My recent posts at World-Architects


Saturday, May 27, 2017

Amazon's Bricks and Mortar

Earlier today I decided to check out the new Amazon Books, which opened a few days ago. The bricks-and-mortar version of the online powerhouse is located in Time Warner Center at Columbus Circle. The store makes its presence known only subtly, with signage in the two windows above the BOSS logos on the right:

The store is located on the third floor of the building's mall, here seen from the outlook on the second floor:

Given the layout of the mall, the store is accessed via a bridge, which features some signage to entice shoppers below to take the escalator up a couple floors:

On this Saturday of Memorial Day weekend, there was a line to get into the store. For whatever reason (safety, not going over their occupancy limit, making it feel like an event, who knows?), the store let only ten people in at a time. My wait was about ten or fifteen minutes – more time that I would spend in the store.

As has been written about all over the place, one gimmick of the seven-and-counting Amazon Books stores is that ALL of the books have their covers facing outwards, meaning there are lots of shelves but very few books:

Another gimmick is that the selection is based, in part, on online sales on rather than, say, the expertise of the people working in the store, as is the norm in bookstores. Further, "reviews" come from online as well rather than employees. Note the "Books with More Than 10,000 Reviews on" and "Hot in Amazon Books" sections:

Of course I tried to find an "Architecture" section, but instead I discovered an "Arts & Crafts" section with an "Art & Design" subsection. By my count, they carry four architecture books:

Another gimmick involves pricing and payment, which takes place via the Amazon smartphone app or at scanners positioned throughout the store:

Herein lies one major impetus for the stores: increasing Prime membership, one of the few areas where Amazon actually makes money. Prime members get the cheap online prices in the store, but non-members who want to walk out with an actual book have to pay list price.

Another thing should be mentioned in regards to this Amazon Books: location. Although a second NYC location will be opening soon, at 34th Street and Fifth Avenue, it's clear that this first location is filling something of a bookstore void. There used to be a Barnes & Noble across from nearby Lincoln Center as well as a Borders inside Columbus Circle (a much bigger store than Amazon Books); and if we go back further, the great Coliseum Books was next to Columbus Circle long before the Time Warner Center. Now the nearest bookstores are Posman Books at Rockefeller Center and Kinokuniya across from Bryant Park, both to the south, and Book Culture and Barnes & Noble up in the 80s to the north. So Amazon Books is filling a gap, but it's doing so with a gimmick-filled attempt at gaining Prime memberships and Kindle readers, rather than providing people a deep selection with unexpected finds. Those wanting the latter should check out my list of NYC bookstores instead.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Video: '100 Years, 100 Buildings' Book Talk

On Tuesday, May 23 I'll be giving a book talk at the Skyscraper Museum in Lower Manhattan. The event takes places from 6:30pm to 8pm and is free. Head to the Skyscraper Museum website to reserve a ticket.

Update 05/26: Video of my talk is embedded below.

Book Review: MAS Context 30-31: Bilbao

MAS Context 30-31: Bilbao
Edited by Iker Gil
Spring 2017, 456 pages

The year 2017 marks the 20th anniversary of the opening of the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, Frank Gehry's contribution to the Bilbao effect. Contribution is an important word here, since all too often the Bilbao effect is defined solely as the outcome of the architectural icon, ignoring the wider infrastructural improvements and other pieces of architecture added to the Basque city before and since. Even twenty years later, this is the case: Bilbao = Gehry's Guggenheim. This double issue of MAS Context is then a welcome publication on the city, coming at a time when the impact of the building and other urban developments can be gauged.

The two issues that fit together side by side to create the double issue are hinged about the year of the museum's opening: one is devoted to what came before and the other to what has followed. This split acknowledges the importance of the museum but shifts the focus of the issues' contributions to other things, be they built (Norma's Foster's Metro), unbuilt (Stirling Wilford's Abando Passenger Interchange) or even abandoned (Vizcaya Amusement Park). Each issue is further split into two halves: 1900-1983 and 1983-1997 for #30 (1983 was marked by severe floods caused by heavy rains); and 1997-2012 and 2012-future (in 2012 the city approved the Special Plan for Zorrotzaurre).

It makes sense that MAS Context is devoting two issues to Bilbao, while at the same time using it to draw attention to other places in the city. Editor in Chief Iker Gil is from Bilbao and reveals as much in his introduction, "Exploring the City You Grew Up in." His background and continued connection to Bilbao ensure the issues' contributions are varied and unexpected, revealing many other reasons to visit the city.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

The 'Definitive' Carlo Scarpa

Yesterday the Graham Foundation announced "over $560,000 in new grants to individuals around the world to support 72 innovative projects engaging original ideas in architecture." On my first skimming of the list of exhibitions, film/video/new media projects, public program, publications, and research, one award stood out above the rest: Francesco Dal Co's "definitive book on Carlo Scarpa."

