• No products in the cart.
cart chevron-down close-disc
:

In 1995, Rem Koolhaas and Bruce Mau released the cult-classic S,M,X,XL: a six-pound, 1,376-page architecture book that divided projects (along with essays, cartoons and random snippets of commentary) according to size: from details of the domestic sphere, all the way up to the “architecture of bigness” and beyond, into urban planning. Here, Kinfolk’s editors apply a Koolhaasian taxonomy to some favorite architecture books, beginning with invisible Japanese joints and ending in a futuristic city on the outskirts of Birmingham, United Kingdom.

  • Words:
    John Clifford Burns and Harriet Fitch Little
  • Photography:
    Christian Møller Andersen

SMALL:
The Art of
Japanese Joinery
Kiyosi Seike

It is the architect’s role to design a building, but the carpenter’s to bring it to life by actually building it. In The Art of Japanese Joinery, architect Kiyosi Seike introduces readers to the small wooden joints that fortify Japan’s traditional architecture. So revered are these intricate, often hidden details, he explains, that craft guilds developed an ideal standard of architectural beauty and proportion with which to talk about them. Kiwari—which translates directly as “dividing wood”—became a formalized system of design technique and served as a reference for anything from the size and spacing of structural posts to the correct proportions for shōji (sliding panels of translucent paper and latticed wood).

From 700 distinctly different joints, of which it is thought 400 are still in use in Japan today, Seike whittles a selection of 48 and presents them with delicate precision. Although, in a sense, Seike’s book reveals the ancient art of kiwari, which craft guilds historically kept secret, The Art of Japanese Joinery is less a how-to, technical manual (there are no instructions) than a tribute to the ingenuity of essential architectural details and to the beauty and possibilities of wood.

MEDIUM:
Entryways of Milan
Karl Kolbitz

Entryways are connectors of street and home, of the public and private. They are “the place of expectation,” as Goethe once whimsically described them. In Milan, perhaps more than any other city, a stand-alone industry has sprung up around the design of these liminal, erstwhile-ignored spaces. Why? In his essay in Entryways of Milan, the architect Fabrizio Ballabio hypothesizes that the ingressi became so important to the Milanese because they were the most public-facing platform on which to display their good taste (and healthy bank balances) when confined to urban apartments rather than expansive family villas.

The entryways that art director Karl Kolbitz and his team of photographers document demonstrate that size is no object when it comes to making a statement. These diminutive masterpieces of interior design pack a punch: Lavish trompe l’oeil designs in stained glass and mosaic patterns create an illusion of space; marble, which is near ubiquitous, carries different meanings according to the type of stone used; the work of certain artisans—including Gio Ponti’s distinctive geometric tiles and Luigi Caccia Dominioni’s globular light fittings—appears regularly.

At the back of the book, a map details the location of each ingressi. These entryways are passages—but here they are also destinations in themselves.

LARGE:
Images from the
Archives of Robert Venturi
and Denise Scott Brown
Las Vegas Studio

The half-empty parking lots and waves of nonstop neon on Las Vegas Boulevard are not generally associated with attention-worthy architecture, but the unique urban fabric of the area—a city within a city—was a source of fascination for husband-and-wife architects Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown in the late 1960s. Accepting the aesthetics of the Strip at face value—its “Miami Moroccan” and “Yamasaki Bernini-cum-Roman Orgiastic” sub-styles, for example—the duo published Learning from Las Vegas in 1972, an influential manifesto that proffered the city’s strobe signage and hot dog–shaped hot dog stands as worthy of architectural attention. As Scott Brown wrote in her introduction, the theory “upended sacred cows.”

What was missing from the original edition were images to illustrate their arguments. In Images from the Archives of Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown, Las Vegas Studio presents the numerous photographs that Venturi and Scott Brown shot during their field research in 1968. At once a portrait of the city’s fluorescent, febrile atmosphere, the photographs—of commercialized creativity and iconographic pop-culture—serve to solidify the duo’s nascent postmodern treatise. Venturi has since become famous for his catchy retort to Ludvig Mies van der Rohe’s modernist mantra “Less is more”; according to Venturi, and this book, “Less is a bore.”

EXTRA LARGE:
Civilia
Ivor de Wolfe

Depending on who you ask, Civilia is a city plan, a polemical diatribe or a work of outstanding architectural collage. Subtitled “The End of Sub Urban Man,” the 1971 book imagines a futuristic city—to be built on a site slightly east of Birmingham, UK—in which a million inhabitants might live in close-packed harmony.

Author Ivor de Wolfe (a pseudonym adopted by Architectural Review editor Hubert de Cronin Hastings) planned Civilia as a rebuke to the postwar town planners’ infatuation with suburban expansion. “The need today is not to expand but to contract urban development,” he writes, damning suburban houses as “Mindless little boxes that kipper the ground like the locusts they resemble.” De Wolfe’s imaginary city makes dense habitation possible by having buildings on multiple levels—sometimes vaulting over each other—connected by escalators and pedestrian walkways. He illustrates his plans with lavish collages, a bricolage of interlocking brutalist blocks that jut out at improbable angles. The countryside, unspoiled by any further development, would be visible but rarely visited.

The critic Frederic Osborn—a leading advocate of the garden city movement—branded the project an “odious damned lie.”

Was it all just a pipe dream? “Only for people who have wandered so far into a pathological state that common sense is bound to seem mad,” de Wolfe insists.

  • Words:
    John Clifford Burns and Harriet Fitch Little
  • Photography:
    Christian Møller Andersen
Related Stories