Review by Jane Wooldridge, Miami Herald, December 18, 2018. While brick-and-mortar retail is struggling nationwide, Miami’s shopping centers continue to pack in crowds of vacationers and locals. It’s largely thanks to something the late, visionary Stanley Whitman discovered long ago: Shopping is about far more than acquisition; executed deftly, a shopping center delivers an entertaining experience. Whitman’s is a story of a rich kid determined to prove his worth in the world — and succeeding. “I was born with a silver spoon in my mouth,” begins the book, which goes on to detail his summers near Chicago, where he was often bullied at school, and winters in Miami Beach. His father owned one of the country’s biggest printing companies and his parents were known for their lavish Miami Beach parties. But even those with little care for glamor and shopping will appreciate the photographs and stories of Miami Beach’s early years: how the Whitman parents built the first movie theater in Miami Beach and the first post-Hurricane apartment house. How they risked opening a luxury hotel during the Great Depression, where rooms went for the then-whopping sum of $32. It’s a story deftly told by architecture critic Alastair Gordon and his wife, former model and fashion director Barbara de Vries. It was Whitman’s own foresight and perseverance that created a shopping mecca rivaling New York’s Fifth Avenue and L.A.’s Rodeo Drive. In a trade valued at $500,000, Stanley Whitman in 1954 acquired half-interest in the 15.89 acres site that would become the home of the Bal Harbour Shops. Even before the sale, he embarked on an anticipatory cross-country investigation of shopping centers. “Of course, I didn’t have a clue what I was looking for. I had absolutely no idea about shopping centers at that time. None,” Gordon quotes him as saying. That may have been an advantage. After its 1965 debut, Bal Harbour Shops became the most successful shopping center in America, raking in the highest sales per square foot and drawing premier global brands including FAO Schwarz, the first Neiman-Marcus outside Texas and jeweler Cartier. Parisian couturier Andres Courreges chose Bal Harbour for its first U.S. boutique. Gucci, Yves St. Laurent, Chanel and Emmanuel Ungaro followed. The Shops’ story is far from over. Despite increased competition from The Falls, Merrick Place, Miami Design District, Brickell City Centre (which has partnered with Bal Harbour Shops) and the Aventura Mall, Bal Harbour Shops remains at or near the top of Green Street Advisors’ most productive retail centers, with a 23 percent increase in January 2018 sales over the same period the year prior and double-digit increases throughout the year, according to the center. A $400 million, 340,000-square-foot addition is in the works. The center, still privately owned by the Whitman family, is now run by Stanley Whitman’s grandson, Matthew Whitman Lazenby. You can see it in action any day of the week at 9700 Collins Ave. For its past, you’ll need to turn to this handsome book. – Jane Wooldridge
“A fascinating reconstruction of the ‘tune in, turn on’ era…”– New York Times (8/24/08)
“A dazzling romp through the built environment of the tripped-out hippie…” – New York Observer (6/16/08)
“Fascinating… Spaced Out looks at what happened back then and puts the era’s architectural efforts, good and bad, into current context…” – San Francisco Chronicle (7/26/08)
“Through hundreds of groovy photos, Alastair Gordon’s book explores the tripped-out buildings of the age of Aquarius… Turn on, drop out, move in.” – Wired Magazine (6/23/08)
“Alastair Gordon’s big, richly illustrated book vividly recalls a time when boundaries of art, architecture and life were dissolving in a trippy haze, and utopia seemed but a stone’s throw away… Gordon chronicles these and other manifestations of the Aquarian revolution in an engaging style and with a generous spirit.” – Ken Johnson, New York Times (11/27/08)
“Absolutely spectacular! A powerful mix of words and images that convey the spirit and imagination of the time… a must for every treehugger.” – Treehugger (6/23/08)
“If you don’t have recourse to memory or the spaces themselves, Alastair Gordon’s crucial new book, Spaced Out, will bring you closer to a time when architecture was expanding its horizons in concert with those who built and used it. Architects today have a lot to learn from these hippies.” – Metropolis (6/18/08)
“Alastair Gordon’s engrossing and intimately well researched book on the radical, experimental environments from this period has something really serious to say, that the dazed and confused generation saw environmental Armageddon coming and tried to do something about it… Long live the revolution, long live long, unwashed hair.” – Building Design (4/25/08)
ARQUITECTONICA: Lessons from the Sun, Alastair Gordon, Rizzoli, 2018, available at Amazon.
