A Book Re-view in the Form of a Renga Cycle

Sarah Robinson’s Architecture is a Verb

Written and curated by Dr. Jon Sakata, Friends of the Library Summer Faculty Fellow
Book cover of Architecture is a Verb.

I was introduced to the Italian-based architect, Sarah Robinson, through a dear mutual friend and artistic muse, the Boston-based painter, Deborah Barlow. Soon the three of us would be involved as contributing panelists (together with a stellar array of fellow artists, curators, art historians, critics and philosophers) in an online symposium, Thingly Affinities: Rethinking Aesthetic Form for a Posthumanist Future, organized by the artist-writer-curator, Taney Roniger, which took place December 4-13, 2020. The conference involved an ongoing dialogue through threads of written commentary by the symposium panelists on richly thoughtful and provocative prompts by Roniger. A highlight of Thingly Affinities was an opportunity for all the panelists to have a group zoom dialogue with Robinson on her new book, Architecture is a Verb (Routledge, 2021).

Both Barlow and Roniger would thereafter respectively pen two profoundly beautiful, richly considered and cast reviews of the book; and long story made short, an invitation of my writing a review of Architecture is a Verb emerged, to my delight. Retiring Academy Librarian, Gail Scanlon, and Associate Director of the Library, Beth Rohloff, kindly provided this blog as a platform to publish the review as part of my Friends of the Library Summer Faculty Fellowship. While the fellowship supported preparations for this fall’s transformative Class of 1945 Library 50th anniversary celebration; it also allowed me the time to develop the scope and process of this review.

For an extended period, I intended to provide a prose overview of the book’s rich array of interventions, concepts, perceptions, cares. I was very attracted to Robinson’s exploration of how deep embodiment and attunement to the vast range of planetary non-human and human ways of living, comingling, co-evolving – interweaving diverse forms of interaction, situatedness and dialogic growth – can nurture practices architectural and well beyond. During my cycles of (re-)reading Architecture is a Verb, I found particular resonance with one of Robinson’s focal concentrations: the value, beauty, vein of smallness. Born from this, instead of writing a review (alone) concerning the book’s entirety, I began to entreat the idea of inviting my students – as well as some colleagues and friends from the Academy and beyond – to consider collaborating on an unusual form of re-viewing the book: to take a short excerpt of the whole and co-create a fifty-fold cycle of tankas to form a renga collection based on this small but nutrient-rich ‘plot of land’ in the book’s total acreage. In the symposium conversation on her book, Robinson emphasized that she hoped her book serve as a toolbox for readers to carry forward their own projects and practices. I have taken this hope to heart to both share this multiplicary re-view here as well as contribute to the celebratory exhibition, SYN, as a collective poetic garland that now lines Floor 2M of the Class of 1945 Library’s Rockefeller Hall atrium. My gratitude in the multiple to each and all the students, colleagues and friends who have brought this cycle to fruit and fruition, as well as to Gail Scanlon and Beth Rohloff for both the physical and virtual platform to share it now with a wider public.


Student authors with their Renga poems on display.

1,550: A fifty-fold celebratory renga cycle (2021) by Academy students and employees + guest architects and artists

1,550 is a co-created collection of tankas – five lines of 5-7-5-7-7 sound units or syllables, where the initial three lines of 5-7-5 were created by each invited collaborator and Jon Sakata then responded with a unique 7-7 couplet – forming a celebratory fifty-fold renga cycle. The prompt given to collaborators was to read a two-paragraph excerpt from a chapter in Robinson’s book entitled, “Extended Organisms— Surrogate Bodies”, and then, turning their reflection upon the Class of 1945 Library.

Photo captions: Student authors with their Renga poems on display.

About the Author: Dr. Jon Sakata is an Instructor of Music at Phillips Exeter Academy and Concert Musician and Transdisciplinary Artist. Dr. Sakata served as a Friends of the Library Summer Faculty Fellow in 2021.

Winter Break

The Library will be closed during winter break Thursday December 23rd through January 2nd. We will reopen on Monday January 3rd 8:00am – 4:00pm and then resume our regular winter term hours on Tuesday January 4th.

Didn’t come before close to get something to read? Not to worry. Check out our ebook and audiobook offerings on Sora and our digital magazines on Flipster.

NOTE: Please note that at this time only those with a PEA ID card can access the building. The next possible opportunity for architectural visits will be during the March 2022 break. Please refer to our Library Visitor Policy for more information.

1619 Arrival Traveling Exhibit

A six-banner traveling exhibition from the Hampton History Museum

During the month of October, the Class of 1945 Library is hosting a six-banner traveling exhibition from the Hampton History Museum in Hampton, Virginia. In commemoration of the 1619 arrival of the first Africans in English North American, “this exhibit tells the story of the Africans’ home in Angola, how they came to be enslaved aboard a Spanish slave shop San Juan Bautista, the terrible 10,000 nautical mile voyage that brought them to Virginia, and their lives on the farms and plantations in the new colony.”

Source: Hampton History Museum

The panel exhibit along with a related book display will be on view in the Library’s Rockefeller Hall from October 1st through November 4th, 2021.  The Library is a card-access building open to the PEA community.

For information about the exhibit, the books on display, and additional resources please visit: 1619 Arrival Exhibit.