Category Archives: Architecture

Niemeyer and Costa and the Concrete Jungle

While it is correct to view Mid-Century Modern more as a category of collectibles than as a coherent design movement, the term is also useful as a shorthand for the pseudo-futuristic style that swallowed Modernism and regurgitated it as American roadside kitsch. It is unfortunate that the wash of nostalgia for Naive Modernism and Mid-Century decor has swept up the work of designers, like George Nelson or Charles and Ray Eames, who were clearly more ambitious. One wonders also at the current popularity of Brazilian Modernist master Oscar Neimeyer, who, along with Lucio Costa, realized the most ambitious urban development scheme in modern history: the de novo creation of the new Brazilian capital, Brasília. Neimeyer’s contribution to the development of Modernism as it is applied to institutional and civic architecture go far beyond his stylistic experimentation with reinforced concrete. One sees the enduring influence of Brazilian Modernism more in the form and structure of the suburban planned communities of the 1960s, such as Toronto’s Don Mills, than in the curvy concrete details of their embedded shopping malls.


Oscar Niemeyer Houses
? 2006: Alan Hess & Alan Weintraub

Oscar Niemeyer Houses showcases the houses built by this seminal modern architect with large-format images, design sketches and architectural renderings. Viewed as a collection, these houses demonstrate the wide range of Niemeyer’s skill and show a side of his work that is little known and underappreciated. (2006: Rizzoli; ISBN 9780847827985)


Oscar Niemeyer Buildings
? 2009: Alan Hess & Alan Weintraub

Niemeyer is known primarily for his large-scale institutional and civic designs throughout Brazil and Europe – daringly conceptual works that challenged Twentieth-Century Modernist orthodoxy with their iconoclastic structure and use of materials. This comprehensive book, a companion to Rizzoli’s Oscar Niemeyer Houses, presents a reevaluation of his greatest buildings, in all-new color photography specially commissioned for this book. (2009: Rizzoli; ISBN 9780847831906)


Oscar Niemeyer: Curves of Irreverence
? 2008: Styliane Philippou

Oscar Niemeyer: Curves of Irreverence explores the development of Niemeyer’s extraordinary body of ideas and forms as well as his role in the construction of Brazil’s modern image and cultural tradition. With insightful essays and extensive floor plans, this book provides a comprehensive survey of the Niemeyer’s important buildings, from his Mid-Century projects as chief architect for the new capital of Brasília to the spectacular Niterói Museum of Contemporary Art, completed in 1996. Highly recommended. (2008: Yale University Press; ISBN 9780300120389)



CASE: Lucio Costa Brasilia’s Superquadra
? 2005: Fares el-Dahdah ed.

No discussion of Brazilian modernism can be complete without reference to Lucio Costa’s ambitious (and infamous) urban plan for Brasília, the Plano Piloto. While Costa’s plan could never be implemented today, it remains useful as a starting point in questioning the role of urban design. In this volume of Case el-Dahdah has collected essays from acclaimed scholars discussing Costa’s unique contribution to urban planning. (2005: Prestel Publishing; ISBN 3791331574)


Brazil’s Modern Architecture
? 2007: Elisabetta Andreoli ed. & Adrian Forty ed.

An incredibly comprehensive guide to Brazil’s architectural Modernism, as viewed by contemporary Brazilian scholars. Editors Andreoli and Forty opt to divide the book thematically, rather than chronologically, a move which provides fresh perspectives into this unique period in architectural history. Accompanied by gorgeous photographs and schematics from the period. (2007: Phaidon; ISBN 9780714848457)


An extensive interview from Vice TV in which Neimeyer, age 101, recollects the Brasília project.


To purchase any of the products or titles mentioned here, please visit our downtown Toronto location, call us toll-free at 1-800-56-swipe or e-mail us at:

What they wanted most was a 'duck', not a 'decorated shed'. So I gave them a 'duck'. I thought: 'Boy, this is wonderful material. I'm not gonna let (Venturi and Scott Brown) screw it.' Hah! You should have seen it! Well, they hated it! I loved it. – MC


Muriel Cooper (1926-1994) is a regrettably overlooked figure in the history of graphic and interactive design. Her designs for the MIT University Press, which include its trademark, number some five hundred books, nearly a hundred of which were recognized with professional distinction. Though a monograph of Cooper’s work has yet to be realized (get on it MIT!) designer David Reinfurt, in collaboration with the MIT Center for Advanced Visual Studies, has prepared the wonderful, online-only This Stands as a Sketch for the Future PDF which only begins to suggest the extent of her tremendous influence.

Bauhaus, Pictured at the MIT Press Archive 1970.

