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Why Architecture Matters (Why X Matters Series) Hardcover – November 3, 2009

ISBN-13: 978-0300144307 ISBN-10: 030014430X Edition: First Edition (US) First Printing
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

With a broad topic and a deep reach, this collection of work from New Yorker architecture critic Goldberger reflects on the meanings and effects of architecture, both in the abstract and in everyday life. From specific places like the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. ("may be one of the few great architectural works anywhere whose approach is marked only by directional signs, not by a glimpse of the thing itself") to discussion of individual architects (Saarinesen, Lloyd Wright, etc.), Goldberger is clear and direct throughout, occasionally addressing readers directly with questions and thought experiments ("For the next few pages ... think only in terms of what a building looks like when you stand before it") that help recreate the architectural thought process. Sometimes focused too narrowly on the author's own experience (breathlessly recounted memories of architectural epiphany can fall flat), Goldberger occasionally risks alienating readers who lack his enthusiasm. For students and fans of architecture, however, this makes an elegant but energetic tour of building design, aesthetics, construction and inspiration that should encourage new ways of viewing one's surroundings. 55 b & w illustrations.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

“Paul Goldberger is America's foremost interpreter of public architecture. . . "—Tracy Kidder
(Tracy Kidder)

"Why Architecture Matters reminds us that in a democratic capitalist society, the only sure guarantee that we will get good architecture is if we shake off our ignorance and start to take a personal interest in the design of our neighborhoods. Here is a succinct, lyrical and heartfelt book that celebrates the best works of architecture and points the way to being able to build more of it in the world today. There are so many guides to the world of art, so few to the world of architecture. This is among the very best."—Alain de Botton, author of The Architecture of Happiness
(Alain de Botton)

"A beautifully written and generous meditation on the art of building that every aspiring architect should read."--Witold Rybczynski, author of The Perfect House
(Witold Rybczynski)

“Placing on display the most public of all the arts can be astonishing. Paul Goldberger, collecting his thoughts on architecture over 40 years, does this. His book, Why Architecture Matters, could be said to be a portable architectural museum that, by turns, astonishes, intrigues, explains and entrances.”--Architecture Bulletin
(Architecture Bulletin)

“The strength of populist writing like Goldberger’s is that it is accessible and engaging.”--Penny Lewis, Blueprint Magazine
(Penny Lewis Blueprint Magazine 2010-03-01)

“Best of all, Goldberger combines forensic analysis of the architectural art with a sense of wonder.”--Jonathan Wright, Scottish Sunday Herald
(Jonathan Wright Scottish Sunday Herald 2009-12-20)

"This generously illustrated volume anchors its speculations in brief discussions of buildings that manage this hard-won equilibrium."—Brian Sholis, The Virginia Quarterly Review
(Brian Sholis The Virginia Quarterly Review)
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Product Details

  • Series: Why X Matters Series
  • Hardcover: 273 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press; First Edition (US) First Printing edition (November 3, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 030014430X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300144307
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #610,783 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Paul Goldberger


Paul Goldberger is the Architecture Critic for The New Yorker, where since 1997 he has written the magazine's celebrated "Sky Line" column. He also holds the Joseph Urban Chair in Design and Architecture at The New School in New York City. He was formerly Dean of the Parsons school of design, a division of The New School. He began his career at The New York Times, where in 1984 his architecture criticism was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Distinguished Criticism, the highest award in journalism.

He is the author of several books, most recently "Why Architecture Matters," published by Yale University Press in 2009 and "Building Up and Tearing Down: Reflections on the Age of Architecture," published by Monacelli Press, also in 2009. In 2008 he published Beyond the Dunes: A Portrait of the Hamptons, which he produced in association with the photographer Jake Rajs. His chronicle of the process of rebuilding Ground Zero, entitled UP FROM ZERO: Politics, Architecture, and the Rebuilding of New York was published by Random House in the fall of 2004, and brought out in a new, updated paperback edition in 2005. UP FROM ZERO was named one of The New York Times Notable Books for 2004. Paul Goldberger has also written "The City Observed: New York," "The Skyscraper," "On the Rise: Architecture and Design in a Post-Modern Age," "Above New York," and "The World Trade Center Remembered."

He lectures widely around the country on the subject of architecture, design, historic preservation and cities, and he has taught at both the Yale School of Architecture and the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California, Berkeley in addition to The New School. His writing has received numerous awards in addition to the Pulitzer, including the President's Medal of the Municipal Art Society of New York, the medal of the American Institute of Architects and the Medal of Honor of the New York Landmarks Preservation Foundation, awarded in recognition of what the Foundation called "the nation's most balanced, penetrating and poetic analyses of architecture and design." In May 1996, New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani presented him with the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission's Preservation Achievement Award in recognition of the impact of his writing on historic preservation in New York. In 1993, he was named a Literary Lion, the New York Public Library's tribute to distinguished writers. In 2007, he was presented with the Ed Bacon Foundation's Award for Professional Excellence, named in honor of Philadelphia's legendary planner.

