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Wednesday, September 15, 2004
On architectural publishing, a must-read essay by Kester Rattenbury from icon magazine, which traces the market's current malaise back to Koolhaas's S, M, X, XL, a book more influential than most contemporary buildings (amazing how no-one's bothered to scan a copy and put it online - yet). 'Nobody knows who buys architectural books. The publishers simply don't do market research. Amazingly, given the sophistication of consumer profiling and the apparent ease with which this information could be compiled and analysed, they just don't bother.... If you like reading about buildings, there's lots of content. But it looks like a design-led book, so it appeals if you - like so many of architecture's book audience - never actually read it, but just look at (and copy) the pictures. And it's a cool, cultish object, with the names you need to know writ large on the cover, so it's a must-have household object for the design-conscious.' Related, the quest for Rem Koolhaas' "Maison a Bordeaux".

Staying architectural: 10 things your architect won't tell you and Seven Fallacies in Architectural Culture. Compelled to innovate and haunted by the image of the architect as solo pilot, tortured genius, the only way the contemporary practitioner can seemingly exceed the achievements of his (or her) peers is to build bigger, higher and longer ('The average American house in 1900 did not have an indoor toilet; by 2000 the average new house had fewer occupants than bathrooms!'). One of the seven points is that architecture believes it 'trumps Urbanism' - an obvious fallacy given that architecture 'doesn't scale', and abandoning mixed use urban structure destroys the chance of the random encounter, the energy-saving ability to walk everywhere and the greater feeling of society this engenders.

What has changed is the arrival of the very contemporary idea that the responsibility for changing cities is somehow within us all (see What's Seattle Missing?, not to mention the countless, endless consultations that architects undertake with residents before the commencement of the construction of so much as a bus shelter). Determinists would no doubt argue that technology has empowered us to make an impact on our environment, however small, so why can't bigger influences be more keenly felt? Town planning, for example, is routinely derided for its perceived failure at making sensible space.

But is town planning an art or a science? The jury is still out and shows no sign of returning. The scientific argument has shifted from a kind of social determinism that wanted to clear slums and rationalise to the era of Space Syntax, which looks at cities as an organic structure, composed of millions of organic systems, patterns and ever-evolving. But is this a self-organising system? Jane Jacobs seemed to think so.

Postindustrial architecture: Portraits of Emptiness / the London Noise Map / Eye Imagine, truths and fiction in photography / You Are Here: Los Angeles architecture (except we're not, we're here) / the folk at IDfuel interview Mike Mike, the stereo-named artist behind the Face of Tomorrow site.

Curbed looks hypothetically (and satirically) at how other NYC Skyscrapers Historically Rebranded in the light of the Freedom Tower's 1776 feet. This makes Canary Wharf Tower the King Charlemagne Tower / Vancouver streetscape.