Bauhaus: Weimar, Dessau, Berlin, Chicago
? 1969: Hans M. Wingler

Bauhaus: Weimar, Dessau, Berlin, Chicago, winner of an AIGA Book Design Award in 1969 is arguably, Cooper’s best known work. Weighing in at fourteen pounds and 670 pages, Bauhaus is a staggering experiment in publication design with its innovative use of grids and recycled full colour plates. Edited and compiled by Hans M. Wingler, Bauhaus stands alone as the definitive text of the activities of the German design institution. (1969: MIT Press; ISBN 026223033x)



Learning from Las Vegas, Revised Edition
? 1977: Robert Venturi, Denise Scott Brown, and Steven Izenour

Less known however, is Cooper’s 1972 design for Robert Venturi, Denise Scott Brown and Steven Izenour’s Learning from Las Vegas. In what Edward Tufte would describe as an “escape from flatland,” Cooper’s edition literally animates the maps, charts, and other graphic material featured in Learning from Las Vegas. This stands in stark contrast to the better-known paperback edition, which, for economic reasons, omitted nearly all of Cooper’s experimental layouts. The difference between the two editions is so great that an Ohio State professor felt it necessary to write an entire book about the two.

I Am A Monument
? 2008: Aron Vinegar

Aron Vinegar’s I Am A Monument explores the tension between Muriel Cooper’s 1972 design of Learning from Las Vegas and its subsequent revision in 1977 by Denise Scott Brown. The authors, particularly Scott Brown, were so incensed by Cooper’s design that plans to publish a second edition of the book were already in the works before the printing of the first edition. (1977: The MIT Press; ISBN 9780262720069; 2008: The MIT Press; ISBN 9780262220828)

While Cooper’s first edition now fetches thousands of dollars in the antiquarian book trade, Venturi and Scott Brown’s paperback can be had for under thirty dollars. If however, you’re looking to approximate the look and feel of the first edition, may we suggest a parallel reading alongside the very popular Las Vegas Studio, featured in an earlier Swipe post. Las Vegas Studio includes a selection of the photographic research collected for the publication of Learning from Las Vegas. These photographs were unceremoniously omitted from the second edition, but are here beautifully reproduced, with essays by Hilar Stadler and Martino Stierli. The Rem Koolhaas contributions don’t hurt, either. This title is the sort that is unlikely to be reprinted, so please stop by Built to have a look before it disappears! We guarantee you won’t be disappointed.

Learning from Las Vegas, Revised Editon: $31.95
I Am A Monument: $39.95


To purchase any of the products or titles mentioned here, please visit our downtown Toronto location, call us toll-free at 1-800-56-swipe or e-mail us at:

Doors Open, Toronto (and Look Who Drops In)


With Doors Open Toronto 2009 just around the corner we here at Swipe and BUILT are more thankful than ever to be part of the extraordinary culture complex at 401 Richmond Street West. A prime destination during the festival, 401 is expecting several thousand visitors over the weekend of May 23rd and 24th. Accordingly, Swipe and Built will be open both days from 10 am to 6 pm.

In celebration of this celebration of our city’s cultural, social and architectural heritage, BUILT offers the following selection of recently published Torontoiana, beginning with a look at the history of local urban sprawl from one of the most sagacious figures in Toronto municipal affairs, ‘Mayor Blue Jeans’ himself, John Sewell.


The Shape of the Suburbs: Understanding Toronto’s Sprawl
? 2009: John Sewell cdnmapleleaf

A meticulous and thoughtful account of how Toronto became ‘Greater’ Toronto, expanding on the author’s classic study The Shape of the City. When BUILT opened it’s doors for the first time last week a photo was needed for the 401 Richmond Street newsletter and it was (rightly) deemed unnewsletterworthy to simply shoot one of us behind the counter so, on the flimsy pretext of a book signing, former Mayor John Sewell was lured down to the shop where he graciously agreed to have his picture taken. After recounting a series of fascinating anecdotes, taken from the book, on the origin and purpose of Toronto’s expressway system, the economic and political history of infrastructure in the 905, and the unlikely connection between the QEW and Adolph Hitler, Mr Sewell was off on his bicycle and back to work (despite the fact that he has every right just to sit at home all day muttering “I told you so.” over and over). Hard to imagine that, back in the Seventies, riding a bike to Council meetings was an occasion for snide derision in the Toronto SUN and elsewhere. (2009: University of Toronto Press; ISBN 9780802095879)



Toronto’s Visual Legacy: Official City Photography from 1856 to the Present
? 2009: Steve MacKinnon, Karen Teeple & Michelle Dale cdnmapleleaf

This unexpectedly beautiful book, published in conjunction with the City of Toronto Archives to celebrate the 175th anniversary of the city’s incorporation, brings together a selection of official City of Toronto photographs chosen by City archivists from their collection of hundreds of thousands of images. Among our favourites, this 1913 scene at 21 Elizabeth Street with the perfect juxtaposition of poverty and power which, unfortunately, characterizes the area around City Hall to this day. (2009: Lorimer; ISBN 9781552774083)





Art Deco Architecture in Toronto: A Guide to the City’s Buildings from the Roaring Twenties and the Depression
? 2009: Tim Morawetz cdnmapleleaf

With a friendly and accessible writing sytle, Art Deco Architecture in Toronto combines the elegance and flair of a coffee-table book with the accurate, practical information and anecdotal background of a guidebook. This important new book will provide the lay-person, architectural historian or Art Deco aficionado with a meaning ful appreciation of this important architectural style as it manifested itself in Toronto.

