The Leisure Architecture of Wayne McAllister

By Chris Nichols

Where would Raymond Chandler have set his novels without sleazy hamburger joints lit up by gaudy neon signs? Would American architecture have emerged from its European cocoon without the glowing pink spire of the Melody Lane eatery, with its circular Coffee Shop catering to pastel 1940s sedans, and a Starlite Room promising Southern California romance? The architect of such mythological palaces—a list including the Sands Hotel in Nevada and Bob's Big Boy drive-in in Tinsel Town—is Wayne McAllister, a designer with no formal training, a passion for car culture, and, now, a coterie of fans determined to honor what's left of his oeuvre. This joyful book preserves the anything-goes spirit of the post–World War II building boom, before the Cold War scared people into bomb shelters. Gibbs Smith; $19.95

The Lost Vanguard: Russian Modernist Architecture 1922–1932

Photographs by Richard Pare

Essay by Jean-Louis Cohen

Foreword by Phyllis Lambert

Radical notions of architecture evolved naturally after the Russian Revolution, but until photographer Richard Pare devoted 14 years to documenting the period, these early modernist experiments remained missing from history's picture. The author, a former curator at the Canadian Centre for Architecture in Montreal, captures 74 structures in various stages of decay, from humanist factories to stores unseen by the West before the collapse of the Soviet government in 1991. Among the highlights: constructivist trussing at Vladimir Shukhov's radio tower in Moscow; the Centrosuyez, Le Corbusier's only work in Russia; and Konstantin Melnikov's last project, a small but streamlined garage. An interior shot of the Lenin Mausoleum, with its bold zigzag of revolutionary red, is worth the price of the book. Monacelli Press; $85

The Great Wall of China

Photographs by Chen Changfen

By Anne Wilkes Tucker

Foreword by Jonathan D. Spence

Forty years of photographs of the Great Wall show the enduring cultural legacy of laborers. This monumental study, published in conjunction with an exhibition at the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, celebrates form, structure, landscape fantasy, and, yes, failure of heroic dimension. The wall still stands, but it didn't work. Yale University Press; $45

Glass House

Photographs by Michael Moran

Edited by Toshio Nakamura

Philip Johnson once called his house in New Canaan, Conn., a “diary of an eccentric architect.” That eccentric spirit infuses this intimate book of photographs of the Connecticut estate, which has just opened as a National Trust for Historic Preservation property. The book was prepared nine years ago for a private client in Japan. Now, two years after Johnson's death, a softcover keepsake has been made available for the rest of us. Johnson's own description of the house—“a box in a box in a box” —is paired with atmospheric photographs by Michael Moran, elevations and plans from the architect's notebook, and commentary by Nakamura, editor in chief of the journal A+U. The essence of Johnson's experimental dwelling is captured in a translucent slipcover printed with leaves. Through them, one can just make out the master modernist's glass box, which Johnson called home from 1949. The book's design, by Michael Rock of 2×4, preserves the subtlety of the Glass House in all seasons, as well as the other structures Johnson added to the 44-acre estate over 50 years. Indoors and outdoors slip and slide, as Nakamura homes in on the point: “The Glass House criticizes the very notion of visibility in architecture.” Monacelli Press; $95

&Fork: 100 Designers, 10 Curators

The architecture of the object is acknowledged in 448 pages of emerging design talent. This coffee-table book of the season is worth its 7.5 pounds in imagery. A sequel to the 2002 volume Spoon, which came with a Bilbao-waved metal cover, this tome comes in a meaningful recycled brown wrapper. The cover reflects a new preoccupation with social responsibility among the 100 product designers selected by 10 curators. Despite the title, there is no cutlery, but plenty of otherworldly lamps, clocks, bookshelves, parasols, sewer grids, light fixtures, carpeting, housewares, electronics, and other accessories designed for out-fitting contemporary spaces. Dutch talents from the Eindhoven Academy lead the rest in product innovation, from decorative patterns for chain-link fencing to Maarten Baas' charred and melting chairs. But American designers are also at the cutting edge, as proved by New Yorkers Antenna Design, Stephen Burks, and Jennifer Carpenter, and California-based Yves Béhar and Bosung Kim. Phaidon; $69.95