BOOKS BY ALASTAIR GORDON

“Gordon’s eye for the convergence of arts, architecture and commerce is unerring.”                      – Publishers Weekly

“Gordon’s work will delight you. His ideas are rooted in the tangible intangible… He empowers through his vision and passion.”  – Bomb Magazine

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Theater of Shopping: The Story of Stanley Whitman’s Bal Harbour Shops, Alastair Gordon, Forward by Matt Tyrnauer, Rizzoli, 2019, available at Amazon
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Theater of Shopping is a fascinating, stand-alone dissection of the psyche of shopping, the esthetics, the tenancy of the center, and a man who was way ahead of his time. “                     – New York Journal of Books

“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… His father owned one of the country’s biggest printing companies and his parents were known for their lavish Miami Beach parties… 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… After its 1965 debut, Bal Harbour Shops became the most successful shopping center in America and its story is far from over… 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, Miami Herald, December 18, 2018.

“A fascinating look at the design, construction, and evolution of Bal Harbour Shops, tracing the evolution of Stanley Whitman’s idea of a high-end shopping center in the new Village of Bal Harbour, Florida…”    The Big Bubble

“A compelling narrative about a man who led with his heart to build the country’s largest luxury focused shopping center in an initially uninhabited area.”  Ocean Drive

 

Spaced Out: Radical Environments of the Psychedelic Sixties, Alastair Gordon, Rizzoli, 2008 / Kindle Books, 2013, available at Amazon and on Kindle.

“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.

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“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

“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, Miami Herald, December 18, 2018

 

UNFOLDED: How Architecture Saved My Life, Alastair Gordon, Oro Editions / Gordon de Vries Studio, 2016, available at Amazon. 

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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

“A riveting architectural monograph…” Architectural Products, July 5, 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

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An early settler described the waters off of Coconut Grove as being ‘afloat on a sort of liquid light, rather than water, so limpid and brilliant is it’. Another described a ‘veritable fairyland of wonders, beauties and unpolluted purity’. Over its 100-year history, Coconut Grove has grown into a unique entanglement of culture and nature…” – “Liquid Light,” Alastair Gordon

Wendell Castle: Wandering Forms, Works from 1959 to 1979, Alastair Gordon, Gregory R. Miller & Co. / The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, 2012, available at Amazon.

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“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

Renowned writer Alastair Gordon lucidly tells the exciting story of Castle’s impact and innovations through the defining works of his career. The text is accompanied by hundreds of drawings, press clippings and never-before-seen images of Castle, his workspace and process. Beautifully designed by the award-winning Pandiscio Co. and incorporating materials from Castle’s personal archives, this book is certain to be the definitive study of one of the most significant furniture designers working in the world today and one of America’s true cultural treasures.”      –  Artbook

“Wendell Castle: Wandering Forms by Alastair Gordon (due out in November from Gregory R. Miller & Co.) is the first book in more than two decades devoted to the eminent furniture designer’s early years and particularly to his maiden pieces in wood and fiberglass. Castle will turn 80 next month, and it seems everyone is celebrating. The first of four solo shows between now and year’s end opens Saturday at the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum in Ridgefield, Conn. Called ‘Wendell Castle: Wandering Forms — Works from 1959-1979,’ the exhibit includes many items in private collections that haven’t been seen in decades. What are Mr. Castle’s views of the impending milestone? ‘It’s weird,’ he said. ‘I have no idea what 80 feels like but I certainly do not feel old. I have all my hair and I still play a very good game of tennis three times a week, year-round, with guys 30 to 40 years younger than I am.'”  – Rima Suqi, “An Extended Celebration of a Lively Career,” New York Times, October 17, 2012

 

Naked Airport: A Cultural History of the World’s Most Revolutionary Structure, Alastair Gordon, Metropolitan Books/Henry Holt (hardback) 2004, available at Amazon.

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

” 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

“Alastair Gordon’s breezy, engaging new book, Naked Airport ingeniously traces the development of airport architecture…” – New York Observer , November 1, 2004

“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

Naked Airport: A Cultural History of the World’s Most Revolutionary Structure, Alastair Gordon, University of Chicago Press (paperback edition with new introduction and updated epilogue) 2008, available at Amazon.