“Then came Arquitectonica, an architectural practice whose rise was as phantasmagoric and miraculous as the city out of which it emerged. Launched by Laurinda Spear and Bernardo Fort-Brescia in 1977, Arquitectonica built its first project in 1978, and within five years had a series of major Miami projects under its belt that helped define the popular notion of contemporary architecture for a whole generation around the world. That legacy is captured in a new, richly illustrated 400-page book of the firm’s work on its 40th anniversary, written by critic Alastair Gordon.” – Adam Nathaniel Furman, City Lab, September 10, 2018
“New Times gets a lot of unsolicited mail from publishers and marketing firms: promo CDs, press releases, advance copies of books, and the like. Usually, though, the packages aren’t nearly as massive as the giant tome that arrived in the office earlier this summer: Arquitectonica, written by Alastair Gordon and published by art and photo book specialists Rizzoli. The monograph is a retrospective of Arquitectonica, a Miami-based architecture firm that, for better or worse, has come to define the look of Miami through its simple, blocky, pop-art-influenced style. You know the firm’s buildings even if you don’t realize it.” – Douglas Markowitz, “The 12 Best Arquitectonica Buildings in Miami” New Times, September 11, 2018
“Arquitectonica to Launch Monograph at the Venice Biennale”, The Next Miami , May 23, 2018
“Arquitectonica,” by Alastair Gordon. Rizzoli, 2018. 400 pages. $85. Review by Jane Wooldridge, Miami Herald, December 18, 2018.
Most of the globe’s most lauded architecture firms have made their stamp on Miami: IM Pei (Miami Tower), Cesar Peli (Arsht Center for the Performing Arts), Herzog & deMeuron (1111 Lincoln Road garage and Perez Art Museum Miami), Rem Koolhaas (Faena Forum and Park Grove condo), Renzo Piano (Eighty-Seven Park condo), Bjarke Ingels (Grove at Grand Bay condo), Sir Norman Foster (Faena House condo), Richard Meier (Surf Club expansion and condo), Zaha Hadid (One Thousand Museum), Jean Nouvel (Monad Terrace), Enrique Norten (321 Ocean Drive condo). But none has been as constant or as influential as the Miami-born firm Arquitectonica, now celebrating its 40th year. From the days of “Miami Vice” to the cusp of the 2020s, Arquitectonica and its co-founders, husband-and-wife Bernardo Fort-Brescia and Laurinda Spear, have divined backdrops for the city’s most photogenic moments and established the framework for a lifestyle of sun, water and irrepressible energy. “Miami seemed not a city at all but a tale, a romance of the Tropics. A kind of waking dream in which any possibility could and would be accommodated,” wrote Joan Didion in her 1987 book, “Miami.” And because that is still so true, architecture critic and part-time Miamian Gordon quotes it in his new survey of Arquitectonica’s work. The firm has long had an international presence, amply reflected by Gordon’s focus on some 50 of the firm’s 450 built projects — Banco de Credito in Lima, Banque de Luxembourg in Luxembourg, Microsoft’s European headquarters in Paris, the Bronx Museum of the Arts, the Performing Arts and Convention Center in Dijon, and spectacular residential, commercial and mixed-use towers in Singapore, Hong Kong, Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, New York, Ho Chi Min City, London, Guangzhou and Shanghai. Of the firm’s early work, Gordon writes, “Arquitectonica’s new structures were anything but predictable, taunting the old order, verging on the subversive.” Sometimes too subversive; its 1983 design for New York’s South Ferry Plaza proved too adventurous and was never built. But what was too radical for New York was perfect for Miami. Arquitectonica “understood the poetics of sun and shadow, how a simple stucco wall became animated when struck by tropical sunlight, turning it into a foil, a blank screen, for the play of interlacing shadows,” Gordon writes. Its Miami projects have defined both the firm and the city, from the recently razed Babylon building to Brickell Avenue, the condos of Edgewater and downtown, Miami Beach and university campuses. What would the city be without the unconventional stylishness of Brickell Avenue’s Atlantis condo window with its circular red stair, the sleek curve of AmericanAirlines Arena, the new canopy of Hard Rock Stadium, the glassy angularity of the Wilkie Ferguson Federal Court House, the sleek new facade of the Miami Beach Convention Center, the towers and wavy canopy of Brickell City Centre, or the dramatic simplicity of the University of Miami’s new Concrete Studio? It would not be Miami.
