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The Story of Western Architecture: Third Edition 3rd Edition

4 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0262681339
ISBN-10: 0262681331
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Editorial Reviews


"One of the most remarkable books on the subject that I have ever come across ... a tremendous achievement of Pevsnerian dimensions."
- Sherban Cantacuzino, former Executive Editor, The Architectural Review

"An excellent, very readable survey full of unconventional judgments, imbued with a town planner's humanist values."
- Publishers Weekly --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Bill Risebero is an architect and town planner in London. He teaches at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design in London and in the London Program of Syracuse University.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: The MIT Press; 3 edition (October 1, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0262681331
  • ISBN-13: 978-0262681339
  • Product Dimensions: 7 x 0.8 x 10 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,940,619 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Richard Tsuyuki on June 13, 2005
Format: Hardcover
As an architectural novice who recently decided to learn more about it, I checked three books out of the library: The Story of Western Architecture, by Risebero; Western Architecture, by Sutton, and The Story of Architecture, by Glancey. This is a brief comparison of the three.

Risebero: This is an impressive book with many detailed line drawings but no photographs. The line drawings obviously lack the details and total impact of photos but they also allow the author to emphasize and isolate features of interest; photos can frequently confuse the eye with an excess of detail. Also includes sketches that illustrate building principles, e.g., what "pendentives" are, ways to intersect arches, etc. Risebero provides socio-cultural material that attempts to explain the reasons behind historical trends, movements, etc. I suspect this material is controversial among architectural historians, as such attempts usually are, but I lack the background to judge whether it exhibits strong biases, political agendas, etc.

Sutton: An attractive book with lots of coverage (I think more comprehensive than Risebero) and photos. The photos are black & white and unfortunately small due to the relatively small format of the (paperback edition) book. The text has a somewhat academic tone and concentrates on the buildings rather than the social theories expounded in Risebero's book.

Glancey: A large-format book with beautiful color photographs. The only book of the three to include non-Western architecture, such as Africa, Asia, etc. The text is large-font and more simplistic in tone and content than the above two.

Conclusions: Sutton was somewhat dry, lacking the feeling of continuity created by a narrative line.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Michael S. Nowak on January 22, 2006
Format: Paperback
This book is taxing. While the book is generally interesting and concise it is overwhelmed by Risebero's political views which he seems to be able to interject at every possible moment. Risebero is a communist through and through, and the never-ending praise of Marx as "great" and the incessent criticism of capitalism is too much to take. From day one in the history of Western architectural history Risebero somehow finds the exploitation of the working class to exist first through slavery, then feudalism, then capitalism. He repeatedly embraces his hatred for capitalism and uses it to bemoan the class-structure of society. It progressively gets worse until the period of the late 20th century when it certainly feels as though 50% of his writing is dedicated to the ranting about exploitation of the poor by the bourgeoise or the 'military-industrial complex" and how Thatcher and Reagan caused more unemployment and increased homelessness. He ends the book by focusing on inconsequential works of architecture that focus on squatters and environmentalism, the depletion of the ozone layer, criticism of the failure of the passage of the Kyoto Treaty, and the eminent demise of the earth's resources as part of the problem with architecture today. This would be a great textbook for the people of China, North Korea, or Cuba because it serves to criticize every great work of architecture as the unfair exploitation of the poor by the evil profiteers of the west. It's Soviet-style propaganda at its worst. I couldn't wait to get this book over and done with.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 8, 2002
Format: Paperback
For a visual overview of Western architecture done in black & white line drawings this book is excellent. Informative captions illuminate the drawings as well. The text may be a bit trying but it's the visuals that carry the day - with many more pages full of well-drawn examples,both elevations, exteriors & some cross-sections included.Scale is always apparent with the inclusion of figures. If it's a detailed history you want go elsewhere. Here the pictures tell the story.
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5 of 11 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 21, 1999
Format: Paperback
This book is simply not worth your time to read it. The author tries to stuff the better part of 5000 years of history, religion, culture, politics, and architecture into one short paperback book. This makes for frustrating reading as you try to follow the narrative, especially since nothing in the entire book is explained. You're guaranteed not to learn a single thing. This book also fails to focus on anything, which results in a bland, monotonic narrative. The hand drawn illustrations look like a seven year old was hired as the art director, and they don't allow the reader to get a sense of the awesome proportions and grandeur of the buildings they so desperately seek to depict. Unless you already have a very, very strong backround in western architecture and history, and you have a considerable amount of time to kill, I wouldn't recommend this book.
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