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How Architecture Works: A Humanist's Toolkit Hardcover – October 8, 2013
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Top Customer Reviews
To be honest, the book does not have a strong narrative line, which is usually a major drawback for me. But the author wisely organizes his story around architectural considerations, which roughly follow a project from beginning to completion. Chapter titles are Ideas, The Setting, Site, Plan, Structure, Skin, Details, Style, The Past and Taste.
Each chapter offers numerous real world examples of the author's point, and almost all are supported with black and white photographs, which occur every 2-3 pages. (This refers to the hard cover print edition.)
For the most part his observations are appreciative. Rybczynski's observations on the buildings discussed are informative and insightful. I feel I learned a lot about a topic that has always interested me, but which has seemed too complex for a layman like myself to penetrate.
I highly recommend this, and would say the same for another book by the same author A Clearing In The Distance: Frederick Law Olmsted and America in the 19th Century , his biography about the man who designed New York City's Central Park.
This is the seventeenth and most recent (at the time of this writing) of Witold Rybczynski's books on my bookshelf. Each has offered a different, and useful, perspective on architecture.
"How Architecture Works: A Humanist's Toolkit is an extended love letter to the world of architecture and some of its notable examples of built architecture. The love is objective, as he observes in the introduction that "the rationalizations of architects are usually unreliable, intended to persuade others rather than to explain." Explaining is one of the author's notable strengths. The book touches on his professional education and tells about the design of houses, skyscrapers, bridges, public buildings, their illustrious architects, and some personal architecture. All this is written with rare grace and intellect. One learns how some famous buildings succeed and others fail, and why. When faced with a siting conflict between orientation and sun, the author designed a house of angled sides, one toward a road and the other toward the sun.
I recommend the book for anyone with an interest in architecture and building design. Home planners and buyers can find numerous tips and insights to help achieve the best possible outcome to their search. Quibbles are few. I seem to recall that architect Jeremiah Eck, referenced in the text, wrote "The Distinctive Home," not the `Distinctive House,' but books are sometimes printed with more than one title. I read "How Architecture Works" from the viewpoint of a non-architect and found that I had gained a deeper appreciation of the challenges and vibrancy of good architectural design. Highly recommended.
In my first architectural history class, each student was given a brick along with an assignment to live with it for a week. This meant never letting it out of your sight and drawing it as much as possible. The goal was to personalize it and understand its essence. (Six residences later, my brick lives on my front porch.) All architects graduate with experiences that fundamentally shape how we understand architecture and materials that make our work more than just the sum of its parts. In How Architecture Works, Witold Rybczynski has created an educational journey for us, breaking down the elements of architecture to create a framework for the reader to build an understanding of how to see and feel things similar to how architects approach their work. It is both a toolkit for the reader and an author’s journey to uncover a topic that cannot be conveyed in words only.
The book is loosely grouped into Fundamentals, Craft, and a philosophical discussion of style, history, and taste. As with my brick assignment, architecture is presented as an assemblage of elements, each with its own meaning, function, and spirit. Rybczynski delights in considering how architects bring these pieces and their permutations together. His approach was likely influenced by the freshman seminar class he taught at the University of Pennsylvania. A reader not familiar with the many building references may do well to keep Google handy. Still, the writing is approachable, so much so that I felt I was having a beer with my professor and hearing all the back stories.
How Architecture Works is a contemporary response to Steen Eiler Rasmussen’s Experiencing Architecture, a book the author studied during his own education.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Good ! It helps me make principles and concepts of architecture clear.Published 8 months ago by Yep
Maybe the author, Witold Rybczynski, should have concentrated on how books work more. The first chapter does grab you but after that he loses the plot and becomes so repetitive. Read morePublished 10 months ago by Brian Maitland
Personal observations enlightening anyone interested in architecturePublished 18 months ago by John Morris Dixon
On architecture for the layperson, there is none better than Rybczynski. He analyzes architecture in a way that encourages further study. Read morePublished 23 months ago by azur
the evenhandedness, clarity, and organization of the material demonstrates the author's intent; explaining how architecture works and how we can evaluate it. ,Published on January 30, 2014 by Stephen J. Joncus, Sr.