Writing Architecture

Tropolism Books: Kengo Kuma Selected Works


Title: Kengo Kuma Selected Works

Author: Botond Bognar

Publication Date: June 2005

Publisher: Princeton Architectural Press

ISBN: 1-56898-468-5

One of the difficult aspects of Architectural Book reviews, particularly of monographs, is that they, like Art Books, are about the works of Artists. Artists make things, and the idea that a book with a lot of pictures about someone's work must itself be a compelling object is a given condition. It's like the air: all book reviewers must breathe it.

Read the full review of the new Kengo Kuma monograph after the jump...

The Wordless Appearance


Several months ago, I began a blog entirely devoted to my love, architecture. Like Warhol's wife (his tape recorder), I am always accompanied by cities, by how the density of building (or nondensity of buildings) brings people together in new an uncanny ways, by how their materials create a beautiful new world for us to be born into. Cities have become our Second Nature.

Tropolism is for architects and city-dwellers who are critical of architectural practice, and who find beauty everywhere, sometimes in really big failures. You can count on me to find value wherever it can be found.

Tropolism is for those of us tired of reading gossip and complaining about buildings and architects. This space is a quest for ideas, suggestions, and solutions. Writing this space has revealed to me that a powerful critic, unlike an opinion columnist, filters his opinions through a much denser lens of fact. It is a kind of writing perfectly tailored to architecture itself, which is never reducible to its function, motivations, or circumstances, yet derives its power by being irrevocably twinned to these concerns.

Today I celebrate beauty, in particular the urban impact of beauty, a topic of special concern to my nascent practice. I look forward to writing New York, Los Angeles, London, or Tokyo, and in turn brightening them. Welcome, again, to Tropolism.

Architectural Eavesdropping

Tropolism means talking about how you feel about facts, dahling. We would never be caught telling you how we feel about gossip, rumor. Conjecture and second-hand information, however, is one big gray area.

Our friend Aric Chen is giving Architect's Newspaper a little bit of conjecture, and some overheard statements, and a little bit of second-hand conversation thrown into the mix. What I appreciate about his brand of "I heard" is that he does a few follow up calls to at least weed out the blatently bad information, and his commentary is left to a minimum. Something we can all aspire to.

Finding ANY 27

Okay, I'm the first to say it: Why would anyone want a back issue of ANY? After all, the magazine was over-designed by 2x4: confusing layouts, illegible ink choices, labyrinthine page-folding strategies/tactics. The journal was neither academic nor journalistic: discuss. It never approached the academic rigour of Oppostitions, and had few new actual-buildings in it. They never seemed to get their website stuff in order, even though they had commissioned yours truly to create a huge architecture portal in 1998. So why would one bother?

I'm glad you asked, because I have prepared an answer for that question.

To get the wonderful fold-out print of Miralles drawings, the printed tribute to him shortly after his death, in the only large-format reproduction of his beautiful drawings I know of.

(Also, their offices are two blocks from mine, it was easier to go there than to troll ebay).


Tropolism means not taking anything too seriously.

Seriously, architectural writing oftentimes covers insecurity about the importance of the profession. We believe that it's better to embrace our profession's true importance to urban life, and then have fun with it. We don't really know what that 'true importance' actually is, but that's why we write this website: to discover it.

When we go live, we only hope that we get love mail as cool as The Gutter gets.

Tuesday Publications

Tropolism means dropping in, occasionally, on what is happening in non-major cities. Because good ideas and extraordinary contributions can come from anywhere.

In this case, I invite everyone in the New York City chapter of the AIA (or at least the graphic identity comittee) to check out Line, offered by AIA San Francisco. Being the web flaneurs they are, they've got a gorgeously minimal layout, some interesting articles (local interest), and a host of links to blogs and design sites of interest to the San Francisco architect. And, us.

Criticism of Criticism of OMA's Concert Hall in Porto

oportokoolhaas 087b.jpg

The LA Times' new critic, Christopher Hawthorne, reviews OMA's just-opened Concert Hall in Porto.

Mr. Hawthorne states

"Still, had Koolhaas managed to pull it off � had he created a box of space that looked flat and cool but sounded rich and detailed � we would simply have had to acknowledge and admire the feat."

in the second-to-last paragraph. Strange, because the paragraph before, he compares Koolhaas' approach to that of Gehry, who designed a hall that is "manages to be architecturally adventurous, acoustically impressive and humanely welcoming all at once." The logic of the argument is vague. So Koolhaas didn't do what Gehry did, and if he'd pulled off what he DID set out to do, it would have been great. Of course, he has no measures for success for Koolhaas' approach, in addition to not supporting the claim that the Porto hall did not meet these non-measures. It's unclear whether the critic even attended a performance in the space. For all we know, the sound is completely rich and seductive, and the tension between such a banal form and a rich sound is huge.