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WHY WE BUILD by Rowan  Moore


Power and Desire in Architecture


Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 2013
ISBN: 978-0-06-227753-4
Publisher: Harper Design

A voracious exploration of emotion as part of the creation and evolution of architecture.

There are times in reading this book when Observer architecture critic Moore seems breathless, so unstoppable is his hunger to get at the soul of the building process. Architecture is desire, he writes; it “is not a thing of pure reason or function, but is shaped by human emotions...and shapes them.” Buildings, said the Brazilian architect Lina Bo Bardi, “act not alone, but reciprocally with the people and things around them, that they have to be open to chance, time, and life.” Moore gracefully draws out when architecture enables other events and experiences to happen, and he explains how a city can contain multiple versions of itself. The “collective marvel” of a city is not, ultimately, the work of great architects, but the creation of “property developers in pursuit of their self-interest, real or perceived.” The author also shows readers the flamboyance and sheer brilliance of Zaha Hadid and a worshipful company of celebrity architects—heart-stopping in their vision one second, then indulging in the post-9/11 “carnival of bitch-slapping and back-stabbing, of name-calling, pretention, manipulation, and posturing.” Still, Moore supplies many exhilarating examples of architecture, from the wild exuberancy of Dubai to Prague’s Muller House by Adolf Loos, from the Moscow Metro to Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s Farnsworth House, and how they—and many more—all have shaped lives in profound ways as both symbol and instrument. The dozens of included photos are also helpful.

Form, light, scale, context, time—architecture, Moore ably shows, has the power to represent deep, abiding hope.