Book Review: XS: Small Structures, Green Architecture

In 2001 XS: Big Ideas, Small Buildings by Phyllis Richardson created a sensation. Small, light prefab buildings were so 21st century and it was an inspired collection. Now, She has written a followup: XS: Small Spaces, Green Architecture and we wish we could say we are as excited as we were with the first volume but alas, we are not.

Perhaps the biggest problem is that whoever wrote the dust jacket description does not appear to have read the book. "The design goals of the 40 houses included here are to build as small as possible, to harmonize with the site, to use natural heating and cooling techniques, and, above all, to combine aesthetic beauty with ecological sensitivity. The houses are striking in appearance, inexpensive to build, and totally functional, and will serve as inspiration for architects and potential owners."

The book has garden pavilions, sculptures, cameras obscura and treehouses but there is nary a totally functional and inexpensive to build house to be found. That is fine, there are some lovely, innovative and inspiring structures that are worth the price of admission. There are also some of questionable green credentials and others that have been around the block a few too many times.

But while it may be true that "a new generation of architects and builders is creating warm, inviting homes that cause only a fraction of the ecological impact of conventional building methods," they aren't here. The author might have been better served if the blurb said what her introduction does: " almost none of the projects here is an end in itself. Rather, each suggests inroads in a journey to a host of answers." ::XS: Small Structures, Green Architecture

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