- Editors' Fall Picks for 2021, Library Journal
An account of the life and work of the architect Minoru Yamasaki that leads the author to consider how (and for whom) architectural history is written.
Sandfuture is a book about the life of the architect Minoru Yamasaki (1912–1986), who remains on the margins of history despite the enormous influence of his work on American architecture and society. That Yamasaki's most famous projects—the Pruitt-Igoe apartments in St. Louis and the original World Trade Center in New York—were both destroyed on national television, thirty years apart, makes his relative obscurity all the more remarkable.
Sandfuture is also a book about an artist interrogating art and architecture's role in culture as New York changes drastically after a decade bracketed by terrorism and natural disaster. From the central thread of Yamasaki's life, Sandfuture spirals outward to include reflections on a wide range of subjects, from the figure of the architect in literature and film and transformations in the contemporary art market to the perils of sick buildings and the broader social and political implications of how, and for whom, cities are built. The result is at once sophisticated in its understanding of material culture and novelistic in its telling of a good story.
“With Sandfuture Justin Beal has created a daring literary construct: a hybrid biography of Minoru Yamasaki, architect of the World Trade Center, and a comedy of manners featuring the author himself, as an artist and family man caught within the complexities of New York. The alternation between the genuinely tragic blows in Yamasaki's twentieth-century life and the more subtle reversals of fortune in the narrator's life in the present starkly illuminate both.”
Rem Koolhaas, Professor in Practice of Architecture and Urban Design, Graduate School of Design, Harvard University, Founder, OMA, Rotterdam
“Sandfuture is many things, but above all it is a brilliant and original exploration of how our culture responds to ill health. From maintenance materials in an art gallery to the most epic monuments of modernity, sickness can afflict anything. Our city, or in Beal's case New York City, seems to be the best thing we have invented to cure us, and Sandfuture shows us how. I couldn't think of a better book to roll off the MIT Press right now. It is important.”
Tom Emerson, Professor of Architecture and Dean, D-Arch, ETH Zurich, Director, 6a architects, London
“I am convinced that Sandfuture will be widely recognized as a unique achievement in autobiography, architectural studies, and non-fiction more broadly conceived.”
Richard Meyer, Robert and Ruth Halperin Professor in Art History, Stanford University
“Employing a montage style of writing, cutting, like a filmmaker, between times, places, and subjects, Sandfuture has a novelistic character that keeps the reader in suspense, creating not just a page-turner but a long overdue, compelling, intelligent, and accessible form of writing in architecture.”
Cynthia Davidson, Editor and Founder, Log
“This is a personable, erudite memoir that ambles through a series of theoretical and historical musings linked to the author's emotional, intellectual and practical engagement with New York City”
"Sandfuture […] tackles architectural history's canon directly. And it does so with the kind of brio and panache that seems absent from architectural writing these days."
The Architects Newspaper
“It is not like any other book on architecture I have read. And that is a very good thing [...] Beal has written a brilliant, often surprisingly personal, book that works as metaphor and, perhaps, as portent.”
Edwin Heathcote, FT
“Beal is sympathetic, describing the Japanese-American architect's battles with prejudice, pointing out the qualities of the many fine buildings he created across America, and bringing alive the ironies and tragedies of his career. […] His book is an unusual collage of narratives, but it provides rare insight into the making and experience of architecture."
Rowan Moore, The Observer