books

On July 3rd, 2013, SALT AND CEDAR…

Leon and Leander binding books

book-binding with Leon and Leander

Detroit letterpress folks Leander and Leon Johnson set up their bookbinding workshop table on the Mildred’s Lane deck this morning.

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On August 13th, 2012, THE WRITINGS OF ROBERT SMITHSON…

The Writings of Robert Smithson, designed by Sol LeWitt, 1979

…the beautifully designed book edited by Nancy Holt and published six years after his death in 1979 by New York University Press (kindly presented to me last night by my friend who found it at Logos Books & Records, the very awesome Santa Cruz bookstore – with a surprisingly extensive knitting section by the way – after we all had dinner at Cafe Gratitude around the corner and before we went across the street at the old fashioned Del Mar Theater to see the Ai Wei Wei documentary) – and the brilliant super sophisticated 1970’s graphic design job is explained by the fact that it was designed by Sol LeWitt.

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On July 29th, 2012, JOHN BALDESSARI AND HANS ULRICH OBRIST…

Obrist & Baldessari

…packed the LACMA Art Catalogues space and lobby with crowds to hear an engaging interview event marking his new artist book.

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On July 24th, 2012, ‘WHERE THE HEART BEATS: JOHN CAGE, ZEN BUDDHISM, AND THE INNER LIFE OF ARTISTS’…

Where the Heart Beats, Kay Larson, 2012

…is the new book about John Cage which I ordered while I was still reading about it in the New York Times a few days ago – and today it arrived, the first few pages making it clear that it will be hard to put down.

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By Fritz Haeg on July 24, 2012 | books
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On May 24th, 2012, ‘FOUNDING GARDENERS’…

Founding Gardeners, 2011

…is the title of the 2011 book by Andrea Wulf I am just finishing, engrossed in the stories of gardening maniacs Washington, Jefferson, Madison, and Adams, and how that passion formed the nation.

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On May 23rd, 2012, ‘THE FOREST AND THE PEOPLE:…

The Forest and The People, 1946

The Story of the Angeles National Forest‘ is the title of this charming 48-page booklet by W.W. Robinson and illustrated by Irene Robinson, published by the Title Insurance and Trust Company in 1946, which I picked up after seeing it prominently displayed at my new favorite neighborhood bookstore – Alias Books East in Atwater Village, where I come in to browse and leave with an armful – and now inspiring some thoughts about upcoming project publications.

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On May 13th, 2012, BOOKS BY CARLOS MOTTA…

'We Who Feel Differently' (2012), and "Petite Mort' (2011) by Carlos Motta

Petite Mort: Recollections of a Queer Public (2011) and We Who Feel Differently (2012) – by artist-activist friend, and contemporary queer culture instigator, raconteur, organizer, and editor – arrived in the mail today, which I look forward to reading, and then adding to our little library at next months Sundown Schoolhouse of Queer Home Economics at the Hayward in London.

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By Fritz Haeg on May 13, 2012 | books
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On April 30th, 2012, PIECING TOGETHER LOS ANGELES: AN ESTHER MCCOY READER…

Piecing Together Los Angeles: An Esther McCoy Reader

…is the book by Susan Morgan that finally takes on the legacy of this influential woman – often overlooked in the supposedly manly era of testosterone fueled modern architecture – which I’ve been hearing about and anticipating for a while, and it just came out in March as the first book by L.A.’s East of Borneo

This much-anticipated volume is the first collection of writings by Esther McCoy (1904-1989), a keen literary stylist and attentive witness to the birth of midcentury modernist design.

McCoy’s impressive writing life spanned sixty years and charted the progressive territory of American idealism. During the 1920s, she pursued her vocation as a writer and apprenticed with novelist Theodore Dreiser. In 1932, McCoy moved to Los Angeles where she wrote for literary journals, popular magazines and progressive broadsheets. Her short stories were awarded numerous prizes, featured in publications ranging from Harper’s Bazaar to The California Quarterly, and adapted for radio and television. After completing a wartime stint as an engineering draftsman at Douglas Aircraft, McCoy went to work as an architectural draftsman for R. M. Schindler. By 1945, her attentive writing had turned significantly to architecture and the design-driven optimism of postwar Los Angeles. Her essays appeared regularly in the Los Angeles Times, Arts & Architecture, Zodiac, Progressive Architecture, and Architectural Forum, and her 1960 book Five California Architects has long been acknowledged as an indispensable classic.

From fiction for The New Yorker to her seminal essays on new architectural forms, McCoy articulated the concepts and vibrant character of West Coast modernism as it was being created. This essential volume includes out-of-print essays, articles, and short stories, as well as hitherto unpublished lectures, correspondence, and memoirs that together illuminate the breadth and complexity of McCoy’s groundbreaking work. An introductory essay by writer and anthology editor Susan Morgan provides a lucid conceptual framework for understanding the development and diversity of McCoy’s writing and the region that inspired it.

