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Parallax by Steven Holl, Princeton Architectural Press, New York, 2000 384
pp, 110 colour and 290 mono illus ISBN 1-56898-261-5 Price \$40 (hb).
Event-Cities 2 by Bernard Tschumi The MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, 2000
692 pp, 500 mono illus ISBN 0-262-70074-3 Price £23.95, \$35 (pb). Glass
Ramps/Glass Wall: Deviations from the Normative by Bernard Tschumi,
Hugh Dutton and Jesse Reiser Architectural Association, London, 2001 96
pp, 18 colour illus and 80 mono illus ISBN 1-902902-00-9 Price £16 (pb)

John Morris Dixon

Architectural Research Quarterly / Volume 6 / Issue 01 / March 2002, pp 89 - 93


DOI: 10.1017/S1359135502221508, Published online: 17 October 2002

Link to this article: http://journals.cambridge.org/abstract_S1359135502221508

How to cite this article:


John Morris Dixon (2002). Architectural Research Quarterly, 6, pp 89-93 doi:10.1017/S1359135502221508

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arq reviews

‘… to add a fourth ideal – of restitution – to the


triad of firmness, commodity and delight …’
Jeffrey Cook on extending Vitruvius
plus two other reviews
and this book is a product of its
time.

The book’s five sections are all


presented well. Technical
accessibility and proficiency are
good. The materials are selected
from well-tried techniques. The
sparse, carefully pruned and
balanced text is an admirable lean
exemplar of the holistic thinking it
advocates. But there is no index. Its
neutral generalist quality misses
the aesthetic and technical
possibilities that could be
stimulated by shifts of culture,
contrasts of climate, and variations
of the building brief. Its even-
handedness, especially with the
A Green Vitruvius anecdotal, sometimes prescriptive, building examples, lacks the
By committee and sometimes theoretical or critical depth found in more
James and James, London, 1999 technical (such as when discussing personal works.
145 pp, many colour and mono illus music harmonies), the writing is The reasonable assumption is
isbn 1-873936-94-X irregular, cryptic, and sometimes that we already know ‘why’ we
Price £25, $40 (pb) abruptly disconnected. One gets should practise this way. So this is a
the impression of a collection of primer on ‘how’, popularizing the
Energy and Climate in the Urban first draft essays developed over well-accepted and adding some
Built Environment several isolated seasons, suddenly legitimacy to the fringe. ‘Green
Edited by Mat Santamouris cobbled together by a design’ as ‘an architectural quality’
James & James, London, 2001 knowledgeable, eccentric is recommended. The differences
402 pp, many diagrams and mono illus personality. It is a camel produced between ‘green’, ‘sustainable’,
plus an interactive CD-Rom by an authoritative individual. ‘environmentally informed’,
isbn 1-873936-90-7 The newest extender of the ‘ecological’, and post-Rio mandates
Price £45, $70 (hb) Vitruvian codex, A Green Vitruvius, is suggested in the Preface are not
a homogenous, nondescript articulated. Are they too academic a
Reviewed by Jeffrey Cook animal produced by a committee. challenge for a practitioner?
Although ‘intended to be a single- Technical rigour is lacking, too –
The original Vitruvius is an point general reference’, it lacks there is no map or diagram of
eccentric 10 book, or chapter, affair vision and is fuzzy about climates, for example – and,
written by a patronizing and definitions. In its own words: although a particular strength is
comfortably retired architect of the Environmentally friendly, the list of supporting texts, there
Roman emperors. Hardly more environmentally conscious, are only three non-European
than half deals directly with energy conscious, sustainable, references, and the building
architecture. The other topics greener, or simply green illustrations are sparse.
include the education of architects, architecture? Identifying our This attempt to be the 11th book
technical devices like sundials and subject was not straightforward… of Vitruvius, to add a fourth ideal –
water clocks, mechanical devices however much research is yet to of restitution – to the triad of
for war, and the ethnography of be done on the environmental firmness, commodity and delight,
various peoples. Sometimes aspects of building materials, has produced a reasonably

reviews arq . vol 6 . no 1 . 2002 89

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90 arq . vol 6 . no 1 . 2002 reviews

