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Titolo originale: Five North American Architects




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Five North American Architects. An Anthology by Kenneth Frampton is a book published after an event in honour of Kenneth Frampton's 80th birthday of which Frampton, himself, was a curator. This one-day conference was held in 2010 at Graduate School for Architecture, Planning and Preservation at Columbia University, where Frampton is a Ware Professor and has been a member since 1973. The author invited five architectural firms originated and working in the area of North America (which in this case, as author points out consists of United States and Canada). The book is built of a short foreword written by Frampton in order to justify his choice, proceeded by five presentations written by chosen by the him practices, focusing on their most important projects, their ideology and the way author influenced their way of architectural thinking.

Book includes many photos accompanying the descriptions of projects along the plans and sections reproduced in small scale. Through pages of this book we can notice Frampton's way of looking at design, what are the most important values for him and why did he chosen those particular architects for an event to celebrate his birthday.  Presentations included in the book vary from each other: delivered by architects of different worldwide publicity, both minor and major level of popularity in the architecture society, consist of designs of different scale and slightly different attempt. There is one thing common between the projects – it is the special appreciation for context, topography, landscape, climate and light of place in which the buildings are situated. This attempt of the topic once again reveals the great influence on the character of this book made by Kenneth Frampton – one of the most important theorist of Critical Regionalism.


Giudizio Complessivo: 7 (scala 1-10)

Scheda compilata da: Agata Zapart

Corso di Architettura e Composizione Architettonica 3 a.a.2014/2015







Kenneth Frampton was born in United Kingdom in 1930 had graduated there as an architect in 1956 from the Architectural Association, London. After studies he was an associate in the practice of Douglas Stephen & Partners, located in London and at the same time worked as a technical editor of Architectural Design magazine. In 1965 he migrated to United States to teach at Princeton University.  From 1972 a member of Graduate School for Architecture, Planning and Preservation at Columbia University. In years 1976-1980 Fellow of The Institute of Architecture and Urban Studies, New York and a founding editor of architectural journal Oppositions.

Published acclaimed study on modern architecture Modern Architecture: A Critical History, first published in 1980 and since that moment revised and expanded 4 times (last edition published in July, 2014 by Thames & Hudson). Another of his very influential and acclaimed works is an essay Towards Critical Regionalism (1983).

After moving to United States Frampton has been mostly focused on teaching and writing.

Kenneth Frampton



Architecture and Continuity

North American Architecture 1990 – 2010 – Kenneth Frampton

First part of book is the preface written by Kenneth Frampton as an introduction to the conference organised to honour his 80th birthday. In this part, author justifies the choice of the architect practices he invited to take part in this anthology. He explains that although the number of participants had to be very limited, he tried to express a great potential and basic points of Architecture of Canada and United States.

Frampton brings reader's attention to the point that architects whose works are included in the book treat the given context, the material, landscape, structure, craft, space and light with a great respect. Those objectives in his opinion are often disregarded by today's architectural production that aims for being worldly as he calls it.

In the preface author presents a full justification why those, and not other, practices were the participants of the conference, pointing out certain features of the designs they made. He introduces the choice to the reader – among the chosen architects are: Stanley Saitowitz, Brigitte Shim and Howard Sutcliffe, Rick Joy, John and Patricia Patkau and Steven Holl. He also reveals that probably the most important figure between those included is the latter, whose work might have influenced others.

In the concluding part, Frampton admits that his choice is influenced by concept of critical regionalism. For a closure author expresses statement that if this would have been larger anthology, it would consist not only other architects of United States and Canada, but also a number of Mexican designers. The limit of choices however is ironically justified by the author with the length of the symphosium.


Simplicity and Sythesis – Stanley Saitowitz

Stanley Saitowitz – born in 1949 in South Africa architect, principal of Stanley Saitowitz | Natoma Architects,  nc., San Francisco. Received a Bacherol of Architecture from University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg and Master of Architecture from the University of California, Berkeley in 1977. During years of his work received numerous awards such as AIA San Francisco, AIA Tampa Bay, the Kirby Ward Fitzpartick Prize for Best New Building in San Francisco and AIA Best of the Bay Award in three consecutive years, Is the Emeritus Professor of Architecture at the University of California in Berkeley.

At the beginning of his speech, Saitowitz expresses gratitude to Frampton and his works and shows how author influenced his work life. He reveals that he thinks of himself, among other American architects as a pragmatic, and believes that the way of thinking of designers settled in United States is not based on dogmas but on actions. To support his thesis he decides to present three of his projects. First briefly mentioned one is a Natoma Architects office block, which was a first attempt to deal with a context of traditional San Francisco development.

Next project is Yerba Buena Lofts in San Francisco, California, built in 2002.

In this project he had to deal with typical for San Francisco Victorian row house typology. Building is located between the zone of lower and older architecture and highly developed sky-scraper area, This project is according to author, an example of counter-contextualism.  Building has a very rhythmical and modular composition.

It was very economically built due to the repetitive construction system of basically same construction formwork used.

