Almanacs and Encyclopedias, Conjectures and Theoretical Arguments: Neil Denari’s Book List

By Steve Kroeter June 19, 2012

Neil Denari

Architect Neil Denari: Neil M. Denari Architects (Los Angeles)

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Architect Neil Denari is “primarily a reader of nonfiction.” He tells Designers & Books, “Reports, almanacs, and encyclopedias have always interested me as they dryly lay out apparently unbiased information. I am also interested in the opposite: spurious conjectures, crackpot theories, conspiracies, and theoretical arguments.” He continues, “Reports are not, however, immune to jargon and subtle coercion, and spurious conjectures can be very clear and persuasive. When books of any kind collapse this distinction, that’s where I find the most pleasure.”

The Warren Commission Report was “the first serious book I ever read as a kid,” notes Denari, and this 1964 account of the events leading up to and following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy makes it onto his book list for Designers & Books. So does Die Spiele (The Games), the official report by Herbert Kunze (designed by Otl Aicher) on the 1972 Munich Olympics.

At the same time, also on Denari’s book list are Ignasi Solà-Morales Rubió’s Differences, which brings together the distinguished Spanish architect and theorist’s provocative essays on contemporary architecture (“an incredibly elegant and persuasive yet undogmatic collection of arguments”), and Zone 1/2: The Contemporary City, with its design by Bruce Mau and essay by poet Paul Virilio that “startled” Denari when he first encountered them.  And we find J.G. Ballard’s dystopian Robinson Crusoe-like Concrete Island, in which an architect is stranded on a traffic island, and about which Denari comments, “Through this book I was introduced to Ballard in 1983 by a friend after designing a 200-foot tall house located on a freeway median strip. Ballardian and didn’t know it.”

In his own work as a practitioner and academic, Denari has won acclaim (Los Angeles AIA Gold Medal, induction into the Interior Design Hall of Fame, an artist’s Fellowship from the United States Artists organization, and an Academy Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters) for his experimentation with contrasting ideas held together in tension. His Los Angeles-based firm, Neil M. Denari Architects (NMDA) has realized award-winning work that includes LA Eyeworks, the recently completed residential tower HL23 in New York, and projects for Mitsubishi in Japan.

Facticity by Neil Denari, forthcoming 2013 (AADCU)

Denari is the author of two influential and best-selling books featuring his work: Gyroscopic Horizons (Princeton Architectural Press) and Interrupted Projections (TOTO). His new (800-page) book, Facticity (AADCU), is slated for publication in 2013. As a term hovering “between facthood (indisputable facts) and ideality (an unobtainably pristine condition)” the title Facticity “captures a rather radical spectrum of intellectual and visual speculation that conceives of architecture as a functioning experiment.” In the book Denari describes “the two fundamental aspects” of NMDA’s work: “the precision of its material life, both built and virtual; and its intentional conceptual open endedness.”*



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