Follow the reader
Freehand Sketching: An Introduction By Paul Laseau. Norton, 2004. £13.99. 112pp This is a lovely little book that is probably as much of a holiday companion or a stocking filler as it is an office library staple. It doubles as a beginner's guide as well as a refining tool for more expert draughtspersons, showing hundreds of examples of genuine sketches. (I could do without the drawings of pens and notepads but if these are appreciated in the still-life manner in which they are intended, they are forgivable. ) There is something of an old-school introduction, which reminds us that 'freehand sketching provides an important tool for investigating and understanding existing and potential solutions to problems of our physical environment', and this book sets out to encourage us to become more considered in our appreciation of threedimensional space and form. It reiterates the truism that sketching trains us to see.
'Successful artistic creativity depends upon extensive visual exposure leading to acute visual perception and imagination.' We are then given a 'masterclass' through basic techniques: outlining contours and negative spaces; building up layers of a drawing, hatching and tone; appreciating layout, composition and volume; and finally, rendering and detail.
This is a very handy guide that aims to increase the reader/user's 'personal satisfaction'. Well worth the money.
Working Without Walls: An Insight into the Transforming Government Workplace By Tim Allen, Adryan Bell, Richard Graham, Bridget Hardy and Felicity Swaffer. HMSO, 2004. 80pp. Available from DEGW. Contact Tim Allen on 020 7239 7777 Government is becoming more transparent, we are told, and there is a shift away from 'drab and dreary post-war tower blocks with their long dark corridors and rows of cellular offices.' Nowadays, 'the work environment is no longer viewed as a passive overhead but as a powerful and integral aspect of government business'. Government workplaces are trying to develop 'a more open, collaborative and customerfocused culture.' Buildings need to respond to 'a more diverse, agile and demanding workforce'. We need to 'break down many of the established hierarchies and silos that inhibit flexibility across teams'. A 'step change' in 'quality outcomes' using 'interactive staff workshops' is required, where 'champions - conduits for local communication' can be nurtured. Remember to 'take a holistic approach' but don't 'start on a programme until you have a clear end vision'.
A very interesting case study book, marred by naff-speak.
Distributed Workplace: Sustainable Work Environments By Andrew Harrison, Paul Wheeler and Carolyn Whitehead. Spon Press, 2004. £45. 180pp Some of the usual suspects from the Working Without Walls book reappear as contributory researchers in this book, evidenced by the term 'funky office' in the glossary of terms.
To lay my cards on the table, I have to say that I have a fundamental disagreement with this book's premise. On page one it says that 'definitions of sustainability all agree on one key point: that however we use our world and its resources, we should preserve the ability of future generations to do the same'. But by this very definition, sustainability rules out using our world and its resources however we so wish, because we are constrained by the notion that future generations might not thank us for it.
No matter. For anyone wishing to get a useful grounding in the ideas of the future workplace - governed by what I might call the reactionary culture of sustainability - this is not a bad place to start.
Although there is little new here, it is eminently readable. A lot of information has been trawled from other sources, but it's fair to say that the information bears repeating. From a section on 'The Intelligent City' to an appendix on 'Corporate Social Responsibility', this is sustainability making its transition from eco-parody into the hi-tech world of the so-called knowledge economy.
Measured and Drawn: Techniques and Practice for the Metric Survey of Historic Buildings By David Andrews, Bill Blake, Tom Cromwell, Richard Lea and Sarah Lunnon. English Heritage, December 2003. 62pp. £15 The rather turgid contents page and external appearance of this somewhat short publication belie some novel graphics and information on the inside. It is packed with information aimed at a fairly narrow professional audience.
It identifies the methods, conventions and controls in preparing and carrying out a metric survey on heritage structures, but is a professional guide to people entering this marketplace rather than being of general interest - interesting though it is.
For instance, it notes that even though photographs are the most cost-effective way of mapping a building, for measurement purposes a single photograph is unreliable because of distortion. Therefore using stereo-photographs made by two metric cameras that are designed for little or no imaging deformation is the approved technique - a similar technique to three-dimensional photography.
This is a fascinating book to dip into, but the pleasure is somewhat perverse.
Guide to the Structural Eurocodes for Students of Structural Design BSI, July 2004, £60 A new guide is launched by British Standards (BSI) to introduce all students of civil engineering, structural engineering and structural design to the principles of the 10 Eurocodes that will start to replace most European national codes from 2007. The new codes are being implemented across the European Union, to replace the existing structural design codes eventually.
The codes are mandatory for European public works and are set to become the benchmark standard for the private sector, throughout Europe and the world. They provide common design principles and rules for everyday use for the design of structures and component products, and a common series of methods for calculating the structural strength of elements used in construction.
Information includes the basis of structural design, separate sections on the design of wood, aluminium, concrete, steel and composite structures, geotechnical design and design for earthquake resistance.
For more information contact 020 8996 9001 or sales@bsi-global. com A-frame By Chad Randl. Princeton Architectural Press, 2004. £15.99. 207pp With the retro styling of a 1950s Janet and John book, this looks and feels like a personal nostalgia-fest for the author. This design style detracts slightly from the substance of the text, which is not a bad historical sweep across the history of this particular building form, from Japan to North America; from English cruck-frame to Eeyore's house at Pooh Corner.
The A-frame's appeal, Randl says, lay in the 'speed and ease with which it could be constructed'. Generally, it has always been seen as a cheap option of necessity (see the A-frame structures of native American Indians). The post-war deal allowed a certain level of leisure pursuit (see The Squatter by Conrad Meinecke in 1945), and as America, in particular, became even more affluent, so more disposable income was spent on or for vacations (see The Ranger, Douglas Fir Plywood Association of 1962).
Following chapters go into considerably more detail. Although the book retains the 'appeal' of a '50s-style catalogue, it sobers up about one-third in, and the use of advertising images like the Cooperative Farm Building A-frame cabin, or Swift Homes ('you can save even more by using Swift's 11Point Service Program to finish the house yourself') provides fascinating insights into the way things were.
I disagree with Randl's take that 'from the 1950s to the 1970s, the A-frame and other second homes represented an escape from the everyday life of careers and conformity' since, in general, postwar America was not necessarily 'escaping' anything - the disposable income and sense of freedom that arose from the end of the war meant that vacationing became part of the American Dream, not an escape from it. With this minor quibble aside (and the fact that the author doesn't really admit that shallow A-frames have a fair bit of unutilisable space in the pointy bits), this book is an interesting dip into a cultural-historical phenomenon.