Book List of the Week

Senses, Memory, and the Realm of Place: Craig Dykers’s Book List

By Steve Kroeter April 23, 2013

Craig Dykers

Architect Craig Dykers: Snøhetta (New York and Oslo)

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“What gets me up in the morning,” says architect Craig Dykers in the introduction to the list of 21 books he sent us, is “knowing . . . that the places where we live are not bound by catalogues of definitions—they are so much more.” Dykers is the co-founder of the New York and Oslo-based firm Snøhetta, lauded for prominent cultural commissions that engage users with building sites and spaces on many levels, both sensorial and intellectual. Among the firm’s most well-known works are the Alexandria Library in Egypt, the Norwegian National Opera and Ballet in Oslo, and the National September 11 Memorial Museum Pavilion at the World Trade Center site in New York City.

“There are dedicated architecture texts in my list, sandwiched between novels, art, and anthropology,” Dykers tells us. “Primarily, I have been persuaded by subjects of the senses, memory, and the realm of place.” So there are indeed architecture titles, including Michael Benedikt’s For an Architecture of Reality, which Dykers comments is “a longstanding text on the value of human sensory engagement with place.” Thermal Delight in Architecture is “an unusual book about ventilation, one of the most endearing I know,” and Stewart Brand’s How Buildings Learn presents “the challenge of the practicalities of time in architecture.”

But there is also Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose, in which, Dykers says, “history is artfully revealed as mystery.” And we find Bruce Chatwin's Songlines (on architect Antoine Predock's book list as well), a travelogue/anthropological study focused on indigenous peoples in Australia that weaves together fiction and nonfiction elements. Dykers considers it “an effort to describe the landscape of the earth as it is projected onto the landscape of the mind.”

Norwegian National Opera and Ballet, Oslo, designed by Snøhetta, 2008, as seen in Snøhetta Works, 2009 (Lars Müller Publishers)

Snøhetta has also worked on several high-profile public art projects and installations, including a series for the Guggenheim Museum in New York. Underlining this interest in art and artists, Dykers also sent us thoughts about the transcript (not quite a book) of Conceptual artist Robert Smithson’s 1969–72 lecture “Hotel Palenque.” A cult classic among art and architectural students, the lecture (published in Parkett magazine in 1995) has Smithson analyzing photos of a rundown hotel in Mexico. Dykers comments on the lecture: “Almost any text directly written by almost any artist is going to be powerful. I never read books about artists written by other people—they pale in comparison to the honesty and clarity nearly all artists exude when describing their thinking. Van Gogh’s letters show this, Francis Bacon, Ilya Kabakov, and on and on. This little lecture by Robert Smithson is exceptionally moving as an empathetic journey through a real, yet eerily fictional architectural landscape.”

Craig Dykers and Snøhetta are the authors of two books: Conditions and Snøhetta Works, both published by Lars Müller. In addition, the firm’s Norwegian National Opera and Ballet—named World Cultural Building of the Year in 2008 and winner of the European Union Prize for Contemporary Architecture - Mies van der Rohe Award in 2009—is the subject of Oslo Opera House, edited by Jon Otterbeck and published by Opera Vorlag. 


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