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BOOK

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REVIEW

Contemporary Public Space: Un-Volumetric Architecture Edited by Aldo Aymonino and Valerio Paolo Mosco.Skira, 2006. 393pp. £19.95

Forgiving the ungainly subtitle, this book is welcome for its description of 100 projects.

All involve objects or structures that shape open space but do not enclose internal space - including sculptures, street furniture, shelters, bridges, observation towers and parks.

We know from experience that half the projects will prove successful while the others will have been vandalised or bulldozed within five years.

Part of the fun is trying to guess which will be which.

Each section is introduced by an essay, most of them enlightening. Can architecture be 'un-volumetric'? In her piece, Denise Scott Brown recalls Louis Kahn defining architecture as 'the thoughtful making of space'. She comments: 'Kahn took for granted that architecture's main task was the making of space.

Yet in the late 1940s, I had been taught that architecture had to do with mass and volume.'

Pippo Ciorra identifies Bernard Tschumi's 1980s Parc de La Villette as 'the archetype of fizero-volume architecturefl', and some of the authors are passionately committed to what Ciorra calls 'applying architecture to construct space without constructing buildings'.

Kengo Kuma writes: ' What the human spirit and body really seeks is not objects or volume, but holes.'

Architects who find that idea threatening may be comforted by this book's thesis that satisfying such human needs can yet be classified as architecture.

Robert Cowan is director of the Urban Design Group

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