Writing Architecture books may be ordered through MIT Press.

A Question of Qualities: Essays in Architecture 
by Jeffrey Kipnis
August 2013

Jeffrey Kipnis’s writing, thinking, and teaching casts architecture as both an intellectual discourse and a lived, affective experience. His essays on contemporary architects are less about making critical judgments than about explication, exegesis, and provocation. In these eleven essays, written between 1990 and 2008, he considers projects, concepts, and buildings by some of the most recognized architects working today, with special attention to the productions of affect. He explores “intuition” in the work of Morphosis, “exhilaration” in Coop Himmelb(l)au, “freedom” in the work of Rem Koolhaas and OMA, “magic” in Steven Holl’s buildings, and “anxiety” in Rafael Moneo’s writing about contemporary architecture.

Project of Crisis: Manfredo Tafuri and Contemporary Architecture
by Marco Biraghi
August 2013

The influential Italian architectural historian Manfredo Tafuri (1935–1994) invoked the productive possibilities of crisis, writing that history is a "project of crisis" (progetto di crisi). In this entry in the Writing Architecture series, Marco Biraghi explores Tafuri's multifaceted and often knotty oeuvre, using the historian’s concept of a project of crisis as a lens through which to examine his historical construction of contemporary architecture.

The Possibility of an Absolute Architecture
by Pier Vittorio Aureli
February 2011

In The Possibility of an Absolute Architecture, Pier Vittorio Aureli proposes that a sharpened formal consciousness in architecture is a precondition for political, cultural, and social engagement with the city. Aureli uses the term absolute not in the conventional sense of “pure,” but to denote something that is resolutely itself after being separated from its other. In the pursuit of the possibility of an absolute architecture, the other is the space of the city, its extensive organization, and its government. Politics is agonism through separation and confrontation; the very condition of architectural form is to separate and be separated. Through its act of separation and being separated, architecture reveals at once the essence of the city and the essence of itself as political form: the city as the composition of (separate) parts. Aureli revisits the work of four architects whose projects were advanced through the making of architectural form but whose concern was the city at large: Andrea Palladio, Giovanni Battista Piranesi, Étienne Louis-Boullée, and Oswald Mathias Ungers. The work of these architects, Aureli argues, addressed the transformations of the modern city and its urban implications through the elaboration of specific and strategic architectural forms. Their projects for the city do not take the form of an overall plan but are expressed as an “archipelago” of site-specific interventions.

A Topology of Everyday Constellations
by Georges Teyssot
February 2013

Today, spaces no longer represent a bourgeois haven; nor are they the sites of a classical harmony between work and leisure, private and public, the local and the global. The house is not merely a home but a position for negotiations with multiple spheres—the technological as well as the physical and the psychological. In A Topology of Everyday Constellations, Georges Teyssot considers the intrusion of the public sphere into private space, and the blurring of notions of interior, privacy, and intimacy in our societies. He proposes that we rethink design in terms of a new definition of the practices of everyday life. 

The Alphabet and the Algorithm
by Mario Carpo
February 2011

Digital technologies have changed architecture—the way it is taught, practiced, managed, and regulated. But if the digital has created a “paradigm shift” for architecture, which paradigm is shifting? In The Alphabet and the Algorithm, Mario Carpo points to one key practice of modernity: the making of identical copies. Carpo highlights two examples of identicality crucial to the shaping of architectural modernity: in the fifteenth century, Leon Battista Alberti’s invention of architectural design, according to which a building is an identical copy of the architect’s design; and, in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the mass production of identical copies from mechanical master models, matrixes, imprints, or molds. The modern power of the identical, Carpo argues, came to an end with the rise of digital technologies. Everything digital is variable. In architecture, this means the end of notational limitations, of mechanical standardization, and of the Albertian, authorial way of building by design. Charting the rise and fall of the paradigm of identicality, Carpo compares new forms of postindustrial digital craftsmanship to hand-making and the cultures and technologies of variations that existed before the coming of machine-made, identical copies. Carpo reviews the unfolding of digitally based design and construction from the early 1990s to the present, and suggests a new agenda for architecture in an age of variable objects and of generic and participatory authorship.

