»Form follows feminine.«

Oscar Niemeyer

Blog Review

Tales of Excess

10 Stories of Collective Housing

  • Ready and waiting... This 495-page “graphical analysis of inspiring masterpieces” brilliantly anatomises ten examples of collective housing. 1 / 16  Ready and waiting... This 495-page “graphical analysis of inspiring masterpieces” brilliantly anatomises ten examples of collective housing.
  • Its ten sections each take one scheme as the main focus of study, yet use this to consider a wider issue in or type of collective housing, with analysis provided by a rich mix of text, imagery, graphics and info-graphics. 2 / 16  Its ten sections each take one scheme as the main focus of study, yet use this to consider a wider issue in or type of collective housing, with analysis provided by a rich mix of text, imagery, graphics and info-graphics.
  • For instance, in Section 01... (note the nice graphics!) 3 / 16  For instance, in Section 01... (note the nice graphics!)
  • ...the title is “The Streets in the Air”, and it looks at the Justus van Effen complex, Rotterdam, Holland, designed by Michiel Brinkman from 1919 to 1922. (check out the nice line illustration and Smithsons’ quote!) 4 / 16  ...the title is “The Streets in the Air”, and it looks at the Justus van Effen complex, Rotterdam, Holland, designed by Michiel Brinkman from 1919 to 1922. (check out the nice line illustration and Smithsons’ quote!)
  • Copious historical and contemporaneous projects are also cited as references to the main project discussed... 5 / 16  Copious historical and contemporaneous projects are also cited as references to the main project discussed...
  • Urban form is analysed through clear axonometrics by Álex S. Ollero... 6 / 16  Urban form is analysed through clear axonometrics by Álex S. Ollero...
  • ...supplemented by strong images... 7 / 16  ...supplemented by strong images...
  • ...useful sections... 8 / 16  ...useful sections...
  • ...and archive materials. 9 / 16  ...and archive materials.
  • Or with Section 02, it is the turn of the 1928-32 Narkomfin building in Moscow by Moisei Ginzburg and Ignaty Milinis, in a section titled “The Sinking of the Social Condensor”. 10 / 16  Or with Section 02, it is the turn of the 1928-32 Narkomfin building in Moscow by Moisei Ginzburg and Ignaty Milinis, in a section titled “The Sinking of the Social Condensor”.
  • In Section 03, “Cheaper, Faster, Lighter, Taller”, it is construction that falls under the spotlight with an analysis of Cité de la Muette in Paris, from 1931 to 1934, by Beaudouin, Lods, Mopin, Bodiansky. 11 / 16  In Section 03, “Cheaper, Faster, Lighter, Taller”, it is construction that falls under the spotlight with an analysis of Cité de la Muette in Paris, from 1931 to 1934, by Beaudouin, Lods, Mopin, Bodiansky.
  • This is underpinned by detailed graphic analysis of construction systems and skins. 12 / 16  This is underpinned by detailed graphic analysis of construction systems and skins.
  • Section 06 is called “An Exquisite Ghetto” – where else but the Barbican in London, by Peter Chamberlin, Geoffry Powell, Christof Bon and Arup, designed and built between 1955 and 1983. 13 / 16  Section 06 is called “An Exquisite Ghetto” – where else but the Barbican in London, by Peter Chamberlin, Geoffry Powell, Christof Bon and Arup, designed and built between 1955 and 1983.
  • All the key players mentioned have useful biographies provided. 14 / 16  All the key players mentioned have useful biographies provided.
  • Great schemes like that of Jean Renaudie, with his Jeanne Hachette complex in Paris, 1970 to 1975, in Section 10, are contextualised in an interesting and illuminating way. 15 / 16  Great schemes like that of Jean Renaudie, with his Jeanne Hachette complex in Paris, 1970 to 1975, in Section 10, are contextualised in an interesting and illuminating way.
  • So as you see, an excessive book...! 16 / 16  So as you see, an excessive book...!

Florian Heilmeyer waxes almost lyrical over a new book stuffed with information and analysis on collective housing.

This is a book of excess in many ways. In the excessive volume of its information and perfectly designed layouts; in the excessive number of info-graphics that present even the most complex and multi-layered connections in a beautiful, clear way. It is excessive too in its lust for detail and almost insatiable interest in analysing and understanding the ten collective housing schemes that it presents in all their details, references, meanings and relevance. It really sets a completely new standard in architectural publications. On reading I had to admit (excessively too!) that it really seems almost the perfect architecture book.

With 10 Stories of Collective Housing, the Spanish publisher, a+t, initiates a series, which will see each successive publication devoted to the “graphical analysis of inspiring masterpieces”, as a+t subtitles it, each one devoted to a special focus topic in architecture.

For this first volume, ten schemes from the 20th century have been chosen. Of course any such selection immediately begs the question as to why this particular ten, what were the criteria for inclusion, indeed are they even all “masterpieces”? But the editors, Aurura Fernández Per and Javier Mozas, already disarm this critique in their very sympathetic foreword: “This is neither a canonical list of buildings nor the top ten of collective housing. They were chosen as one chooses one’s friends. Faults and all, they make everything worthwhile”.

Urban form is analysed through clear axonometrics by Álex S. Ollero...

This attractively warm approach, mixed with its rigour, is what makes this book so good. Don’t expect to see Corbu’s Unité d’Habitation included here, for instance, or other already extensively covered projects. The most well-known projects featured are probably the Barbican Centre (London, 1955-1983) and the Norkomfin building (Moscow, 1932). But how about the Justus van Effen Complex (Rotterdam, 1922), the Cité de la Muette (Paris, 1934), Luigi Moretti’s multi-purpose complex in Milan (1956) or Fumihiko Maki’s Hillside Terraces (Tokyo, 1967-1998)? How much do you know about them? Well, you will know rather a lot more after reading this book.

Over 495 pages the ten buildings are not just analysed but excessively anatomised. There are floor plans, sections and photos – both historical and contemporary – but what makes this book stand out is the wealth of functional diagrammes, axonometrics and other graphics exclusively designed by Álex S. Ollero. Another nice touch is context:  each project is cross-referenced to other ones and even, on occasion, to paintings or magazines that have either inspired or been inspired by the building, stretching from earlier historical works to recent designs. I have never seen a more impressive nor comprehensive way to make a connection from the skywalks of the Justus van Effen complex to the Smithsons’ Robin Hood Gardens to Bjarke Ingels’ 8 House in Copenhagen – and back!

In brief: this book is as excessive as it needs to be in order to set a new standard for architectural publications. It is not about  glossy (re-)presentation but a deep understanding of architecture. If you, like me, are interested in that, then go buy it.

– Florian Heilmeyer


www.aplust.net


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