Top critical review
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Who is this for?
on 7 December 2013
I really like many aspects of this book (and I should make it clear from the start that I write as someone who is neither an architect nor student of the discipline, just someone with an interest in the built environment AND drawing/printmaking): it contains some attractive architectural drawings; it gives examples of many classic architectural elements, and gives illustrations of a number of key exemplars (so, 25 small sketches of approaches to roofing a space, wall structures, windows etc) and invites the reader to provide other examples; there are pages where examples of a design style are illustrated (eg De Stijl, Bauhaus); sections devoted to interesting approaches to functional features, such as chimneys; how buildings and their context can be 'greened' or incorporate water in their design.
Where I feel it falls badly short is that some of the problems the reader is asked to solve or consider seem absurdly overambitious given the input from the text. For example, six bridge types are illustrated on one page: opposite, is a location where a bridge is required and one is asked to design a new bridge for that location, without any reference anyway to the fact that bridge design is not subject purely to aesthetic whim! An illustration of Dubai's Palm Islands prompt the challenge 'design your own new island community'. The facade of Casa Batllo is presented and the reader is asked, with no more guidance or authorial input to 'design the external envelope of a building that resembles something in nature!' A reasonable challenge for someone with a bit of prior learning or experience, but for most readers? That challenge seems to me so scattershot in its focus as to be almost meaningless: and I can't help thinking that anyone capable of having an interesting crack at doing these things would not be someone who would consider buying this book because they would have the experience and knowledge to make the book redundant and simplistic: those who, like me, want a bit of guidance and inspiration to do anything beyond a random scribble will find it severely lacking because it doesn't tell you enough to make the task meaningful. Over and over again I found the book pretty irritating in this regard. There is little reference to a key element of architectural practice - the marrying of function, environment and aesthetics. (To parody a little, imagine an art book that said 'These are some examples of portraits: now draw someone you know'.)
I could imagine say a young teenager with an artistic or architectural bent getting pleasure from it, but not the audience suggested in the introduction, nor someone like myself with an interest in drawing and buildings.
Added to which, as another reviewer has correctly commented, the paper is pretty dreadful for sketching: similar to a colouring in book, something which, for all the book's apparent ambition, is essentially what it is.
Perhaps I'm not entering into the spirit of the text. Perhaps: but I think I was expecting something a little more engaging than a book which, despite interesting ambitions, seems to me little more than 'design a stocking filler'! I really should love this book, but I really don't.