Architecture Stuff is about a way of looking at architecture. It examines seven seminal projects and shows how they might have been conceived with or without the design architect’s awareness. More a working method than a theory, Architecture Stuff deals with questions pertinent to designers as well as to critics of buildings. More Stuff then illustrates how that same method can be used to make architecture.
The seven buildings are chosen for their breadth of styles and approaches to architecture and show that this approach to architecture can be applied to any building. Presented in reverse chronological order, the first project, Grace Farms, is a building by SANAA. Noted for its meandering river form and minimalist detailing, it is seen to be—among other things—a juxtaposition of orthogonal and sinuous forms. The second project is Villa Dall’Ava by Rem Koolhaas/OMA. Located in the suburbs, the house is a transition from city to country. The third project is the Neue Staatsgalerie by James Stirling. The analysis shows how the “bad boy” of architecture subverts conventional architectural tropes. Robert Venturi’s Mother’s House is shown to be a compressed stately manor and an architect’s conceit. The Kimbell Art Museum by Louis Kahn can be understood as simple repetitive forms with elaborated elements that organize a diverse collection of spaces. Pierre Chareau’s Maison de Verre is much more than types of transparency and mechanization. One of its major themes is the use of “L” shaped spaces. Finally, St George’s Bloomsbury by Nicholas Hawksmoor is a parish church swallowed by a classical temple. The critique exposes how the architect used that idea to juxtapose the clerical and the civic to develop all of the details in the building.
These are not singular idea buildings and, as a way of seeing architecture, there are overlapping themes in this collection. The history of architecture of specific periods is a common theme, as is architecture’s stasis with spaces expanding or contracting. A dry sense of humor is always appreciated. What separates these buildings from any other building is the density of ideas presented.
More Stuff accounts for the same working methods as a way to make architecture. Here the author illustrates eleven projects across the span of his career. Though often done in collaboration with others, in all cases the author generated the design ideas. One of the key aspects of architecture stuff is that it is unpretentious and accessible and these projects are meant to illustrate that quality. Architecture can be serious and playful at the same time.