Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Art & Culture: Modern North: Architecture on the Frozen Edge by Julie Decker

As the topic for a book about architecture, the North seems so esoteric it’s almost ridiculous. How could that possibly be a theme of sufficient glue to connect a book? Especially a book worthy of note? And yet Modern North (Princeton Architectural Press) delivers in every way imaginable. More, really, because there is a vitality and a creativity born of need in play that would have been a difficult thing to factor in. Author Julie Decker (Quonset Hut) points out there is a tradition of deeply created architecture that emerges from the very culture of the north:
An important part of survival was being able to build structures that would offer protection from the elements. These were utilitarian but ingenious structures built from natural materials that provided shelter from rain, wind, snow, and predatory animals.
In the 36 stunning homes and public buildings in Northern Canada, Alaska and Scandinavia, Decker has chosen to include in Modern North, we have moved quite far beyond simple survival. A research center in Norway seems almost to be part of the hills that surround it. A simple hotel in Finland rises box-like and austere from its seaside lot. A cultural center in Dawson City, Yukon, bends old and new design for a striking rethinking of both. And a grouping of schools in Alaska seem more about survival than design until you take a closer look.

Decker and a hand-picked team of essayists who comment on the demands and challenges of designing for the North, do a splendid job of sharing that which many of us have not even previously considered:
These projects tell stories that combine isolation with city life, lightness with darkness, tradition with innovation, urbanity with the ultimate grandeur of nature.
All of this splendidly illustrated by excellent photographs in a beautiful book that forces us to reconsider just about every aspect of what designing for humans can mean.

Labels: ,


Post a Comment

<< Home