Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
Other Sellers on Amazon
+ $3.99 shipping
+ $5.99 shipping
The Most Beautiful House in the World Paperback – July 1, 1990
The Amazon Book Review
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
Frequently bought together
Customers who bought this item also bought
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.
Top customer reviews
Although, Rybczynski describes several impressive architect conceived and built houses (such as Wright's Fallingwater and Mies van der Rohe's Farnsworth house), it is the houses built by their owners that he most celebrates--Mark Twain's home in Hartford, Connecticutt, Sir Walter Scott's Abbotsford, Robert Lewis Stevenson's Vailima in Samoa, artists Carl and Karin Larsson's much documented Lilla Hyttnas in Sundborn, Sweden, and Carl Jung's home in Bollingen, Switzerland. "It is no coincidence," writes Rybczynski, "that Stevenson, Scott, Clemens, Larsson, Castrejon, and I were less than forty years old when we built our homes.... The process of building, for all of us, was a process of installing ourselves in a place, of establishing a spot where it would be safe to dream. We had to be old enough to recognize the particularity--and limits--of our dreams, but not too old to believe in them....My house had begun with the dream of a boat. The dream had run aground--I was now rooted in place." (pp. 190, 193)
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. They poured a foundation before completing the design. In vacation periods, on weekends and afternoons after work they put their energies into the project. Mr. Rybczynski assembled notes, made drawings, jotted down reflections on architecture and reviewed the experience of his practice. This building, in the reader's mind, grows larger than a shed or even a cathedral; it concretizes architecture and all its connections.
As time passed the author wondered: a boatbuilding workshop or a house? The living quarters expanded and the intended boat shrank from dory ketch to catboat. The building should look traditional; it must fit the location, speak the local language. He chose the form of a barn. Vast barns dominated the landscape, he explains, ''and if my building was to fit it, it could only be as a little offspring of these heroic leviathans.''
For a year and a half he immersed himself in its paper existence, gestating a hybrid dream that looked like a barn but sheltered boatbuilding at the west end, living quarters at the east. Then these three builders, colonists in the meadow, people with little experience in construction, put up frame and sheathing in a few weeks, working with hand tools. They changed the place, occupied the meadow; it was ''the reenactment of a primeval process that began with the first hut erected in a forest clearing, and it gave me the feeling of playing out an ancient ritual.'' At sunset the glass bottles of the final wall ''blazed with the amber and emerald colors of several hundred wine and liquor bottles - a bacchanalian rose window.''
The physical house sank the maritime dream, partly in the weariness of construction, partly by fulfillment. He explains: ''After years of designing on the drawing table . . . I had wanted to build something, anything, with my own hands and with proper tools and real materials.'' The Rybczynskis turned the boatbuilding workshop into living quarters, decided to make a comfortable permanent home instead of temporary shelter. This transformation changed Shirley from an associate builder into a client, who challenged him with questions, objections, demands. She had a better knowledge of house design than he, ''not of construction but of the details, of the minutiae of everyday life that constitute a home.'' She refused improvised solutions and rejected an inconvenient kitchen, insisting on a design that would not hide things in cupboards; she suggested important modifications in other rooms as well. Furthermore, the house did not look right; she wanted to dwell in a home, not a building that looked like a barn. It lacked the familiar signs of human habitation: proper windows, a porch, a chimney, a real front door. After the final changes, including a front door and portico, the house spoke a new message. ''It was a comforting sight as one came down the long drive. 'Welcome home,' it said.'' Five years after Mr. Rybczynski made his first sketch of a boatbuilding shed, he and his wife moved in.
The book acknowledges the wisdom of the French philosopher Gaston Bachelard, that a house shelters daydreaming. At home it is safe to let the mind drift, to let imagination wander. And dreams contain houses. Even though the author still calls his home ''The Boathouse,'' he concludes: ''My house had begun with the dream of a boat. The dream had run aground - I was now rooted in place.''
Most readers of this book are spared the labor and frustration as well as the fulfillment eloquently described here. Until recently it was not unusual for people to build their own homes - a privilege still reserved to the so-called underdeveloped world. For us, the experience is fragmented, divided among designers, contractors, tradesmen, brokers, dwellers. We may not be able or willing to dwell in houses we design and build, but this book makes it possible to recover in our imaginations that lost unity of experience.
The illustrations, often crucial in an architectural book, are disappointing. Mr. Rybczynski claims the sketches are his graphic record of an inner conversation and offers 14 drawings by his own hand. Unfortunately, they are tiny, but they are compensated for by lucid, eloquent word pictures and the inner conversation keeps the reader charmed to the last page.
Most recent customer reviews
Asa mechanical engineer in my late thirties I started to know what architecture was all about and its relation to design.Read more