Jane Wooldridge, an award-winning journalist and Miami Herald veteran, oversees coverage of real estate, economy, urban development, tourism, cruises, visual arts and Art Basel. She is president-elect of the Society of American Travel Writers. Find her on Instagram @JaneWooldridge.
UNFOLDED: How Architecture Saved My Life, Alastair Gordon, Oro Editions / Gordon de Vries Studio, 2016, available at Amazon.
“A compelling hybrid: half candid biography, half evaluation of a distinguished practice. The personal trajectory–from New York orphanage, to rebellious youth, brilliant student and accomplished architect–is inspiring… In contrast to monographs that are too bulky or arcane to appeal to a wide audience, Unfolded is elegant, portable, and written in plain English, providing an introduction to the art of architecture that should enjoy a wide readership. “ – Michael Webb, Form Magazine, July 24, 2017
“Born in 1937 in Detroit, he and his twin brother, Neil, spent three years in the Hebrew Orphan Asylum of New York after their seamstress mother gave them up… His firm, now called Voorsanger Architects, has completed such projects as the multiphased National World War II Museum in New Orleans (2009–2019), offices for the designer Elie Tahari (2003), and a number of houses distinguished by expansive roofs. Gordon sees the roofs, which often unfold like interlocking planes, as representing the shelter Voorsanger has been seeking since his childhood. He’s come a long way from the orphanage.” – Fred Bernstein, Architectural Record, January 1, 2017
Tangles & By-Paths: Coconut Grove, Alastair Gordon, Kala Press, 2017.
Wendell Castle: Wandering Forms, Works from 1959 to 1979, Alastair Gordon, Gregory R. Miller & Co./The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, 2012, available at Amazon.
“Alastair Gordon’s biographical monograph of Castle’s work is a juicy read, full of hyperbolic forms and insight into the studio of one of America’s most idiosyncratic thinkers.” – Dwell Magazine, October 2012
“Excellent cultural history…” – The New Yorker, February 1, 2016
“Splendid cultural history…” – Atlantic Monthly (July/August 2006)
“Engaging history…” – The Guardian (UK), July 19, 2008
“An epic story…” – The Boston Globe, October 10, 2004
“Naked Airport is as exhilarating as it is literate and informative.” – John Berendt, (author of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil)
“Gordon’s prose is deft and witty… Naked Airport elegantly traces the development of air travel by positioning the airport as a metaphor for our relationship to history and the rest of the world, capturing both the excitement and the anxiety of modern flight… ” – MSNBC, 2005
“A charming history that documents why airports have always been such intriguing places. Gordon wittily deconstructs air terminal architecture… Here is a book with more than enough quirky details to last a long layover.” – People (Four Stars ****)
“Splendid perspective…” – Deseret Morning News, September 26, 2004
“A sophisticated analysis that will attract many readers.” – Booklist: August 1, 2004
“The genius of Naked Airport is its portrayal of how these way stations have changed, from the muddy airfields of the 1920s to their heyday in the ’60s and beyond… You have to admire Alastair Gordon’s pluck.” – Time Out, October 21-28, 2004
“Alastair Gordon’s breezy, engaging new book, Naked Airport ingeniously traces the development of airport architecture…” – New York Observer , November 1, 2004
” Gordon’s lively history is written with an eclectic range of reference and an eye for detail… smoothly blending cultural and aesthetic history.” – Publisher’s Weekly, July 5, 2004
“Taxi-ing smoothly between architecture, planning and social history, Gordon explains how the soar-and-crash record of the airport as icon mirrors the rise and fall of technology-driven optimism.” – The Independent (UK), August 22, 2008
