Allison Arieff

Writer; Editor / United States /

Allison Arieff’s Notable Books of 2013

2 books
Brenda Vale
Robert Vale

“Does architecture drive the toy or does the toy reflect the architecture of the time?” This is the question explored by the Vales’ fascinating exploration into the world of construction toys. Just like the real world, the urban/suburban divide has existed in the playroom: some building kits, like the odd boil-able, Bakelite Bayko, were distinctly suburban while others, like Bilt-E-Z, inspired component-part-exposing skyscrapers. And there’s the discovery of a toy called “Betta Bilda,” which is now an up-for-grabs name for an architecturally-inclined rapper.

The book explores everything from gender bias to class distinctions of construction toys and reading it made me wish even more that Lego would move away from promoting its meticulously directed kits and more toward less-programmed piles of bricks.

Neil Bingham

I had a conversation with the CEO of a major architectural software company recently. When I shared with him how much contemporary renderings made me miss old-fashioned architectural drawings, he agreed—but told me we were both getting old and were just being nostalgic. Hogwash. I’ll have to show him the new book 100 Years of Architectural Drawings: 1900–2000 and see if he continues to defend the often lifeless computer versions that are now the norm.

100 Years of Architectural Drawing is, to use an over-used but completely apt descriptor here, an absolute gem. It embraces the most eclectic and wildly international assortment of practitioners and projects—not just the usual suspects. So while you’ll see Schindler, Pelli, and Rodchenko, you’ll also see a stunning hydroelectric plant by Piero Portaluppi, a sort of biomorphic-meets-streamline designed cafeteria by Henri Mouette and Pierre Sziekely, and a Dubai-worthy pink ziggurat created by Henri Sauvage. Everything is good in here, much of it unfamiliar to American audiences. Looking at the red-capped rowers in Sigurd Lewerentz’s elegant gouache of a rowers and their boathouse in comparison to a recent rendering of a local landscape architecture project made me wince, the former so immersive and lovely, the latter, so sterile and unconvincing. But the book isn’t just about pretty pictures. It’s lovingly curated and intelligently researched by Neil Bingham of the Royal Academy of Arts in London (who wrote the series of five historical essays on major periods of architectural drawing that organize the book).

This book (and my review) in the end, isn’t a clarion call against a new technology (CAD, parametricism, et al.) but an inspiration, an expression of how much more is possible. 

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