What We're Reading
A pair of finds for architecture fans
By James H. Schwartz | From Preservation | July/August 2008
How to Read Buildings: A Crash Course in Architectural Styles
By Carol Davidson Cragoe (Rizzoli, 2008)
This just might be the pocket book I've always dreamed of. Small (5½ by 6½ inches), lightweight, and lavishly illustrated with engravings and drawings, it's an unabashed celebration of all things architectural.
Looking to understand the difference between saucer and triple-shelled domes? Turn to page 132 for a concise introduction to domed roof forms, followed by an entire chapter surveying 25 examples of domes and their structural elements. Fascinated by buttresses? Check out "Vaults" on page 128, then pore over illustrations of flying buttresses, arched flyers, and the pilaster buttresses that strengthen the base of a masonry wall.
My favorite chapter is "Columns & Capitals," which starts with Trajan's Column in Rome, then covers corbels, volutes, pilasters, and drums before exploring five distinctly different styles of vertical supports. I also enjoyed Cragoe's description of an elaborate early Christian capital from a church in Istanbul. Though carved out of stone, it "looks as if it has been made from a piece of fabric," she writes, "gathered into folds … [with a] textilelike pattern of foliage intertwining in a guilloche pattern, known as lacework." If "guilloche" throws you, worry not: A comprehensive glossary in the back of the book defines it as "a decorative pattern of interlaced circles."
I'm leaving How to Read Buildings on my nightstand for a few weeks, but you can bet I'll tuck it into my carry-on bag when we head to Europe next month.
Who Will Love It: Anyone who's constantly looking up when strolling the streets of a city—instead of window shopping
Where to Keep It: In your carry-on
How to Describe It: Handy
Designing the Good Life: Norman M. Giller & the Development of Miami Modernism
By Norman M. Giller and Sarah Giller
Nelson (University Press of Florida, 2007)
Opening the turquoise cover of this book by architect Giller and his granddaughter, Sarah, is like stepping into the world of the Jetsons. All of his resorts, nightclubs, office buildings, and family houses celebrated innovative technology (air-conditioning!), new materials (Formica!), and the dramatic shapes and roof forms that came to exemplify the style known as Miami Modern, or "MiMo."
The sheer output of Giller's eponymous firm was remarkable. In 1946 he announced the opening of his Miami offices and attracted upwards of 50 clients. By the end of 1968 he and his associates had executed plans for more than 85 separate commissions in the U.S., and Central and South America.
All of those projects were inspired by the abundant sunshine and vibrant colors of South Florida and the Caribbean, and each of them exudes theatricality. It's easy to imagine how impressed visitors must have felt when they drove up to the glowing windows of his Copa City Night Club in Miami Beach, or descended the floating staircase to the lobby of his Thunderbird Motel in Sunny Isles. I only wish I'd had the chance to experience the late architect's famed Diplomat Hotel before its demolition. Distinguished by a massive concrete canopy at the entrance and a bold line of circles punched through the cantilevered roof, the Diplomat was the commission he often called his masterpiece.
Part autobiography and part history lesson, Designing the Good Life is a colorful testament to Giller's passion and Miami's postwar golden age.
Who Will Love It: Fans of Miami Modern and readers with an interest in Eisenhower's America
Where to Keep It: In the guest room—my houseguests dipped into it all weekend
How to Describe It: Nostalgic
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