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On February 9th, 2012, DETROIT’S SIGNAL-RETURN PRESS…

the spaces and machines of Signal-Return Press

…established in 2010 by recent Portland Maine transplant friends whom I first met at Mildred’s Lane just before their momentous move west – is one of the more recent exciting indications of a new Detroit – a beautifully design storefront space that also functions as a place for events and exhibitions, currently featuring the work of Fluxus artist Alison Knowles. (website)

Signal–Return seeks to connect the community to traditional + emergent forms of printing as well as offer a resource for entrepreneurial artists + designers to produce for retail clients. Signal–Return is a creative enterprise at the intersection of art and commerce that combines the back-end production process with a front-end retail store and gallery. Intermingling academics, curation and preservation with apprenticeship, the venue will stand as a multi-use center for fine art, design, craft and literary arts. Our overarching goal is to create a hive for dynamic visual production. By tipping over the barrier that often separates print production from the public eye, process is here made apparent, from composing and proofing, to running an edition and clipping fresh prints to dry on a line. The collaborative spirit of Signal–Return will motivate participants to stretch their reach, as they expand their toolkits, vocabularies and means of production.

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On January 5th, 2012, ‘THE ROARING SILENCE’…

The Roaring Silence: John Cage: A Life, 1993

…is the 1993 John Cage biography by David Revill  I picked up at the Strand last week which is now getting a prominent bedside perch as I dive in.

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By Fritz Haeg on January 5, 2012 | books
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On December 11th, 2011, ‘HOME WORK: HANDBUILT SHELTER’…

Home Work: Handbuilt Shelter, 2004

…the super charming 2004 survey of hand made homes (adobe, bark, barns, bottles, camps, canvas, floating, geodesics, green-roofs, mobile, mud, sandbags, straw, stone, tiles, timber, tiny, tipis, thatch, treetops, yurts…) from all over – including up close and personal profiles of the builders – is the book I just picked up by Lloyd Kahn which I am extremely jazzed about, representing for me the height of architecture – a follow-up to his 1973 best-selling ‘Shelter.’

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On October 20th, 2011, ‘AVIAN ARCHITECTURE’…

'Avian Architecture', 2011

…is the awesome new book – I just borrowed from my brother for some inspiring travel reading – by Peter Goodfellow from Princeton University Press all about the crazy brilliant things that birds build which make even the most sophisticated human architect look pretty primitive in comparison.

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On October 19th, 2011, ‘THE JOYFUL COMMUNITY’…

'The Joyful Community,' 1971

…the 1971 book by Benjamin Zablocki that just arrived in the mail (along with a pile of others – which will provide perfect plane reading on lots and lots of long long upcoming flights – ordered from a wishlist which gradually grew from sources I no longer recall) recounts his experiences visiting the Bruderhof – the intentional community he admired the most of  hundred-plus he had visited through the years – which migrated from Germany to England to Paraguay and eventually to a few locations in the U.S. where they began to support themselves in the business of selling their handmade wooden toys, Community Playthings.

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On September 30th, 2011, RENO FOOD AND BOOK DISCOVERIES…

Sundance Books and Music and the Great Basin Community Food Co-op

…came just as I was beginning to think that this town was all casinos and slot machines, just before my talk at the Nevada Museum of Art for the Art + Environment Conference, as I wandered around the corner to find the super cute inviting sophisticated food co-op – The Great Basin Community Food Co-op – and bookstore – Sundance Books and Music – where I bought two favorites: Architecture Without Architects by Bernard Rudofsky and a new edition of Earth-Sheltered House, Revised Edition: An Architect’s Sketchbook by Malcolm Wells.

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On August 21st, 2011, ARTAZART DESIGN BOOKSTORE…

Artazart Design Bookstore, Paris

…on Canal St. Martin in my new favorite Paris neighborhood of Bellevue is a welcome find this afternoon – again biking my way to all corners of town – where contemporary art, design, photography materials are a welcome jolt of inspiration in a town otherwise shuttered for the month, and I wish every neighborhood had such a relaxed booky arty place to drop into any time. (website)

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By Fritz Haeg on August 21, 2011 | books, Paris
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On August 11th, 2011, LITTLE FREE LIBRARY…

Saint Paul's 'Free Little Library'

…is the name of this diminutive wood structure on a post which I happened upon this afternoon gracing the front yard of the cutest house on our St. Paul street – with faux thatch roof, a favorite local domestic feature since childhood – where you can take a book or leave a book. (website)

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On August 4th, 2011, ANIMAL, VEGETABLE, MIRACLE…

Barbara Kingsolver's 2007 book 'Animal, Vegetable, Miracle'

…the influential 2007 familial account of eating products grown close to home for a year by Barbara Kingsolver with Steven L. Hopp and Camille Kingsolver, is one of the books I’m dusting off from my ‘to read’ list, finally able to finish with this lazy week on my hands up at the lake – and though it echoes everything I think I know and already believe and feel (especially after our luxurious Roman year of seasonal and local eating), this friendly home-spun activist no-nonsense series of personal stories got me fired up and inspired – ‘yes’ to cheese & bread making, and neighborly crop-sharing, and forever ‘no’ to industrial jet-setting bananas and winter tomatoes! (website)

