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The Look of Architectureby Witold Rybczynski
Synopses & Reviews
What is style in architecture? "Style is like a feather in a woman's hat, nothing more," said Le Corbusier, expressing most modern architects' low regard for the subject. But Witold Rybczynski disagrees, and in The Look of Architecture, he makes a compelling case for the importance of style to the mother of the arts.
This is a book brimming with sharp observations — that form does not follow function; that the best architecture is not timeless but precisely of its time; that details do not merely complement the architecture — details are the architecture. But the heart of the book illuminates the connection between architecture, interior decoration, and fashion. Style is the language of architecture, Rybczynski writes, and fashion represents the wide and swirling cultural currents that shape and direct that language. The two — style and fashion — are intimately linked; indeed, architecture cannot escape fashion. To set these ideas in sharp relief, he shows us how style and fashion have been expressed in the work of major architects including Frank Gehry, Mies van der Rohe, Charles McKim, Allan Greenberg, Robert Venturi, Enrique Norten, and many others. He helps us see their works anew and ultimately to look afresh at our surroundings. Style is one of the enduring — and endearing — aspects of architecture, Rybczynski concludes. Furthermore, an architecture that recognizes the importance of style would not be as introspective and self-referential as are so many contemporary buildings. It would be part of the world: Not architecture for architects, but for the rest of us.
"With his refusal to hide behind the jargon and hype endemic to the profession, and his ability to puncture its pretensions without mean-spiritedness, Rybczynski...has become a leading writer on architecture....The author's deeply informed enthusiasm is infectious, and his removal of architectural writing from an airily theoretical discourse to the realm of practical experience is empowering for the lay reader. We all have to live in buildings, after all." Publishers Weekly
"As always, Rybczynski has an eye for the telling detail and an ear for the felicitous phrase." Eric P. Nash, New York Times Book Review
"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." The Boston Globe
About the Author
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 Philadelphia.
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