Book Review – Brooklyn Modern

Brooklyn modern… the name alone is enough to stick fear into many a trendaphobe but take a step back and Brooklyn is one of the best places to focus on when discussing building design, interiors and deign. New York is a hive of creative beings, not all can afford the mega high rents and rates of Manhattan so naturally these beings spread out in search of more space, better design and greater flat whites for their buck! One of the first pictures in this book couldn’t emphasis this point clearer, a photograph of vast open green. There is the obvious argument of gentrification of the area and prices of brownstone properties quadrupling in little over a decade, but we’ll have to leave that for another day.


The book itself is divided into three main categories Aesthetic Improvement, Gut Renovation and New Work. Aesthetic Improvement concentrates on five properties that have been re-jigged internally, by thinking outside the box with regards to modern living. For example the first property was a old warehouse then Church and finally derelict building before the new owners took it upon themselves to use the space to house their family of five and a lodger. Being a large family the majority of the space available internally was prioritized for shared living, keeping the bedroom spaces simple and small.


Gut Renovation, a trip to the hospital, without the NHS?! No thanks I hear you say, but this term really means keeping the buildings bear bones and discarding pretty much everything else. This can be internally and externally. Initially the thought of throwing away the history of a building seemed incredibly daunting to me but reading the exploits of the people in this section and seeing the beautiful photos reassured me that it can be done in a tasteful, stylish manner. Looking through these pages made me realize that gut renovation (for want of a better term) is how a neighborhood grows and evolves. When a home owner allows an architect the freedom to express modernism on an exterior it can breathe new life onto a street and help peoples perceptions of an area change. Glass and metal are used in abundance with a lot of these projects, I can see it wouldn’t be to everybody’s taste but I liked the use of fresh tiled surfaces and polished concrete floors and walls.


The final installment within Brooklyn Modern is called New Build, as you would imagine this section concentrates on new structures being erected. Whereas a century ago when the brownstone buildings of Brooklyn were being put up space wasn’t really a primary concern, there was plenty of it so every house took their healthy slice weather it be vertically or horizontally. Nowadays much like every major city on the planet space is highy sought after and crazy expensive! So the main tasks facing architects and families embarking on a new build is “how am I going to get the most out of the postage stamp piece a land I have to play with”. Integrated garage space, working office areas and roof top terraces are all used to maximize square footage. More extreme cases see renown London architect David Adjaye incorporate stair hand rails into walls rather then on to them. When you see something as simple as that your brain talks back to you saying ‘why dosen’t everyone do that’. Its sometimes that most simplest design aspects that slip through the net, I guess?


All in all this book is incredibly extensive and would appeal to the hippest of hipsters right across to board to the hard nosed architectsof this word. The balance of photos to words works well, its a book that you could spend a few good hours studying over or a brief flick through whilst enjoying that flat white!

// Edd


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