It’s been months now since I first mentioned the BLDGBLOG book, by our ninja Geoff Manaugh, here on AMNP – and months since I got my hands on a copy. That being said, I’ve chosen it to be the first in what I hope to be a bi-weekly [at least] series of book reviews here on AMNP.
“Finally, I want to reiterate that BLDGBLOG is fundamentally about following, and not being ashamed by, your own enthusiasms, whether or not they are rigorous and appropriate for the academic mores of the day, or even interesting for your family and friends.”
First things first – don’t take my taking 2 months to talk about the book again to mean anything. Once you get yourself a copy you realize that the BLDGBLOG book isn’t something to be consumed all at once, or quickly in general. Manaugh’s essays and interviews are fascinating and thought provoking, encouraging you to put the book down and think about what you’ve read. That, and Manaugh’s continuous name-dropping and cultural references will have you jotting down a new list of things to google every time you sit down with the book.
Which brings me to my first complaint: no hyperlinks! I know, it’s a book, not a blog – but one of the most enjoyable aspects of the BLDGBLOG site is that it is guaranteed to send you off down the rabbit hole of the interwebs as you further investigate a topic. There really isn’t anything Manaugh could have done about this, obviously – but it means this is a book best read with a notepad or a smartphone at hand.
Working our way from the outside in, and from the book itself to its content – I’m a big fan of the design and layout, by the graphics team at MacFadden & Thorpe. The book is a nice size – and was released straight to paperback – making it portable and readable just about anywhere, while large enough for some great images and to mix-up the page layouts. I’m also really feelin’ the matte finish of the pages – both for their tactile quality, and because no glossy pages for color images means that you can read the BLDGBLOG book under a direct light source [bedside lamp, for instance] without going blind. The layout of the text is also interesting, with short, tangental, speculative essays and notes in ‘sidebars’, sprinkled throughout larger essays. This captures Manaugh’s thought process to some extent, as it allows him to explore a topic without wandering too much in any particular easy. That said, those of you with attention problems may find yourself continuously [if not pleasantly] distracted by these tangents.
The BLDGBLOG Book’s content is divided into five chapters: Architectural Conjecture, Urban Speculation; The Underground; Redesigning the Sky; Music Sound Noise; and Landscape Futures. A nice touch was adding a ‘further reading’ section at the end of these chapters, whee Manaugh puts together an interesting and eclectic list of books, websites, publications, and movies for you to check out. This layout, however, brings me to my second, more serious, complaint – the lack of a more in-depth table of contents. I must admit that this makes exploring the book fairly interesting, as you’re not sure what you might find while reading any particular essay – but it still left me wishing that some of the longer essays and interviews were listed someplace [not that that is much of a critique].
As for the writing itself – Manaugh does not disappoint. Ranging from a proposed ‘gonzo’ architectural journalism that would involve visiting every building designed by Mies and applying Rogaine while inside, to the storm sewers of Manchester, England, and their relationship to Euclidean geometry. Where else but in a BLDGBLOG book could you read about ‘sci-fi regionalism’, then flip forward a few pages to consider the idea of constructing WWII-era ‘sound mirrors’ as landscape attractions?
All of this barely scratches the surface of the book, but attempting to summarize the BLDGBLOG book is like trying to describe the original website – which is probably done best by the cover of the book itself: Architectural Conjecture :: Urban Speculation :: Landscape Futures. Suffice it to say, any fan of BLDGBLOG is going to thoroughly enjoy the BLDGBLOG book – both for its references to and expansions on topics first featured on the website, and for the wide range of new, original content. The BLDGBLOG Book is highly recommended reading for ninjas everywhere [non-architects included], as Manaugh’s collection of essays and interviews is going to get any true ninja’s creative juices flowing.
“In other words, forget academic rigor. Never take the appropriate next step. Talk about Chinese urban design, the European space program, the landscape in the films of Alfred Hitchcock in the span of three sentences — because it’s fun, and the juxtapositions might take you somewhere. Most importantly, follow your lines of interest.”
The BLDGBLOG Book, by Geoff Manaugh
Published by Chronicle Books, 2009
Design by MacFadden & Thorpe
Available from Amazon.com for $19.77, here.
::both quotes from the opening essay of the BLDGBLOG book::
::Note to the FTC – I paid for this book. Also, stop trying to stomp on my free speech rights::