The Look of Architecture

The Look of Architecture

3.87 (189 ratings by Goodreads)
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Witold Rybczynski begins his book by stating that most architects deny that they fit into any stylistic form. We cannont, however, separate Frank Lloyd Wright from his hat and cape, or Le Corbusier from his heavy round glasses. Similarly, buildings present a public face that do not always betray their function. In this essay, he takes a short tour of modern architecture and talks about what style in architecture means. Rybczynski shows how style in clothing and architecture are related, and discusses why style became a taboo subject in the 20th-century. With descriptions of particular buildings, he examines the work of brilliant architects including Mies van der Rohe, Robert Venturi, and Frank Gehry, illustrating his argument that contrary to modernist dogma, form does not follow function. Rybczynski leaves the reader with a fresh way of looking at more

Product details

  • Hardback | 144 pages
  • 131.8 x 185.9 x 17.3mm | 268.73g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • 10 line figures
  • 0195134435
  • 9780195134438

Review Text

Playing to one of his strengths, Rybczynski ("One Good Turn", 2000, etc.) takes a seemingly whimsical topic-the role of fashion in architecture-and lightly teases from it some discomfiting truths. Discomfiting, that is, for those architects-count them in legions-who bridle at the suggestion they might work in a style. But for Rybczynski it is plain as day that, of the three elements of architecture (function, durability, and delight), style has much to do with the last. "Architectural style is the manner in which the architect communicates a particular kind of visual delight." Furthermore, "if style is the language of architecture, fashion represents the wide-and swirling-cultural currents that shape and direct that language." (Then, devilishly, if not convincingly, "If the relationship between dress and decor is intimate . . . there is no doubt that dress comes first.") This short work is the result of a series of lectures delivered at the New York Public Library, and the author makes good use of the materials at hand-the library itself, the famous series of buildings along the 40th Street side, the infamous bunch along 42nd Street, and a few nearby structures-not only to display his sharp use of imagery (as in the "medieval verticality" of the RCA building or Raymond Hood's black-and-gold Radiator Building glowing like hot coals) but to chart the rise and fall of styles-along with representative architects. Like his colleagues, Rybczynski doesn't like confinement either, and he happily spins off to explore notions of absorbing and extending traditions, the importance of expressive detailing, and the folly of categorization (as architects "instinctively understand that the history of architecture-including the present-is a continuity rather than a series of episodes"). A good demonstration that clothes make the mansion, as well as the man. (Kirkus Reviews)show more

About Witold Rybczynski

Witold Rybczynski is one of America's best known writers on architecture, the author of the bestselling One Good Turn: A Natural History of the Screwdriver and the Screw, Home, Waiting for the Weekend, The Most Beautiful House in the World, and A Clearing in the Distance. He has also written on architecture for The New York Times, The New Yorker, Time, and The New York Review of Books. The Martin and Margy Meyerson Professor of Urbanism at the University of Pennsylvania, he lives in more

Review quote

"Rybczyniski takes a seemingly whimsical topic--the role of fashion in architecture--and lightly teases from it some discomfiting truths."--Kirkus (starred review)"A thoughtful and thought-provoking look at how buildings reflect the desires of their age."--Boston Globe"In his absorbing and accessible book-length essay on the relationship between fashion and building design...Rybczynski argues eloquently that, as in fashion, a building's form is molded by the tastes of its age."--One: Design Mattersshow more

Rating details

189 ratings
3.87 out of 5 stars
5 28% (52)
4 40% (75)
3 26% (50)
2 6% (11)
1 1% (1)
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