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The Architect Who Couldn't Sing Paperback – November 22, 2011
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Top Customer Reviews
Attracted by the themes of this novel, and expecting an intellectually stimulating read, I was pleasantly surprised to find myself quickly absorbed by a lushly detailed love story, and then a thriller of heroic moral proportions. The plot employs history, mystery and two romances. It overlays timeless yearning for family ties with a fresh professional sense of purpose.
One of the romances occurs in the past; it prompts the story. The narrator, Charlie, has lived with his grandmother in North Carolina ever since his mother drowned when he was a year old. On his 18th birthday, he learns that he has a living father who only learned about him. Charles Robert has sent Charlie a letter inviting him to his home on Bainbridge Island, in Puget Sound. Having no other plans, Charlie ventures into a new life hosted by his mother's wartime lover, a veteran of Vietnam, now an architect known as Charles McCormick, or "C.M.". Hiding from authorities for his role in an attack on a napalm plant, C.M. has built an extraordinary structure for a fish camp. The other household members are the fishing guide, Gus, and his wife Louise, who keep the camp going, and Maggie, the daughter of C.M.'s deceased friend who owned the camp and supported the noble experiment in architecture.
The visual beauty of the novel's setting is palpable as Charlie is introduced to the wilderness of trees and water and boulders; to the aesthetics and purpose of architecture; and to Maggie, expert in her environment but a risk-taking activist. The tension mounts when Charlie is challenged to present his father's revolutionary ideas at a competition.Read more ›
The narrative illuminates the role of architecture in humanity's need to co-exist with the natural beauty of the world and protect its diverse species, but Alt weaves that theme into his plot so deftly that the reader absorbs it tangentially while riveted to a classic love story. It is an original take on that perennial favorite, "boy meets girl, falls in love with girl, and must sacrifice girl because of circumstances beyond his control." You'll have to read the book, however, to find out whether this young man is, or is not, able to bring this girl home to his heart in the end.
The "Architect Who Couldn't Sing" is a manifesto calling for innovative and environmentally- responsible building design that makes you root for love and believe that architecture may well save the world. That's quite a fish story, in a way, and like other fish tales, this is one you won't want to let get away.
I'm wondering, though, how those concepts would scale into a "New Brasilia". I'm particularly concerned that structures and social groupings often achieve a "right size" (like the elephant in your story), but then themselves need to grow and self-organize into more complex systems, and so on, according to function.
The "Dunbar Number" suggests that cohesive, unitary societies (such as Mennonite colonies and Facebook friends) become unstable and divisive after about 150 members. Christopher Alexander suggests that a "community" that is democratically self-governed tops out at about 7000 people. "Industrialization", i.e., specialization, takes off from there.
Your writings also suggest that the attempt to provide a global view to livable, affordable, and sustainable housing depends on the support (or self-interested opposition) of the political powers that be.
In that respect, I believe that the political structure for your villages needs to be that of "Tri-Managed Choice". The community governance, common property and functions, should be provided by an elected, term-limited, representative council, which would include your Enabling Structures, as well as larger infrastructure, transportation, and utility services. The individual construction and services should then be provided by NPOs, NGOs, and other collaborative organizations. I like to call these "Professional Service Organizations (PSOs)", run by managers, participant boards, and volunteers who can compete for contracts issued by the local government.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
The narrative is forced and the characters are one-dimensional. I couldn't finish the book. I gave 4 stars to Alt's non-fiction "Diagrams and Dollars" and was hoping he'd bring... Read morePublished 8 months ago by email@example.com
Fast, engaging read with an interesting picture of what could be the future.Published 19 months ago by Amazon Customer
Great book. The author takes you into his lifes ambitions and goals. It kept me engaged throughout. A book about people who care about the world around them.Published on April 6, 2012 by kjb
A beautiful and snug fish camp on a river in the wilds of the Olympic Peninsula! It's enough to make you give up your New York townhouse, sell your Volvo, quit your job, pack your... Read morePublished on February 20, 2012 by Sonny