Customer Reviews: Space, Time and Architecture: The Growth of a New Tradition, Fifth Revised and Enlarged Edition (The Charles Eliot Norton Lectures)
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on April 12, 2000
This book is based on lectures Giedion gave at Harvard 1938-39. It is considered a modernist manifesto and after WW II, and well into the 1960s, it was often used in the training of architects all over the western world. European readers found the book interesting primarily because of it's section on the American history of architecture. The subtitle - The growth of a new tradition - refers to Giedion's conviction that the modern movement was the logical outcome of what he saw as a linear historical development. To make his case he gives his version of the history of architecture, and a big portion deals with the industrial era and how new technologies changed architecture and society as a whole. Giedion's all-inclusive way of reasoning was inspired by his teacher Heinrich Wölfflin. He also admired Wölfflin's mentor Jakob Burchardt. Giedion's mission is clear and he states that laissez faire mentality hinders development and that with common goals and values the world would be able to make changes for the better on a grand scale. Today the book in my view is primarily interesting as a time document and it gives insight into the modernist world of universal ideals.
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on August 24, 2010
This book is vast in its ambitions, uneven in its analysis, and badly dated in its defense of modern architecture. Giedion's basic premise is that the Industrial Revolution caused a separation to occur between thinking and feeling, this separation was exemplified by what he considers derivative architecture during the 19th century, and that it is up to the modern movement to reunite these two spheres by combining emotions with a scientific approach to architecture, and by adding the dimension of time to its three dimensional depiction of space. His historical analysis is quite erudite, but his treatment of the major architects who founded the modern movement, particularly Gropius and Le Corbusier, verges on hagiography. For instance he considers Gropius' PanAm building in New York, and Le Corbusier's Carpenter Center at Harvard to be great works of architecture, when contemporary critics view these as among their worst. The only American architect given comparable attention is Frank Lloyd Wright. The book flounders at the end in its speculation about the future, praising Le Corbusier's advocacy of separating people from cars by building elevated highways, and housing people in slablike high rise towers. Considering that Pruitt-Igoe was already, at the time of his final revision to his book, failing in St. Louis as an approach to house poor families (it was later blown to smithereens as a total disaster), this advocacy of housing people in high rises rings hollow indeed. He also advocates separating functions in a city, at a time again during his final revision, when Jane Jacobs "Death and Life of Great American Cities" was revolutionizing city planning by advocating just the opposite. It is worth reading because it makes you think, but it is badly dated.
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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.
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on July 23, 2015
This is a definitive book for modern architecture history of which most of architecture history curriculum in universities is based on. The expanded portion's (on urban planning and design) transition from the original is not as seamless as it could be. Regardless, Sigfried Giedion's analysis is as sharp and concise as the original.
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VINE VOICEon December 4, 2002
One cannot even presume to understand modern architecture until one has read Giedion's classic work. This book did more to shape the view of modern architecture than did any other book. Giedion provides an impressive survey of architecture down through the ages, illustrating those aspects which had an influence on modern architecture. One of his more illucidating chapters is "The Demand for Morality in Architecture," which underscores the content of this work.
The heart of the book is his chapter on "Space-Time in Art, Architecture, adn Construction," in which he examines the leading figures and movements in modern architecture, with the spotlight on Walter Gropius, Le Corbusier, Mies van der Rohe and Alvar Aalto. These were the founding fathers. He examines the roots of their ideas as well as the influence they had in shaping the modern movement. This later edition also includes a chapter on "Jorn Utzon and the Third Generation," which Giedion felt had successfully carried the principles of modern architecture into contemporary society.
Giedion also explores the shifts in attitude toward city planning in the late 19th century and early 20th century, reviewing such seminal figures as Ebenezer Howard, Patrick Geddes, Arturo Soria y Mata, and Tony Garnier, which ultimately lead to the creation of C.I.A.M, the International Congress of Modern Architecture.
Giedion is unabashed in his support of modern architecture, which has made this book the favorite whipping post of post-modern critics. But, few have explored the subject as deeply as has Giedion. Don't rely on other interpretations of Giedion. Read "Space, Time and Architecture" before drawing any conclusions.
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on February 27, 2012
This work provides broad and deep insight into the human mind, soul, and 'condition', as well as such insight into what determines the success, and where it applies, the failure of the built environment, manufacturing, and product standards.

Reading this work will change your and other's lives for the better. When you read it it will become immediately clear how immensely valuable and useful this book is, and how increasingly important it's contents are in enabling a more guaranteed 'quality of life' in our rapidly expanding, dense, and complex human environments.

This is the work of a master. The ideas, insights, and explanations in this work are beautifully, very clearly, and logically presented providing continuous delight and increasing hope and encouragement as you are enabled to understand more and more about yourself and others, and the built world around you. The knowledge and guidance in this work can make our lives and world more secure, joyful, and satisfying.

This is an immensely valuable, helpful, enjoyable, and important work. It can make our lives and world so much better - and help to keep it that way!!
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on February 5, 2012
I like this book a lot!!!! It is published in the 1950s, which looks like a old treasure. The quality is even better than I thought. I couldn't be more satisfied.
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on September 26, 2014
Requested edition was not what was on image, nut served it's purpose.
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on June 17, 2004
This book tells the story of important buildings built since a long time ago, even bridges! Lots of nice pictures and drawings, especially of the real important artsy buildings built after WWII. You can learn alot about the history of world culture and architecture just by looking at the pictures! All my friends saw "Wow" when I show them this book! Wow!!
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on May 17, 2003
90 per cent of books in a typical bookstore are not worth the paper they are written on. This is NOT one of those books. The concepts presented in this book are profound. It is the best book I own.
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