“Brilliant! Naked Airport is an impressively illustrated, comprehensive cultural history of airports as buildings, from the earliest days of makeshift sheds and hangars to the vast, glassy terminals designed by architectural multinationals such as Foster + Partners.” – New Statesman (UK), September 25, 2008
“The prolific shelter magazine writer chronicles the shifting architectural conceptions of an airport, from classical shrines to the dreams of Lindbergh and the Wrights to passenger-processing ‘tunnels to nowhere’… A hefty buff book.” – Kirkus Review, October 1, 2004
“A richly illustrated and highly readable account of airport design as a social phenomenon…” – Air & Space Magazine (Smithsonian), December 2004/January 2005
“Naked Airport racks up elite-status frequent-flier miles as it ranges across airports on every continent…”– Bookforum, October/November 2004
“Alastair Gordon’s Naked Airport achieves the improbable, simultaneously reconnecting us with the early romance of flying and the tragedy of 9-11 with its horrific blend of aviation and architecture… a truly compelling account. Don’t leave home without it.” – Terence Riley (Director, Miami Art Museum )
“A fascinating and accessible survey of airport design…” – Architecture Boston, July/August 2005
“…an important and engaging look at airports as typology.” – Frame Magazine, October, 2004
“Highly erudite and extremely entertaining… Reading Alastair Gordon’s splendid survey of airport architecture is like stepping into a time machine and bearing witness to all the ambition and angst of the 20th century itself.” – Carole Rifkind, (author of A Field Guide to Contemporary American Architecture)
” Gordon’s compelling narrative shows how architecture is bound up with the rest of the world in a way that architectural histories too rarely do… He tells his story entertainingly, using descriptions of air travel from novels and movies as he shows how airports grew out of technological developments, political history, military adventures, and the globalization they helped create…” – The Architect’s Newspaper, June 8, 2005
Theater of Shopping, The Story of Bal Harbour Shops, Alastair Gordon, Rizzoli/Gordon de Vries Studio, Fall 2018.
Qualities of Duration: The Architecture of Philip Smith and Douglas Thompson, Alastair Gordon, Gordon de Vries Studio/Damiani Press, 2012, available at Amazon.
“This monograph on New York’s Smith and Thompson Architects is notable for the way it tells the story of the duo’s architecture as just that, a story. While Alastair Gordon’s writing does describe the various projects that Phillip Smith and Douglas Thompson have worked on since the 1970s, he does it with a narrative flow that is often missing from monographs.” – John Hill, A Daily Dose of Architecture, February 7, 2013
Romantic Modernist: The Life and Work of Norman Jaffe, Architect, Alastair Gordon, Monacelli Press, 2005, available at Amazon.
Beach Houses: Andrew Geller, Alastair Gordon, Princeton Architectural Press, 2003, hardback & paperback available at Amazon.
“A lovely tribute to the architect of wonderful, small quixotic cabins.” – Treehugger, December 27, 2011
“Gordon takes readers on a tour of ‘quixotic designer-architect’ Geller’s beach houses in this handsomely illustrated homage.” – Publishers Weekly, April 1, 2003
“Alastair Gordon’s book, Beach Houses: Andrew Geller, rebuts the notion that bigger houses mean better lives.” – Los Angeles Times, July 24, 2003
“A wonderful example of how a single historian can rescue an artist from obscurity… a wistful celebration of a lost era when the world was a much bigger place and oceanfront property a relatively affordable commodity.” – Metropolis, July, 2003
Weekend Utopia: Modern Living in the Hamptons, Alastair Gordon, Princeton Architectural Press, 2000, available at Amazon.
