Book Review / Kinetic Architecture: Designs for Active Envelopes

Kinetic Architecture15

The introduction of Kinetic Architecture: Designs for Active Envelopes makes it crystal clear what the book is not about— it is not a book about buildings that move, it is not a history book, and it is not a focus on sustainability. It is however, say the authors, a book about energy. Written by Russell Fortmeyer and Charles D. Linn, FAIA, Kinetic Architecture begins with a forward by German architect Christoph Ingenhoven and is followed by essays on the history of kinetic facades (including Hardwick Hall, which I got a chance to tour last summer), kinetic energy, and the innovative systems that Ludwig Mies van der Rohe incorporated into the recently restored Tugendhat Villa in Brno, in the Czech Republic.

The authors, former editors at Architectural Record, know a thing or two about building scienceFortmeyer is a design journalist, electrical engineer, and sustainable technology specialist who currently works with the Los Angeles office of the global engineering firm Arup, and Linn is an architect and writer who is director of communications for the University of Kansas School of Architecture, Design, and Planning. The essays are followed by 24 projects from around the world that must “respond dynamically to the climate and transfer energy towards productive ends.” In addition, “the building should represent the conditions of its particular site circumstances, and the architecture should clearly develop as the beneficiary of the first two criteria.”

Divided by region (North America, Europe, Australia, and Asia) are high profiles projects such as the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco and the Helsinki Public Library, and smaller projects you might not have heard of before, such as Bloom canopy structure in Los Angeles. The case studies list all vital project information on the first page (location, completion date, climate, etc.) and are followed by beautiful photography, drawings, diagrams, plans, and details that help explain the intricate systems involved.

My only critique? The font could have been a point larger — I think older eyes (and even some younger eyes) might strain a little after a long read. Despite that small issue (pun intended), I expect that this book will be used as an important resource by architecture students and professionals alike. For more info or to purchase a copy, here is a link.


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Full Disclosure: Russell Fortmeyer and Charles Linn are former colleagues of mine while I was an editor at Architectural Record and happen to be two of the most brilliant men I know. So there.

Kinetic Architecture

Russell Fortmeyer & Charles D. Linn

Images Publishing


224 pages

$59.95 print, also available as an e-book

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