informed, intelligently organized are global. And so should be the


reference on how to design usefulness of the whole package.
buildings of a certain middling Often extensive references
environmental sensitivity. But it is a terminate each chapter. For
committee-tamed beast, hard to instance, the many references to
rank above other similar texts the American work of T. R. Oke as
offered to the middle-market every well as to H. E. Landsberg and
day, and quite unlike its spiky Baruch Givoni are balanced by
namesake of two millennia ago. quotations from urban
Energy and Climate in the Urban Built instrumentation in Tokyo,
Environment, also from the Singapore, and Rio, as well as the
publishers James and James, is a impressive recent European work
different story. A new compendium on urban microclimates.
of international research, it Especially interesting to those of
provides a readable new us who live in predominantly
perspective on built climates, overheated climates in white-
indoors and out. It is not a very roofed houses as part of inversion-
glamorous package but the dominated cities, is Chapter 11,
unmemorable title precisely ‘Appropriate materials for the
describes the ambitious content. urban environments’. Here the
The past decade has brought an American analytical work at
intense interest and exploration of Laurence Berkeley Lab, published a
urban climatology – how outdoor decade ago by Akbari, Taha,
spaces can be designed to be both Rosenfeld, etc, has been confirmed
more comfortable and healthy. by more recent papers by
Simultaneously, these urban Santamouris and many others
microclimates are the context of documented by 49 references. The
buildings whose passive interior bottom line is that ‘the use of white
conditions and active mechanical roofs and shade trees in Los Angeles
systems interface with their would lower the need for air
immediate outdoor environments. conditioning by 18%, or 1.04 billion
The book is a self-defining Timely knowledge: examples of daylighting kWh, for the buildings directly
assembly of surprising integrity in strategies affected by the roofs and shaded by
17 chapters, each by a single author. trees … indirect annual savings
There is no preface, dedication or would be an additional 12% or 0.7
summary, but the overview on the billion kWh’. But many of the
back cover identifies that the work assumptions and calculation
is derived from the SAVE procedures are at best relative
programme of the European because the references are trusted,
Commission. An appendix provides and not challenged. Although the
a user’s manual for ‘POLISTUDIES: a energy aspects of transportation
multimedia tool for studying the are little discussed, they are
energy efficiency of buildings in identified and would make a much-
urban environments’, this in the needed complement to this
form of a CD-Rom that is included. definitive text.
The accessible shorthand style of The differences in various
the whole is reflected in the authors’ styles and degree of depth
abbreviated index where, for add texture and believability, but
instance, such words as ‘carbon do not confuse the topic. For some,
dioxide’, ‘comfort’, ‘health’, the longest chapter, ‘Guidelines for
‘human’, ‘humidity’ and integrating energy conservation
‘luminous’ do not appear, techniques in urban buildings’,
although conceptually they are may seem a simple-minded tutorial
ever-present. There is no glossary A truly urban case study: cross section of flats on the shape and organization of
constructed in Athens (also shown on CD)
and at best, terms are self-defined. multi-storey urban buildings. But
Thus, on page 20, one must bring this lesson is hard to find in either
the word, the sign and dimensions sentences and a diagram without textbooks or studio exercises.
of ‘nanometer’ from another any references to the substantial Although the guidelines appear
source. Occasionally different integrated cooling and heating based on Mediterranean office and
authors are not in concert, such as such passive systems have apartment buildings, they also
with the conflicting values of the demonstrated since the 1940s in provide a checklist for other
‘solar constant’: on page 20 it is commercial buildings in Texas – climates and functional typologies.
1365-1372 Wm–2, but on page 110 it is heavily documented since 1968. For example, the final chapter, has
either 1353 or 1367 Wm–2. For As a comprehensive text, it moves seven ‘Examples of Urban
architects, this may be good from first principles of physics to Buildings’ (including four from
enough, but the variation without design applications and case study Greece and one from Nice on the
qualification might irritate certain examples with a surprising balance French Riviera), and all except a
physicists. Inevitably in such a and lack of redundancy. Although German two-storey primary school
digest some topics get short- the applications have a pan- and gymnasium are truly urban,
changed. ‘Roof Pond’ gets three European location, the resources with a minimum of four storeys,

