent gluing, cutting, fitting, and fantasizing about the special tree dwelling that had an elevator with a pulley made from a wooden spool of Coats & Clark thread. When I was working in that fantasy world, I experienced joy.

I remembered that joy when I signed up for Architecture 101 in my first semester in college. Bob Geddes, FAIA, the Dean of the School of Architecture at Princeton, taught the course. It was very popular, perhaps because it had the reputation of being fun. Bob was a great lecturer, and there was a good bit of wandering around looking at buildings. Doodling was encouraged. The class also exposed students to life in the studio, which looked a whole lot like bunches of kids sitting around making mouse houses. I was hooked.

Cynthia Phifer Kracauer, AIA, has been the Managing Director of the Center for Architecture since 2006, and festival director for Archtober: Architecture and Design Month NYC, now in its sixth year. She was previously a partner at Butler Rogers Baskett, and from 1989 to 2005 worked at Swanke Hayden Cornell. After graduating from Princeton (AB 1975, M. Arch 1979), she worked for Philip Johnson, held faculty appointments at the University of Virginia, NJIT, and her alma mater.