No one can accuse Fitchen of lacking ambition. Here, he sets out to survey the practices of ""the builder"" (as opposed to ""the designer"") from prehistoric times to the present. The project is a promising one: to investigate the methods of those anonymous artisans who produced everything from sheds to Chartres. Unfortunately for the general reader, Fitchen fails to enliven his subject with the kinds of anecdotal details that would bring the processes he describes--the use of falsework, estimation of stresses, ventilation problems--down to a human scale. The tone of the work is unremittingly scholarly, the text dotted with references to such phrases as ""hammer beams"" and ""casing blocks."" For professionals in the field of architecture, this will prove an engrossing compilation of construction methods utilized by various cultures. Discussing ventilation, for example, Fitchen ranges from the solutions devised by medieval builders at the Abbey of Ste. Marie de Breteuil in France, to those by Hopi Indians in the kivas of the American Southwest, the igloo-builders in the Arctic and the constructors of the great pyramids of Egypt. In addition, he applies the same thoroughness to such matters as vaulting, ladders, site selection and the procurement and training of labor forces. Impressive, but for the general reader more than a little daunting. An important addition to architectural literature, one that will be welcomed by students and professionals in the field. General readers may, however, prefer sticking to Popular Mechanics. Copiously illustrated with photographs, drawings and diagrams, all of which help to amplify the text.