Mstation Book Reviews
pre Dec 04 reviews are here
Tue, 01 Mar 2005
Urban people all over the world often think that they'd like to escape, at least for a while. The Net even makes it possible for some professions to stay pretty much where they like and still be able to get necessary work done. So, if you had a chance, what would you build?
This book starts with a survey of what people have done over the ages: from Blenheim Palace to Thoreau's hut at Walden Pond. It points out that while people currently, in a place like the Hamptons, build mock-this and mock-that at a rate of two to one to modernist structures, there is a growing body of original work. This work is mostly more inspired by Thoreau and also modern thought on environmental topics -- such as low use of resources, both in building and sustainability.
The Thoreau inspiration has to do with the buildings being more a part of their surroundings than being a social statement of the importance of their owners (though they do, of course, make a statement) and the idiom is mostly Modernism.
After the survey come the various houses selected and they are split into Organic, Vernacular, New Modern, and Experimental. Architecture geeks will have seen some of them such as the Berman House by Harry Seidler, Casa de Blas, and Okada's house on Mt. Fuji but most will be new.
In the Experimental section is a house by Shigeru Ban which uses polycarbonate as an outer layer, white fireproofed polyethylene "noodles" as a second layer, and removable (for cleaning) white nylon as a third layer. As one goes through the book there are quite a few scalable ideas regarding construction and design.
The book is nicely produced and laid out with lots of illustrations
and should provide food for thought for people thinking about doing
Diarmaid MacCulloch, Reformation: Europe's House Divided 1490 - 1700, Penguin paperback Religion! Whoa, what's this? It puts me in mind of the economist John Maynard Keynes's statement that went something along the lines of 'the minds of practical men are ruled by long since dead academics'. The point being that some thoughts become recieved wisdom, or the conventional wisdom, and stay on beyond their sell-by date. Here we have not just a portion of the history of the Church but also a portion of the history of Western thought. This is useful to better understand where some present day attitudes came from and is also very useful as a background to Western classical music -- early music was largely Church music. Some people would just say "was Church music" but we don't know, and can't know, very much about the oral music traditions. Church music was written down, and handed down to us. Diarmid MacCulloch is an Oxford professor and won the Wolfson Prize for History 2004 with this book. It is easy to see why. Despite the fact that Catholics think him a little too Protestant and Protestants think him a little bit too showy, this is one of those works where the sheer quality of scholarship will excite people who are excited by such things. It's also a pretty good yarn.
Chris Adamson, Quicktime for Java: A Developer's Notebook, O'Reilly