“Engaging architectural and social history…” – Newsweek (July 9, 2001)
“A revelatory contribution to the history of modern architecture.” – Charles Gwathmey
“Gordon’s eye for the convergence of arts, architecture and commerce is unerring.” – Publishers Weekly, July 12, 2001
“A fine guide to one of American modernism’s foremost laboratories of style.” – Vanity Fair, July 2001 (Rating: ***)
“Weekend Utopia explores the idea that the ‘beach house was the sonnet form of American architecture.'” – The New Yorker (May 27, 2002)
“For a younger, braver generation, Weekend Utopia offers an alternative to home sweet home.” – New York Times
“Gordon’s book evokes a sophisticated aesthetic, both modern and simple, and a sensibility that could only have come from the Hamptons.” – Calvin Klein
“Weekend Utopia brings to vivid life a century in the architectural and social history of the East End…” – Best Books of 2001, New York Times Book Review, (December 2, 2001)
“Gordon’s beautiful book is part of a personal mission to swing the pendulum back toward the tiny beach retreats of his youth.” – Dwell Magazine (October 2001)
“A smart, absorbing architectural history that charts the Hamptons’ transformation from rural outpost to high-powered resort.” – House & Garden (September 2001)
“Gracefully written, stunningly illustrated…” – Amazon.com Best Books of 2001, Editors’ Picks (#1 on Architecture / Design List)
“A wide-ranging cultural history of a very particular place, told in a very particular way…” – Adam Begley, New York Observer, July 2-9, 2001
“A fascinating chronicle, copiously illustrated… Indispensable for both architecture buffs and Hamptonites with a roof over their heads.” – George Plimpton
Thomas Phifer and Partners, Skira Rizzoli International, 2010, (Alastair Gordon, co-author with Sarah Amelar, Stephen Fox,) available at Amazon.
Quik Build, ABC of Container Architecture, Bibliothéque McLean, London, 2008, (Alastair Gordon, co-author with Barry Bergdoll and Adam Kalkin,) available at Amazon.
FIRE ISLAND MODERN and the Architecture of Seduction, Christopher Rawlins (AG: Editor, Co-Publisher and Foreword), 2014, Metropolis / Gordon de Vries Studio, available at Amazon.
“Both a cultural history and an architectural mediation, Fire Island Modernist captures the look, feel and sensation of gay society in the 1960s and ’70s that flourished on the sandy shores and shifting dunes of the 31-mile barrier island of its title… As Alastair Gordon states in his foreword, Gifford’s houses ‘expressed the longings of a culture that had transformed Fire Island into a free-fire zone of social and sexual discovery.’ – Clifford Pearson, Architectural Record
“An insightful and gorgeously illustrated account of the luminous midcentury modern vacation homes that architect Horace Gifford built during the 1960s and ’70s in Fire Island’s gay enclaves.” – Bryan Lowder, Slate
Miami: Blueprint of an Eden, Collins, 2007, (co-author with Michele Oka Doner and Mitchell Wolfson,) available at Amazon.
Mark Dion: Misadventures of a 21st-Century Naturalist, (co-author with Ruth Erickson, et al.). New Haven: Yale University Press, 2017
Describing Labor, Esther Shalev-Gerz, (co-contributor), The Wolfsonian Museum, Miami, 2012.
American Dream: The Houses at Sagaponack, Rizzoli, 2003, (co-author with Richard Meier, ) available at Amazon.
THE BEATLES: Photographs From the Set of Help!, Alastair Gordon, Rizzoli/Gordon de Vries Studio, Photos by Emilio Lari, Introduction by Richard Lester, available at Amazon.
Costantino Nivola in Springs, Ilisso Books, Milan, 2003, (co-author with Micaela Martegani), available at Amazon.
WEEKEND UTOPIA: The Modern Beach House on Eastern Long Island, 1960-1973, Alastair Gordon, Guild Hall Museum, East Hampton, NY, 1999 (Exhibition Catalogue: AG Author / Curator)
Convergence: The Hamptons After Pollock, Alastair Gordon, Nassau County Museum of Art, 2000.
Long Island Modern, The First Generation of Modernist Architecture on Long Island, Guild Hall Museum, East Hampton, NY / The National AIA Museum, Washington DC, 1987.
Long Island Country Houses and Their Architects, 1860-1940, W. W. Norton & Company, 1997, (AG Co-Author with Robert B. MacKay, et al,) available at Amazon.
The AIA Guide to the Architecture of Long Island, Dover Publications, (AG Co-Author) 1993.
Long Island Architecture, Hofstra University Press, Hempstead, NY, 1992, (co-author)
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