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Transmaterial 2
Edited By Blaine Brownell
ISBN: 978-1-56898-722-4; 247 pages; Princeton Architectural Press, 2008; $30.00

Transmaterial 2

In case you missed Transmaterial, the inspirational little book that shook up the building-design world to much acclaim in 2006, here is another chance to dive into the latest functional, eye-catching, confusing and just plain weird structural and finishing materials on the market today.

The material world is going through some major changes. Environmental concerns about saving resources, worries over the increasing cost of virgin materials and interest in making structures more interactive has artists, designers and scientists exploring new ways to make buildings that are recycled, intelligent and ultraperforming.

Editor and architect Blaine Brownell has made it his mission to stir minds by collecting, categorizing and describing such unusual substances as concrete that absorbs air pollution; shape-memory metals and plastics that “move” with ambient temperature changes; soy-based paint; paper office furniture and vinyl coverings made from recycled billboards.

This eye-candy-filled sequel adds more than 200 products to the storehouse, divided into ten chapters by composition and primary function. The colorful catalog offers concise descriptions and analyses, often commenting on a product’s benefits and drawbacks. Finally, the book provides manufacturers’ contact information so resourceful readers can seek them out.



Chicago Architecture
By Edward Keegan;
Universe Publishing, 2008; 223 pages; $29.95

Chicago Architecture

It’s easy to “Mies out” on great Chicago architecture with colossal, poster-sized books that show off the same-old Windy City landmarks. But recent towering additions to the Lady by the Lake’s skyline and a few under-the-radar residences make refreshing appearances in this handy, small-format pictorial.

Local architecture critic Edward Keegan takes readers on a snappy sidewalk tour of 42 area buildings put up over the past 123 years. Its chronology shows the progression of buildings stout, squat, tall, slender, stony, steely and sleek. Of course, Keegan covers the skyscrapers, from the load-bearing-brick Monadnock of 1891 to Hyatt Center’s 2005 concrete-and-glass tower. Oft-debated public spaces like Helmut Jahn’s funky James R. Thompson Center and Frank Gehry’s swooping Jay Pritzker Pavilion are also in there.

The real gems of this collection are the sleeper homes packed deep within the neighborhoods. Sure, the book canvasses key residences, from Japan-influenced Frank Lloyd Wright’s Robie House in Hyde Park to Japan-born Tadao Ando’s quiet, Lincoln Park getaway. But it also peers into obscurities like the rarely-visited Myron Bachman House of 1948, a Sputnik-like structure. Sitting in up-and-coming Uptown, even today, it seems ready to launch into orbit.



Lifting & Moving The World
KHL, 2008; 248 pages; $74.99

Lifting & Moving The World

Effective trade groups make no bones about their cause: Lobbying, benchmarking and building economies of scale through organization help businesses gain an edge. The Fairfax, Va.-based Specialized Carriers & Rigging Association, an international gathering of speciality contractors, tells this story on the eve of its 60th anniversary.

SC&RA evolved from the American Trucking Associations’ Local Cartage National Conference, where in 1948 the Heavy Haulers, Machinery Movers and Erectors Section was formed. Right away, the group went to task lobbying Congress for uniform permit rules for oversize/overweight loads. It succeeded, but not surprisingly it still is fighting that battle locally. It later launched the first nationally accredited crane-operator exam in the mid-1990s.

Rigging and hauling have always been tantamount to building infrastructure. Delivering, erecting, dismantling and repairing massive structures would not be possible without these risk-takers, who vary from closely held, family shops to multinational firms. Some originated when actual horsepower was still around. Spurred on by new challenges, skills and technology, they grew from a few businesses to today’s 1,300 companies in 43 countries.

The coffee-table-sized book’s vanity-press style reads like a cozy crane lovefest but the feats of engineering it details are truly dazzling. Who else do you call when you need to salvage an 18,000-ton nuclear submarine from the sea floor?



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