If you are a true fan of architecture, specifically the radicalism of California at the turn of the 20th century, this book is one of the bibles. McCoy lived and breathed architecture, and she brought a very warm, humanistic perspective to her writing. From her years working with John Entenza at the ground-breaking California "Arts and Architecture" and the Los Angeles Times "Home" magazine, McCoy established herself as the spokesperson for several generations of architectural pioneers. Like Julius Shulman in her documentation of the past and (then) present architectural landscape, McCoy's work is inspiring. This volume (which was later followed by the excellent "Second Generation") covers Bernard Maybeck, Greene and Greene, Irving Gill, and R. M. Schindler. Each essay, complete with ample b/w photos, covers the careers and lives of these distinctly unique architects. In particular the work of Schindler, whom McCoy worked with as a drafting assistant for many years, McCoy shows the very human, personal side of this often confounding genius. I'm really probably just preaching to the choir here though... you should own this one.
"Five California Architects" is a good introduction to the works and lives of the architects profiled (The Greene brothers, Irving Gill, Bernard Maybeck and R.M. Schindler). The book consists of biographical essays on each architect (the Greenes are handled together) and various photos and sketches of buildings they each designed.
This book is more like five little books; one for each individual architect. There is little attempt to provide any linkages between them (although some links are so obvious that the style of treatment reveals them none the less); and little attempt to provide context. The style of writing is heavy on anecdote. "Five California Architects" gives the reader a good sense of the kind of men these architects were, but less of a sense of the position they occupied in the development of modern architecture.
Despite its short comings, this book is a must have for those interested in the development of modernist architecture in California, and I would recommend it to all those interested in the subject.
In addition to On The Edge of The World and Towards A Simpler Way of Life, this is a great book to have if you are looking for biographies of California architects. The book also features some nice close-up photos of architectural details.
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The only bad experience I have had was with the purchase from a vendor of the book, Five California Architects. The owner mentioned only a slight mar on the cover. What was not mentioned were pencil markings throughout the text. The pencil appeared to be one with a hard lead because the indentations on the pages were deep. These markings acted as disruptions in the content and ruined its reading for me. I ended up tossing the book. I did make note of the vendor, though, and won't ever order anything from that individual again.