We work in them. We live in them. We walk amongst them every day. Buildings. They serve as both the settings of our daily lives and public art. But how much does the average person know about architecture? How did buildings, so ubiquitous, many of them so enormous, come to be? What makes a building “good” – unique, impressive? These questions and more largely remain mysteries, because most of us don’t think about them much.
In How Architecture Works: A Humanist’s Toolkit, Witold Rybczynski takes readers sightseeing around the world. From famous war memorials to theatres to private dwellings, Rybczynski provides a look at some of the most amazing feats of human ingenuity.
But Rybczynski doesn’t just indulge readers’ senses. Like any good guided tour, How Architecture Works is a learning experience; the subject is not so much the quantitative or historical details of particular buildings but architecture itself as a craft, a practice, an art. Learn how to “read” blueprints and the various ways in which architects’ individual styles come through in their works, with specific examples including Frank Gehry, Renzo Piano and Robert A. M. Stern. Learn about the field’s more theoretical aspects such as how buildings “respond” to their environments.
To understand architecture is to understand our environment. There’s no better teacher than Witold Rybczynski, who has won awards for his writings on architecture, including the Vincent Scully Prize. He is also an established writer with The New Yorker, The New York Times and Slate and serves as the Emeritus professor of architecture at the University of Pennsylvania. Although How Architecture Works is Rybczynski’s eighth book on architecture, his latest shows that there is still far more for him to teach about this much overlooked world.