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“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

 

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

“Residents of Chelsea, the one in New York, may know the work of Philip Smith and Douglas Thompson primarily for a small but beautifully proportioned art gallery at the corner of West Twenty-Third Street and Tenth Avenue. The duo, partners in life since they met at Columbia in 1966, have lived and worked in their West Side home and office since 1996, spinning out lofts and beach houses, town houses and high rises, plying their multifariously inspired craft quietly, creating a body of work that respects nature, vernacular building forms, and the steady evolution of modernism.

Qualities of Duration is the first book to assess their career; it’s also a first book for Gordon de Vries Studio, the husband-and-wife firm owned by Barbara de Vries, who designed the book, and its author Alastair Gordon, who happen to live in a Smith and Thompson house. Among the outstanding projects here are historic houses the architects have enfolded with modernist additions, finding a visual synthesis for the thesis of the old and the antithesis of the new. The Gordon-DeVries home, for example, began life as an eighteenth-century farmhouse. Smith and Thompson have clearly dedicated their lives to the poetry of architecture, as they say, rather than its calculus.

The book, both intelligent and visually rich (inviting rather than demanding attention) is a small object by coffee table standards, because it’s actually meant to be read, not just admired. Like the highly livable buildings of the featured architects, it is more understated gloaming than fiery sunset, but it’s no less persuasive for its modesty. They may not be starchitects, but the work of Smith and Thompson is stellar. 

– Michael Lassell, Modern Magazine, Spring, 2013

 

 

Romantic Modernist: The Life and Work of Norman Jaffe, Architect, Alastair Gordon, Monacelli Press, 2005, available at Amazon.

“This is the first major survey of the career of Norman Jaffe, an architect who is best known for his work on the South Fork in the 1970’s and 1980’s. Organized by the architecture historian and author Alastair Gordon, the show and book attempt to place Mr. Jaffe (who drowned while swimming off Bridgehampton in 1993 at age 61) in the context of international Modernism, while stressing his departures from Modernist orthodoxy.” – Helen Harrison, “An Architect who Strayed from Modernist Roots,” New York Times, August 7, 2005

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)

Weekend Utopia is the rare sort of encyclopedic work that is both stylish and readable. This sweeping account of the architectural evolution of coastal Long Island combines the best qualities of a coffee table book, namely a string of mesmerizing images, with a lively, thought-provoking text…” – Annette Lucia Giesecke, Utopias Studies (Vol.14, Issue 1., January 1, 2003)

“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.“There’s a quality of fragmentation and reflectivity (both physical and metaphoric) in Thomas Phifer’s work that makes me think of the Glasarchitektur of Bruno Taut, those crystalline fantabulations that defied gravity and made light itself into a central sacrament… But there’s also something in the mood of a landscape painter in the way his houses step back and rise, almost like filigrees of light, to catch the views and luminosity of their rural settings. In some cases, the houses appear half buried, but pull energy up from the earth while making singular gestures to the sky…”  – Alastair Gordon, “Reflectivity”

 

Quik Build, ABC of Container ArchitectureBibliothéque McLean, London, 2008, (Alastair Gordon, co-author with Barry Bergdoll and Adam Kalkin,) available at Amazon.

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“Since Adam Kalkin adopted the recycled shipping container as a primary building block and a dominant obsession, he has worked with that seemingly inert monolith to develop ever-richer sets of overlapping nuances… by repurposing this ubiquitous element of our globalized world into a building block for his work. The book chronicles the many projects that Kalkin has created over his career, with insightful essays by Barry Bergdoll and Alastair Gordon.”Designboom 

“…Kalkin wears a crisply starched shirt and speaks with the slightly nasal tones of a prep school snob but his work, like the man, defies easy categorization, riding a funky edge between art, architecture, fashion and mass-market consumerism. ‘I love to watch the metamorphosis of a thing changing from a high culture object to a low culture pill that can be easily swallowed,’ he says while eating lunch in a Vietnamese restaurant on Ninth Avenue. An array of exotic dishes lie before us on the carved teak table: papaya, jicama, coconut-encrusted monkfish. Kalkin plays master of his own topsy-turvy universe, shunning labels, changing the subject from architecture to agriculture to medical pathologies. Ideas bifurcate, dissolve, re-appear later in the conversation. He emphasizes a point by devouring a big fork full of fried squid. (He eats a lot but remains skinny, even bony, burning millions of calories through manic energy.) ‘You come up with a core idea and then there are all of these spin-offs,’ he says. ‘It’s like making a good bomb. That’s the concept anyway. You want it to fragment into millions of pieces not just split in half.'”  – Alastair Gordon, “Attention Deficit Disorder”

 

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.

