To our joy, 3 books are recently released by first-rate architectural critics.
One is the posthumous work of Herbert Muschamp and the rest two are works of
Paul Goldberger. Critic of New Yorker, his writings flow with delicious flavor.
Born in NJ, studied at Yale, and practiced in NY, Goldberger's writings grasp what is
best of Architecture with examples mostly from the US.
Books like this typically pays particular attention to examples of great
masters of Europe or cities like Paris, Rome, or London.
Goldberger's writings are valuable, at least to foreign audience,
because subject matter is mostly American.
The book is divided into thematic sections. Each section provides ample illustrations.
What makes the reading enjoyable is the fact that Goldberger's writing does not only stick
to examples of now, but rather, navigates also through past, kindly explaining to the
readers why certain building in the past is as much valuable as, if not more, excellent
buildings of now.
For example, he compares National Gallery West to East, outlining why John Pope's design
(though style-wise it was criticized severely by Modernists at the time of erection)
is better than IM Pei's. Claims like this could be mind-bothering, depending on which school
of thought an audience is in. As a museum, Paul thinks west wing was much more exhibition-friendly
than Pei's. He explains why good buildings outlive criticism of the day and outlast
regardless of their style application.
Explanation on Lincoln Memorial is another example. Stylistically speaking it's a Greek
building, but Goldberger's reading of it turns it not so pseudo historical replica.
He argues Henry Bacon was talented enough to make it a truly brilliant and
as much a modern building as any other Modern masterpiece.
Buildings of Gilded Age receive new edge, Architects 19 century gets
new spotlight, and the arc of styles (or life of a building) are re-viewed
with insight and sharpness. His writings on Yale campus and his child
neighborhood are touching. His clips from movies and novels add freshness.
Goldberger also tries to help the reader to see the building not as an individual object,
but to view it in the context of visible, and sometimes invisible, setting. He helps
us to see sometimes physical and cultural, and sometimes political and financial forces
that shaped the building. Yet the joy of his writing is that it is ultimately geared towards
experiential dimension of a space than theoretical.
The joy of experiencing real world, hence he argues, lies in the "serendipity"
and the "propinquity" of real stuff felt through real contact in cities and buildings.
Hence, even in the cyber space world with virtual realities, the importance of matter
and physical contact remains vital importance for people.