Author Title

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reviews arq . vol 6 . no 1 . 2002 91

located in constricted built-up sites. its 692 mat, textured pages, all
These southern examples from printed in black and white except
overheated and under-ventilated for 32 of them in red and white. But
dense cities offer tougher the legibility of just about every
challenges than more northern or line and note indicates that
less urban locations. considerable care was taken; we’re
This tight package of timely not seeing material just scooped
knowledge is valuable globally, but out of files. Black-and-white
especially where European climates sketches and technical drawings
and culture prevail. A hidden are best, says Tschumi, for
dimension that projects this ‘emphasizing concepts, notations,
summary book well into the and strategies’. And concept is what
concerns and practices of the he dwells on in his concise text
twenty-first century is the passages. Two inches thick, with
inclusion of the CD-Rom. This is not conventional page dimensions (six
only a partial reproduction of the inches by nine), the book
text in digital format, but also an approaches the size and weight of a
application tool for energy and paving stone.
environmental analysis using the Holl, on the other hand, is
now usual interactive computer Parallax thinking from day one about
mode. It brings a passive body of by Steven Holl perception, about
information into electronic Princeton Architectural Press, New phenomenological effect. He does
immediacy with seven ‘knowledge York, 2000 his conceptualizing with
blocks’, each with cross hyperlinks. 384 pp, 110 colour and 290 mono illus watercolour sketches and with
Key words are coloured as hypertext isbn 1-56898-261-5 models photographed under
to get more information, to go to a Price $40 (hb) anticipated lighting conditions. His
related topic, or to enlarge the book, accordingly, includes
picture. Several computerized Event-Cities 2 handsome photographs in colour
evaluation tools are included and by Bernard Tschumi and black-and-white of models,
integrated. The analogy is that each The MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, 2000 finished buildings, scientific
block is a three-dimensional book 692 pp, 500 mono illus phenomena, and landscapes. Its
capitalizing on interactive learning isbn 0-262-70074-3 blocks of text are in a small, elegant
and providing easy application Price £23.95, $35 (pb) font, set off by ample white paper
methods. The CD-Rom then with a lush, pearly sheen. Reference
multiplies the usefulness and drawings of key buildings are
effectiveness of this EC investment Glass Ramps/Glass Wall: arrayed on fold-out pages. This
in the future of the built Deviations from the Normative book is smaller, but still relatively
environment. by Bernard Tschumi, Hugh Dutton thick (five by seven by one inch),
Accommodating present and and Jesse Reiser with over 350 pages. Designed by
near future populations is a Architectural Association, London, the firm 2  4, it is in itself a
challenge of resources that can best 2001 consciously sensuous object, like a
be met economically and socially 96 pp, 18 colour illus and 80 mono modern-day book of hours.
within the built environments of illus Beyond the clear messages
cities. By 2000, at least 170 global isbn 1-902902-00-9 conveyed by format and graphics,
cities had more than one million Price £16 (pb) what do these two opposite-minded
inhabitants. In the USA, 90% of the architect-authors have to tell us?
population was estimated to live in Reviewed by John Morris Dixon Holl includes capsular lessons on
urban areas while in Europe the astronomy, atomic physics, biology,
estimate is more than 70%. Yet the Here we have monographs on and and philosophy, then relates them
relative efficiencies of the two by two architects who have much in to the underlying principles of his
populations demonstrate the effect common. Both could be said to work. He wants to bridge ‘the gap
of differing cultural priorities, as straddle the avant-garde and the between the scientific and the
well as professional application of Establishment, incorporating their phenomenological’. We encounter
design knowledge. The fantasy of advanced ideas into high-budget some Zenic statements such as ‘The
the autonomous suburban or rural projects. Both based in New York ultimate violence is paralysis’ and
house where many of us cut our (and on the Columbia University
teeth in understanding resource faculty), they help the city
flows must be replaced by urban maintain its claim to serious
realities where there is the greatest architectural thinking. Yet they
opportunity for value through present opposing views on design:
knowledgeable design. This text Tschumi focuses on concept, Holl
and its CD represent the new on perception. As often happens
Vitruvius for that responsibility. these days, the formats of Parallax
and Event-Cities 2 do much to
Jeffrey Cook is Regents’ Professor of proclaim their authors’
Architecture at Arizona State University, contrasting concerns.
founding editor of Passive Solar Tschumi tells us in his first
Journal, and an international sentence that ‘the book makes
proponent of sustainability through intentional use of rough,
passive and low energy architecture photocopy-quality documents’ on