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“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

“…It was all about the light, the watery, sea-flecked light, that flooded in through windows and skylights, almost blindingly, and through a pop-up roof and wrap-round clerestory that saturated everything with a golden glow and gave everyday objects a spectral sense of otherness. The owners really didn’t need anything else. The light served as a constant reminder, a companion and guide to living in nature. The light was the furniture and the reason for being there.” – Alastair Gordon, from Foreword, Fire Island Modernist

Miami: Blueprint of an Eden, Collins, 2007, (co-author with Michele Oka Doner and Mitchell Wolfson,) available at Amazon.

 

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“…Michele Oka Doner sits beneath a Caribbean Pigeon tree–one of her favorite trees–and recites “Nomad Exquisite” in a proper schoolgirl cadence.As the immense dew of Florida / Brings forth / The big-finned palm… We’re having lunch at a restaurant near the beach, sitting beneath the prickly arches of the 70-year old tree, leafy shadows across our plates, eating coconut-encrusted shrimp with mango chutney. Like most visitors, I choose the privilege of ignorance when coming to Miami, but even this node of seemingly superficial beach culture has a story that goes deeper than anyone can imagine…”                  – from Introduction by Alastair Gordon

At once an intimate memoir, a sprawling history, and a work of artistic integrity, Miami Beach: Blueprint of an Eden, is the story of an extraordinary time and place, told through the prism of two founding families, the Wolfsons and the Okas. The authors’ fathers were each mayors of Miami Beach, one in the 1940s and the other in the ’50s and early ’60s, and their mothers were prominent first ladies, who regularly welcomed the crème de la crème of society to their enchanting city. The Wolfsons’ and Okas’ family archives provide a rich cultural, architectural, political, social, botanical, stylistic, gastronomic, geological, and poetic history of the contemporary phenomenon that is Miami Beach. 

 

Mark Dion: Misadventures of a 21st-Century Naturalist, (co-author with Ruth Erickson, et al.). New Haven: Yale University Press, 2017

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“Mark Dion’s art incorporates taxidermy, relics of science, found objects, and other materials. The installation pieces for which he is best known replicate the work spaces of archaeologists, ornithologists, and ecologists in states of organized chaos, and call into question the ways in which humans interpret and display the natural world… The juxtapositions within the work show frequent humor, an abiding sense of irony, and imagery that’s sometimes jarring… The book features essays by contributors from diverse professional backgrounds, speaking to the many tributaries that feed into Dion’s work, including ecology, archaeology, and pedagogy. The book’s layered approach to Dion’s far-reaching oeuvre, with significant focus from guest authors on the methodology behind the artist’s immersive creations, gives it appeal beyond the readership of museumgoers.”Publisher’s Weekly, December 4, 2017

 

Describing Labor, Esther Shalev-Gerz, (co-contributor), The Wolfsonian Museum, Miami, 2012.

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“Describing Labor draws on artist Esther Shalev-Gerz’s research into depictions of work and working figures from the late nineteenth through the mid-twentieth century. Once a heroic image of class consciousness and national character—widely portrayed in the period of the Russian Revolution, the Great Depression, and the two World Wars—the worker has since receded from the forefront of the visual field… Twenty-four people were invited to participate in the project, all of whom are, in Shalev-Gerz’s words, ‘people with rich language around art—curators, directors, researchers, artists, librarians, collectors, writers. Everyone chose an object and was asked to describe it, to engage in letting the image talk through them and in this way engaging with the collection and with the image of the worker.’ Participants were filmed while discussing “their” object and then while listening to a recording of Mitchell Wolfson, Jr.reading research material about the object. The participants were then invited to place their chosen work in the museum’s storage racks, where Shalev-Gerz photographed these representations of labor among other collection objects, or products of labor.”

