Several large sumptuous tomes with mouthwatering photography capture the spirit of the early 21st century – but all at a price.
(Gaia Books, 223 pages, £35)
David Pearson investigates how eco-building around the world is beginning to develop an organic architectural style to match. With Will Alsop's seaside cafe shaped like an upturned boat, Renzo Piano's jungle village in New Caledonia that resembles a set of wickerware baskets, and a desert home masquerading as a giant fungus, he shows how buildings can use natural materials ingeniously, coexist in their landscapes and feel fun and healthy to live and work in.
(Laurence King, 240 pages, £40)
Vicky Richardson explores similar territory, though with a more scholarly approach and proper architectural drawings. Richardson is extremely anxious not to be tarred as a revisionist wallowing in nostalgia, and she struggles to reconcile this stance with the book's theme.
At one point, she even describes vernacular architecture as "architecture in denial". The title is really a misnomer, as her subject is anything but people's architecture. Instead, she examines architecture that reinterprets rather than revives traditional forms, materials and construction techniques.
In her introduction, Richardson traces the pedigree of established writings on the subject and concludes grudgingly that this neo-traditionalism "is perhaps the most appropriate mode of expression for an era that lacks a sense of transformative historic change". The immense physical and psychological impact of the new ecological imperative to save the planet, which informs Pearson's book, is largely ignored, thankfully. The bulk of the book is more positive, bringing together 37 splendid buildings from around the world designed by such cutting-edge architects as Sergison Bates in England, Sverre Fehn in Norway and Glen Murcutt in Australia.
(Thames & Hudson, 192 pages, £30)
New urban parks in north America and Europe, mainly the Netherlands, are illustrated as exemplars of the current vogue in landscaping, in which natural planting, water features, paving and bridges are brought together in bold, geometric and self-evidently artificial formations.
New London Architecture
(Merrell, 240 pages, £30)
does exactly what it says on the cover. The indefatigable architectural critic, Kenneth Powell, has gathered a cornucopia of over 100 recent buildings and new projects in London, covering all building types and ranging from the latest corporate office extravaganzas by Foster and Partners and Renzo Piano to chic boutiques and anorexic infill houses. Unlike Richardson, Powell is unreservedly upbeat about his subject, finding London in a "confident and expansive mood", in which even commercial developers and local authority planners have swallowed their fear that the public might recoil in horror from dynamic modern architecture. He dubs the whole contemporary architectural scene in London a renaissance.