The lofts itself vary from each other hence there was an option of purchasing one's finishes.

Another described project is Tampa Museum of Art in Tampa, Florida (2010).

Realized with an incredibly modest budget, as Saitowitz states, museum considered by author as a neutral frame to display art. This is a big, cantilevered construction with a non-art related programme of ground floor (due to being located within the floodplain). Museums programme is divided in two zones one connected to the display and the other accommodating extensive support programmes.

At night-time due to the LED lightes positioned between to skins of the building it becomes the urban scale canvas.

In conclusion, Saitowitz states his own 7 principles of architecture which are, in short:

1. each building begins with a site and particular desire to transform it.

2. The essential medium of architecture is space and emptiness.

3. The field of operation becomes a unity and panorama of resistance. The creating process must be based on logic and calculations.

4. The building should be seen rather as an apparatus than as an object.

5.The purpose is to provide opportunity for the unique and the specific to be ultimately determined.

6. Architects should focus to make buildings live in the river of time.

7. Major goals of architecture are simplicity and synthesis.

The Craft of Place -  Brigitte Shim and Howard Sutcliffe

Brigitte Shim and Howard Sutcliffe – Shim, born in Kingston, Jamaica in 1958, graduated from University of Waterloo with degrees in Environmental Studies and Architecture. Taught at the University of Toronto is a visiting professor at Yale University, the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne, and Harvard University. In 2007 served on the Aga Khan Architecture Award Master Jury.

Sutcliffe, born in Yorkshire, England in 1958, educated at the University of Waterloo, received degrees in Environmental Studies and Architecture. In 1991, was the first recipient of Ronald Thom Award for early design achievement from the Canada Council.

They formed mutual practice, Shim-Suttclife Architects in 1994, with the desire to integrate architecture, landscape and furniture. Honoured with eleven Royal Architecture Institute of Canada Governor General's Medals and Awards for Architecture.

The presentation, which is held by Brigitte Shim, begins with expressing great respect for the educational work of Kenneth Frampton,

Speaker reveals that Shim-Suttcliffe is mostly working in locations near Toronto, Canada – the place they know best, the place where they live and work. They as a practice try to balance in their projects extreme conditions and controlled processes of fabrication.

Shim admits that office have a great luck of working with exceptional clients that create great opportunities. She describes harsh climate conditions of Canada and the possibilities that its landscapes create.


First work presented is Moorelands Camp Dining Hall, Lake Kawagama, Haliburton, Ontario, Canada (2002).

A building for non-profit charity is an inexpensive seasonal camp building. It constructed in simple manner with the light entering through construction of repeated wooden elements. The design was preceded by study of camp-staff and due to that the building responds to their exact needs. Building, constructed mostly in wood, appeals perfectly to the surroundings.

Next project is Harrison Island Camp in Georgian Bay, Ontario, Canada. A very light construction situated in a picturesque spot by the bay, however designed in a manner to create possibility to dismantle and move it. It also allows an inhabitant to adjust a fibreglass panels to the orientation of the sun.

Next work is a Bet Ha'am synagogue in Portland, Maine (2007). A wooden building that creates a wonderful game with a light getting inside due to the cleverly designed construction.

Next work of the Shim-Suttcliffe Architects is the Island House. Located on Howe Island, St. Lawrence River, Ontario, Canada. House created in an organic attempt, with a close link to water, light and surrounding landscape.

Last described work is The Integral House in Toronto, Ontario, Canada – a project created for a client who was a mathematician and a simultaneously a gifted violinist. This is a kind of an opus magnum of a work created by the duet. The goal was to open the building for landscape in such way, that it could enter the house. In contradiction to previous described projects it has more organic shape and was created with aid of computer stimulated design. Apart of the exterior matching to the surrounding landscape, architects carefully designed interior, creating inside along the living space, performance space for violinist's concerts.

Proximity and distance – Rick Joy

Rick Joy – born in 1958 in Dover-Foxcroft, Maine, founder of Rick Joy Architects. Begun working with three year design appointment on the design team of Phoenix Central, Library. In 2002, received the American Academy of Arts and Letters Award in Architecture and in 2004 won National Design Award from the Smithsonian Institution. Visiting professor at Harvard's University Graduate School of Design, Rice University and Massachussets Institute of Technology. Currently adjunct professor of architecture at the University of Arizona.

Joy begins with giving honours to Kennet Frampton and follows by description of the culture of the place of his origins. Describes a weird track of his life and career focusing on an impact that experiencing nature had on his character. Reveals that his works are considerations about the place, ourselves and natural phenomena.

First of described by him projects is Desert Nomad House in Tucson, Arizona. Here most influential characteristics were nature and light. House consists of three boxes each of them stands for different function. Architect admits that what is most beautiful of this design is the way that the owner inhabits it.

Next project is Rubio Avenue Studio in Tucson, Arizona, which is actually a studio of Joy's practice. Most important concept here were the walls. Office has a window facing north which creates opening for a small courtyard. Designer admits that former interior design had to be redone because of enlargement of human resources.

