Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Searching for Embarrassing Architecture and Lagos: World City of the Future?

I've just been looking over the Prairie Avenue Bookshop's February email of new arrivals, and what caught my eye was not a book, but a DVD, Lagos Wide and Close: An Interactive Journey Into an Exploding City, a documentary by Bregtje van der Haak, who followed Rem Koolhaas around for two years as the architect worked on researching the urban condition of the Nigerian city of 14,000,000 that is adding 21 new residents every hour. Koolhaas sees Lagos as a prototype for his concept of a "culture of congestion", where the traffic jams are so pervasive and severe that impromptu trading markets break out amidst the stalled vehicles. This Harvard Design School Project on the City was discussed in Koolhaas's 2001 compilation Mutations, but has still to produce a final book, as projects on shopping on China did previously. Perhaps the type of rapid change Koolhaas and his team are trying to document can no longer be captured on a static, printed page, but only through full-motion video.

Prairie Avenue's list of new arrivals includes monographs on Shigeru Ban, Richard Neutra, Herzog and de Meuron, etc.,etc., but one book stands out solely on the basis of its title, Starving for Embarrassing Architecture. The book combines photos of "vernacular architecture" in L.A. with interviews that quiz residents about what they see as "ideal and utopian living and working spaces." The author sees "'embarrassing architecture' as a liberation from the formal and static rules of architecture." In Chicago, we could use a little more embarrassment as an alternative to the willfully characterless high-rises that are overtaking more and more of the center city.

The Prairie Avenue Bookshop, Chicago's - and perhaps the world's - largest architectural bookstore, will be sponsoring two book signings this month. The first, on Wednesday March 15th will feature David A. Hansen, Architect and his book Reshaping Corporate Culture. The second, Houses: The Architecture of Nagle Hartray Danker Kagan McKay Penney, will take place on Wednesday, March 29th. The Bookshop is located at 418 South Wabash, 800/474.2724

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