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92 arq . vol 6 . no 1 . 2002 reviews

‘Existence and non-existence are realization of his student union at


not different aspects of the thing – Columbia University. Brief essays by
they are the thing’. Along the way Tschumi and collaborating
he describes and illustrates 27 of engineer Hugh Dutton are set
his projects, delineating the among ample drawings and
bridges he makes from science to photographs. Here Tschumi has
building. He sees his art museum in responded to the straitened ‘urban
Bellevue, Washington, which is condition’ of the 1890s campus
composed of three blocks, as a design by McKim Mead & White.
manifestation of ‘tripleness, or The resulting concept includes two
non-dialectical ways of seeing and masonry-walled blocks, filling
thinking’. He links the design of his spaces designated on the original
visually porous undergraduate plan. Bridging between the two
residence now under construction solids is a transparent element
at the Massachusetts Institute of criss-crossed by long-span ramps,
Technology to the writings of the from which students enjoy
philosopher Maurice Merleau- panoramic views of the campus Architecture of Truth: the
Ponty. There is no doubt that Holl is and can in turn be seen from Cistercian Abbey of Le Thoronet
totally convinced of these outside. Even with the most high- photographs by Lucien Hervé
interdisciplinary connections. He tech frameless glazing, the introduced by Le Corbusier and with
never shows any glibness or irony, envelope of this portion isn’t really an afterword by John Pawson
transparent from outside except at Phaidon Press, London, 2000
night. While many of the 160 pp, 67 mono illus
components are elegant in isbn 0-7148-4003-3
themselves, the array of exposed Price £35 (hb)
steel required to support the glass –
ramps, railings, etc – distracts from Reviewed by Antoine Lion
the view out. As for the walls of the
building’s solid portions, they look This is the story of two chefs
flat and diagrammatic, as if the d’oeuvre: on the one hand, the
architects were conceding only work of a great photographer of his
grudgingly to the context. times, Lucien Hervé; on the other,
Fortunately, we don’t all have to what John Pawson, in his Afterword
choose between concepts and – and I am tempted to agree – calls
phenomena, and these books can ‘the most beautiful building in the
expand our thinking about both of world’: the Cistercian Abbey of Le
these critical architectural Thoronet. The reader is invited to
concerns. They also fulfil the admire forms, materials, lights and
traditional function of explaining shadows of unparalleled
some important design efforts of perfection, over the course of a day
our time. in this monastery in Provence,
John Morris Dixon was chief editor of from the light of dawn to that of
either in his writing or in his work. dusk.
Progressive Architecture from
The reader whose brain gets over- It would be good to be left with
1972–1995
taxed has ample opportunity to this pleasure and to add nothing
savour the seductive – and more. However we must go further.
informative – illustrations. First, to give the reader notice of
Tschumi is no less earnest. He the surprises which await him or
explains how his ‘projects always her. Immediately following the
begin from an urban condition and concise table of contents there’s a
a program’. Unlike some text – undated – by Le Corbusier, a
conceptual designers, Tschumi superb page which begins: ‘The
usually makes exposure of pictures in this book are witnesses
construction technology a key part to the truth’, and which, further
of his ‘materialization of concept’. on, formulates the phrase used as
And though Tschumi does not the title: ‘architecture of truth’. It
design for a series of user vantage- takes one by surprise. Did
points or for calculated sun angles, Corbusier know this book, then?
as Holl does, he is always thinking After that, without any
about his spaces as incomplete introduction, comes a series of
without people and of how his photographs, punctuated by
concepts will be revealed to them. quotations from the Bible or from
Event-Cities 2 makes his points by Cistercian authors, arranged
presenting 14 projects that his according to the canonical hours
office has handled since the 15 from the Divine Office. It’s not until
presented in the first Event-Cities page 154 that one finds brief
(The MIT Press, 1994). explanations. A feeling of
Glass Ramps/Glass Wall explicates incoherence remains, and the
Tschumi’s thinking by examining descriptive loose leaf included in
the design process and the the work adds little more. There is a

