Big Shed

By Will Pryce

As a building form, skyscrapers have few equals. But height isn't everything. Author-photographer Will Pryce believes the modern Colossus is the “big shed.” He has traveled widely to document the sprawling, steel-framed caverns that serve as exhibition halls, air terminals, sports venues, and factories. He found glamour in Renzo Piano's Kansai Airport and Grimshaw and Partners' Messehalle 3 in Frankfurt. Cathedrals to commerce and mobility, they have their genesis in Victorian engineering and the Crystal Palace, but Pryce traces their lineage forward to R. Buckminster Fuller, who saw the power of architecture as technological advance, and to the Pompidou Center in Paris, where Richard Rogers and Piano turned the cultural center inside out to create a shell of “neutral space.” That emptiness has become the hallmark of modernity, adaptable for the next new endeavor. As architects experiment with ever greater, more elegant spans and trusses, Pryce's book leaves readers with an indelible image. The world's biggest shed—he calls it the largest free-standing enclosure in the world—is the CargoLifter Airship Hangar in Germany, which was constructed to house two blimps in a volume of 184 million cubic feet. After the owners went out of business in 2002, a cruise line acquired the site for about $140 million. Instead of an industrial shed, the interior has been transformed into a tropical resort, complete with swimming pool, 14,000 plants, and 500 species of animals. It's no Pantheon for the ages, but the heroic scale is undeniable. Architects may prefer the cover image: Rafael Viñoly's Tokyo International Forum, whose 197-foot-tall glass-walled hall is defined by just two columns. They support a roof truss that spans 407 feet—a worthy inheritor of the Crystal Palace legacy. Thames & Hudson; $60


Atlas of Novel Tectonics

By Jesse Reiser and Nanako Umemoto Introduction by Sanford Kwinter

Any book that starts with an essay on “The Judo of Cold Combustion” deserves a place on the summer reading list. The authors, founding partners of Reiser + Umemoto RUR in New York, offer reflections on matter and force, material science, art and architectural history, and the interrelationship of architecture and culture. With quotations and witty juxtaposition, they present “common errors to avoid,” including the “abuse of history.” The essay is illustrated by photos of the Supreme Court taken from the left and the right. Meaning: A building cannot be reduced to politics. Princeton Architectural Press; $29.95


Classical Swedish Architecture & Interiors 1650–1840

By Johan Cederlund

Swedish palaces and country houses have been largely overshadowed by knowledge about those in the rest of Europe and Britain. This book offers a detailed history in a rare English translation, which introduces the Age of Greatness (1611–1718), when Sweden ruled all of Finland and some Baltic and German states as well; the Age of Liberty (1719–1772), and the Gustavian era (1772–1809). It also introduces the architects: Nicodemus Tessin the Younger, the originator of a uniquely Swedish baroque style; Rococo master Carl Harleman; neoclassicist Jean Eric Rehn; and the French field marshal Jean Baptiste Bernadotte, who took the name Karl Johan, which is now synonymous with Swedish Empire style. W.W. Norton; $60


Details in Contemporary Architecture

By Christine Killory and René Davids

Twenty-five projects demonstrate the evolving relationship of architectural form to technology. Projects are drawn from a cross-section of North American projects by highprofile firms, from Ball-Nogues to Weiss/Manfredi. The portfolio includes Alsop's leggy Sharp Centre for Design in Toronto, OMA's Seattle Public Library, and Herzog & de Meuron's Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, among others. Detailed drawings make this book more than a fashion show. As Built; $55


Surreal Things: Surrealism and Design

Edited by Ghislaine Wood

Salvador Dalí said it best: “The world needs more fantasy.” The Victoria & Albert Museum in London, determined that we should have a major dose of it, is staging an exhibition and producing a book of 350 stunning images, from Isamu Noguchi's sofas to Christopher Nicholson's Artichoke House, in which every leaf was envisioned as a window to open. Architects of the 21st century have been busy designing structures that look like giant pickles or snakes in the grass. Their counterparts in product design have also shifted into highly surreal gear, producing larger-than-life gilded totems of milking stools and charred chairs. There's no point asking what the point is. V&A curator Ghislaine Wood notes that surrealism is “a state of being as much as a particular visual aesthetic.” Her research traces the evolution of a radical art movement to cultural phenomenon and ultimately to commerce. At this distance, after decades of restraint, it's clearly time to vent the emotions suppressed under too many black turtlenecks. Dalí's “Mae West Lips Sofa,” the cover image, offers itself as a kiss goodbye to the rules of decorum. Harry N. Abrams; $75