American Dream: The Houses at Sagaponack, Rizzoli, 2003, (co-author with Richard Meier, ) available at Amazon.

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American Dream: The Houses at Sagaponac (Rizzoli) documents a rare architectural project where over 30 architects, some high profile, were brought together to each design a unique modern residence for a development in Sagaponack, Long Island, New York. Inspired by the imaginative architectural concepts included within, Duuplex provided a dynamic, contemporary book design that supports the innovative architecture featured in the book.

 

 

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.

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“An extraordinary collection of mostly unseen photographs of the Beatles during the making of Help!. Published to coincide with the fiftieth anniversary of the release of the Beatles’ second motion picture, Help!, this almost entirely unpublished collection of photographs marks a pivotal turning point in the band’s history, as they evolved from much-loved musicians into the most important group of all time. The Beatles’ first movie filmed in color, Help! is a madcap adventure featuring cinematography and film sequences widely considered to be hugely influential to the modern performance-style music videos of today. Specialist set photographer Emilio Lari was invited by director Richard Lester to shoot stills of the production at Twickenham Studios and document behind-the-scenes larking about as the band relaxed in their hotel between takes. With an introduction by Lester and intimate, never-before-seen images, The Beatles: Help! provides new and fascinating insights into the band that changed the history of music and the world.”           – GoodReads, September 15th, 2015

 

Costantino Nivola in Springs,  Ilisso Books, Milan, 2003, (co-author with Micaela Martegani), available at Amazon.

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“Constantino Nivola in Springs” was an exhibit at The Parrish Art Museum from August 9 – October 12, 2003. The accompanying book traces Nivola’s artwork, garden and life on eastern Long Island. He lived in Springs, East Hampton for more than forty years. 

 

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)

*****Weekend Utopia Catalogue

“In the 1960’s, ‘before all the spaces were filled in, before the traffic became intolerable,’ Long Island’s East End was the focal point of a two-pronged revolution, says Alastair Gordon. One prong was esthetic, leading to the development of an innovative style of architecture that would eventually spread throughout the world. The other was social, determining how and where newly prosperous urban professionals spent their leisure time. Both are examined in ”Weekend Utopia: The Modern Beach House on Eastern Long Island, 1960-1973,” an exhibition organized by Mr. Gordon, opening Saturday at Guild Hall in East Hampton. While its tale is told by scale models, plans, drawings and photographs of iconic houses that shaped the visual revolution, the exhibition is meant to be more than just a survey of a decade’s architecture, said Mr. Gordon, a writer and critic. ‘I was also fascinated by what the beach house meant in terms of a social phenomenon,’ he said. ‘These houses grew out of a particular social milieu — a new class of urban professionals who had enough money to build second homes.'”  – Barbara Delatiner, “When Beach Houses Changed East End”, New York Times, June 20, 1999

 

 

Convergence: The Hamptons After Pollock, Alastair Gordon, Nassau County Museum of Art, 2000.

“Presenting eastern Long Island as a base for progressive elements in the American avant-garde is an exciting premise for an exhibition. As the guest curator, Alastair Gordon, comments in an essay in the catalogue for the show,  Convergence: The Hamptons Since Pollock, ‘There was something about the place that freed the imagination.’ The thesis is developed here in an upbeat, sensitive blending of art and architecture that sustains its energy throughout the show’s three large rooms. The subject is, of course, huge… Intriguing architectural drawings, plans and models often lengthen a viewer’s engagement with the subject. Here the observations thus encouraged are not only about style, but also about parallels with the art installed nearby. The significance of organic shapes is one concept effectively suggested, for example, in several references to Frederick Kiesler’s ‘Endless House’ that are adjacent to a powerful drawing by Willem de Kooning and an undulating abstract sculpture by Pollock that looks like a paint blob seeking its own boundaries. Lent by the estate of the sculptor and architect Tony Smith, the plaster, sand and wire piece was produced during Pollock’s visit with Smith a few weeks before Pollock’s fatal car accident. Another important parallel occurs when considering how painters and architects both include light in their work. A terrific de Kooning painting from 1978, ”Untitled IV,” is a grand example of a gestural painter incorporating natural light tonalities into his pigment. Nearby, several imaginative house projects present innovative ways to bring light into the interior. But the next gallery provides particularly fascinating insights, with residential designs by Gwathmey Siegel and Associates and Barnes Coy and Associates that structure the openings for light into module-like patterns. These are near a recent Ross Bleckner painting that covers its surface with small, cell-like modules, each holding a section of reflected light. Another recent canvas on an adjacent wall, Eric Fischl’s portrait of Bruce Ferguson, makes the light-drenched face part of the psychological thrust.

