Episodes
Published 03/14/24
The 2020 toppling of slave-trader Edward Colston's statue by Black Lives Matter protesters in Bristol was a dramatic reminder of Britain's role in trans-Atlantic slavery, too often overlooked. Yet the legacy of that predatory economy reaches far beyond bronze memorials; it continues to shape the entire visual fabric of the country. Architect Victoria Perry explores the relationship between the wealth of slave-owning elites and the architecture and landscapes of Georgian Britain. She reveals...
Published 03/14/24
This instalment of the Object Lessons series focuses on the Swimming Pool (Bloomsbury, 2024). The book explores the pool as a place where humans seek to attain the unique union between mind and body. As a former world-ranked swimmer whose journey toward naturalisation and U.S. citizenship began with a swimming fellowship, Piotr Florczyk reflects on his own adventures in swimming pools while taking a closer look at artists, architects, writers, and others who have helped to cement the swimming...
Published 03/12/24
Air conditioning aspires to be unnoticed. Yet, by manipulating the air around us, it quietly conditions the baseline conditions of our physical, mental, and emotional experience. From offices and libraries to contemporary art museums and shopping malls, climate control systems shore up the fantasy of a comfortable, self-contained body that does not have to reckon with temperature. At the same time that air conditioning makes temperature a non-issue in (some) people's daily lives,...
Published 03/08/24
In Politics in the Crevices: Urban Design and the Making of Property Markets in Cairo and Istanbul (Duke UP, 2023), Sarah El-Kazaz takes readers into the world of urban planning and design practices in Istanbul and Cairo. In this transnational ethnography of neighborhoods undergoing contested rapid transformations, she reveals how the battle for housing has shifted away from traditional political arenas onto private crevices of the city. She outlines how multiple actors—from highly...
Published 02/15/24
In her new book Hitler’s Northern Utopia: Building the New Order in Occupied Norway (Princeton University Press, 2020), Despina Stratigakos investigates the Nazi occupation of Norway. Between 1940 and 1945, German occupiers transformed Norway into a vast construction zone. This remarkable building campaign, largely unknown today, was designed to extend the Greater German Reich beyond the Arctic Circle and turn the Scandinavian country into a racial utopia. From ideal new cities to a scenic...
Published 02/11/24
In Taking the Soviet Union Apart Room by Room: Domestic Architecture Before and After 1991 (Northern Illinois UP, 2023) Kateryna Malaia examines the transformation of domestic spaces and architecture during the period of perestroika (1985-1991) and the first post-Soviet decades. In analysing how Soviet and post-Soviet city dwellers altered their homes amidst a period of profound socio-cultural change, Malaia provides unique insight into the relationship between the transformation of domestic...
Published 01/07/24
Building Mid-Republican Rome: Labor, Architecture, and the Urban Economy (Oxford University Press, 2018), offers a holistic treatment of the development of the Mid-Republican city from 396 to 168 BCE. As Romans established imperial control over Italy and beyond, the city itself radically transformed from an ambitious central Italian settlement into the capital of the Mediterranean world. Seth Bernard describes this transformation in terms of both new urban architecture, much of it...
Published 01/07/24
The Illuminated Window: Stories Across Times (Reaktion, 2023) is a unique journey through stained-glass installations that spans both time and place. Diverse in technique and style, these windows speak for the communities that created them. From the twelfth to the twenty-first century, we find in the windows stories of conflict, commemoration, devotion and celebration. Dr. Virginia Chieffo Raguin is our guide through the cathedrals of Chartres, Canterbury and Cologne, and takes us from...
Published 01/05/24
Underlying every great city is a rich and vibrant culture that shapes the texture of life within. In The Speculative City: Art, Real Estate, and the Making of Global Los Angeles (U Minnesota Press, 2021), Susanna Phillips Newbury teases out how art and Los Angeles shaped one another’s evolution. She compellingly articulates how together they transformed the Southland, establishing the foundation for its contemporary art infrastructure, and explains how artists came to influence Los Angeles’s...
Published 01/04/24
Albeit inspired by a progressive vision of a working environment without walls or hierarchies, the open plan office has come to be associated with some of the most dehumanizing and alienating aspects of the modern office. Jennifer Kaufman-Buhler's fascinating new book Open Plan: A Design History of the American Office (Bloomsbury, 2021) examines the history of the open plan office concept from its early development in the late 1960s and 1970s, through its present-day dominance in working...
Published 12/28/23
A pioneering Detroit automobile factory. A legendary iron mill at the edge of Pittsburgh. A campus of concrete grain elevators in Buffalo. Two monumental train stations, one in Buffalo, the other in Detroit. These once noble sites have since fallen from their towering grace. As local elected leaders did everything they could to destroy what was left of these places, citizens saw beauty and utility in these industrial ruins and felt compelled to act. Postindustrial DIY: Recovering American...
Published 12/20/23
Welcome to another episode of New Books in Chinese Studies. I am your host, Julia Keblinska, and I am speaking today to Prof. Tristan Brown about his book, Laws of the Land: Fengshui and the State in Qing Dynasty China (Princeton UP, 2023). Brown’s book considers fengshui, that is, the knowledge of orienting structures, such as graves and houses, in accordance with well-established cosmological principles, as an administrative technology and language of power that was intrinsic to governance...
