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Down Detour Road: An Architect in Search of Practice

11 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0262014618
ISBN-10: 0262014610
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Editorial Reviews


"This down-to-earth critique of the profession is important for the future of architecture . . ." - Charles Holland, RIBA Journal

This book is highly unusual for an architecture opus: it is well written, it is funny, and it is wise in so many ways. I literally 'couldn't put it down,' as the old book review-saw goes, and read it in one sitting...Cesal finds useful parables for architects and their predicament in the most unusual places: the relationship of bartenders to bar owners, how prostitutes are and are not like architects, and how a good architect is like a fire extinguisher...Cesal offers a unique, refreshing take on the profession.

(Michael Crosbie Architectural Record)

Down Detour Road is an essential roadmap to the present architectural scene and the challenges that it faces. With a tragicomic eye, Eric Cesal exposes the hubris that has led so much architectural education and practice into an impotent cul-de-sac, and succinctly presents a pragmatic and hopeful way out.

(Jeremy Till, Dean of the School of Architecture and the Built Environment, University of Westminster, and author of Architecture Depends)

This manifesto-memoir comes none too soon to rescue Architecture from the trash bin of postmodernism. Lucid, intelligent, and visionary, this small book is destined to become a guide for 21st century architects. Cesal reconnects his profession to the humanities from which it is becoming estranged, and to the economy, culture, and technology of an America radically different from the one built by previous generations. This tract cuts the knot of the confounding jumble all humanities and academic disciplines face, with the swift blade of an Emerson or de Tocqueville. And let me tell you: a real human being wrote this, he breathes warmly from every page.

(Andrei Codrescu, author of The Poetry Lesson)

About the Author

Eric J. Cesal holds master's degrees in business administration, construction management, and architecture from Washington University in St. Louis. He is now living in Port-au-Prince, managing and coordinating Architecture for Humanity's design and reconstruction initiatives in Haiti.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: The MIT Press (August 6, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0262014610
  • ISBN-13: 978-0262014618
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.4 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #821,446 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Eric Cesal totally just wrote a book. He didn't mean to. It just sorta came out. And now its on Amazon so you should buy it. He will sign a copy for you just as soon as he gets back from Haiti, assuming that he does come back. Or you could come down to Haiti. I could really use some help down here.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Jeremiah Johnson on September 18, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I just finished reading Down Detour Road by Eric J. Cesal, literally moments ago. I can say, without trepidation, that this was the single best book I've ever read about the profession of architecture. I had no doubt that I would like it from the start.

I came across the book completely by chance. I was wandering the shelves at the local national-chain bookstore and, as I often do, came upon their steadily shrinking selection of architecture books. Having perused most of the titles in the past, it didn't take me long to spot the handful of new titles that had arrived since my last visit. Among them was Down Detour Road. I spent a few minutes reading the introduction. Here in my hand was this book that immediately struck me. The author was writing about issues that plague my mind. It makes sense. He graduated from architecture school five months before I did, so he was stumbling through the same economic minefield as I was. He was also older than the average architecture graduate, much like myself. I felt I had found a kindred spirit. It seemed the book held a world of possibility. So naturally I put it back on the shelf and walked away. I don't have a job, nor the steady supply of money that comes from such an endeavor. So I waited until I got home to order it online.

The book does a wonderful job of explaining how the economic crisis happened, how it affected architecture, and how it highlighted a litany of problems that already existed. From the rubble it works to help refocus what it is to be an architect and how we might empower the role of architecture for the good of the profession. With a wonderful combination of comedy, tragedy, and personal anecdote, this book gives a direction for the role of architecture without suggesting it's form or aesthetics.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Jack E. Andersen on November 14, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Every architect should be required to read this book; when our industry recovers (and it will although not next year but by the mid-decade), things will be different - very different. This book examines why things must change if the profession of architecture is to survive. We can only do this by offering value and worth to our clients, our communities and society as a whole; then and only then will we be compensated and rewarded for our dedication, efforts, redeeming qualities, abilities, training and talents.

Jack E. Andersen, AIA
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17 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Randall S. Deutsch on October 10, 2010
Format: Paperback
The consensus: This may well be the best book by and for architects ever written. And (to my wife's chagrin) I own and have read them all.

Who should read this book: Out of work architects. Architects thinking of leaving the profession. Architects who have left the profession but want back in. Former architects who have left the profession for good but on deep, dark nights lie sleepless in bed wondering if they made a wise choice. Neighbors of out of work architects who wonder why they wear a tie when taking the dog out for a walk. Anyone who has ever had to wear a tie. Katherine Darnstadt would like this book. Parents who find their recent grads living once again under their roof. Or in their tent. Employers. Architect's spouses, friends, relatives and roommates. Architects who think they might have a story to tell but question whether anyone will care to listen. Architects who are considering doing a tour of duty helping the world in some selfless way while they wait out the Great Wake. Architects who think they may be the next to be let go. Architects who sometimes wish they were the next to be let go. Architects who read architecture blog posts in hopes of finding someone who deeply, passionately understands their situation. Architects.

Why you should get it: This book speaks to you where you hurt. Cesal is wise beyond his 31 years (33 today) and whip smart. He knows what matters and he (and no doubts his talented editors) cut to the chase.

Why you should get it now: The sooner you read it, the sooner we'll all be out of this mess; the sooner you'll decide to stick it out in architecture; the sooner you'll find a place for yourself in this new world.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Schinkel on February 2, 2011
Format: Paperback
As the cigarette smoke, the stench of stale champagne and perfume clears and all those monographs of parametrically generated pavillions in the form of flying Prada handbags slowly find their ways into the bargin bins at Barnes and Noble, this wise little book comes onto architecture's scene with the freshness of the young girl's face at the end of Fellini's La Dolce Vita. Will the profession wake from its casting-show-torper and narcissistic navel-gazing long enough to take notice? Let's hope so! Cesal's message? Like Forster's: "Only connect!" He suggests, in a provocative 225 pages, how we as a profession might begin again to become relevant in that significant part of the world that takes place outside of our own glossy magazines. Recommended reading for my studio students this year.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By michael on January 30, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Down Detour road is an amazing and exact book for Architect who still care about the profession of architecture. Not only is this book a well written tent revival for today's practicing architect, it outlines solutions for a better way. However, I'm afraid that most architects are to jaded and entrenched to be healed by this book. But i still challenge everyone who has a finger in the design profession of architecture to read it. This book might just save you from the traps that are intrenched in today's profession of architecture.
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