Concrete Toronto: A Guidebook to Concrete Architecture from the Fifties to the Seventies
? 2007: Micheal McClelland & Graeme Stewart cdnmapleleaf

Concrete Toronto acts as a guide to the city’s extensive inventory of significant concrete buldings and re-examines the unique value of the material and design idiom. Included are the insights of many of the original concrete architects along with a wealth of new and archival photos and drawings. (2007: Coach House Books; ISBN 1552451933)

Endangered Species
? 2007: John Martins-Manteiga, ed. cdnmapleleaf

In partnership with The School of Design at George Brown College, Dominion Modern catalogues twenty-six formative examples of Canadian Modernist architecture threatened with demolition and seeks to engender a wider debate about the value of this aspect of Canadian design heritage. (2007: Dominion Modern; ISBN 9780968193327)

GreenTOpia: Towards a Sustainable Toronto
? 2007: Alana Wilcox, ed. with Christina Palassio & Jonny Dovercourt cdnmapleleaf

In this third volume in the influential uTOpia series, green-minded Torontonians are invited to imagine a more environmentally responsible and humane city. Included is a directory with profiles of green organizations in the GTA, as well as a how-to guide and a fun-facts section. (2007: Coach House Books; ISBN 9781552451946)

Historical Atlas of Toronto
? 2008: Derek Hayes cdnmapleleaf

In this new addition to the acclaimed series, geographer Hayes charts Toronto’s history with more than 200 period maps, providing a unique visual record of the city’s development. (2008: Douglas & Mcintyre Ltd; ISBN 9781553652908)

Inside Toronto: Urban Interiors 1880s to 1920s
? 2006: Sally Gibson cdnmapleleaf

Recognized with a Heritage Toronto award in 2006, this lovely book combines 260 vintage images with extensive original research to document the rarely recorded places where Torontonians lived and worked at the turn of the last century. (2006: Cormorant Books; ISBN 189695195)

Mean City: From Architecture to Design: How Toronto Went Boom!
? 2007: John Martins-Manteiga cdnmapleleaf

Mean City captures the spirit of an unparalleled boom period in Toronto architecture and industrial design when, from 1945 to 1975, young architects and designers attempted to defy convention in a most conventional city. The book also persuasively laments the indifference that has lead to the loss of so many great modernist buildings in Toronto. (2007: Key Porter Books; ISBN 1556239126)

TSA Guide Map: Toronto Architecture 1953-2003
? 2005: Toronto Society of Architects cdnmapleleaf

This Guide Map is intended to encourage the public to explore modern architecture in the City of Toronto, cataloguing both well known buildings and those deserving of wider recognition. We are happy to report that he TSA is currently working on a new Guide Map on Open Spaces, which is scheduled to be completed later this year.

Unbuilt Toronto: A History of the City That Might Have Been
? 2008: Mark Osbaldeston cdnmapleleaf

A tremendously engaging approach to the social history of architecture and urban planning, Unbuilt Toronto examines the aspirations of the city by looking at significant building projects that were never realized, from St. Alban’s Cathedral and Eaton’s magnificent College Street tower, to the Spadina Expressway and the Queen subway. The book inspired a very successful exhibition at the ROM last winter, which is currently being remounted at Urbanscape in the Junction. (2008: Dundurn Press; ISBN 1550028359)

Art Deco Architecture in Toronto: $39.95
Concrete Toronto: A Guide to Concrete Architecture from the 50s to the 70s: $29.95
Greentopia: Towards a Sustainable Toronto $24.95
Historical Atlas of Toronto: $49.95
Inside Toronto: Urban Interiors 1880s to 1920s: $59.95
Mean City: From Architecture to Design: How Toronto Went Boom!: $26.95
TSA Guide Map: Toronto Architecture 1953-2003: $7.95
Unbuilt Toronto: A History of the City That Might Have Been: $26.95


To purchase any of the products or titles mentioned here, please visit our downtown Toronto location, call us toll-free at 1-800-56-swipe or e-mail us at:

Swipe Opens a Second Shop at 401 Richmond: BUILT, Books on Architecture


The rumours are true, Swipe has opened a second shop in a beautiful, high-profile suite on the ground floor of 401 Richmond Street West. BUILT, Books on Architecture is hoped, in the fullness of time, to fill the void left by the (really, really depressing) closure last year of the venerable Ballenford Books. For more than 30 years a succession of Susans served the community with a commitment and a level of expertise that we cannot hope to match, at least in the short term. In fact, so as not to make matters worse for our colleagues, Swipe avoided architecture as a subject area altogether for as long Ballenford was in business, with the result that we now feel embarrassingly ill-prepared and uninformed. So … um … help!

E-mail us and let us know what you need, want, or would just like to see at the new shop. Or drop by and see what’s here and what’s missing. We’re open Monday to Saturday from 10 am to 6 pm and we’ve even got windows! Please help us to make this your community bookstore.