Published 12/11/23
Joshua Skarf's book ArchitecTorah: Architectural Ideas in Judaism and the Weekly Torah Portion (Urim, 2023) is a collection of 178 short essays that investigate the Torah through the lens of architecture. Each essay briefly introduces a piece of architectural theory, a building, or a section of building code and then reexamines a well-known topic in the Torah to uncover new and insightful interpretations. Matthew Miller is a graduate of Yeshivat Yesodei HaTorah. He studied Jewish Studies and...
Published 12/02/23
Transparency is a mantra of our day. It is key to the Western understanding of a liberal society. We expect transparency from, for instance, political institutions, corporations, and the media. But how did it become such a powerful—and global—idea? From ancient glass to Apple’s corporate headquarters, Transparency: the Material History of an Idea (Yale University Press, 2023) is the first to probe how Western people have experienced, conceptualized, and evaluated transparency. Dr. Daniel...
Published 12/01/23
In the wide realm of Shakespeare worship, the house in Stratford-upon-Avon where William Shakespeare was born in 1564 – known colloquially as the 'Birthplace' – remains the chief shrine. It's not as romantic as Anne Hathaway's thatched cottage, it's not where he wrote any of his plays, and there's nothing inside the house that once belonged to Shakespeare himself. So why, for centuries, have people kept turning up on the doorstep? In Shakespeare’s House: A Window onto his Life and...
Published 11/29/23
The question of land is largely absent in libraries. Deeply committed to the neoliberal project as a guiding ideology of the profession, libraries exist at once as ahistorical, atheoretical, and landless institutions in their understanding of themselves, their work, and their impact on people. Land in Libraries: Toward a Materialist Conception of Education (Library Juice Press, 2023) seeks to contribute to the growing body of work on libraries and the anthropocene, decolonization, and climate...
Published 11/23/23
In Living in Houses: A Personal History of English Domestic Architecture (Lund Humphries, 2022), Dr. Ruth Dalton presents a rich and rewarding history of houses in England through the stories of nine houses, dating from the 1600s to the 1980s, which have been inhabited by the author, an architect and academic. Chronologically ordered, the book covers rural vernacular houses from the 17th Century, Georgian and Victorian townhouses, villas and converted industrial buildings, Edwardian semis and...
Published 11/22/23
An essay collection exploring the board game's relationship to the built environment, revealing the unexpected ways that play reflects perceptions of space. Board games harness the creation of entirely new worlds. From the medieval warlord to the modern urban planner, players are permitted to inhabit a staggering variety of roles and are prompted to incorporate preexisting notions of placemaking into their decisions. To what extent do board games represent the social context of their...
Published 11/09/23
Among urban designers and municipal officials, the term encroachment is defined as a deviation from the official master plan. But in cities today, such informal modifications to the urban fabric are deeply enmeshed with formal planning procedures.  Master Plans and Encroachments: The Architecture of Informality in Islamabad (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2023) examines informality in the high-modernist city of Islamabad as a strategic conformity to official schemes and regulations rather...
Published 10/30/23
Janice Rieger's book Design, Disability and Embodiment: Spatial Justice and Perspectives of Power (Routledge, 2023) explores the spatial and social injustices within our streets, malls, schools, and public institutions. Taken-for-granted acts like going for a walk, seeing an exhibition with a friend, and going to school are, for people with disabilities, conditional or precluded acts due to exclusion by design. This book stimulates debate and discussion about current practice and studies in...
Published 10/04/23
Antony Kalashnikov's Monuments for Posterity: Self-Commemoration and the Stalinist Culture of Time (Cornell UP, 2023) analyzes Stalinist monument-building. From the 1930's through the Great Patriotic War, architectural monuments such as subway stations were designed to emphasize the perpetual endurance of the nation, regardless of the many crises of the period. The contemporary popularity of Stalinist-era architectural forms has endured. Why this should be so is a question worth pondering,...
Published 09/23/23
Moisés Kopper's Architectures of Hope: Infrastructural Citizenship and Class Mobility in Brazil's Public Housing (U Michigan Press, 2022) examines how communal idealism, electoral politics, and low-income consumer markets made first-time homeownership a reality for millions of low-income Brazilians over the last ten years. Drawing on a five-year-long ethnography among city planners, architects, street-level bureaucrats, politicians, market and bank representatives, community leaders, and...
Published 09/19/23
Bookshop.org is an online book retailer that donates more than 80% of its profits to independent bookstores. Launched in 2020, Bookshop.org has already raised more than $27,000,000. In this interview, Andy Hunter, founder and CEO discusses his journey to creating one of the most revolutionary new organizations in the book world. Bookshop has found a way to retain the convenience of online book shopping while also supporting independent bookstores that are the backbones of many local...
Published 09/12/23
Does it ever feel like you have no free time? You come home after work and instead of finding a space of rest and relaxation, you're confronted by a pile of new tasks to complete – cooking, cleaning, looking after the kids, and so on. In After Work: A History of the Home and the Fight for Free Time (Verso, 2023), Dr. Helen Hester and Dr. Nick Srnicek lay out how unpaid work in our homes has come to take up an ever-increasing portion of our lives – how the vacuum of free time has been taken up...
Published 09/06/23