ARCHITECTURE by Vincent Scully

ARCHITECTURE

The Natural and the Manmade

KIRKUS REVIEW

 A brilliant distillation of the ideas of the man called by Philip Johnson ``the most influential architecture teacher ever.'' Here, Scully (Art History/Yale; Pueblo, 1974) surveys with charm, eloquence, and philosophical reflection the history of the symbolic structures that mediate between the human beings who created and use them and the natural world. Scully's major theme is that architecture either imitates natural forms, as in pre-Hellenic Greece and in early as well as contemporary America, or contrasts with them, separating humans from nature, as in classical Greece and Rome, Renaissance Italy and France, and 18th-century England. Starting with a lyrical description of the skyscrapers of Lower Manhattan, drawing analogies with the sacred mountains and building of the Southwest Indians, he tours with pleasure, insight, and familiarity the Acropolis, the pyramids and the Romanesque Hagia Sophia, leading to the achievement of the Gothic cathedral--which Scully sees as an incarnation of the City of God and the human body, indeed of ``multiple truths,'' a cumulative concept that, he says, ``human beings seem afraid to acknowledge.'' He expresses this syncretism in his vision of Chartres: ``It lifts itself singing out of the wheat, within which the poppies, the blood of Adonis, grow.'' In spite of his eclecticism, Scully excludes from his architectural pantheon the ``brutalist buildings'' of the International School and Le Corbusier because, he says, they have no human relevance. Throughout, Scully reveals himself as a gifted writer, rising from a crisp structural analysis of Notre Dame to an incantatory reading of a whole urban landscape, coming to rest on the ultimate meaning of the Vietnam Memorial in D.C., designed by his own student Maya Lin. In its interaction between the living and the dead, between nature and humanity, the memorial is very much a reflection of Scully's teaching. Thoughtful, passionate, and visually exciting--a work that will unquestionably encourage others both to create meaningful monuments, buildings, gardens and to understand them. (Over 500 illustrations, including 200 color and 200 b&w photographs.)

Pub Date: Nov. 22nd, 1991
ISBN: 0-312-06292-3
Page count: 512pp
Publisher: St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 1991