Third described work is Adobe Canyon House in Patagonia, Arizona, which seems to be just a massive block, but this form resembling ancient ruin hides inside a house in a shape similar to square with interior divided in nine parts each of them consisting other function. Middle parts of each edge are glazed creating openings for the landscape.

More recent project brought on with the Joy's speech is Amangiri Resort in Canyon Point, Utah. Located in a desert landscape spa and resort finished in concrete matching the colours of surrounding masses. The suites are located on the ground level for the visitors to feel, as the speaker, puts it like a very privileged cowboy.

Last project in architect's presentation is a Woodstock Farm in Woodstock, Vermont. This project was important for architect as he felt as if it was a sort of a homecoming. It is a multi use barn with a guest bunkhouse and a basketball court.

The Structure of Relationships – John and Patricia Patkau

John Patkau, born in 1947 in Winnipeg, graduated from the University of Manitoba, formed Patkau Architects, firm was honoured by thirteen Governor General's Medals, four Progressive Architecture Awards, sixteen Canadian Architects Awards of Excellence, RAIC Innovation in Architecture Award of Excellence, three AIA Honor Awards and Royal Architectural Institute of Canada Medal for lifetime achievement. Is a member of Order of Canada, Honorary Fellow of AIA and RIBA, visiting professor at a number of universities.

Patricia Patkau born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, 1950 graduated with a Bachelor of Architecture from the University of Manitoba and the Master of Architecture from Yale Univesity. Commited to both practice and teaching career. Fellow of Royal Architectural Institute of Canada, member of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts, Honorary Fellow of AIA and RIBA, member of Order of Canada, In March 2009 awarded Tau Sigma Delta Gold Medal for exemplary commitment to architectural education and to the practice of architecture.

The presentation begins with giving honours and respect to Kenneth Frampton and pointing out how his works are important for understanding of architecture.

Speaker describes designs of different scale and function.

First shown work is a Strawberry Vale School in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada – a public school for children to grade 7 that replaced school existing in the place before. One of the sides of the school is connected to the forest so architects decided to respond to the natural forces. Classes open in the direction of forest with created patios. The school is well situated in the topography which posed an important factor in the process of design.

Another work is Grande Bibliotheque du Quebec, Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Library bound to a context, connected to the primary street, opening for meetings, shops and “bouquinistes”. Due to the fact of consisting of two major collections there are two wooden envelopes constructed. Built within an incredibly low budget due to the Quebec's infrastructure of fabricators.

Last of described project is an only example of house designed by office, ( designing houses is not common activity for this practice). The Linear House in Salt Spring Island, British Columbia, Canada is a building with a length of almost 113m and width of 10. The clients needed a multifunctional barn where they would be able to cook, bake, forage and grow food but the program also included a room for hanging game and dripping it of blood... (although architects' advice was to separate it from living part). Particular shape of house encouraged owners to use other part of land in other manner. House was designed to be full of light which in better weather functions as an open shelter continuous with the spaces of its site. The depth was used as a constructional idea and roof contains over 40 skylights! It was created with consideration of the craft of the detail and inserted carefully into agricultural land due to the major idea to establish relations between things.

Rule and Exception  - Steven Holl

Steven Holl, born 1947 in Brementon, Washington. Graduated from the University of Washington and pursued architecture studies in Rome in 1970. In 1976 attended Architectural Association and established Stevel Holl Architects in New York City.

Is a professor at Columbia University's Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation.

Holl starts with showing how important Frampton is for educating continuous generations of architects. He also at the occasion of event elected to posit five axioms of architecture in honour of author:

1. Site


3. Spatial Energy

4. Light.

5. The haptic realm.

Then he starts to describe his own work, starting with the project of School of Art and Art History, University of Iowa, Iowa from 2006.

Begins with pointing out that the site didn't have any specific values, it was simply not interesting. Thus, the office decided to cantilever the construction over the pond. The building contains the gallery, library and classrooms. It was realised with a tight budget however nothing was neglected. The description of this design concludes with a fact that during the flood in 2008 it was the only building left intact due to the cantilevered character.

Next design he speaks about is Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City Missouri. Holl admits that his office actually won the competition thanks to breaking of the contest rules: merging a building to the context and linking with existing building from 1937.

Inside the museum there is a special concrete structure implemented which allows light to access the galleries and simultaneously serves support to the structure and connects to the services below. Exterior of the building resembles a block of light. This appearance it posed a great difficulties in technical aspects. Luckily, office collaborates with a number of constructors who worked the problem out.

Last, and most recent design, described in whole book (a project still in development at the moment book was published), is Queens Community Library, Queens, New York. It was the first presentation of the project in public. A small community library in Queens engaging Manhattan views. Entered via garden, a building was created in a manner that was supposed to encourage people to read books. An interesting floor scheme, zoning in fa็ades attained by implementing calligraphic cuts.

Holl, in a manner of a skilled speaker, finishes his speech with an anecdote connected to the axioms he posed at the beginning of his presentation.