The Italian architectural historian has authored books on Scarpa already, including his Complete Works (Rizzoli, 1986) and a case study of Villa Ottolenghi (Monacelli Press, 1998). Yet even with the numerous other monographs on the architect (most recently Robert McCarter's Carlo Scarpa published last year by Phaidon), Dal Co's forthcoming book from Yale University Press sounds very promising.

Carlo Scarpa - Tomba Brion
[Brion-Vega Cemetery, San Vito d'Altivole, 1978 | Photo: Francesco Maria Gabriele Vozza]

The description from the Graham Foundation website (my emphasis):
As the definitive book on Carlo Scarpa (1906–1978), this important study surveys the wide-ranging body of his architecture and design work, including buildings, works in glass, and exhibition designs. After graduating with a degree in architectural design, Scarpa began his multi-faceted career with an apprenticeship at the Murano glass factory, Cappellin & Co., while simultaneously embarking on his first architectural commissions. His commitment to craftsmanship and his evolving modernist style, which engaged in dialogue with his contemporaries, including Frank Lloyd Wright and Louis Kahn, is exemplified by buildings ranging from the small Olivetti Showroom in Piazza San Marco, to the monumental Brion Tomb, outside of Treviso. Although Scarpa's work is concentrated in the Veneto region of Italy, it has become increasingly influential on the world stage. This sensitive account will be instrumental in correcting many long-held assumptions about Scarpa's work while illustrating how and why his designs continue to inspire.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

A Peek Inside the Shed

A slideshow of photos from today's hard hat tour of The Shed designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro and the Rockwell Group:
The Shed

And a video of the 100-foot-tall shed in action:

The Shed -- it's alive!

A post shared by John Hill (@therealarchidose) on

The building will open in 2019.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Cards of the Moment

A+T – publisher of books and magazines on public spaces, work places, renovations, and collective housing – has just released 50 Urban Blocks, a "set of cards containing 50 examples of how to design an urban block."

Unlike previous titles from a+t, the deck of cards are hypothetical designs rather than specific case studies. Each scenario is given the same rectangular area, so they can be compared and contrasted easily.

As in other a+t publications, the illustrations are accompanied by data, so each can be evaluated in terms of density, height, and other factors.

I could see the 50 Urban Blocks being particularly helpful for students as well as young architects in need of some ideas on how to move forward with a project. Although they might not be faced with such a straightforward block, the cards offer plenty of ways to think about solid/void, site coverage, and other considerations.

Monday, May 22, 2017

El Helicoide

Head over to World-Architects to read my recap of the small but illuminating El Helicoide: From Mall to Prison exhibition at the Center for Architecture. The show focuses on the El Helicoide building in Caracas, which was built as a mall in the late 1950s but never used as such; it now functions as a prison – an illegal one at that.

The exhibition will be joined in the summer by the book From Mall to Prison: El Helicoide's Downward Spiral, published by Urban Research; it will be celebrated with a book talk on July 13th at the Center. Further, a complementary program, Modern Architecture and Design in Venezuela, will be held with exhibition curator Celeste Olalquiaga and others at the Center on May 30th.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Storefront's ARTIFACTS

On Tuesday, May 23, the Storefront for Art and Architecture is holding its spring benefit, ARTIFACT, at Federal Hall in Lower Manhattan. Storefront will be honoring Denise Scott Brown and Murray Moss, and will be launching New Artifacts, specially commissioned pieces by Adam McEwen, LOT-EK, and Murray Moss with Lobmeyr.


ARTIFACT takes place from 7pm to midnight at Federal Hall, 26 Wall Street. Tickets can be purchased here. Although it's the same evening as my book talk at the Skyscraper Museum, there's plenty of time to do both – that's my plan.

Friday, May 19, 2017


Anish Kapoor's Descension is on display at Brooklyn Bridge Park's Pier 1 until September 10th. I visited yesterday and made a short video of it (turn up the volume for best effect):

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Today's archidose #964

Here are some of my photos of Pierhouse and 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge by Marvel Architects.

Pierhouse and 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge
Pierhouse and 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge
Pierhouse and 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge
Pierhouse and 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge
Pierhouse and 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge
Pierhouse and 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge
Pierhouse and 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge
Pierhouse and 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge
Pierhouse and 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge
Pierhouse and 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge

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