Reviewed by Ian Chodikoff, George Kapelos, Paige Magarrey and Sean Ruthen

The Business of Design: Balancing Creativity and Profitability
By Keith Granet. New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2011.

Pay your consultants as soon as you are paid and remember to always deposit 10 percent of your earnings into a savings account. These are but two of the many pointers outlined in Keith Granet’s useful book The Business of Design. Published on thick paper with large-print text, this guide approaches the look and feel of a children’s book–but don’t let its deceptively simplistic graphic appearance fool you. Granet wants his readers to learn from his many years of experience advising countless architecture firms into achieving greater profitability and long-term success. In other words, this is a business book designed for the architect who loathes reading business books. Readers can clearly follow the necessary steps to establish, grow, or turn around just about any design firm through the book’s discussions on budgeting, fee structures, human resources and marketing plans–all accompanied by easy to understand charts and graphics. Practitioners of all levels can benefit by reading this book as the content ranges from providing advice on developing a business plan to mentoring a senior associate. Every chapter finishes with a candid interview with notable architects such as Michael Graves, John Merrill, Eugene Kohn and Richard Meier on topics ranging from developing a business plan, marketing, and staffing. It is no secret that many architects will take on a project simply because they like the client’s site more than the actual client. Learning how to say “no” to a potentially disastrous situation is just as important as understanding the real costs associated with managing a successful project. One of Granet’s most important messages is realizing the value of the services provided by an architect. Architects typically lack basic business skills because they place creativity well ahead of profitability. This book seeks to balance creativity and profitability so that architects can continue to design good buildings while being paid their full worth. IC

Newfoundland Modern: Architecture in the Smallwood Years 1979-1972 
By Robert Mellin. Toronto and Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2011.

There’s a compelling photograph reproduced in Robert Mellin’s Newfoundland Modern. It’s a picture from the early 1960s, showing Newfoundland’s Premier Joey Smallwood examining a display of the World Trade Center. Smallwood, mesmerized and dwarfed by the huge project model, is no doubt imagining how architecture could fuel his dreams of a new Newfoundland. Modernity, culture and the central role played by architecture in shaping Newfoundland’s identity are at the heart of Mellin’s engaging chronicle. With impressive research, the author explores Newfoundland’s architectural maturation in the years immediately after confederation from three distinct vantage points. First, he gives us a view of Smallwood the tyrant as he waged war on Newfoundland’s established architectural professionals in order to impose his own ideas of how architecture should be practiced in his province. Second, in a clever narrative mirroring Smallwood’s self-aggrandizing Newfoundland: Canada’s Happy Province (1966), Mellin presents a critical commentary on the ways Smallwood the demagogue embraced Modern architecture in order to single-handedly transform Newfoundland from colonial backwater to a progressive modern state. Finally, Mellin traces the careers of two exceptional practitioners of the time–Frederick A. Colbourne and Angus J. Campbell–whose talent and vision served to help Smallwood realize his ambitions. Newfoundland Modern is not a conventional architectural history, as Mellin is a practitioner as well as an academic. He is a skilled writer with a keen observer’s eye, a wry wit, and a deep awareness of the architectural importance of the works he’s exploring. He interweaves high-level interpretations of form-making with on-the-ground anecdotes concerning the challenges of using new technologies in remote settings. As with his previous work Tilting, he brings us into the lives and times of the individuals who advanced the province’s architectural culture. Mellin proves to us that Newfoundland presents more than the ersatz history and cozy neo-vernacular promoted by the province’s contemporary tourism apparatus. In so doing this work stands as an important measure for asserting the value Canadian architects have in place-making in our Dominion. Luscious illustrations, amusing stories, an extensive bibliography and discursive footnotes all make for a solid scholarly work of authority and lasting value. GK

Carrot City: Creating Places for Urban Agriculture
By Mark Gorgolewski, June Komisar and Joe Nasr. New York: The Monacelli Press, 2011.

What started as a Toronto exhibit exploring how building design can facilitate the production of food in cities is quickly going global. The show, entitled Carrot City, is travelling across the globe, and is concurrently being exhibited in Berlin and Hartford. The curators, Ryerson University professors Mark Gorgolewski, Joe Nasr and June Komisar, recently authored a textbook for the movement. Carrot City: Creating Places for Urban Agriculture approaches the concept of urban agriculture with a focus on the facts and numbers that prove its utilitarian and infrastructural capabilities, of which design plays an integral role. The 40 built and unbuilt projects presented in its pages–each accompanied by text zoning in on logistics rather than theories–offer case after case illustrating how urban agriculture can work when integrated with innovative forward-looking design. The Edible Schoolyard, for example, aims to improve New York City school meals while giving children the chance to learn about growing and preparing healthy food; architecture firm WORKac designed a series of spaces at two New York schools to implement learning and cooking spaces around quarter-acre organic gardens. The book includes large-scale public projects (MVRDV’s Pig City concept for the Netherlands is exactly what it sounds like), residential initiatives, individual building components like irrigation systems, composters, and even urban livestock products like UK pet-care emporium Omlet’s Eglu Go–a portable backyard chicken coop. Carrot City is an insightful read, moving from macro to micro while offering useful ideas to practitioners and homeowners alike. PM

Toward a Culture of Wood Architecture
By Jim Taggart. Vancouver: Abacus Editions, 2011.

As an urgent and critical document on how the increased use of wood in our built environments can mitigate global climate change, this thorough and thought-provoking book could not have arrived a moment too soon. Filled with poignant observations on the use of wood in architecture, both historically and currently, as well as many supporting case studies documented through excellent photography and lively graphics, the book serves as a small monograph showcasing recent work by Canadian architects and structural engineers who have explored the potential of wood to create innovative structures that rival contemporary concrete and steel structures. Most importantly, Taggart critically discusses the embodied energies of conventional construction materials, introducing the idea of “constructive environmentalism” as a way to reduce the carbon footprint in many architectural projects. As he points out in the third chapter, “there are many reasons to revive a wood building culture in Canada: to reaf
firm cultural identity, to re-establish regional character, to resuscitate local economies, and perhaps more importantly, to make a contribution toward the mitigation of climate change.” As an added bonus, the book features many construction details in its margins, including an axonometric of the majestic tree columns inside the Carlo Fidani Peel Cancer Centre in Mississauga, the roof panels of the Richmond Olympic Oval, as well as cross-sections of the curving columns in the West Vancouver Aquatic Centre. Jim Taggart, who has now been editor of SAB Magazine for five years, has made a determined and impassioned plea for the critical rethink of wood use in our built environment. SR