Attitudes toward space are especially valid when considering the avant-garde art and architecture of these decades. One of the show’s most memorable models represents Peter Blake’s unrealized design for an ideal museum, planned to permit its sliding Pollock mural walls to be seen against nature. Pollock loans are difficult to obtain, so this segment of the exhibition is limited to small pieces. Several adequately demonstrate the artist’s pioneering work with lines of pigment that carry the eye at a varying pace without pausing to define form…A vibrant painting by Theodore Stamos demonstrates an influential contribution to chromatic abstraction and is another welcome inclusion. The freedom to experiment and to mix ingredients produces one of the most emphatic messages, and is reinforced by juxtaposing Alfonso Ossorio’s combination of rope, beads and bone with Julian Schnabel’s blending of resin, cloth, paint, velvet and what looks like a pinky-gray Montauk atmosphere. In architecture, the point is made well in Percival Goodman’s striking drawing for a beach house that superimposes geometric decking over forceful organic curves pierced by a row of circular porthole windows.” – Phyllis Braff, “Pollock’s Hamptons Legacy,” New York Times, April 16, 2000

 

Sweet Disorder and the Carefully Careless, Theory and Criticism in Architecture, (AG Editor, Robert Maxwell essays), Princeton Papers on Architecture / Princeton Architectural Press, New York, 1993, available at Amazon.

 

******Sweet Disorder, book by R. Maxwell

As General Editor of the Princeton Paper on Architecture, Alastair Gordon oversaw the editing, design, production, marketing and distribution of a series of critical texts on modern architecture. Robert Maxwell’s ‘Sweet Disorder and the Carefully Careless’ was one of the first volumes in the series to be published. 

Long Island Modern, The First Generation of Modernist Architecture on Long IslandGuild Hall  Museum, East Hampton, NY / The National AIA Museum, Washington DC, 1987.

“When the talk turns to modern architecture on Long Island, the usual focus, not surprisingly, is on the last few years. For in the last generation modern architecture has come to dominate many of the beachfront communities at the eastern end of the island, and most of the houses it has left in its wake are so flashy and pretentious that they could make even a diehard modernist yearn for the calm of a few shingles and dormer windows. If only because there are so many of them, these recent houses now symbolize modern architecture on Long Island. But there was another modern architecture on Long Island, a whole generation of buildings that preceded the post-1960’s wave of arrogant, showy construction of our own time, and these buildings represented a very different set of values. They seem earnest where the recent modern buildings tend to feel jaded, eager where the newer ones tend to feel cynical. Many of them are all but forgotten, overwhelmed by their less worthy successors, and some have been demolished altogether. But all the buildings of this first generation, built between 1925 and 1960, are given their proper homage in ”Long Island Modern,” a superb exhibition at Guild Hall in East Hampton that opened last month. Alastair Gordon, an architecture critic and historian based on the East End of Long Island, organized the exhibition, which contains a mix of models, original photographs, plans and drawings. Unlike most architecture exhibitions organized around local themes, this one has genuine national significance. For it stands to remind us that Long Island was one of the country’s major incubators for modern architecture. In the 1920’s and 30’s, the years in which European, International-Style modernism began, slowly, to make its mark on the American landscape, the open, horizontal stretches of Long Island were unusually hospitable to modern building. While the island did not have architects as celebrated as Frank Lloyd Wright, Rudolf Schindler and Richard Neutra, who collectively gave Los Angeles the nation’s greatest inventory of modern houses in those years, it did have important prewar designs by Percival Goodman, William Muschenheim and Albert Frey, among others. And in the years just after World War II, the work of a new generation, including Robert Rosenberg, Andrew Geller and Peter Blake, had a still greater impact.

