March 27, 2011

Book Review: Swedish Modernism - Architecture, Consumption and the Welfare State

Readers of Talkitect are offered a 40% discount

The fascinating aspect of the book "Swedish Modernism: Architecture, Consumption and the Welfare State" is its in depth look at culture and the conditions within society that lead to the adoption of modern architecture in Sweden. Juxtaposing themes in literature, pop culture, consumer trends, politics and the day to day lives of Sweden's citizens gives great insight into the reasons modernism swept through the region. The various essays within the book each offer a fascinating perspective on an acute aspect of the historical period. Rather than focusing singly on architects and the buildings they constructed we are given the multifaceted background from which they were drawing their influences. Too often we read about the end result of a design and thus lack the historical context in which a building or movement occurred. This book does a superb job of filling in the blanks and connecting the dots between the built environment and the culture from which it sprang.

The themes in this book also touch on how Sweden was influenced by and in turn influenced the development of other countries around the world. From the years after WWI through the second world war and the reconstruction the followed, Sweden was able to draw from the successes and failures of other countries and mold them to fit their specific culture and needs. These influences gives insight into how modernism spread around the globe and yet was implemented in different ways depending on the local conditions.

This is an informative read offering varying perspectives from leading researchers, architects and planners. I highly recommend it for anyone interested in the conditions that lead to the modern movement and the influence that it then had on society. 

Furthermore, the physical design of this book is excellent, providing an enjoyable reading experience. The graphic layout is clear and concise with plenty of white space to rest your eyes. The fonts and images are clear, crisp and straightforward, while being well arranged on the page. The paper quality is excellent and the weight of the book feels great in your hand. I am fascinated by the design of books and appreciate when a book feels and looks great.

Readers of are offered a special 40% discount on any orders for this title. Simply email Jessica Atkins at with your delivery address and quoting ‘Talkitect Offer’ as the subject of the email. 

More information on the book from the publisher:

Swedish Modernism is a comprehensive reader analysing the role of modern architecture, city planning and consumption in the construction of the Swedish welfare state. The book draws mainly from the formative phase of the Swedish model, but also on European and American examples, and highlight the contradictions and complexities of the process of modernisation.

Swedish Modernism provides an in-depth, multilayered account of the process of modernisation; whilst also highlighting the difficulties found. The debate is enriched by a range of authoritative contributors including architects, researchers and leading academics from across the globe, with an introduction from Helena Mattsson and Sven-Olov Wallenstein and content by leading academics from New York’s Columbia University and London’s UCL.

Informative, insightful, and richly illustrated, this is an indispensable volume for professionals in the field, students of architecture and design, and anyone with an interest in architecture, modernisation and their importance in the social context.

- Further information on this title can be found at:
- To order, simply email Jessica Atkins at with your delivery address and quoting ‘Talkitect Offer’ as the subject of the email.


Swedish Modernism: Architecture, COnsumption and the Welfare State

Edited by Helena Mattsson and Sven-Olov Wallenstein
Paperback: 192 pages
ISBN-13: 978-1906155988
Black Dog Publishing:

March 25, 2011

Video: reOrder Installation

To followup on the previous followup, here is a short time-lapse video of the building of the reOrder Installation.

March 24, 2011

Followup: reOrder Installation at the Brooklyn Museum by Situ Studio

We recently received some photographs of the construction progress of the reOrder Exhibit at the Brooklyn museum by Situ Studio. There are some fantastic images that show the behind the scenes work needed to design and install such a site-specific architectural installation. The exhibit is scheduled to be open from March 4, 2011-January 15, 2012. Be sure to check it out if you are in the NYC area.

March 21, 2011

Slideshow: "Narrow Houses" Photography Contest Shortlist

This slideshow features the 20 shortlisted photographs from the "Narrow Houses" architecture photography contest we recent ran. We will post all of the entries in another slideshow soon. You can also see some of the entries on our Facebook page:

Thank you to everyone who entered. Check back soon for another contest and other interesting slideshows, videos and articles.

March 16, 2011

Contest: Winners of the "Narrow Houses" book giveaway

I am pleased to announce the five winners of the architectural photography contest and the recipients of the book "Narrow Houses" published by the Princeton Architectural Press.
"Melbourne, Australia" by Adon Buckley
"humble Salk" by Tracey Bascue
by Irwan Soetikno
by Rashid Minhas
"Chapel at the Air Force Academy" by Matthew Benfer
Thank you all for entering. There were some fantastic submissions and we will post slideshows of all the entries as well as the shortlisted photographs in the coming days. I also need to thank the Princeton Architectural Press for generously donating the books. Keep reading as we will be featuring new articles, slideshows, videos and some more contests in the coming weeks.

March 15, 2011

Contest Winners

Sorry for the delay but we will be announcing the winners of the photo contest tomorrow evening. We had over 100 fantastic submissions and it has been difficult to narrow them down. We will post the 5 winning photos as well as a slide show of 20 shortlisted photographs and another slideshow of all the entries. Thanks for entering and check back tomorrow to see the winners.

March 13, 2011

The 32m² Apartment designed by Gary Chang

a guest post by Oliver van Poucke of Kinetic Architecture

The 32m² apartment by Gary Chang can be transformed into 24 varying rooms creating a virtual 768m² apartment. Sliding walls and a "Murphy" bed are the key elements for this transformation. In his book "My 32m² Apartment - a 30 year transformation" he describes and illustrates the design process of the apartment together with his experiences inhabiting the space.

