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Imagining the Modern


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Imagining the Modern explores Pittsburgh's ambitious modern architecture and urban renewal program that made it a gem of American postwar cities, and set the stage for its stature today.

About the Author

Rami el Samahy is an architect and Visiting Professor at MIT. He is a principal at the multi-disciplinary studio over,under and was co-curator of HACLab Pittsburgh. His research has investigated a wide variety of urban issues including the contemporary Arab city, the logics of main street retail, and the legacy of urban renewal. Chris Grimley is a designer and curator with an education in architecture. He has designed books for Monacelli, Rockport, MIT Press, and Rizzoli. He is codirector of over,under's pinkcomma gallery, where he has curated more than thirty exhibitions. With Michael Kubo and Mark Pasnik, he is coauthor of Heroic- Concrete Architecture and the New Boston (The Monacelli Press). Michael Kubo is assistant professor of architectural history and theory at the Gerald D. Hines College of Architecture and Design, University of Houston. He was Associate Curator for OfficeUS, the U.S. Pavilion at the 2014 International Architecture Biennale in Venice, and is coeditor of OfficeUS Atlas (2015). His writing has appeared in publications including the Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, Harvard Design Magazine, Architect, Arquine, MAS Context, CLOG, and Volume.


[The] Modernist boom-in all its glory, hubris, and conflict-is the focus of Imagining the Modern, an in-depth dive into that era and the buildings that defined it. Richly detailed and full of historic maps, drawings, and photography, it offers a wealth of information for any enthusiast of Modernist architecture or Pittsburgh itself. (It should also be noted that editors Chris Grimley and Michael Kubo helped write Heroic: Concrete Architecture and the New Boston.)
-19 New Architecture and Design Books For Summer 2019, Metropolis

Rami el Samahy, Chis Grimley, and Michael Kubo paint a vivid picture of the mixed emotions evoked by the changing urban landscape in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, a city heralded as a role model of rustbelt reinvention. The book functions as an introduction to a complex moment in the city's history, looking at Pittsburgh as a case study in a broader moment of urban renewal in many U.S. cities.
Imagining the Modern includes a wonderful array of high-quality images and well-designed diagrams-from archival documents to photographs to city maps, the stunning visual display is captivating and invites the reader to explore "the manifold ways in which the modern was imagined in Pittsburgh."
Instead of staking claims about the history of Pittsburgh's modernism, Imagining the Modern showcases the debate that optimistic work by designers and planners continue to provoke. At a time when cities across the U.S. are working tirelessly to reverse the effects of urban renewal...this book asks readers to take a closer look at a few urban visions through a mix of historical essays, sexy images, riotous press clippings, enlightening diagrams, insightful interviews, and informative project descriptions that offer everyone an entry into a fraught urban and architectural moment.
-Sarah Rafson, The Architect's Newspaper

It's been decades since the phrase "urban renewal" enjoyed anything but obloquy. Except in a few rare cases, salvaging even an ember of positivity from the term is nigh impossible....
Imagining the Modern,
which sprang out of an exhibition at the Carnegie Museum of Art in 2014, achieves a greater polyphony than such accounts usually do, containing essays, news clippings, archival photography, and promotional materials, which buttress the book's other contents, namely profiles of key buildings and interviews with their designers.
-Anthony Paletta, Metropolis

After presenting the story of Pittsburgh's twentieth-century Modernist wave in an exhibition at the Carnegie Museum of Art in 2014, Chris Grimley and Rami el Samahy of Boston design firm OverUnder and architectural historian Michael Kubo have turned their research into a book.[Imagining the Modern] takes what the trio learned from curating the Carnegie exhibition and displays it in a compelling collection of interviews, salon transcripts, and archival materials to make better sense of the built and unbuilt ideas that transformed Pittsburgh.
-Mark Byrnes, CityLab

There is rigorous research and analysis here from an eminently qualified team....Imagining the Modern is a must-have for Pittsburghers and Modernists in architecture, landscape, and planning more broadly.
-Charles Rosenblum, Pittsburgh City Paper

Imagining the Modern is a gorgeous book about a period that not everyone thinks is beautiful: the postwar design of Pittsburgh....Scrupulously factual about the matter, [the book] is a valuable collection of stunning visual evidence and dispassionate analysis.
-John Allison, Pittsburgh Quarterly Magazine

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