On the Nightstand, 005: Concrete Regionalism

Concrete Regionalism

“Crucially, [regionalism] learns from experience. It tinkers, crafts, accepts, rejects, adjusts and reacts. It is immutably rooted in the tangible realities of its situation: the history, geography, human values, economy, traditions, technology and cultural life of place.”

The idea of regionalism, for me, is verified and real. There is no question in my mind that architecture responds (or rather should respond) to its geographic location as well as to its cultural and economic situation. So the idea that regionalism can be associated with a material that is notoriously modern, in that its use is ideally international and generic, is intriguing.

The book covers four different projects for each of the four featured architects; Antoine Predock, Tadao Ando, Wiel Arets, and Ricardo Legorreta. The argument is made that each of these architects come from different geographical and cultural backgrounds and hence have varied approaches to building design that reflect and conform to what this book is calling regionalism. Also, all of the buildings feature concrete as one of the prominent building materials (though you’ll see, some more than others).

The visual content of the book (plans, sections, and photographs) is rather good. There isn’t much in the way of diagrams, which is what I always look for, but that is understandable since the book discusses architectural forms and materials and not process. The text is also informative and concise, though it can be a bit wordy.

There are a few issues I have with this read that, in my opinion, lower the quality and credibility of the book:

Many of the projects do show some form of regionalism embedded in the architecture, but many seem to just be buildings that use concrete. Often times the distinguishing characteristics of the regional aspects of the building have nothing to do with the fact that the building is made of concrete. Several buildings feature materialistic qualities of regionalism that are simply combined with concrete and are labeled as examples of concrete regionalism. For example, a building that is distinguished by the use of glass blocks also features concrete work and is labeled as concrete regionalism. It just seems as though many of the projects are a bit of a stretch away from the ideals of the book.

From a purely visual standpoint, the book has some questionable design tactics that render the reading experience tiresome and arbitrary. There are often pictures or text under-laid beneath the main text that make reading sometimes a hassle. All of the image captions are rotated 90 degrees clockwise, making it necessary to turn the book each time you read the caption. This would be okay if the images were also rotated, however they are not.

Verdict: Pass

If you have a particular interest in these four architects and the four featured projects, you may enjoy the book as a visual read (meaning a picture book). Unfortunately, the questionable layout and unconvincing arguments made in the book make the time spent reading the book not equal to the knowledge gained.

On the nightstand


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