Some down to earth reading for the holiday season
The Competition Grid: Experimenting With & Within Architecture Competitions
Mary Theodorou & Antigoni Katsakou eds. RIBA Publishing 217p £35 PB Available at RIBA Bookshops
Their seemingly scientific, matrix-addled box-ticking entry criteria aside, architectural competitions remain a weird science little understood by the profession, despite long nights of unpaid effort by small, work-hungry practices to enter them. This book does not ultimately dispel that notion, but may help explain it. It does this by reviewing architectural competitions as experienced by those who participate in them, and by examining how organisers use them as a laboratory-like setting to analyse and challenge their own organisational processes. There’s a well-chosen roll call of authors of the numerous essays in its four sections, expounding and critiquing the system. A valuable read, it may not generate a winning design, but it may well help instigate more strategic approaches to entering them.
Design Process in Architecture: From Conception to Completion
Geoffrey Makstutis Laurence King Publishing 192p
£24.99 PB Available at RIBA Bookshops
Author Geoffrey Makstutis should know his stuff. He’s subject lead in construction for Pearson as well as having taught and lectured at Central Saint Martins, the AA, the Royal College of Art and Westminster. He’s also the author of ‘Architecture: An Introduction’. In this book’s eight chapters he defines what good design constitutes and then takes the reader on a journey through the process using examples of all the approaches. ‘Defining the Project’ follows this, analysing brief and context, then ‘The Design Process in Action’, concentrating on design stages. The final chapter takes us through a real end-to-end design process from concept to completion, showing all the stages being enacted. A useful primer for the novice and optimistic reminder for the world-weary professional.
Potato Plan Collection: 40 Cities through the Lens of Patrick Abercrombie
Mirjam Züger & Kees Christiaanse nai010 publishers 208p £43.50 PB Available at RIBA Bookshops
On paper, a book of Potato Plans of cities based on the one Abercrombie and Forshaw developed in 1943 is a good idea. It certainly looks like the graphic designers had a great time with it, but it’s important to remember a key word in their ‘Social and Functional Analysis’; and that was that it was an analytical ‘simplification’. This resonates as one goes through the plans – the most notable aspect being the palpable change of scale moving from European cities to American and especially Chinese ones. Thankfully, the written breakdowns preceding them offer more layered interpretations of the maps’ generality; Peter Bishop’s analysis on the complexity of modern London not borne out merely by his addition of pink ‘regenerating’ areas...