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Terror and Wonder: Architecture in a Tumultuous Age Hardcover – November 28, 2010
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Kamin, the Pulitzer Prize–winning architecture critic for the Chicago Tribune, has constructed an elegant and thought-provoking book out of 51 of his timely yet timeless columns. He begins not with the creation of structures but, rather, with their destruction: the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center towers and Katrina’s assault on New Orleans. In the wake of each catastrophe, Kamin examines reactions predictable and counterintuitive. There’s the ugly and dampening impact of clumsy security measures on architecture, travel, and public life, and the reckless building boom, which stoked the foreclosure epidemic and a plague of generic, bloated commercial and residential buildings, and left two massive skyscraper projects, the Spire and the Waterview Tower, in limbo in Chicago (“the first city of American architecture”). But he also writes of such buoyant successes as Santiago Calatrava’s winged addition to the Milwaukee Art Museum and Jeanne Gang’s “singular” Aqua Tower and celebrates the “blooming of green architecture.” Crisp and colorful, expert and witty, Kamin’s involving essays address the complexities of architecture and how the built world affects every aspect of life. --Donna Seaman
"Kamin...has constructed an elegant and thought-provoking book out of 51 of his timely yet timeless columns...Crisp and colorful, expert and witty." Donna Seaman, Booklist
"Kamin threads a thoughtfully curated selection of his columns with meaningful introductions and satisfying postscripts that...present a compelling and unsettling exploration of...our last decade." --Zurich Esposito, Chicago Architect
Kamin "urges us to grasp fully the state of design since 9/11...He has done so masterfully, in language that is at once understandable and gracefully written." --J. Michael Welton, Architects+Artisans
"Kamin's prescient reflection...isn't just about the new buildings that went up here...[the] book gives his columns...greater meaning through their ability to pinpoint what went well, and what didn't, under Daley."
--Ella Christoph, Newcity
"Chicago is lucky to have Kamin, whose architectural criticism in that city's Tribune continues the spirited tradition of Allan Temko and Ada Louise Huxtable." --John King, San Francisco Chronicle
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architecture writings of Blair Kamin, who is an architecture critic of the Chicago Tribune
and has won the Pulitzer Prize.
This book is not organized in a choronological order, but rather in a thematic order.
The book has five chapters; beginning with the 911 and Katrina, the book tells the readers how
the sense of security and the rebuilding energy has reshaped the airports and public areas; then the book
talks about architecturally significant high-rise buildings in Chicago; the third chapter is
about museums and campus buildings; the fourth chapter is about preservation issues; and the
book ends with the rise of President Obama and future predictions.
The time frame of the book is more or less a decade, the destruction of WTC (2001) and
the opening of the Burj Khalifa in Dubai (2010, the world's tallest building), which gives
the title of the book "Terror and Wonder." It is in this decade that the world was under immense
In Chicago, during this era, major high-rise commissions were executed by the star architects;
the Milennium Park (Gehry and Piano), the Trump Tower (Adrian Smith), the Aqua Tower (Gang),
and the contentiously unbuilt Spiral Tower Calatrava, and the campus buildings of IIT (OMA, Jahn, Mies)
is covered in the book. The major works of Mid-West, Milwaukee Art Museum by Calatrava,
Denver Art Museum by Libeskind, Kansas Nelson-Atkins Museum by Holl, etc is covered in the book.
The major preservation issues and urban design issues are also covered in the book.
I personally enjoyed reading his writings on Chicago high-rise buildings.
In pg 100, Kamin writes, "... the skyscraper can, and should, be a thing of breathtaking beauty."
what a fine writer Kamin is... Another detail point to mention is that when Kamin criticizes
severely, he uses comic metaphor, increasing the laughter of the reader more than fivefold.
The awaiting of Blair Kamin's columns in the Tibune makes one anticipate; What will he write?
What will he cover? What's the news? It's always a great pleasure to see how he leads the public
opinion of architectural scenes of not only Chicago and Mid-West, but also the nation as a whole.
To double the pleasure, Blair has reorganized the decade of his daily writings into themes
and perspectives for the reader to see synchronic issues diachronically.
The "terror" that Kamin refers to are the 9/11 attacks, which brought down two of the world's most famous buildings. "Famous", yes, but not particularly architecturally significant. Terror also refers to the natural kind; Hurricane Katrina which wrecked much (but not all) of New Orleans and areas along the Gulf Coast. But, terror could also refer to an economic downturn that occurred in the years from 2007 to 2012. Kamin gives plenty of examples of projects started and then let go when financing has fallen through on a project. One of the main examples of this was the Spanish architect, Santiago Calatrava's, "Chicago Spire", he was commissioned to build for an Irish developer. The Spire was going to be the tallest building in North America, before funding fell through in the late 2000's and the project was "dropped". All that is left of the Spire is the base - a dug-out hole - in prime Chicago real-estate. Another ultra-tall project that has made it completion is the Trump Tower/Chicago, which occupies the space of the old Chicago Sun-Times building along the Chicago River. Kamin goes into detail on the deals that have made such buildings possible; combinations of architects/structural engineers and developers. Some happen, some don't and largely a lagging economy is to blame for the ones that don't make it.
Kamin also looks at the wide-ranging museum and library expansions that were so prevalent in the early to mid 2000's. Most were predicated on the success of Gehry's Bibao Guggenheim building. (I asked in another review of a book on architecture if people went to see the building or what was inside. I still can't decide...) Kamin describes the additions and how they were influenced by both the existing buildings AND by architectural trends. I haven't been to see the new addition to the Chicago Art Museum, but, frankly, it looks rather complicated to me in Kamin's description. And after writing about these often grand expansions, Kamin follows up by pointing out the eventual financial liabilities to the museums in the ensuing recession.
These are just a few of the topics Blair Kamin covers in his rather idiosyncratic book on today's architecture. It's a delightful, interesting read, particularly to this Chicago Girl!
There were many opportunities to visit Chicago,
so I really wanted to know about many history & even behind stories, too...
Because I'd need to teach in my country.
This book is exactly that I wanted..