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When one cuts through the verbiage of the opening chapters and gets into the vast span of social history of America, this emerges as an informative, at times challenging book. The history of architecture and the stories of our architects are told against the background of the changing scene. For years we borrowed from Europe. A very few individualists stood out- men such as Thronton, Jefferson. But in the main we dabbed in variety, mediocrity, went through Classic Revival and Gothic Revival, and at mid century presented a confused picture. Industry was a dominant factor; the tension between city and country; the overwhelming surge of issues raised by the automobile these factors and others continued the confusion. The skyscraper became a status symbol; the excesses of the very rich- the ugliness of the cities- the lack of planning-the conflicts in political and social reform, all had something to say in the development of architecture. A few rebelled against tradition- Richardson, Sullivan, Hunt, Root, and Wright preeminent among them. The proving grounds seemed to be in commercial centers and university campuses, in the exhibitions, but still no truly American architecture emerged. Prosperity and complacency were the enemies of progress and individuality. It took the jolts of the crisis and the war to provide genesis of the modern movement with vitality. But still the dominant influences were imported- Le Corbusier, Mies van der Rohe, Groplus and again Wright stood out. Marcel Breuer, the Saarinens made their mark. Today there is hope in enough brilliant architecture and brilliant architects, widely enough distributed the country over so that Americans can see and learn. Note an easy book to read. It demands a great deal from the average reader.

Pub Date: April 19th, 1961
Publisher: Little, Brown