Tropolism Books: Green Roof and Natural Architecture


Title: Green Roof—A Case Study: Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates' Design For the Headquarters of the American Society of Landscape Architects
Author: Christian Werthmann

Publication Date: October 1, 2007

Publisher: Princeton Architectural Press

ISBN: 1568986858

Title: Natural Architecture
Author: Alessandro Rocca

Publication Date: November 5, 2007

Publisher: Princeton Architectural Press

ISBN: 1568987218

The folks at Princeton Architectural Press have done it again: they have sent us a two-pack that again begs for a comparative review.

Green Roof is the rarest of architectural books. It is a case study of a single project (the green roof for the Headquarters of the American Society of Landscape Architects) that successfully balances theoretical concerns, models and sketches and computer renderings from a messy design process, reproductions of key construction drawings and details, documentation of the construction process, and great, informative photography of the final project. Every page is filled with useful, clear, and beautifully presented information. The photography is stunning. The project's design is fairly simple, and not the most formally interesting of Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates' work. And yet the book contains a persuasive point of view (the United States need more green roof projects), with a theoretical bias (green roof projects are an integral part of modern living), a position on how the project fits into the larger urban whole, all the while being a powerfully pragmatic reference book (complete with product manufacturers and descriptions of every plant species used) for how to do a project like this, from beginning to end. After years of blah rendering-filled monographs and cheeky formal explorations, this kind of book is not only welcome, but long overdue.

Natural Architecture is a cursory survey of artists whose works are sculptures using materials found in nature: trees, branches, rocks, soil, and streams. The artists surveys are all contemporary, and a wide range of explorations and concerns are covered. Included are a few big names (Olafur Eliasson, nArchitects), but the majority of the artists are probably known only to people who follow this sort of thing. The author makes the correct decisions to show work that is post-Land Art (if there is such a thing), work that both borders on interesting vernacular construction as well as the cutting edge of contemporary art and architecture, and work that is being done by artists worldwide. While some of the images are grainy and underexposed, they do capture the ephemeral nature of works made by natural materials, and the labor and processes needed to build them. The graphic design is mostly unobtrusive, except for some titles that seem ripped from my graduating portfolio circa 1997. But these are minor points. Like many surveys of particular themes of art, this book is one of the more useful compilations, with enough breadth of images to appeal to a wide range of artists and architects.

Green Roof: A Case Study: Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates' Design For the Headquarters of the American Society of Landscape Architects and Natural Architecture are both available at Amazon.


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