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reviews arq . vol 6 . no 1 . 2002 93

clear need for further information. Tourette, the visit revealed to Le world: it is no longer the same. A
Everything here is based on a Corbusier the deep affinities – detail: structuring the book
work by Francois Cali and it is hitherto ignored – between the according to the hours of the
shocking that there is no mention Cistercian aesthetic and his own monastic office did not permit the
of his name anywhere in the clear architectural partis: rigorous suppression of prime (a name so
present publication. He was the functionalism, eschewal of beautiful when one conjures up
author of a number of sumptuous, decoration, mastery of light. That the rhythms of light) or the
radical books including La plus his friend Lucien Hervé had taken a modification of the computation
grande aventure du monde (Editions series of photos of Le Thoronet was of the other hours. Errors suggest
Arthaud, now out of print), perhaps not just chance. Writing that the English edition of Cali’s
originally published in 1956. the preface of Cali’s work gave Le work has been consulted, resulting
Introduced by a comprehensive Corbusier the chance to express the in a distortion of names (the
contribution by Cali, the shock of his discovery and deliver historian of medieval philosophy,
photographs are those which, for an unexpected eulogy on stone, Etienne Gilson, is found re-
the most part, are used in the ‘man’s best friend . . . In these days christened as Stephen Gilson) and
present edition, sometimes framed of ‘crude concrete’, let us greet, architectural misinterpretations (a
differently. They were interlaced bless and salute, as we go on our note of Cali’s, talking of ‘the terrace
with ancient quotations (some of way, so wonderful an encounter’. which covers the gallery of the
which are repeated here), creating a Not every reader of this Phaidon chapterhouse’ becomes ‘the roof of
model structure and a work which edition will be lucky enough, like the flat over the chapterhouse’.
John Pawson calls: ‘the most John Pawson or me, to have the And so on.)
important book on my shelves’. The 1956 work to hand. Luck or There is worse. The photos of
notes of the new work largely misfortune? – because the Hervé, the real substance of the
reproduce those of Cali. comparison is painful. Cali’s book, do not stand comparison.
In 1956, Le Corbusier was example made manifest a spiritual Reproduced in photogravure in
engaged in the project for the affinity between the texts and the 1956, today they are ‘printed in
Dominican abbey of La Tourette. In images, conveyed in magnificent China’. Each one is beautiful, but
1953, his friend, Father Couturier typography (Plantin, 12, 18 and 24 the movement which went from
(to whom this book is dedicated), point): there is nothing of that the clarity of dawn to the burning
had sent him to Le Thoronet to look now. The work was conceived by of dusk is completely lost. The
for inspiration. Decisively for La people who knew the Cistercian result is flattened, the blacks are no
longer black, the evening sun gives
the same illumination as that of
the morning, the grain of the stone
has disappeared. The photo of the
roof of the church provides an
example. Illustrating the hour of
sext, it clearly inspired Le Corbusier
in his preface: ‘roofs and their
baked tiles (the same tile endlessly
multiplied, male and female – a
population of tiles)’. In 1956, in a
subtle scale of pale greys, it
reflected the dazzling light of the
Provençal sun, under the crushing
heat of high noon. A verse from
Psalms accompanied it: ‘vous vous
êtes couvert de la lumière comme d’un
manteau’ (you are covered with light
like a mantle). Of that sublime page
all that remains today is a dark
print, drowning everything in the
dirty greys of an image blurred by
too much enlargement.
So what conclusion can be
drawn? For the happy few who have
the Cali, leave this new edition well
alone. But for all other readers, it is
still a beautiful book, despite
everything; an evocation of a major
era in western architecture and a
reflection of a great love of Le
Corbusier, which was a source of
inspiration for his later work. For
that reason, it’s worth consulting.

Antoine Lion is a Dominican. He lives at


the convent of La Tourette. His review of
the French edition was translated by
Le Thoronet Abbey: entrance to the amarium (library) and the south stairs to the church Charles Rattray

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