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20th-Century World Architecture: The Phaidon Atlas Hardcover – October 8, 2012
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"Phaidon's colossal 20th Century World Architecture is a real tour de force. While the sheer volume of information is breathtaking, what impresses me most is the fascinating view of architecture in the 20th century created by the breadth of the projects and their contexts." - Michael Graves
"The new Phaidon publication, 20th Century World Architecture, documents the extraordinary quality and quantity of architecture produces during the last century. Is it possible for the work of the 21st century to match this prodigious output?" - Richard Meier
"Easily in the running for most engrossing coffee-table book of all time." - Publishers Weekly
". . .big, bold, beautiful. . ." - About.com
"A breathtaking overview. . ." - Los Angeles Times
". . .a monumental tome." - The Architect's Newspaper
"At a hefty 832 pages, 20th Century World Architecture: The Phaidon Atlas takes a truly global and remarkably comprehensive look at projects constructed between 1900 - 1999." - Architectural Digest
"This book is an atlas but it's also a snapshot: the 20th century as seen from 2012. What a view." - The Atlantic
"One of those books I will never finish perusing, as each time I turn the page I find something new. . .This is an investment for your home, written in a way that is very accessible to the layman. It is also, at its simplest, a collection of really inspiring images." - The Courier-Journal
". . . a beast of a book. But hoisting the tome onto your coffee table is worth it." - Architect Magazine
". . .a remarkable companion. . .unpack the book and you'll float into a perspective-altering history of 750 era-defining buildings." - NPR.org
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The first thing about 20th-Century World Architecure: The Phaidon Atlas that caught my eye is the sheer size of the book. It's massive! And while that's not the most insightful point, it's worth mentioning for two reasons. First: It takes an intercontinental, nondiscriminatory look at impressive architectural feats worldwide (the book is divided up by continent). Most of the images and articles I'd read prior dealt solely with those accomplished in developed nations. Second: I want to caution those who are dismissive because of the book's size. It's called world architecture because it focuses on the architecture of the world. It's all-encompassing, so it should be appropriately voluminous. And it is. If you're looking for something more specific, then seek that exact discipline or school out. Don't criticize something for not being what it doesn't aim to be.
Additionally, I felt very comfortable interacting with this text without a formal background in architecture. 20th-Century expounds upon architectural tendencies and traditions without using alienating jargon. I can't speak to professionals seeking to glean workplace knowledge from this text, but I would wholeheartedly recommend it to anybody who simply wants to see some staggeringly beautiful images, while learning a little bit more about a fascinating profession.
Overall: While the price of the book is objectively high, the amount of information that the reader is rewarded with is well worth the price. I will be entertained and hooked for months to come.
This volume does not even compare favorably to the previous Phaidon Atlases - Contemporary Architecture and 21st Century Architecture - which appear to have the majority of their far better selected color images in register. I think both the Economist and the WSJ Magazine have better quality control in their production and printing.
Phaidon has obviously cut many corners on production or acquired a group of editors who are probably related to Mr Magoo. I wished I had waited to check this out book at B & N or the Art Institute in Chicago as I certainly would not have bought it. If you pick this up for half the Amazon price at Half Price Books in a few months - it's probably a good archival addition to a home library but as a major visual source of 20th Century Architecture there are many far better produced monographs.
I had thought that my one star was a little harsh, but after two additional trips through the 800 pages - I think the one star is generous.
I personally enjoyed seeing examples masters such as Frank Lloyd Wright, Charles Rennie McIntosh, Gauidi and LeCourboisier but also many geniuses unknown in the West, who worked in other regions of the world. The pleasure in seeing such brilliant work is balanced by the stark reminders of the worst horrors of the 20th century such as Nunburg Stadium and Kaiser Wilhem church, which was so powerfully transformed from a ruin to a monument.
Evolving structural shapes and styles which reflect technological progress are also evident - forms only possible with software-enhanced design not available until the end of the last century. Such creative use of materials and nature-inspired curves is manifested in Frank Gehry's Bilboa museum which serves as a nice segue into 21st Century Architecture ... which I was lucky enough to also receive as a gift.