Architecture's Desire: Reading the Late Avant-Garde
by K. Michael Hays
October 2009

While it is widely recognized that the advanced architecture of the 1970s left a legacy of experimentation and theoretical speculation as intense as any in architecture’s history, there has been no general theory of that ethos. Now, in Architecture’s Desire, K. Michael Hays writes an account of the “late avant-garde” as an architecture systematically twisting back on itself, pondering its own historical status, and deliberately exploring architecture’s representational possibilities right up to their absolute limits. In close readings of the brooding, melancholy silence of Aldo Rossi, the radically reductive “decompositions” and archaeologies of Peter Eisenman, the carnivalesque excesses of John Hejduk, and the “cinegrammatic” delirium of Bernard Tschumi, Hays narrates the story of architecture confronting its own boundaries with objects of ever more reflexivity, difficulty, and intransigence.

Drawing for Architecture
by Léon Krier
Foreword by James Howard Kunstler
July 2009

Architect Léon Krier’s doodles, drawings, and ideograms make arguments in images, without the circumlocutions of prose. Drawn with wit and grace, these clever sketches do not try to please or flatter the architectural establishment. Rather, they make an impassioned argument against what Krier sees as the unquestioned doctrines and unacknowledged absurdities of contemporary architecture. Thus he shows us a building bearing a suspicious resemblance to Norman Foster’s famous London “gherkin” as an example of “priapus hubris” (threatened by detumescence and “priapus nemesis”); he charts “Random Uniformity” (“fake simplicity”) and “Uniform Randomness” (“fake complexity”); he draws bloated “bulimic” and disproportionately scrawny “anorexic” columns flanking a graceful “classical” one; and he compares “private virtue” (modernist architects’ homes and offices) to “public vice” (modernist architects’ “creations”). Krier wants these witty images to be tools for re-founding traditional urbanism and architecture. He argues for mixed-use cities, of “architectural speech” rather than “architectural stutter,” and pointedly plots the man-vehicle-landneed ratio of “sub-urban man” versus that of a city dweller. In an age of energy crisis, he writes (and his drawings show), we “build in the wrong places, in the wrong patterns, materials, densities, and heights, and for the wrong number of dwellers”; a return to traditional architectures and building and settlement techniques can be the means of ecological reconstruction. Each of Krier’s provocative and entertaining images is worth more than a thousand words of theoretical abstraction.

Histories of the Immediate Present: Inventing Architectural Modernism
by Anthony Vidler
Foreword by Peter Eisenman
April 2008

Architecture, at least since the beginning of the twentieth century, has suspended historical references in favor of universalized abstraction. In the decades after the Second World War, when architectural historians began to assess the legacy of the avant-gardes in order to construct a coherent narrative of modernism’s development, they were inevitably influenced by contemporary concerns. In Histories of the Immediate Present, Anthony Vidler examines the work of four historians of architectural modernism and the ways in which their histories were constructed as more or less overt programs for the theory and practice of design in a contemporary context. Vidler looks at the historical approaches of Emil Kaufmann, Colin Rowe, Reyner Banham, and Manfredo Tafuri, and the specific versions of modernism advanced by their historical narratives. Vidler shows that the modernism conceived by Kaufmann was, like the late Enlightenment projects he revered, one of pure, geometrical forms and elemental composition; that of Rowe saw mannerist ambiguity and complexity in contemporary design; Banham’s modernism took its cue from the aspirations of the futurists; and the “Renaissance modernism” of Tafuri found its source in the division between the technical experimentation of Brunelleschi and the cultural nostalgia of Alberti. Vidler’s investigation demonstrates the inevitable collusion between history and design that pervades all modern architectural discourse—and has given rise to some of the most interesting architectual experiments of the postwar period.