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On July 18th, 2011, ‘ROMA MANGIA ROMA’ INTERVIEWS #18-21…

the family home on the ground floor of this newish apartment building with underground parking also features a vast hidden orto

…took us to a family of three generations living in a newish housing development about 8 km south of central Rome – still within the Grande Raccordo Anulare, bordered by a few other housing developments, a few isolated farms, and to the east by the Parco Regionale dell’Appia Antica (the vast greenbelt flowing from the countryside into Rome and terminating at the Circo Massimo) – where they are lucky enough to have the space for a big orto (too bad we don’t have such a specific word in English for the homegrown kitchen/vegetable garden) tended by the definitive cook and oldest member of the family (who grew up Bagheria, Sicily – the picturesque coastal town where the 1988 film Cinema Paradiso was set – in the 1930’s and 40’s in a completely self-sufficient household where they even ate the bread made with wheat grown on their own land) where he is playing out his nostalgic memories of his childhood garden with mammoth Cucuzza Sicilian squash and Sicilian tomato varieties, and at his own family table he is adamant that all are seated together each night at the precise moment that his culinary creations are ready – which his 18 year old son tolerates less and less, as he is out most nights with his his friends (sometimes enjoying quick fast food, that he even convinved his father to try once when they were on a road trip) and his girlfriend of Veneto decent, though in a separate interview acknowledging his appreciation for that one occasion each day that the whole family is together and grudgingly admitting that he will likely require the same of his own family in the future.

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By Fritz Haeg on July 18, 2011 | books, food
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On June 26th, 2011, ‘A PATTERN LANGUAGE’…

#40: Old People Everywhere, from 'A Pattern Language'

the iconic influential book by Christopher Alexander is standard issue to architecture students since it emerged out of the Berkeley in the 1970’s, which we were introduced to in our first year design studio, but I don’t recall ever actually reading it at the time (perhaps it seemed old fashioned, folksy, retrograde, and even conservative to my youthful architecty spirit besotted by flashy theory and cool shapes) but yesterday I stumbled upon it in the Academy library, immediately swept away into the staggering radical visionary breadth of it’s 253 patterns detailed in decending order from big to small over it’s 1171 pages of brilliant pragmatic idealism, seeming to be as appropriate, urgent, and relevant today as ever – perhaps more so – my neck getting sore from nodding vigorously in agreement with so many of the proposed patterns, like ripping up the pavement on local roads and creating 51 GREEN STREETS, encouraging a diversity of ages in our communities with 40 OLD PEOPLE EVERYWHERE, designing a realm for 84 TEENAGE SOCIETY within the city for those between childhood and adulthood to establish their independence, making formal education a part of everyone’s daily life with 43 UNIVERSITY AS A MARKETPLACE, making safe and accessible places for 57 CHILDREN IN THE CITY, limiting high-rise construction with 21 FOUR-STORY LIMIT, planting 170 FRUIT TREES and 177 VEGETABLE GARDENS where we live, designing a place at home for making 178 COMPOST, leaving places for drama anywhere with 133 STAIRCASE AS A STAGE, planning for a 5 LACE OF COUNTRY STREETS that leave large expanses of open countryside between them, prioritizing places for 63 DANCING IN THE STREET, consciously welcoming 74 ANIMALS into the city, letting kids create their own play spaces like 73 ADVENTURE PLAYGROUND, encouraging the 172 GARDEN GROWING WILD, letting plants invade the built environment with 247 PAVING WITH CRACKS BETWEEN THE STONES, getting rid of conventional space-wasting and isolating bedrooms in favor of 186 COMMUNAL SLEEPING, and my favorite – leaving comfortable public places for 94 SLEEPING IN PUBLIC, and here is the complete list of all 253, which in Alexander’s words “…allow anyone, and any group of people, to create beautiful, functional, meaningful places. At the core… is the idea that people should design for themselves their own houses, streets and communities. This idea… comes simply from the observation that most of the wonderful places of the world were not made by architects but by the people.”

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On June 22nd, 2011, IL VASCHELLO…

Il Vascello propietors Angelo and Dorina

…is the friendly, local, slightly hidden, Monteverde trattoria – just outside of the Aurelian wall from us – presided over since the early 80’s by gregarious hostess Dorina and Sardegnian chef Angelo, whom we have come to visit this afternoon for interview #14 for the upcoming Roma Mangia Roma book (featuring interviews with five generation of people living in Rome about food, how they eat, earliest culinary memories, etc…), to hear their stories of growing up in rural areas, coming to Rome, working in a restaurant under a nurturing father-like mentor prankster chef next to the Pantheon, and finally establishing  Il Vascello – by now a familial hang-out for friends, regulars, locals, the film crowd (such as Gianni de Gregorio) and foreign residents like us – Dorina loves America and has memorized the U.S. state capitals by heart, reciting them in alphabetical order when she can’t fall asleep.

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