He has been awarded honorary doctoral degrees by Pratt Institute, the University of Miami, Kenyon College, the College of Creative Studies and the New York School of Interior Design for his work as a critic and cultural commentator on design. He appears frequently on film and television to discuss art, architecture, and cities, and is now at work on a program on the architect Benjamin Latrobe for PBS. He has also served as a special consultant and advisor on architecture and planning matters to several major cultural and educational institutions, including the Morgan Library in New York, the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., the Carnegie Science Center in Pittsburgh, the New York Public Library and Cornell and Harvard universities. He serves as special advisor to the jury for the Richard A. Driehaus Prize, a $200,000 prize awarded annually for traditional architecture and urbanism. He is a graduate of Yale University, and is a trustee of Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio; the National Trust for Historic Preservation in Washington, D.C.; the Forum for Urban Design, and the New York Stem Cell Foundation. He is married to Susan Solomon, and they are the parents of three sons: Adam, a composer for film and television in Los Angeles; Ben, journalist who is now the Chicago Editor of the Huffington Post, and Alex, recently graduated from Yale and now on the staff of the sports department at NBC. He resides in New York City and in East Hampton, New York.

Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Phelps Gates VINE VOICE on January 3, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Opening a book on architecture tends to put me a bit on edge, since I've come to expect that the author, whoever he may be, is going to be highly opinionated and is going to make a lot of pronouncements that seem arbitrary and (worse) that differ from my own arbitrary opinions. This book was a pleasant surprise. Goldberger doesn't spend a lot of time pronouncing certain examples of architecture as appealing or appalling. Instead, he gives a good overview of what some of the issues are and how various architects handle them: "challenge" versus "comfort", for example, to take what's perhaps his best chapter. There are good black-and-white illustrations in the text, and my only quibble is that there could have been more of them provided (fortunately, it's not hard to find images on the internet). Highly readable and accessible.
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Joong Won Lee on January 16, 2010
Format: Hardcover
To our joy, 3 books are recently released by first-rate architectural critics.
One is the posthumous work of Herbert Muschamp and the rest two are works of
Paul Goldberger. Critic of New Yorker, his writings flow with delicious flavor.

Born in NJ, studied at Yale, and practiced in NY, Goldberger's writings grasp what is
best of Architecture with examples mostly from the US.
Books like this typically pays particular attention to examples of great
masters of Europe or cities like Paris, Rome, or London.
Goldberger's writings are valuable, at least to foreign audience,
because subject matter is mostly American.

The book is divided into thematic sections. Each section provides ample illustrations.
What makes the reading enjoyable is the fact that Goldberger's writing does not only stick
to examples of now, but rather, navigates also through past, kindly explaining to the
readers why certain building in the past is as much valuable as, if not more, excellent
buildings of now.

For example, he compares National Gallery West to East, outlining why John Pope's design
(though style-wise it was criticized severely by Modernists at the time of erection)
is better than IM Pei's. Claims like this could be mind-bothering, depending on which school
of thought an audience is in. As a museum, Paul thinks west wing was much more exhibition-friendly
than Pei's. He explains why good buildings outlive criticism of the day and outlast
regardless of their style application.

Explanation on Lincoln Memorial is another example. Stylistically speaking it's a Greek
building, but Goldberger's reading of it turns it not so pseudo historical replica.
Read more ›
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Warren Lawson on May 15, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Sensing a possible connection with some of my recent thoughts on the subject, I ordered a copy of Why Architecture Matters by Paul Goldberger. My radar was working perfectly. What I found was a gem of a book, written for those not necessarily possessing a degree in architecture yet somehow drawn to the world of buildings, that sharply brings into focus our relationship to those buildings - and, of course, why those buildings matter.

Written with a passion for the things we build to give us shelter, deeply insightful, this important book gives coherent shape to previously scattered thoughts I've had regarding the value architecture has for us all. I highly recommend it to any of you who want to penetrate the veil of mystery surrounding the subject and reality of architecture and its vital relevance in our lives.
Taken from my post at [...]
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Lee Barry on January 23, 2010
Format: Hardcover
The book was very useful to me as an artist in terms of the power of context and the abstract meanings that can exist in art and music as well as architecture. Goldberg's writing is smooth as silk and very conversational.
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20 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Pierre Gauthier on March 29, 2010
Format: Hardcover
This book abundantly quotes varied sources ranging from Vitruvius to Allan de Botton, in fact to a point where it appears akin to namedropping. Similarly, all buildings to be expected are indeed mentioned: Falling Waters, the Louvre, Chartres Cathedral, Sant'Ivo, etc. However, little detail is provided to the reader who does not know them firsthand and small new insight is given to those who do. Also, time seems to have stopped a decade ago since the notions of sustainable development or green architecture are nowhere mentioned.

The author is overly balanced and prudent. He appears to be purposely inclusive and hardly takes a clear stance on any issue. He claims for instance to agree with Robert Venturi's positions . . . and with Le Corbusier's. Despite the fact that he has devoted his professional life to the appreciation of architecture, the overall tone is strangely aloof and dispassionate.

Also, potential readers should not be fooled by the attractive photograph of the Chrysler Building on the cover page. In fact, this book's lay-out is archaic and illustrations are limited to tiny low-resolution black and white photographs interspersed here and there. The thick, «quality» paper makes the pages of slightly varying size annoying to turn.

Unfortunately, this superficial book will not necessarily be of particular interest to persons unfamiliar with architecture and will not be vastly informative or stimulating to those familiar with the topic.
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