THE HOUSE by Stephen Gardiner


Its Origin and Evolution
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A dry historical survey of the forces and influences that have shaped what we call home.

Gardiner (Epstein, 1993, etc.) manages to draw a fairly straight line from the cave to Le Corbusier, looking for the common threads that insured shelter and warmth but that also found local expression by way of geography, religion, and custom: the “cosmic orientation” of Chinese homes being a good example. Privacy, some form of order, and protection of possessions are needs as obvious as walls in early dwellings, with builder/designers then starting to play with space—as in the asymmetrical homes of the Japanese—and different materials and appearances. Gardiner discerns conscious efforts early on to relate humans to architecture, a trait certainly well established by the time the pyramids were built and the people of the Indus designed “the plan of the town to the rhythm of living.” Most interesting to Gardiner is the to-and-from of architectural references, the extraction of embryonic ideas and their infusion with new or customary twists: the Renaissance looking back to the Classical, or Palladio taking the fundamentals but not the bulk from classic Greek architecture. The common referents—and how they were put to such wildly disparate use—of Wright and Le Corbusier are also testimony to this looking back to see more clearly ahead. The great structural weakness here is the very lack of enthusiasm and awe (the adoption of timbered framework, thousands of years ago, by the Anatolians was “the obvious solution”) and a certain sniffiness, which is discouraging because when Gardiner loosens the corset strings—as in his discussion of the work of contemporaries like Charles Correa, Jorn Utzon, and Derek Walker—he betrays a real sense of excitement.

A fine train of architectural thought that needs airing and a bit more sunlight in order to gain a wide audience. (112 photographs and drawings)

Pub Date: Sept. 13th, 2002
ISBN: 1-56663-480-6
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Ivan Dee/Rowman & Littlefield
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15th, 2002