Why Architecture Matters


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Paul Goldberger

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Now in paperback after five printings, a remarkable journey through the built world from the Pulitzer Prize-winning New Yorker critic and "America's foremost interpreter of public architecture" (Tracy Kidder)

Why Architecture Matters is not a work of architectural history or a guide to the styles or an architectural dictionary, though it contains elements of all three. The purpose of Why Architecture Matters is to “come to grips with how things feel to us when we stand before them, with how architecture affects us emotionally as well as intellectually”—with its impact on our lives. “Architecture begins to matter,” writes Paul Goldberger, “when it brings delight and sadness and perplexity and awe along with a roof over our heads.” He shows us how that works in examples ranging from a small Cape Cod cottage to the “vast, flowing” Prairie houses of Frank Lloyd Wright, from the Lincoln Memorial to the highly sculptural Guggenheim Bilbao and the Church of Sant’Ivo in Rome, where “simple geometries . . . create a work of architecture that embraces the deepest complexities of human imagination.”

Based on decades of looking at buildings and thinking about how we experience them, the distinguished critic raises our awareness of fundamental things like proportion, scale, space, texture, materials, shapes, light, and memory. Upon completing this remarkable architectural journey, readers will enjoy a wonderfully rewarding new way of seeing and experiencing every aspect of the built world.

Paul Goldberger is the architecture critic for The New Yorker and has written the magazine's celebrated "Sky Line" column since 1997. He also holds the Joseph Urban Chair in Design and Architecture at The New School in Manhattan. He began his career at The New York Times, where he received a Pulitzer Prize for Distinguished Criticism. Visit the author's website: www.paulgoldberger.com

"Paul Goldberger is America's foremost interpreter of public architecture. . . ."—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

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

"[A] little gem of a book. . . . wise, concise, and utterly devoid of the ideological snark that infects the profession."—Inga Saffron, Philadelphia Inquirer ("Good books, good gifts")

"The ever-lucid New Yorker critic offers a nuanced exploration of architecture's allure, how buildings both modest and regal are vital 'for the making of place, and the making of memory.'"—John King, San Francisco Chronicle (Holiday Gift Guide: Architecture Books)

"[One] of the most revelatory appreciations of architecture I've come across is New Yorker critic Paul Goldberger's new book, called Why Architecture Matters. This isn't a history of architecture, but rather something more elusive. . . . Goldberger roams from classic masterpieces like the Pantheon to the architecture of memory, like the modest two-family house of his childhood in New Jersey."—Maureen Corrigan, NPR.org (Originally aired on WHYY)

"But just tick off the social issues that are intimately connected to architectural design and land use policy—affordability, sustainability, conservation, historic preservation, and mobility leading the list—and it becomes pretty clear: Society at large is desperately in need of the vision, insight, and know-how of architects, teachers of architects, people who write about architecture, and people who believe that architecture does indeed matter—to everyone."—Carole Rifkind, The East Hampton Star

"Goldberger writes in a broadbrush, aphoristic style honed as the New Yorker magazine's 'Sky Line' columnist. His insights are riveting."—David Minthorn, Associated Press

"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

"Best of all, Goldberger combines forensic analysis of the architectural art with a sense of wonder."—Jonathan Wright, Scottish Sunday Herald

"Paul Goldberger is America's preeminent public critic of architecture, and his wise, compassionate Why Architecture Matters sums up a lifetime spent exploring, reflecting and writing. . . . Goldberger does not prescribe solutions but argues passionately that architecture must continue to define our place in the world in a way that 'startles us and comforts us at the same time.'"—Kirk Savage, Washington Post

"Despite the breadth of the subject, Goldberger effectively satisfies the challenge he lays out for himself in the ambitious title: explaining why good architecture matters, in a clear and unpretentious manner that should satisfy those who design buildings, and those who use them."—George Beane, Metropolis Magazine

"Drawing on many writers’ works, from ancient to modern, [Goldberger] offers strong challenging opinions with his judgments and emotional responses to buildings. The book features wonderful descriptions of both buildings and sites. . . . Highly recommended."—W. L. Whitwell, Choice

"Why Architecture Matters is a good introduction to a fascinating subject that should indeed very much matter to everyone."—Mobile, AL Press-Register

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

Selected for the 2009 Holiday Gift Guide, John King, San Francisco Chronicle

Selected as one of the Best Books on Architecture in 2009, Inga Saffron, Philadelphia Inquirer

Selected as a Choice Outstanding Academic Title for 2010 in the Architecture category
ISBN: 9780300144307
Publication Date: November 3, 2009
304 pages, 5 1/4 x 7 3/4
54 b/w illus.
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