Perhaps, like many people in early January, you just made some New Year’s resolutions. Perhaps one of them was to eat more healthily. And perhaps one of them was to read more books? Before that steely determination powered by last night’s excess of champagne fades away, let us entice you with a selection of the books on our plate for this year. Will the neophyte reader feel overwhelmed? Will our minds be as enriched as Georgian black market Uranium? Will one of these books actually provide tangible solutions? We’re looking forward to reading them anyways.
Design Like You Give A Damn: Architectural Responses to Humanitarian Crises by Cameron Sinclair, Kate Stohr
“Cameron Sinclair was trained as an architect at the University of Westminster and at the Bartlett School of Architecture, University College London. In 1999 he co-founded Architecture for Humanity, which seeks architectural solutions to humanitarian crisis and brings design services to communities in need. Currently the organization is working in a dozen countries on projects ranging from health centers in Sub-Saharan Africa, community centers in South East Asia to low-income housing on the Gulf Coast of the United States. In 2007 Architecture for Humanity launched the Open Architecture Network, an online, open source community dedicated to improving living conditions through innovative and sustainable design. Sinclair and co-founder Kate Stohr compiled the first ever compendium on socially conscious design titled “Design Like You Give A Damn: Architectural Responses to Humanitarian Crises”. Sinclair has spoken at a number of international business and design conferences on sustainable development and post disaster reconstruction, and was named as one of three winners of the 2006 TED Prize, which honors visionaries from any field who have shown they can positively impact life on this planet.” From worldchanging.com
Bauwagen – Mobile Squatters by Stefan Canham
“In the 1980s people began to use “Bauwagen” (trailers originally produced to accommodate workers on building sites), circus wagons, lorries and busses to occupy quite often potentially valuable but disused plots of inner city land. Today there are around one hundred “Bauwagen”-sites in German towns and cities, from Flensburg up on the Danish border down to Tuebingen and Munich. There may be as many as ten thousand people living in Bauwagen. In my photographs I try to understand these improvised but permanent homes as an urban architectural phenomenon. The interior views are all taken from a central point of view: in these pictures you can compare the possible variations within a severely limited set-up (a “Bauwagen” is an oblong box about two meters wide and between three and ten meters long, with a curved roof). The inhabitants – just as many women as men – are students, apprentices, pupils, musicians, actors, Tai Chi teachers, gardeners, punks, hippies etc., a very heterogeneous group who nevertheless define themselves as a community through their mode of living. Accordingly, the interior designs are extremely varied.” Stefan Canham
Design and Landscape for People by Clare Cumberlidge, Lucy Musgrave Thames & Hudson
“Can architects, designers, landscapers and artists make a real difference to people’s quality of life? If so, what are the best ways to address the problems of today’s societies – their lack of infrastructure, good-quality housing, resources and community spirit? Through over twenty case studies this book constructs a picture of worldwide attempts to address these problems – projects that often use minimal resources to effect the maximum possible change, with the most precious resource being imagination. Some of the ideas are breathtakingly simple: a mobile farm in Chicago that turns vacant lots into a source of food and employment, a remote Japanese mountain village making a profitable virtue out of snow, water pumps in south African villages operated by a child’s roundabout.
Others rely on more subtle interventions, working over years to rebuild the broken ties of society and encouraging communities to take responsibility for their own environments.“ From thamesandhudson.com
Nature, Landscape, and Building for Sustainability by William Saunders University of Minnesota Press
“Thought-provoking essays on bridging the destructive divide between humanity and the natural world. The complexity and scale of the environmental problems confronting humanity today provoke a wide range of responses, from indifference to anger to creativity. Among a growing number of architects, landscape architects, and planners, however, these problems have inspired a new vision-sustainability-to guide their practices. Together, these essays suggest that the gap between the promise and reality of sustainable design, although significant, can be bridged through diligence and practice.”
When Species Meet by Donna Haraway
University of Minnesota Press
“Donna Haraway’s latest book, When Species Meet, is a stunning meditation on the ordinary. Tying together questions of interspecies encounters and alternative practices of world building, Haraway explores how contemporary human beings interact with various critters to form meanings, experiences, and worlds. This book should appeal to a broad audience including animal lovers, scientists and their allies, theorists, and people who love random and little known information (e.g., the history of imported North American gray wolves during South African apartheid). While Haraway emphasizes that her desire to look more carefully at companion species, those “who eat and break bread together but not without some indigestion,” does not come with any guarantees, she infectiously believes that there is a good deal at stake in the mundane and extraordinary details of the co-shaping species she documents across these pages. Given her hope for the worldly orientations, such as curiosity and respect, that might be cultivated by looking at companion species differently, it is appropriate that she begins and ends the text by reminding us that “[t]here is no assured happy or unhappy ending — socially, ecologically, or scientifically. There is only the chance for getting on together with some grace.” Review by Marie Draz
Nowtopia. How Pirate Programmers, Outlaw Bicyclists, and Vacant-Lot Gardeners Are Inventing the Future Today! By Chris Carlsson AK Press
“As major agriculture and oil multinationals set their sights on emerging markets for agrifuels, Carlsson describes caravans of veggie oil powered vehicles, smelling of popcorn and French fries, taking to the streets to spread inspiration and know-how about sustainable, small-scale biodiesel production… [This book is] a timely and valuable contribution to understandings of the myriad ways in which creative resistance operates always and everywhere.” WorkingUSA: The Journal of Labor and Society
Worldchanging. A User’s Guide for the 21st Century by Alex Steffen
“This 600-page companion to the eco-friendly website of the same name is chock-a-block with information about what is going on right now to create an environmentally and economically sustainable future-and what stands in opposition. Along the way, editor Steffen and his team make the stakes perfectly clear: “Oil company experts debate whether we will effectively run out of oil in twenty years or fifty, but the essential point remains: if you’re under thirty, you can expect to see a post-oil civilization in your lifetime.” The organization of the hefty volume mimics that of the website, divided into sections on Stuff, Shelter, Cities, Community, Business, Politics and Planet. Typical readers will be introduced to new concepts such as harvesting rainwater, zero-energy houses, South-South science and the use of flowers to detect land mines in entries on everything from “Knowing What’s Green” to “Demanding Human Rights.” Each entry is brief but comprehensive; for example, the passage on “Better Food Everywhere” focuses on “Where it Matters Most,” “Better Restaurants,” “Community Gardens,” and “Urban Farming.” All entries wrap up with reviews of pertinent resources-including books, websites and moves-where readers can get more detailed information. With color photos on nearly every page, and written by a small army of contributors living and working around the world (with biographies almost as fascinating as their contributions), it’s hard to imagine a more complete resource for those hoping to live in a future that is, as editor Steffen puts it, “bright, green, free and tough.” From Publishers Weekly
Let us know if you have read any of these, and what your thoughts on them where. Or, send us your suggestions of interesting reading material. Alternatively, send us some biscuits. We love biscuits. Also, if you are a German speaker, you can conveniantly order/buy all these books from Pro QM, probably one of Berlin’s most fantastical bookshops.