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From a Cause to a Style: Modernist Architecture's Encounter with the American City

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ISBN-13: 978-0691129570
ISBN-10: 0691129576
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Editorial Reviews


"The greatest pleasure of From a Cause to a Style lies simply in listening to Glazer think as he walks us about his native New York, with occasional diversions to other locals like Boston or the Washington Mall. His intelligence fairly radiates from the page, and his prose is a pleasure to read--clear, supple and frequently droll."--Kevin Baker, New York Times Book Review

"A new, wonderful collection of essays. . . . Mr. Glazer's analysis elegantly weaves aesthetics, political science, and intellectual history together. . . . [This] superb book explores an important aesthetic movement, but it is also a warning against delegating public control over construction to artistic elites. . . . Mr. Glazer has made his case well."--Edward Glaeser, New York Sun

"Glazer credits the modernist generation for their interest 'in good sanitary housing, in green space, in access to air and light, in more living space'--in creating a livable city. They often failed to see how their plans would intersect with, or crash into, reality, but at least they were engaged."--Christopher Shea, Boston Globe

"In From a Cause to a Style, sociologist Nathan Glazer laments the loss of the idealism and zeal that designers possessed in the post-war period."--John Norquist, Cities on a Hill

"Where urban architecture is concerned, seldom has there been so perceptive a watcher as Nathan Glazer. . . . A wise and humane book, From a Cause to a Style exudes the authority that comes from a lifetime's mature consideration of its subject."--Michael J. Lewis, Commentary

"From a Cause to a Style collects [Glazer's] intriguing--and accessible--essays on urban architecture and public space."--Fred Siegel, City Journal

"Nathan Glazer, the eminent American sociologist, discusses the conflict between Prince Charles and [modernist] architects in his remarkable new book, From a Cause to a Style: Modernist Architecture's Encounter with the American City."--Robert Fulford, National Post

"Nathan Glazer isn't afraid of a little controversy. In From a Cause to a Style he deftly argues that the modernist architectural movement was a civic disaster. Modernism began as a call for functional buildings and essential public spaces shorn of unnecessary ornament, but wound up as 'soulless, bureaucratic and inhuman.' Glazer challenges the next generation of architects, planners and designers to learn from history's mistakes."--TBJ Home (Chinese English-language magazine)

"Glazer...has many useful and intelligent thoughts to offer.... [H]ere is literacy of a high order, writing which by force of style alone nearly convinces."--David Dunster, Architectural Review

"Written in an appealing and clear style, this book is a most necessary reading for anyone interested in both a deep and broad understanding of modernism, and the controversial forms it takes in the city."--Julia Nevárez, Architectural Science Review

"What is good? What is true? What is beautiful? From a Cause to a Style clears at least some of the intellectual space needed for a larger reconsideration of these questions. It deserves a wide reading."--Phillip Bess, Society

From the Back Cover

"I have learned profoundly from Nathan Glazer's cultural perspectives and deep insights, engaging the extraordinary and the ordinary. From a Cause to a Style is a work I consider most relevant and significant for our time via its all-encompassing range and its richness of detail involving multiple urban, architectural, technical, and social issues-recent, current, and future."--Robert Venturi, architect and author

"This collection is a reminder that in addition to being an urban sociologist, an astute commentator on social issues, and a public intellectual, Nathan Glazer is an insightful and provocative architecture critic."--Witold Rybczynski, author of Home: A Short History of an Idea

"Nathan Glazer stands in the grand but fragile American tradition of the humanist architectural critic. He is also one of our great complexifiers. Whether he is writing about cities, streets, public spaces, or particular buildings, he notices things that seem to escape the attention of the professional--though not always of the general public. To read him is to become aware of one's own architectural experience, and to begin thinking hard about how it might be improved."--Mark Lilla, University of Chicago

"This is a remarkable collection of essays that only Nathan Glazer could write. It sums up and partly explains the inability of contemporary architecture to deal with the problems of modern urbanism and to address many practical issues of building. As Glazer points out, an architectural tradition that identified itself by its capacity to focus the issues of functionalism has ended up by almost totally ignoring them."--Robert Gutman, Lecturer in Architecture, Princeton University


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press (March 12, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691129576
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691129570
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 5.8 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #185,958 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Matthew Milliner on May 26, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
(A version of this review first appeared in the March 2009 issue of The Christian Century.)

The divorce of contemporary architecture from human need is explored at length by Harvard sociologist Nathan Glazer in this perfectly titled book. In 11 essays unified by a clear message, Glazer recounts how Modernism went from a world-saving mission to one among several furniture options on an IKEA showroom floor. The book's power comes from Glazer's position as a high-profile urban consultant for the past 50 years. He has been a witness to the literal demolition of Modernism's accomplishments.

A commonly cited end point for Modernism is 1972, when World Trade Center architect Minoru Yamasaki's Pruitt-Igoe apartments in St. Louis, despite being the subject of a prestigious architectural award, were intentionally destroyed. Glazer was on the committee that made the decision. "I had shared that optimism and modernist faith," he declares. But Glazer is a Modernist who has been mugged by reality.

Glazer provides some frightening examples of how Modernism's faith in the future burned all bridges to the past. Lewis Mumford, the most prominent American urban theorist of the mid-20th century, even considered the Lincoln Memorial a part of the old order that needed to be overturned. Monuments in general, for Mumford, "are all the hollow echoes of an expiring breath ... which either curb and confine the works of the living, like the New York Public Library, or are completely irrelevant to our beliefs and demands."

Such radicalism was justified as necessary to defend the ordinary citizen.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Jamie Cannon on October 25, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Nathan Glazer's book, "From A Cause To A Style" is a must read if you want to know where modern architecture has gone, especially in the residential field. In very clear terms and with excellent examples, the reader learns to some degree just how dumbed down we have become regarding architecture and the arts. The Star architects now do museums and entertainment palaces. They do not do housing like they used to primarily because the public has rejected what they did. Glazer sets this all down with both clarity and precision and if you would understand why the developer demolished the perfectly adequate house next door and built a house capable of becoming a fancy servants quarters for the Queen of England, this is whare you find that out. Every architect should own and read this book.
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By Ko Wibowo on February 7, 2015
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Although the book touches the issue of style in modern architecture's place in our society, there is no in depth analysis as I expected. Understandably so since it is a compilation of essays but the title misled the original enthusiasm.
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