Justin Davidson

Critic; Writer / United States / New York Magazine

Justin Davidson’s Notable Books of 2011

12 books
David Adjaye

A collection of Adjaye’s snapshots from his travels around metropolitan areas of Africa. Provides a unique sense of how cities developed on that continent. One of the most appealing aspects of the book is the way it shows the connection between ugliness and beauty in these urban settings.

Cynthia Smith

The catalogue for the second part of an exhibition organized by the Cooper-Hewitt Museum to help show that design is not just about beautiful things—but also about improving the lives of people who have very little. Highlights interesting, clever, inspired, and unconventional applications of design to difficult, thorny urban problems.

The author, John Hill, runs a blog called Daily Dose of Architecture. For his book he canvassed the city, including every borough, to find and profile new architecture—from the least glamorous social housing to new super-tall office buildings. Beautifully illustrated; great graphics. Covers over 200 projects. Provides an impressive sense of how much has been built in New York in recent years.

David Adjaye

An investigation of one of the more advanced and extreme house designs in New York since Paul Rudolph was tinkering with his own apartment in the 70s. Incredible photography by Robert Polidori.

Sam Lubell
Douglas Woods

Shulman photographs wonderfully document southern California as it urbanized and formed a modern aesthetic. A wonderful chronicle of the height of the California dream. The quality of the photograph is uniformly magnificent.

Ricky Burdett Editor
Deyan Sudjic Editor
Rem Koolhaas
Hans Ulrich Obrist

Another exhaustively documented tome by Rem Koolhaas—this one profiling the Metabolism movement of Japanese architects in the 60s, said by Koolhaas to be the first non-Western Avant-garde. Through a series of interviews with the architect practitioners and their clients, the book shows how the movement melded modernist aesthetics with the mission of modernizing post-war Japan.

The just-published catalogue of a MoMA show from 2010 that deals with the impact of rising sea levels in New York due to climate change. Examines a full range of extreme, modest, and radical proposals for dealing with this environmental circumstance. Documents elegant design approaches involving the interaction of architecture, planning, engineering, and climate science.

Alexander Gorlin
Photographs by Geoffrey Gross

A classic house book about the way the modern aesthetic has interacted with the landscape and the light in New England. Includes photography of other than pristine not-yet-lived in interiors, but also shots of how people actually live in the houses.

Edward Glaeser

Addresses the centrality of the city as a key evolving world trend. Describes cities as areas of concentration of creativity, energy, communication, that is exponential. The kind of book that makes you want to talk back to it—to sit down with the author and have a discussion—which to me makes it the best kind of book. A real antidote to the heavy sights that people tend to have in response to the rapid growth rate of megacities.

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