Office US Atlas

OfficeUS, the U.S. Pavilion at the 2014 Venice Architecture Biennale, was conceived as a working architecture office that explored the ways in which U.S. architectural practice has influenced the discipline around the world over the past 100 years. OfficeUS Atlas is a new book that compiles and interprets the research assembled in the exhibition’s OfficeUS Repository, an archive of nearly 1,000 projects produced by U.S. offices abroad between 1914-2014. The publication is the second in the four-volume OfficeUS book series, following Office US Agenda,  published last year.

atlas_03
Each chapter focuses on a different theme related to U.S. export architecture, and the opening spread features a timeline placing architectural events in a global historical context. Here, the oil boom of the 1970s attracted U.S. offices to build in the Middle East.
In many chapters, an infographic follows the chapter intro, illustrating the theme. Here, a diagram looks at the amout of building in the Middle East by U.S. firms in relation to the price of a barrel of oil.
In many chapters, an infographic follows the chapter intro, illustrating the theme. Here, a diagram looks at the amout of building in the Middle East by U.S. firms in relation to the price of a barrel of oil.

A massive, 1,232-page compendium, Atlas is structured around a highly organized mix of firm profiles, project data, press records, and infographics that detail the transformations of the U.S. architectural office and its international impact over the past century.

At the U.S. Pavilion, the Repository was presented as a system of 1,000 binders that lined the walls of the installation. Rather than preserve this material as an unchanging collection of data, the editors wanted Atlas to bring it to life and expand on the goals of the exhibition—to present an untold history that would provide seeds for future research, and provoke further discussion and debate.

The book contains a wide range of scans of original articles from architecture publications, along with mainstream newspapers and magazines. Above: Architectural Record article about the Middle East as a new client.
The book contains a wide range of scans of original articles from architecture publications, along with mainstream newspapers and magazines. Above: Architectural Record article about the Middle East as a new client.
Profile of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, one of the world's largest and most influential firms.
Profile of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, one of the world’s largest and most influential firms.

In highlighting some of the major historical narratives threaded through the century, Atlas uses the timeline of offices and projects established by the exhibition as its backbone. Given the sheer size of the archive, the editors and designers first considered arranging the book like an encyclopedia—with one page per project—or as a simple chronology. Instead, to bring out the themes, Atlas collects the exhibition research in the form of a reader, sequenced across 21 chapters that cover topics like “Crude Ideals: Architecture and Oil in the Gulf States,” about the growth of U.S. architecture in the Middle East, and “Intercontinental Comfort: Little America Abroad,” about the hotel building boom.

The finished Atlas features a timeline of 675 projects abroad by 169 US offices, illustrated by over 1,200 photographs and architectural drawings. The book presents only a small selection of the immense press archive that was compiled for the exhibition. In addition to showing the progression of architecture and architectural offices, it also documents the evolution of architecture journals,magazines and other publications over the past century, showing trends in editorial design.

Images Courtesy: Lars Muller Publishers

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