Reader’s Review: Point + Line

Stan Allen’s “Point + Line” is a extremely well written academic and theoretical text dealing with urban structures and the urban environment.  The text focuses on 6 different projects of very differing typography, all completed with in a three year span between 1994 and 1996. While the text is site, and therefore project specific, the theories discusses have a wide range of possible applications. It could be said that the book does not focus on one specific idea but rather has “a little bit of everything”, however, the general idea of changing the urban fabric while not disrupting the local cultural heritage, is still clear throughout.
Allen first discusses the Cardiff Bay Opera House in Wales (1994), followed by the Museo del Prado in Barcelona (1995). While these are both buildings that focus on cultural activities they are also extremely different in terms of local culture and site. Both projects are described in detail and accompanied by design sketches, diagrams, and photos.
The second set of projects, are again both focused in the urban environment but of clearly contrasting location and cultures. The 1994 Reconstruction of the Souks of Beirut focused on building a massive roof like structure over the Souks, an important social and cultural hub for the city. The marketplace like location is in a central city location however the city itself is much a third-world sprawl with few tall buildings. The Logistical Activity Zone in Barcelona (1996), in contrast, is placed in modernized urban environment. Again, both projects are explained in detail and a large amount of image documentation is provided.
The final set of projects, while both focusing on Asian influences, contrast each other in several ways. The Korean-American Museum of Art in Los Angeles, finished in 1995, is low lying building which fulfills the horizontal special needs of a museum with ease, while retaining a modernized style that is both interesting and easily transversed. The National Diet Library in Kansai Kan, Japan is also a modern structure but of a vertical nature, holding true to the bookshelf towers of a  library. Pictures and other image documentation once again accompanies a detailed yet brief description of the projects.
The afforward reviews the general theories that flow throw the text while referencing the different projects and the book ends with list of Stan Allen’s projects.

The word use and ideas discussed could be problematic for readers who have not read similar text before, or better yet, studied urbanism and/or architecture. While I found the book interesting and the amount of images included does make it easier to move through the text, the author took for granted that readers of “Point + Line” would be more than just moderately interested in architecture and urban theory.
I would certainly recommend the book to anyone interested in similar topics but especially for those studying or working in related fields.


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