The apartment is one of 370 units in a 17-story building located in Hong Kong, China. When Gary Chang was 14 years old he moved into the seventh floor of the residential high rise. His parents, three younger sisters and incredibly - although not unusually for Hong Kong - another woman shared the 32m² small apartment. Gary Chang himself slept in the living corridor. He had to wait for everyone else to go bed. Every night he needed to transform a long bench into his temporary bed. Living in such a small space was, for Mr. Chang at that time, very interactive and creative. The sequence of transformations became a permanent act for him - an integral part of day-to-day life. He still lives in the same apartment, however the conditions have changed. He has renovated the flat four times, converting the $45,000 USD property into a luxury home worth around $1.3 million USD. In his book he divides the adaptation into these time periods:

  • 1976: Family Apartment occupied by 6 persons
  • 1988: Shared Apartment occupied by 3 persons
  • 1989: Grey Labyrinth occupied by Gary Chang and a major transformation
  • 1998: Flexible Curtains testing his thesis "Liquid City" on his apartment
  • 2007-Present: Domestic Transformation

The current phase, called "Domestic Transformation," is a result of intensive study on optimizing limited space. The incredible spatial flexibility was created through moving compact elements into different arrangements. In order to plan the apartment, the elements were categorized into two widths: 550mm (work desk, wardrobe, etc.) and 900mm (toilet, laundry, bathtub...) These form two functional zones, one along each longitudinal axis of the apartment.  The central free-zone becomes the actual space for living, working, eating, resting, studying, dressing, etc. while the boundaries of these various zones become blurry and melt together. Each group of elements can then be moved as a single unit through the room, along a ceiling track system and on rollers over the reflective black granite floor. The bed hydraulically folds down from the wall conserving space during the day. As the elements are moved around and arranged in different configurations the apartment is able to accommodate a seemingly endless amount of activities.

"Soon enough, having worked up an appetite, he was ready to move on. He used a remote control to raise the screen, revealing a large yellow-tinted window behind it, filling the room with radiance... He grabbed a handle near the wall-mounted television, pulling a section of the wall itself toward the center of the room. Behind it, a small countertop with two burners, a sink and a spice rack appeared. Opposite the countertop, on the back of the now-displaced wall, he lowered a hinged worktop made of a lightweight laminate of honeycombed aluminum. Suddenly, he was standing in a kitchen."  (from the New York Times)

Gary Chang based his design on the need for extensive and rapid transformation. This need was driven by the wish to realize his desires of having a guest room, a home spa, walk-in closet or to lie in a hammock and screen movies. He hopes that some of his home’s innovations might be replicated to help improve domestic life throughout Hong Kong, an overcrowded city with typically tiny apartments. By adapting a small space to accomodate many functions it gives people an affordable way to have a flexible living environment.

Chang, Gary: "My 32m² apartment - a 30-year transformation". MCCMcreations. Hong Kong. ISBN: 978-988-99842-6-7

March 12, 2011

Simple Green Building Techniques

a guest post by Krista Peterson

Architectural feats of our day are no less than marvels. But among the most important are the practical green buildings that are becoming more and more prevalent in our communities. Efforts for environmentally friendly architecture have resulted in a vast array of simple and affordable building techniques that are adaptable to almost any building type. Ideas like white roofing, organic insulating, and the use of high efficiency windows are a few of the simple moves making a huge impact.

The roof of a Wal-mart store in Chino California
White roofs
As we know, light colors, especially white, reflect heat while dark colors absorb it. Today, white roofs are catching on as an integral part of the green architectural movement, and an attractive alternative to traditional dark toned roofing materials. These cool-roofs can cut household cooling costs by 10% every year, meaning energy bills are slashed and energy use is reduced. Though these roofs may not be ideal for cities that have harsh cold winters, due to increased heating bills, they are perfect for homes that spend more on cooling than heating. Even large international corporations like Walmart are utilizing white roofs to help curb their energy consumption and make their operations more environmentally friendly. It is a relatively affordable and easy to apply tactic.

Recycled Denim Insulation
Organic insulation
Living with old insulation is not only expensive and less efficient, it is also dangerous. Asbestos is a carcinogen that can often be found in old insulation. This toxin can cause a cancer called mesothelioma. Symptoms of mesothelioma often lie dormant for 20-50 years and mesothelioma life expectancy rates are extremely low. One sure way to avoid mesothelioma and to simultaneously reduce energy costs is to use organic insulation. Sheep's wool and cotton insulation are toxin free and prevent the accumulation of moisture indoors. Not only does this remove harmful toxins, this also reduces the chance of bacteria and mold-related illness. There are many products available including recycled denim insulation, that are affordable, organic, and high performance. Another option is to explore the use of straw bale insulation which is growing in popularity.

High efficiency windows
High efficiency windows by Energy Star and other popular green companies also help to reduce energy costs. These windows use double or even triple glazing techniques and low e-coating to trap heat and to increase coolness respectively. Also, the materials used to frame the windows can reduce heating costs by not conducting heat. Using wood, vinyl, and fiberglass frame windows is preferred over the commonly used aluminum, while it’s also a great idea to insulate the window frames.

To reduce energy waste, to cut energy costs, and to avoid occupant health issues, it is advisable to consider green architectural techniques for your home or business. Using white roofs, installing organic insulation, and upgrading to high efficiency windows are great, affordable, ways to take steps towards a greener and healthier future while combating devastating climate change. .

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