Strange Details
by Michael Cadwell
Foreword by Nader Tehrani
June 2007

Confronted with the intricate construction details of Italian architect Carlo Scarpa's Querini Stampalia Gallery—steel joined at odd intervals, concrete spilled out of concatenated forms, stone cut in labyrinthine patterns—Michael Cadwell abandoned his attempts to categorize them theoretically and resolved instead to appreciate their idiosyncrasies and evoke their all-embracing affects. What he had dismissed as a collection of fetishes he came to understand as a coherently constructed world that was nonetheless persistently strange. In Strange Details, Cadwell looks at the work of four canonical architects who "made strange" with the most resistant aspect of architecture—construction. In buildings that were pivotal in their careers, Scarpa, Frank Lloyd Wright, Mies van der Rohe, and Louis Kahn all created details that undercut our critical and analytical terra firma.Cadwell explores the strangeness in the material menagerie of Scarpa's Querini Stampalia, the wood light frame construction of Wright's Jacobs House, the welded steel frame of Mies's Farnsworth House, and the reinforced concrete of Kahn's Yale Center for British Art. Each of these architects, he finds, reconfigures the rudimentary facts of construction, creating a subtle but undeniable shift in a building’s physicality. And for each of them, nature is strange, and its strangeness infects; nature unmoors exhausted cultural ideas, constricted analytical procedures, and outmoded production techniques. An awakening to nature's strangeness forces a new sense of the world, one that we can detect in these architects' configurations of the world's materials—their strange details.

Public Intimacy: Architecture and the Visual Arts
by Giuliana Bruno
Preface by Anthony Vidler
March 2007

In this thoughtful collection of essays on the relationship of architecture and the arts, Giuliana Bruno addresses the crucial role that architecture plays in the production of art and the making of public intimacy. As art melts into spatial construction and architecture mobilizes artistic vision, Bruno argues, a new moving space—a screen of vital cultural memory—has come to shape our visual culture. Taking on the central topic of museum culture, Bruno leads the reader on a series of architectural promenades from modernity to our times. Through these "museum walks," she demonstrates how artistic collection has become a culture of recollection, and examines the public space of the pavilion as reinvented in the moving-image art installation of Turner Prize nominees Jane and Louise Wilson. Investigating the intersection of science and art, Bruno looks at our cultural obsession with techniques of imaging and its effect on the privacy of bodies and space. She finds in the work of artist Rebecca Horn a notable combination of the artistic and the scientific that creates an architecture of public intimacy. Considering the role of architecture in contemporary art that refashions our "lived space"—and the work of contemporary artists including Rachel Whiteread, Mona Hatoum, and Guillermo Kuitca—Bruno argues that architecture is used to define the frame of memory, the border of public and private space, and the permeability of exterior and interior space. Architecture, Bruno contends, is not merely a matter of space, but an art of time.

Architecture from the Outside: Essays on Virtual and Real Space
by Elizabeth Grosz
Foreword by Peter Eisenman
June 2001

To be outside allows one a fresh perspective on the inside. In these essays, philosopher Elizabeth Grosz explores the ways in which two disciplines that are fundamentally outside each another—architecture and philosophy—can meet in a third space to interact free of their internal constraints. "Outside" also refers to those whose voices are not usually heard in architectural discourse but who inhabit its space--the destitute, the homeless, the sick, and the dying, as well as women and minorities. Grosz asks how we can understand space differently in order to structure and inhabit our living arrangements accordingly. Two themes run throughout the book: temporal flow and sexual specificity. Grosz argues that time, change, and emergence, traditionally viewed as outside the concerns of space, must become more integral to the processes of design and construction. She also argues against architecture’s historical indifference to sexual specificity, asking what the existence of (at least) two sexes has to do with how we understand and experience space. Drawing on the work of such philosophers as Henri Bergson, Roger Caillois, Gilles Deleuze, Jacques Derrida, Luce Irigaray, and Jacques Lacan, Grosz raises abstract but nonformalistic questions about space, inhabitation, and building. All of the essays propose philosophical experiments to render space and building more mobile and dynamic.

