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Why Architecture Matters (Why X Matters) [Hardcover]

Paul Goldberger
1.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

16 Oct 2009 Why X Matters
'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.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Yale University Press (16 Oct 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 030014430X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0300144307
  • Product Dimensions: 20.6 x 14.2 x 2.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 1.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,391,269 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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`Best of all, Goldberger combines forensic analysis of the architectural art with a sense of wonder.'
--Jonathan Wright, Sunday Herald, 20th December 2009

`The strength of populist writing like Goldberger's is that it is accessible and engaging'.
--Penny Lewis, Blueprint, 1st March 2010

About the Author

Paul Goldberger is the architecture critic for The New Yorker, where since 1997 he has written the magazine's celebrated 'Sky Line' column. 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 in 1984, he received the Pulitzer Prize for Distinguished Criticism.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
Browse Sample Pages
Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
2 of 6 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing Quality of Book 15 Jan 2010
This is an interesting book, but I have to say I am not very impressed with the production quality. The pages are not properly trimmed and are crumpled in some cases. I have had to return this book (at big expense as I live in Belgium) and the new one was still not perfect but I have kept it. So, buyer beware because the print run is obviously faulty.
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Amazon.com: 4.4 out of 5 stars  10 reviews
19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly readable 3 Jan 2010
By Phelps Gates - Published on Amazon.com
Opening a book on architecture tends to put me a bit on edge, since I've come to expect that the author, whoever he may be, is going to be highly opinionated and is going to make a lot of pronouncements that seem arbitrary and (worse) that differ from my own arbitrary opinions. This book was a pleasant surprise. Goldberger doesn't spend a lot of time pronouncing certain examples of architecture as appealing or appalling. Instead, he gives a good overview of what some of the issues are and how various architects handle them: "challenge" versus "comfort", for example, to take what's perhaps his best chapter. There are good black-and-white illustrations in the text, and my only quibble is that there could have been more of them provided (fortunately, it's not hard to find images on the internet). Highly readable and accessible.
13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars buy 1, get 1 free 16 Jan 2010
By Joong Won Lee - Published on Amazon.com
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.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Why Architecture Matters 15 May 2012
By Warren Lawson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Sensing a possible connection with some of my recent thoughts on the subject, I ordered a copy of Why Architecture Matters by Paul Goldberger. My radar was working perfectly. What I found was a gem of a book, written for those not necessarily possessing a degree in architecture yet somehow drawn to the world of buildings, that sharply brings into focus our relationship to those buildings - and, of course, why those buildings matter.

Written with a passion for the things we build to give us shelter, deeply insightful, this important book gives coherent shape to previously scattered thoughts I've had regarding the value architecture has for us all. I highly recommend it to any of you who want to penetrate the veil of mystery surrounding the subject and reality of architecture and its vital relevance in our lives.
Taken from my post at [...]
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting on many levels 23 Jan 2010
By Lee Barry - Published on Amazon.com
The book was very useful to me as an artist in terms of the power of context and the abstract meanings that can exist in art and music as well as architecture. Goldberg's writing is smooth as silk and very conversational.
20 of 30 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Very, very cautious! 29 Mar 2010
By Pierre Gauthier - Published on Amazon.com
This book abundantly quotes varied sources ranging from Vitruvius to Allan de Botton, in fact to a point where it appears akin to namedropping. Similarly, all buildings to be expected are indeed mentioned: Falling Waters, the Louvre, Chartres Cathedral, Sant'Ivo, etc. However, little detail is provided to the reader who does not know them firsthand and small new insight is given to those who do. Also, time seems to have stopped a decade ago since the notions of sustainable development or green architecture are nowhere mentioned.

The author is overly balanced and prudent. He appears to be purposely inclusive and hardly takes a clear stance on any issue. He claims for instance to agree with Robert Venturi's positions . . . and with Le Corbusier's. Despite the fact that he has devoted his professional life to the appreciation of architecture, the overall tone is strangely aloof and dispassionate.

Also, potential readers should not be fooled by the attractive photograph of the Chrysler Building on the cover page. In fact, this book's lay-out is archaic and illustrations are limited to tiny low-resolution black and white photographs interspersed here and there. The thick, «quality» paper makes the pages of slightly varying size annoying to turn.

Unfortunately, this superficial book will not necessarily be of particular interest to persons unfamiliar with architecture and will not be vastly informative or stimulating to those familiar with the topic.
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