The best book, building, and exhibition reviews of 2017

Reader’s Digest

The best book, building, and exhibition reviews of 2017

We all know the idiom when it comes to everyone having an opinion, but critiques and design discourse are undoubtedly an essential part of the architectural process. The AN office is filled (literally) with piles of architectural and design books, and between our editors and writers, we visit hundreds of exhibitions and buildings each year. Here are the top reviews and critiques that rose above them all.

“Five fundamental problems with the 2017 Chicago Architecture Biennial”
By Matt Shaw
Exhibition: Chicago Architecture Biennial

The second Chicago Architecture Biennial opened in September and immediately caused controversy. We analyze the five key elements that went awry and how we can do better.

“What can architects learn from Walmart’s fulfillment centers?”
By Kazys Varnelis
Book: The Rule of Logistics: Walmart and the Architecture of Fulfillment 

Kazys Varnelis argues that The Rule of Logistics is an important book in our current political climate where “the culture of Whole Foods [was] shown up by that of Walmart.”

“A new book explores Bacardi’s use of architecture going back to the 1800s”
By James Way
Book: Building Bacardi: Architecture, Art & Identity

Who knew rum would be one of the unsung heroes of architecture? The history of Bacardi’s relationship to its brand design and its buildings is a fascinating one.

“Snøhetta masterfully creates a new museum setting for 17,000-year-old cave art”
By Michael Franklin Ross
Building: Lascaux IV Museum

This review delves deeply into the research and design that Snøhetta put into the newest iteration of Lascaux, in addition to the building’s context and accomplishments.

Architecture’s Odd Couple” is a rare design-professional page-turner”
By Paul Gunther
Book: Architecture’s Odd Couple: Frank Lloyd Wright and Philip Johnson

From Wright referring to Johnson’s work as a “monkey cage” to Johnson accusing Wright of acting as though he was born “from the head of Zeus,” Gunther’s lively review of this architecture rivalry book is a real fun read.

A new book explores John Portman’s influence on American architecture with photos by Iwan Baan
By Andrey Wachs
Book: Portman’s America and Other Speculations

Four essays and a series of photographs by Iwan Baan places the divisive work of John Portman under a new lens.

“SOM’s new L.A. courthouse needs almost no artificial lighting during the day”
By Michael Webb
Building: United States District Courthouse, Los Angeles

Learn why SOM’s newLos Angeles courthouse generated such a buzz for its simple, yet impactful glass cube.

“How a $500 house tells the story of a changing Detroit”
By Matthew Messner
Book: A $500 House in Detroit: Rebuilding an Abandoned Home and an American City

If the gritty, American-style story of a 23-year-old buying and renovating a house in Detroit doesn’t lure you in, the thoughtful self-awareness and examination of what “investing in Detroit” really means will.