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The Most Beautiful House in the World Paperback – July 1, 1990


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The Most Beautiful House in the World + Home: A Short History of an Idea + How Architecture Works: A Humanist's Toolkit
Price for all three: $44.39

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Best Books of 2014
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books (July 1, 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140105662
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140105667
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.6 x 7.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #430,950 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Rybcznski here describes the act of designing and building a house, questioning the nature of architecture and the architect's role. "This delightful ramble through the creative process will beguile architecture buffs and general readers alike," remarked PW. Illustrated. 75,000 first printing.
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Young architect decides to build boat, needs boat house to work in, ends up years later with country place and no boat, and meditates thereon. An extended reflection on the meaning of a house to its inhabitants, this personalized extension of the author's earlier Home ( LJ 9/1/86) does reveal some of what an architect does, albeit when the same person is architect, client, and builder, and it is simply written. More revealing, more detailed, more particular, and preferred is Tracy Kidder's House ( LJ 8/85).
- Jack Perry Brown, Ryerson & Burnham Lib., Art Inst. of Chicago
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

Don't build or buy another house until you read this.
toilet guy
Of interest for anyone engaged in projects in addition to their immediate structure.
jack schaaf
This is the sort of book that stays with you for many years.
lapidaryblue

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

55 of 56 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 13, 2001
Format: Paperback
A wall of glass bottles was the final feature completing the house Witold Rybczynski built for himself. On the oval bottom of a brown bottle of Armagnac, he inscribed the date and the names of his coworkers and signed off like an ancient craftsman: ''RYBCZYNSKI FECIT.'' This gem of a book rewards the reader with a wealth of meaning in those words, ''Rybczynski made it,'' revealing the whole experience - esthetic, architectural, didactic, domestic, historical, laborious, linguistic, mechanical, philosophical, poetic, sensory, symbolic - contained in this house. As it takes shape in the reader's mind, the sense of building unfolds, constructing once again Heidegger's unity: building-dwelling-thinking.
The book owes its arresting title to Joseph Rykwert, chairman of the doctoral program in architecture at the University of Pennsylvania, who invited Mr. Rybczynski to address his seminar on the subject of a design competition sponsored by an Italian journal. The author responded, ''The most beautiful house in the world is the one that you build for yourself.'' In a previous study, ''Home: A Short History of an Idea,'' Mr. Rybczynski, who teaches architecture at McGill University in Montreal, went beyond architecture to provide a fascinating historical exploration of domestic well-being. In his new book, he tells what it means to build his own home.
First Mr. Rybczynski dreamed of a boat, then of a shelter to build it in - something between a shed and a cathedral. He and his wife, Shirley Hallam, decided to include temporary living quarters in the plan, with the idea of constructing a house nearby sometime in the future. They chose a site, he ruminated over designs, enlisted the help of his wife and his friend Vikram Bhatt, an Indian architect.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 18, 2000
Format: Paperback
This is a beautifully written book that provides some very nice insights into what architects do. The author uses a simple story of his adventures in building a home as a launching point for discussions on such varied topics as the history of toys (and on play in general), the history of barns, and a discussion of other authors (Mark Twain, Robert Louis Stephenson, etc.) who designed and built their own homes. This is definitely NOT a how-to book!
I suspect that the author is a better writer than he is an architect; his tendency towards excursions away from the main point is better suited for a book than for a house. I think that most of us would find his finished home to be a bit odd.
In our book club, the men tended to like the book somewhat more than the women. A few complained about the lack of pictures in the discussions of famous buildings. Also, keep your dictionary handy while reading this book; I have a fair vocabulary but found myself frequently looking up new words.
All in all, a very pleasant (and educational) read.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Charles S. Houser VINE VOICE on May 11, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book by the author of "Home: A Short History of an Idea" (1986) is a more subjective and less disciplined examination of that same topic. Professor Rybczynski uses his experience as an immigrant trying to "fit in" as a lens for looking at what in means to build ones own home. The skeleton of this story is the author's own decision to build a shed to which he can retreat on weekends (for more on weekends, read the author's "Waiting for the Weekend," 1991) and build a boat he can sail away in. At some point the shed becomes more of a barn and then, when he finally abandons his plan to build a boat, it becomes a permanent home for himself and his wife. For me, the book is less about architecture, the act or craft of building, and more about morphing and the undpredictable ways life unfolds. Taken in that vein, Rybczynski's story can be appreciated as a spiritual journey with many sidetrips and gentle awakenings. He is self-critical, but not self-deprecating. And he infuses his tale with enough humor to keep the reader interested without taxing credibility. I especially enjoyed his description of his wife, Shirley, who does some morphing of her own. At the beginning (when the couple was building a mere boathouse), she is little more than an extra pair of hands; when the couple decides to make the structure they have been building into their home, Shirley suddenly becomes a full-fledged "client," full of opinions and demands.Read more ›
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 17, 1997
Format: Audio Cassette
This was an absolutely wonderful book. Anyone interested in designing and building their own house should start by reading "The Most Beautiful House in the World." Even though designing a house was not his original intention, Rybczynski related vital insights into the process of creating a living space specifically tailored to your own needs. I am using many of his ideas to design my own home. Thanks Witold.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Humberto Mejia on June 15, 2006
Format: Paperback
this refers to the 1989 Penguin Edition-

Asa mechanical engineer in my late thirties I started to know what architecture was all about and its relation to design. It turns out that its not easy to have a comprehensive introduction to the theme. Fortunately, Through Amazon and its reviews and suggested I bought this wonderful book and I was captivated, not only by the perspective it gives on the architecs work, but also on the insight about design it provides.
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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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