Top positive review
12 people found this helpful
on September 22, 2000
I enjoyed this book for the author's insights into how 20th century architecture, starting from certain antecedents in the 19th century, such as the early iron-reinforced concrete structures of William LeBaron Jenny, progressed through Louis Sullivan, Frank Lloyd Wright, the Bauhaus school, and so on, up to the style which he calls "the hanging curtain of glass."
Giedion shows how this spectacular 20th-century building originated around the turn of the last century and how it's modern variations represent a triumpth of this type of design.
The basic principle, as exemplified early on in the Carson, Pirie, Scott, and Co. building in Chicago, is that as stuctural members receeded from the outlying masonry walls into the interior skeleton of the building, this allows the architect to open up the facade with windows, skylights, and other penetrating elements in order to let the maximum amount of air and light into the building. Eventually no real supporting structural members need reside on the outside of the building, and the aesthetic result is the "hanging curtain of glass" effect... Whatever one thinks of this type of building, it has become a major landmark of 20th-century architectural design in cities all over the world.
Giedion's treatment of Robert Maillart's graceful, parabolic spanning bridge designs in the Swiss Alps and some other places, such as the Tavanasa Bridge in the U.S., which he specifically discusses as one of Maillart's most important achievements, is also very interesting.
Overall, Giedion's book is a fine treatment of an important and difficult period in the history of architecture, and is one of the most important books on architecture to be written in recent decades.