MNP Reviews: Opportunistic Architecture

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[Image: front and back covers of Opportunistic Architecture]

Lewis.Tsurumaki.Lewis: Opportunistic Architecture, by Paul Lewis, Marc Tsurumaki + David J. Lewis [2007].

Opportunistic Architecture admits in it’s opening sentence that the term ‘opportunistic’ typically has negative connotations – ‘referring to the seizing of any circumstances regardless of principles or ethics’. But how is one opportunistic when designing a building? LTL [Lewis.Tsurumaki.Lewis] argue that their particular approach to design – utilizing all the limits, constraints and restrictions typically associated with architectural projects [budget, site conditions, code/zongin, etc] as a positive driving force in their work – is an example of ‘opportunistic architecture’ at work.

Founded in 1997 by Paul Lewis, Marc Tsurumaki and David J. Lewis [Lewis.Tsurumaki.Lewis], this is the New York based award-winning firm’s second publication – the first being Pamphlet Architecture #21: Situation Normal. Seemingly specializing in everything, the firm’s projects range from installations to urban design speculations – along with the principals’ academic work: Paul Lewis is an assistant professor and the Director of Graduate Studies at Princeton University School of Architecture – Marc Tsurumaki is an adjunct professor of architecture at Columbia University – and David J. Lewis is an associate professor at Parsons The New School for Design [where he also directed the Master of Architecture Program from 2002-2007].

They have also been the recipients of a number of awards, including the 2007 National Design Award for Interior Architecture from the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum and were ’selected as one of six American architectural firms featured in the U.S. Pavilion at the 2004 Venice Architecture Biennale. In addition, LTL was included in the 2000 National Design Triennial at the Cooper-Hewitt and was selected in December 2000 by Architectural Record as one of ten firms representing a Vanguard in Contemporary Architecture‘.

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[Image: Photo of the exterior/entry to the award-winning Xing Restaurant, NYC]

At first glance Opportunistic Architecture appears to be a simple monograph chronicling the LTL’s work – showcasing everything from the firm’s theoretical proposals to completed [built] projects – complete with eye-catching graphics and photos. But more than providing descriptions of projects and telling the story that accompanies their design, the book uses this collection of works to present LTL’s idea of this aforementioned ‘opportunistic architecture’ – showing the reader that the idiosyncrasies, restrictions, requirements, and challenges of a project can be the architect’s most valuable design tools. Rather than being organized chronologically, twenty-three projects are organized alphabetically in the book – so as to emphasize the importance the firm places on the design strategies implemented for each individual project, rather than describing any stylistic evolution over the firm’s ten year existence. This is another means LTL uses to describe their concept of ‘opportunistic architecture’ – making the point in the organization of their book that their ‘style’ is to approach each design problem in a particular way – ‘to realize inventive solutions that turn the very constraints of each project into the design trajectory’ – not to design projects that have a stylized ‘LTL aesthetic’. They even go so far as to lay out ‘Tactics for an Opportunistic Architecture‘ at the end of the book, proposing ‘five interwoven tactics. Retroactive, incomplete, and fragmented‘ offering a ‘partial list of possible trajectories for design‘ – Catalyzing Constraints, Invention Sprawl, Paradoxical Pleasures, Alchemical Assemblies, and Over Drawing.

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[Image: Plan, Xing Restaurant along with an example of the exquisite corpse game. The image, from the book, is an example of the firm’s ideas of curiosity and play in architectural design, shown here in relation to their award-winning Xing Restaurant, NYC]

This last tactic – ‘over drawing’ [an example of which is seen in the image below] – will be the first that the reader notices in Opportunistic Architecture, as LTL’s particular combination of computer generated images and hand drafting/sketching are incredible to look at,while being very successful at clearly illustrating the architect’s design intentions in an interesting and exciting way. This is myninjaplease, so I’ll just say it – their drawings are siiick – and while the projects are much more than great graphics, the fact can’t be denied. Siiick.

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[Image: Section-perspective of the Park Tower – Prototypical American City]

In particular I enjoyed reading/learning more about the firm’s theoretical projects – such as the Tourbus Hotel, Building 82% [featured on MNP here], the Park Tower [image above], and New Suburbanism [featured on MNP here] – as LTL’s website really doesn’t do them justice. The last two listed – New Suburbanism and the Park Tower – are particularly interesting for their layering of programmatic elements and their integration of the U.S.’s car culture into the building design. The later was actually a project commissioned by Architectural Record for the U.S. Pavilion at the 2004 Venice Architectural Biennale and was meant to ‘imagine the future of the parking garage’ – once again showing LTL’s application of their opportunistic architecture concept [The future of the parking garage is, in effect, a vertical city, complete with retail, office, hotel, residential and public spaces? Now that’s seizing the opportunities provided to you in a design problem].


Overall the book is most definitely ninja-recommended. The combination of a fresh and thought-provocking approach to architecture, well designed projects and amazing graphics make this monograph a must-have for any architecture collection.

Posts featuring the work of LTL Architects on architecture.MNP:

LTL Architects : Building 82%

LTL Architects : New Suburbanism

Mies-on-a-Beam

ADLS 05.11.2007 : LTL Architects

Cooper-Hewitt National Design Awards

Eye Candy : LTL’s Architectural Illustrations

::Our thanks to Princeton Architectural Press for the review copy of this book, which can be purchased here from PA Press, or here from Amazon.com::

Posted: November 19th, 2007
at 5:00am by orangemenace


Categories: architecture,books,architecte de la semaine

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