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Looking Around: A Journey Through Architecture Hardcover – November 1, 1992

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Viking Adult; First Edition edition (November 1, 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0002157934
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670844210
  • ASIN: 0670844217
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 7 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,187,388 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

With catholic taste, McGill University professor of architecture Rybczynski admires Michael Graves's post-modernist Portland Building in Oregon, Swedish artist Carl Larsson's modified log cabin and the New York Public Library, "built for the ages." Readers of his books Home and The Most Beautiful House in the World will enjoy this collection of previously published articles and essays. Rybczynski touts the advantages of smaller houses and links the revival of traditional house forms to a longing for the bourgeois ideals of stability and domesticity. With his usual grace, wit and lucidity, he writes about the quest for a regional California architectural style, about high tech as a "mass-market fashion," about airports, about Palladio's 15th century Italian villas and about art museum design and suburban sprawl. In one essay he interprets the decade 1910-1919 as a period of disorientation that ushered in modernism. As for the 1990s, Rybczynski sees no end to the profession's self-indulgence, as architects shirk their responsibilities to community and society.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Rybczynski is an architectural critic whose interests and resulting essays roam far from the specific building(s) he is enjoying. These critiques employ a gentle, even relaxed prose that allows readers to share Rybczynski's aesthetic connections and his expansions on the role of building styles in our constructed world. The book contains 35 brief pieces divided into three sections: "Homes and Houses," "Special Places," and "The Art of Building." Rybczynski takes us from the demise of the parlour (is the living room next?), to the Nixon Library, to the future of Chicago architecture. By wandering confidently through a broad anthropological as well as architectural landscape, the author is able to unite a wide range of design details into insightful analysis. This work is recommended for both academic and public libraries.
- David Bryant, Belleville P.L., N.J.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.

More About the Author

Witold Rybczynski has written about architecture and urbanism for The New York Times, Time, The Atlantic, and The New Yorker. He is the author of the critically-acclaimed book Home and the award-winning A Clearing in the Distance. His latest book is The Biography of a Building. The recipient of the National Building Museum's 2007 Vincent Scully Prize, he lives with his wife in Philadelphia, where he is emeritus professor of architecture at the University of Pennsylvania.
Read his blog at

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

25 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Owen Hughes on April 6, 2000
Format: Paperback
Here is an unusual book: Witold Rybczynski takes us wandering through the professional byways of a subject usually reserved for a more intellectual readership, if such a thing exists. Why architecture is important and what makes it so is the subject matter here, brought to us by a very competent writer. Delightfully so, in fact, as Rybczynski has the storyteller's ability to weft and weave.
The stories he has chosen here are a mixed bunch and we are asked to think about such diverse constructions as the American bungalow, the Grow Home and public buildings like the Canadian Centre for Architecture. He has stories to tell about all of them, the people who live in or use them and the odd trends which are sometimes responsible for a particular design. As he points out, although we use architecture every day of our lives and are clearly affected by it (whether we know it or not), we are more than prone to take it for granted. Should we not be more aware of what's around us, in general? This book offers up some thoughtful ideas on the subject.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Charles S. Houser VINE VOICE on July 1, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I am a big fan of architecture critic Witold Rybczynski. If you haven't read his books HOME, or WAITING FOR THE WEEKEND, or CITY LIFE, this book is a good way to get familiar with many of the themes he has addressed time and again over his long and prolific career (e.g., the place of houses in people's lives, living smaller, the role of architects, the legacy of modernism, the place and meaning of ornament, the intrusion of fashion into the world of architecture, and the importance of the Vitruvian values of commodity, firmness and beauty in identifying "good" architecture). Many of these pieces were previously published in magazines and journals. Some are more thoughtful, well-researched, and even polemical; others read like Sunday magazine fluff pieces (not too many of these, though). Like many of Rybczynski's books, there are no illustrations. If you're like me, you'll find youself going to the Internet often to get images of some of the buildings, places, and people he mentions. It slows down the reading, but is necessary, it seems, to get the full impact of what Rybczynski is saying.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Terri J. Rice TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on June 28, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Planning on building a house, I was especially interested in Rybczynski's thoughts and insights about homes and what they should look like. From the start I was captivated. Wanting to be sleek and modern, I thought an architect would quickly confirm my ideas. Instead, at the start of the book Rybczynski, with reasoning, brings the reader back to the traditional home and approves of it; and makes me want to build one... and live in a lovely little neighborhood.
He moves beyond the house and Looking Around takes us into the cities and towns to look at public buildings like art museums. The history and progression that he packs into this book is very insightful.

He says, "I am not arguing for a historical style as much as for a historical attitude- deja-vu, as opposed to avant-garde. An awareness of history- of the successes and failures of the past should inform architectural design to a greater degree than it now does."
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By NoVAReader on July 2, 2009
Format: Paperback
If there is a theme to this book, it's "Pay Attention." Rybczynski encourages us to look around as we go around. He wants us to look at the buildings and look at our houses. It's so easy to walk the streets of our cities and towns and never even notice the buildings. He wants us to understand what makes some places special (or not). He wants us to see the art in the architecture. Rybczynski has written more than fifteen books and countless articles on architecture. He is an architect himself and has learned to look around.

This book is very approachable for those of us outside of the architecture intelligentsia. He references many examples to describe the historical context and impact of buildings. Many of the buildings he describes are famous enough to be familiar to most people and many are not so famous. He encourages us to think about our own houses, the architecture we've chosen as the setting for our lives. For example, do you live in a "period" home or one that has been made to look like a period home? Victorian? Modern? Postmodern? This book will be a lot of help as you set off to think about your surroundings. BTW, I found it very helpful to have Google Images close at hand so that I to look up the buildings and homes as I read about them. If you're really new to architecture, you might also want to read the great little primer, ABC of Architecture, by James F. O'Gorman.
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