Fire and Memory: On Architecture and Energy
by Luis Fernández-Galiano
Foreword by Gina Cariño
December 2000

In Fire and Memory, Luis Fernández-Galiano reconstructs the movement from cold to warm architecture, from building fire to building a building with and for fire, through what he calls a "metaphorical plundering" of disciplines as diverse as anthropology and economics, and in particular of ecology and thermodynamics. Beginning with the mythical fire in the origins of architecture and moving to its symbolic representation in the twentieth century, Galiano develops a theoretical dialogue between combustion and construction that ranges from Vitruvius to Le Corbusier, from the mechanical and organic to time and entropy. Galiano points out that energy, so important to the origin of architectural theory in Vitruvius's time, has been absent from architectural theory since the introduction of the "dictatorship of the eye" over that of the skin. With Fire and Memory, he reintroduces energy to the discussion of architecture and reminds us that the sense of touch is as necessary to an understanding of the environment as the sense of sight.

A Landscape of Events
by Paul Virilio and Editions Galilee
December 2000

In A Landscape of Events, the celebrated French architect, urban planner, and philosopher Paul Virilio focuses on the cultural chaos of the 1980s and 1990s. It was a time, he writes, that reflected the "cruelty of an epoch, the hills and dales of daily life, the usual clumps of habits and commonplaces. "Urban disorientation, the machines of war, and the acceleration of events in contemporary life are Virilio's ongoing concerns. He explores them in events ranging from media coverage of the Gulf War to urban rioting and lawlessness. Some will see Virilio as a pessimist discouraged by "the acceleration of the reality of time," while others will find his recording of "atypical events" to be clairvoyant.

Welcome to the Hotel Architecture
by Roger Connah
Foreword by Daniel Libeskind
June 1998

Departing from conventional genres of architectural writing, Roger Connah presents an original and wry reflection on the fickle but exciting role that language, semantics, and philosophy have played this century in relation to architecture. Welcome to the Hotel Architecture is a five-part "anti-epic" poem on the culture of architecture—its tribes and inventions, the spectacular and vernacular, and the processes through which names and movements are secured, erased, forgotten, and manipulated.

Using various styles and poetic approaches mimetic of the restless adventures, swerves, and hijacks of language and philosophy in architecture, Connah takes us on an eccentric hop, skip, and jump along the compound walls of architecture and eventually to the Hotel Architecture itself, where we witness a New Year's Eve symposium on December 31, 1999, that is truly carnivalesque. As we wander through the foyer to the Digital Lounge, where the DITTO conference is taking place, we hear some guests raising their glasses to Gin and Tectonica, others saying good-bye to the rhetoric of the last century, while others still cling to literary theory and philosophical thinness. Following the midnight hour, the crews finally arrive to clean up the mess left over from the architecture wars of the last century. Welcome to the Hotel Architecture! A project to build, a new accommodation, from degree zero to top speed, an architecture of true "unrest" for the next millennium.

Along with Paul Valéry's Eupalonius, or the Architect, Le Corbusier's Poem of the Right Angle, and Paul Muldoon's Shining Brow, this is one of only a handful of long poems devoted to the subject of architecture written in the twentieth century. Certainly, it is one of the most unorthodox treatments of architecture in any genre since Connah's last tour de force of criticism, Writing Architecture: Fantomas Fragments Fictions, insinuated itself upon the discipline. Writing Architecture (MIT Press, 1989) won the International Congress of Architectural Critics Book Award and prefigured the name of the series in which this work appears.

Such Places as Memory: Poems 1953–1996
by John Hejduk
Foreword by  David Shapiro
April 1998

The poems of John Hejduk are almost nonpoetic: still lives of memory, sites of possessed places. They give a physical existence to the words themselves and an autobiographical dimension to the architect. Architect Peter Eisenman likens them to "secret agents in an enemy camp." Writing about Hejduk's poems in 1980, Eisenman observed, "Walter Benjamin has said that Baudelaire's writings on Paris were often more real than the experience of Paris itself. Both drawing and writing contain a compaction of themes which in their conceptual density deny reduction and exfoliation for a reality of another kind: together they reveal an essence of architecture itself." This is the first comprehensive collection of Hejduks poems to be published outside an architectural setting.

