Designer Books & More, From ‘The City of Tomorrow’ to ‘Lo and Behold’

Designer Books & More, From ‘The City of Tomorrow’ to ‘Lo and Behold’

A dictionary for architectural installations, plus Werner Herzog’s reflection on the human-machine relationship and a collection of essays on the technologies changing the future of cities.

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Expanded Field
Book by Ila Berman and Douglas Burnham
AR+D Publishing (hardcover, 383 pages)

If architecture, interiors, sculpture and landscapes are the four points that define the artificial, then the wide-open world of architectural installation occupies the blurry zone between them. In this ambitious book, authors Ila Berman and Douglas Burnham set out to map this territory with a “taxonomical framework” defining 12 types of installation, the “expanded field” of the title. With 75 case studies amply documented by photos and diagrams, the authors flesh out the axes of their matrix; “Architecture/Sculpture,” for instance, claims pavilions such as Anish Kapoor’s Cloud Gate, while Julio Le Parc’s reflective mobiles, Lumière en Mouvement, stand in for “Interior/Sculpture.”

More than just an exercise in labelling, Expanded Field is proof that installations are at the cutting edge of the exploration that crosses the lines between disciplines. Although its image-dense pages can feel overwhelming, the book goes a long way toward establishing architectural installations as a distinct, if diverse, field.

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Lo and Behold
Film directed by Werner Herzog
Magnolia Pictures (138 minutes)

“Have the monks stopped meditating? They all seem to be tweeting,” muses filmmaker Werner Herzog, narrating a shot of an orange-robed brotherhood gathered lakeside, poking at their smart phones. The moment illustrates the grip of the Internet, the focus of this feature documentary. A cast of computer scientists and such innovators as Elon Musk takes us through the thrill of the first host-to-host communication, before spiralling into a darkening tale of man versus machine. Interviewees share ideas on where the web could take us, from driverless cars and robot servants to telepathic computers and pure chaos.

As we continue to build our lives around an Internet of Things, designing a world where even our standard appliances won’t work without web connection, are we sealing our own fate? As Harvard’s Jonathan Zittrain points out, even our food supplies depend on the network; new efficiencies have eliminated warehouses and the need for storage: “What is it they say? Civilization is always about four square meals a day from utter ruin?”

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The City of Tomorrow
Book by Matthew Claudel and Carlo Ratti
Yale University Press (hardcover, 180 pages)

In a series of well-developed essays, architect Carlo Ratti and designer Matthew Claudel (both of MIT’s Senseable City Lab) argue that “the digital revolution is poised to be the most radically disruptive change that has ever recast the design, construction, and operation of our built environment.” Their exploration of the possibilities – presented as “what ifs” rather than hard-and-fast predictions – looks closely at the ties between technology, the city and the citizens who inhabit it. In what they refer to as “futurecraft,” a method that uses present conditions to imagine a “fictive but possible future context,” the two cover everything from energy distribution and architecture to mobility and knowledge sharing.

With the proliferation of smart phones, data about how we engage with our environment are being collected and uploaded on a continuous basis, turning urban centres into giant networks. As a result, it’s no longer urban planners and designers alone who will impact the direction of change – it will likely be the inhabitants as well.

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