The Interconnectedness of Things: Michael Manfredi’s Book List

By Steve Kroeter July 31, 2012

Michael Manfredi

Architect Michael Manfredi: Weiss/Manfredi (New York)

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Architect Michael Manfredi sent along to Designers & Books an “electic” list of books that he says “continue to be my valued friends, mentors, provocateurs, and sources of inspiration.”

One of the books on the list is Stewart Brand’s 1968 cultural phenomenon, The Whole Earth Catalog. Manfredi singles out this compendium of ideas and tools for its emphasis on the “interconnectedness of things.” The book’s expansive outlook also infuses the work of the multidisciplinary firm he and architect Marion Weiss co-founded—Weiss/Manfredi—which “operates at the nexus of architecture, art, landscape, and urban design.”* The firm is known for award-winning projects like the Olympic Sculpture Park for the Seattle Art Museum and the Diana Center for Barnard College as well as for investigating architecture and design as an “active instrument in shaping contemporary culture.”**

Site Specific: The Work of Weiss/Manfredi Architects, 2000 (Princeton Architectural Press)

In his comments on many of the books he chose—the titles cover fiction, architecture, landscape, his native Italy, and even cooking—Manfredi talks about connections and connectedness of different kinds: between buildings and their settings, between past and present, between the real and the imaginary, to name just a few. He notes that Simon Schama’s Landscape and Memory “argues that together real landscapes and the landscapes of the mind constitute that elusive and subjective definition of what we call ‘Nature.’” Of the Italian version of Tales from the Thousand and One Nights, which he read as a child, Manfredi says: “Growing up in Italy and reading this book inspired me with tales of surreal and fantastic places—architectures where the real and the imagined converge.” Paolo Portoghesi’s Roma Barocca, which features work by Bernini, Borromini, Fontana, and da Cortona, is a “compelling reminder of the fruitful interchange between great architecture and its urban setting.” And for Manfredi, Marcel Proust’s "quasi-novel," Remembrance of Things Past, weaves everything together in its "description of the nexus of circumstance, emotion, and place—the sheer poetry of everyday existence."

Weiss/Manfredi: Surface/Subsurface, 2008 (Princeton Architectural Press)

Manfredi cites Colin Rowe’s Mathematics of the Ideal Villa and Other Essays (also on the book lists of Michael Graves, Richard Meier, and Terence Riley) for its premise “that we consider history imaginatively as something alive and present. I can’t think of a more eloquent reminder that architecture is first and foremost about an intellectual and cultural history.”

Examples of Weiss/Manfredi’s own architectural contributions to intellectual and cultural history can be found in the two books Manfredi has authored with Marion Weiss: Site Specific (2000) and Surface/Subsurface (2008), both from Princeton Architectural Press.

* Weiss/Manfredi - Profiles

** Weiss/Manfredi architects’ statement


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