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The Look of Architecture Hardcover – March 15, 2001

ISBN-13: 978-0195134438 ISBN-10: 0195134435

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Product Details

  • Series: New York Public Library Lectures in Humanitites
  • Hardcover: 130 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press (March 15, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195134435
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195134438
  • Product Dimensions: 7.3 x 5.2 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,641,836 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

With his refusal to hide behind the jargon and hype endemic to the profession, and his ability to puncture its pretensions without mean-spiritedness, Rybczynski (Home: A Short History of an Idea) has become a leading writer on architecture. This concise survey of style in architecture is derived from three lectures the author gave in the New York Public Library, and the intimate, conversational tone he adopts manages to convey a lot of information in a very agreeable way. Indeed, Rybczynski's emphasis on style is itself provocative in a profession that has traditionally given such considerations short shrift. ("Style is like a feather in a woman's cap, nothing more," he finds Le Corbusier observing.) Add to this Rybczynski's referencing of interior design and fashion, and one has a book as iconoclastic as it is readable. Another great strength of the book is its delightfully discursive set pieces, including one on the buildings around Bryant Park this will have visitors to New York clutching this trim and portable book as they peer upwards at the rich mosaic of buildings so beautifully contextualized within. The range of the book is impressively wide, with many less familiar buildings (the Canadian Parliament buildings, the solidly elegant cottages of Alan Greenberg) given due consideration, and recent superstars such as Frank Gehry's Bilbao Guggenheim crisply observed. The author's deeply informed enthusiasm is infectious, and his removal of architectural writing from an airily theoretical discourse to the realm of practical experience is empowering for the lay reader. We all have to live in buildings, after all. (July)
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

In his introduction, New Yorker and Time magazine contributor Rybczynski (urbanism, Univ. of Pennsylvania; Home) acknowledges that this book began with a series of three extemporaneous talks at the New York Public Library in fall 2001. Yet he still offers keenly observed and cogent commentary on the significance of style and fashion in architecture. Using anecdote, historical data, and descriptive prose to comment on Western architecture during the modern era, Rybczynski shows how the often dismissed discipline of apparel design finds its correlative in architectural fashion. An examination of three stair railings from Le Corbusier's Shodhan House, I.M. Pei's East Building at the National Gallery of Art, and Bernard Tschumi's new Lerner Center at Columbia University interweaves a deep appreciation for how the materials of architecture are assembled with references to their diverse theoretical foundations. Illustrations are regrettably small and low in resolution. Even so, this book serves more ably as an architectural primer than James O'Gorman's ABC of Architecture (LJ 12/97) and should become a companion, if not a worthy successor, to Steen Eiler Rasmussen's Experiencing Architecture (1964). For all architecture collections. Paul Glassman, New York Sch. of Interior Design Lib.
Copyright 2001 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 http://www.witoldrybczynski.com.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Charles S. Houser VINE VOICE on April 30, 2006
Format: Paperback
This book consists of three lectures given by Professor Rybczynski at the New York Public Library (lectures he admits to revising for publication based on the need to respond to challenging questions from his audience). While not as innovative in topic and scope of inquiry as his books "Home" and "Waiting for the Weekend," there is much here that Rybczynski's loyal readers will recognize and appreciate--the author's love of his subject, his deep and broad knowledge of the history of architecture, his high regard for the minutia others tend to dismiss, and his confidence in his own opinion. The three essays--"Dressing Up," "In and Out of Fashion," and "Style"--are an investigation, among other things, of archtects' reluctance to speak of their work in terms of style. "Architects don't like to talk about style," Rybczynski says in his introduction. "Ask an architect what style he works in and you are likely to be met with a pained expression, or with silence." (p. xi). The lectures explore the differences between arcitecture and other art forms (including interior design, cooking, and the rag trade). Of the distinction between style and fashion, he says, "If style is the language of architecture, fashion represents the wide--and swirling--cultural currents that shape and direct that language." (p. 51) In the end, Rybczynski observes, "A suspicion of style is a heritage of the Modern Movement, which preached against the arbitrary dictates of style and fashion, while maintaining an unspoken but rigid stylistic consistency." (p. 109) He also attributes the reluctance to speak in terms of style to archtects' fears (but I'll let you ferret out the provocative supporting quotations for yourself).Read more ›
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful By "seaclaremont" on February 23, 2003
Format: Paperback
Any book by Rybczynski is a delight to read and contains a wealth of information and fresh ideas. "The Look of Architecture" is no exception, and while it is not as groundbreaking as "Home," it is a carefully written analysis of Architecture that is chock-full of examples to illustrate what he's getting at (a few more pictures would be nice, though).
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Sir Henry Wotton said, "The end is to build well. Well building hath three conditions: commoditie, firmness and delight."

Commodity- to shelter human activity
firmness- to durably challenge gravity and the elements
delight- to be an object of beauty

Building should last and feel as though they will.
A banal church is a greater failure than a banal factory. The end must direct the operation.

Rybczynski packs this book with a lot of information in a delightful way, making it an easy and enjoyable book.
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2 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Zhao Zheng on April 27, 2005
Format: Paperback
While I finished the reading, the only thought in my mind is to read more references related to the writer's vivid-narrated lectures, as well as more books signed a name as "Witold Rybczynski".
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7 of 38 people found the following review helpful By "homegrownmelissa" on June 1, 2001
Format: Hardcover
I was amazed by how involved I got in this book. For a book about buildings, I was grossly interested. Rybczynski knows his stuff when it comes to books.
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