Constructions
by John Rajchman
Foreword by Paul Virilio
February 1998

In this series of overlapping essays on architecture and art, John Rajchman attempts to do theory in a new way that takes off from the philosophy of the late Gilles Deleuze. Starting from notions of folding, lightness, ground, abstraction, and future cities, he embarks on a conceptual voyage whose aim is to help "construct" a new space of connections, to "build" a new idiom, perhaps even to suggest a new architecture. Along the way, he addresses questions of the new abstraction, operative form, other geometries, new technologies, global cities, ideas of the virtual and the formless, and possibilities for critical theory after utopia and transgression.

Differences: Topographies of Contemporary Architecture
by Ignasi de Solà-Morales
Translated by Graham Thompson
January 1997

Contemplating the panorama of contemporary art and architecture, de Solà-Morales posits that there is no one way to describe today's practice; instead he concentrates on elucidating the present dynamic of contrast, diversity, and tension. In an unorthodox pairing, de Solà-Morales derives his inspiration from both phenomenology and Deleuzean poststructuralism. Combining these philosophical inheritances allows him to reinvoke the human subject without referring to classical humanism or announcing the death of the object. His retrospective review of the disciplines of art and architecture, particularly as they have developed since World War II, provokes him to design, draft, and ultimately build a description of Modernism's lineage of subjectivity. The result is a provocative construction of fluid "topographies" that articulate, rather than depict, the shaky ground on which our current artistic and architectural production rests.

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Architecture as Metaphor: Language, Number, Money
by Kojin Karatani
Edited by Michael Speaks
Translated by Sabu Kohso
October 1995

Kojin Karatani, Japan's leading literary critic, is perhaps best known for his imaginative readings of Shakespeare, Soseki, Marx, Wittgenstein, and most recently Kant. His works, of which Origins of Modern Japanese Literature is the only one previously translated into English, are the generic equivalent to what in America is called "theory." Karatani's writings are important not only for the insights they offer on the various topics under discussion, but also as an example of a distinctly non-Western critical intervention.In Architecture as Metaphor, Karatani detects a recurrent "will to architecture" that he argues is the foundation of all Western thinking, traversing architecture, philosophy, literature, linguistics, city planning, anthropology, political economics, psychoanalysis, and mathematics. In the three parts of the book, he analyzes the complex bonds between construction and deconstruction, thereby pointing to an alternative model of "secular criticism," but in the domain of philosophy rather than literary or cultural criticism. As Karatani claims in his introduction, because the will to architecture is practically nonoexistent in Japan, he must first assume a dual role: one that affirms the architectonic (by scrutinizing the suppressed function of form) and one that pushes formalism to its collapse (by invoking Kurt Godel's incompleteness theorem). His subsequent discussions trace a path through the work of Christopher Alexander, Jane Jacobs, Gilles Deleuze, and others. Finally, amidst the drive that motivates all formalization, he confronts an unbridgeable gap, an uncontrollable event encountered in the exchange with the other; thus his speculation turns toward global capital movement. While in the present volume he mainly analyzes familiar Western texts, it is precisely for this reason that his voice discloses a distance that will add a new dimension to our English-language discourse.

   

 

 

Earth Moves: The Furnishing of Territories
by Bernard Cache
Edited by Michael Speaks
Translated by Anne Boyman
October 1995

Earth Moves, Bernard Cache's first major work, conceptualizes a series of architectural images as vehicles for two important developments. First, he offers a new understanding of the architectural image itself. Following Gilles Deleuze and Henri Bergson, he develops an account of the image that is nonrepresentational and constructive—images as constituents of a primary, image world, of which subjectivity itself is a special kind of image. Second, Cache redefines architecture beyond building proper to include cinematic, pictoral, and other framings. Complementary to this classification, Cache offers what is to date the only Deleuzean architectural development of the "fold," a form and concept that has become important over the last few years. For Cache, as for Deleuze, what is significant about the fold is that it provides a way to rethink the relationship between interior and exterior, between past and present, and between architecture and the urban.