Keith Krumwiede’s satirical jolt for the earnest world of architecture publishing – Los Angeles Times

My desk at The Times, like the one in my home office, is shadowed by an ever-growing pile of new architecture books. Many (if not most) are monographs that closely follow the self-promotional formula of that genre: Here are some lavish photographs of one firm’s work! Here are some essays praising that work!

Every once in a while a different kind of book sneaks through. One whose sentences and images have been rattling around in my brain since I began reading it a few weeks ago is “Atlas of Another America,” by Keith Krumwiede, an architect who teaches at the New Jersey Institute of Technology and MIT.

It is that rare thing in architecture: a book of satire. (Its subtitle is “An Architectural Fiction.”) It lays out the history of a place called Freedomland, an imaginary new town that brings together Thomas Jefferson, garden city planner Ebenezer Howard and the back-to-the-land collectivism of 1970s Northern California. Krumwiede cribs the basic designs of the houses in Freedomland from the big U.S. home-builders: KB Home, Toll Brothers, Meritage Homes and the like. But then he reconstitutes them, stringing or mashing them together to form an odd new kind of communal housing.

All of this is accompanied by a series of Old Master and landscape paintings —  by artists including Thomas Gainsborough and Winslow Homer — to which Krumwiede has added renderings of the Freedomland houses, slipped in usually along the top of the frame or in one corner. These digital collages are like the book as a whole: somehow familiar and strange at the same time, separate fragments of Western cultural history pushed together for scrutiny.

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