One of the exhibition’s pleasures is its mix of the familiar and the unfamiliar. Mr. Gordon has been relentless in his research, and has unearthed numerous designs that are unfamiliar even to those who know Long Island and the history of architecture at mid-century well. Among the best surprises are a 1932 beach house of aluminum by Percival Goodman that was never built; had it been built, it would have taken a place as a seminal work in American architecture alongside Albert Frey and Lawrence Kocher’s celebrated Aluminaire House, the 1931 structure in Huntington that earlier this year was in brief danger of demolition. Many of the other little-known designs were actually built, however, like Peabody, Wilson & Brown’s sprawling Tyng mansion in Southampton, of 1931, or Lansing Holden’s ”Sandbox,” an International-Style house of wood designed with, and for, Frances Breese Miller in 1933. So, too, with the nimble abstract shapes of Andrew Geller, whose Pearlroth House in Westhampton, of 1959, consists of a pair of diamond-shaped structures, or the Miesian variations in wood by Robert Rosenberg, also from the late 1950’s. To today’s eye the Geller houses seem capricious and not a little silly, but their lightness and energetic quality raises them above the heavyhanded abstract forms of more recent years.

For all that art history pretends to deal in absolutes, the reality is that it is the story of one time’s perception of another, and that is particularly so here. The timing of this exhibition is a critical fact of its existence. Modernism has not been the style of the time for some years; we put aside its earnest utopianism more than a generation ago, and have built fewer and fewer echoes of modernist forms with each passing year. Now, on Long Island as elsewhere in this country, there are more houses built with shingles and pitched roofs than with vertical siding and flat roofs, and the architects whose work is thought to be au courant are the ones whose work looks old. When the current reaction against modernism began, there was not enough perspective to look critically, fairly and honestly at these early modern buildings, and to admit of their considerable importance. But we are now far away from these houses, both from the pre-World War II houses that represented critical early attempts at bringing modernism to this country and from the postwar houses as well, and the sense of perspective is there. These buildings can be presented, unambiguously, as history.

To Alastair Gordon, these early modern buildings are striking remnants of an age of earnestness, an age of belief in the ability of architecture to reshape the world. In the slim but excellent catalogue accompanying the exhibition, he traces the natural, if unorthodox, marriage between the utopian world envisioned by the modernist architects and the relaxed world of the beach house. He is not the first to observe this connection, but he articulates it well. The exhibition also stands as a reminder that if what remains of this early generation of modernist buildings on Long Island is to be considered as history, then it should be preserved as such. It was only two years ago that Pierre Chareau’s 1946 house in East Hampton for Robert Motherwell, a critical work of American modernism, was demolished, and the Aluminaire House almost suffered the same fate; it was rescued earlier this year in the nick of time, and will be moved to the campus of the New York Institute of Technology. Quite properly the catalogue ends with a eulogy for the Motherwell House, and a plea for preservation of what other important structures remain. The exhibition was designed by Lee H. Skolnick in a manner that gently echoes the style of the early 1950’s without ever becoming insistent. (Through Sept. 20 at Guild Hall, 158 Main Street, East Hampton. Hours are 11 A.M. to 6 P.M. Monday through Saturday, and 1 to 6 P.M. on Sunday.)” Paul Goldberger,  “Architecture: Early Modern on L.I.,” New York Times, 

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.

1883255

Long Island’s natural beauty, easy access from New York City, and suitability for yachting and other recreational pursuits made it a perfect leisure destination. From the Civil War to World War II, almost 1000 country estates were built on Long Island for the nation’s wealthiest and most prominent families. This important volume is a rich compendium of the architects and firms who designed these grand examples of domestic architecture during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

 

The AIA Guide to the Architecture of Long Island, Dover Publications, (AG Co-Author) 1993.

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Long Island Architecture,  Hofstra University Press, Hempstead, NY, 1992, (co-author)

*******LI Arch.

• • • 

2 thoughts on “BOOKS BY ALASTAIR GORDON

  1. Am trying to reach Alaistair Gordon concerning acquiring permission to quote excerpts from his father’s book, Through the Valley of the Kwai, in my e-book, Captive Audiences / Captive Performers: Music and Theatre as Strategies for Survival on the Thailand-Burma Railway 1942-1945. It will be published online at a free-access website by the Library at Macalester College.
    .

  2. Pingback: Why adhocism is the best kind of recycling | Digital News Daily CA

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