LOOKING AROUND: A Journey Through Architecture by Witold Rybczysnki

LOOKING AROUND: A Journey Through Architecture

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The subtitle here is a disappointment, because in fact these gathered examples of Rybczynski's recent architecture journalism aren't historically organized: They show his usual steady hand and watchful intelligence, and yet, lacking the narrative thread of The Most Beautiful House in the World (1989) or Waiting for the Weekend (1991), they can suffer from a recurrent sameness, beginning to feel less like a pleasant ramble than like a journey that won't quite end. Rybezynski (Architecture/McGill Univ.) excels as the architectural chronicler of the personal and domestic, making the evolution of the ""living room"" from the ""parlor,"" for example (""Good Housekeeping""), more than a matter of mere curiosity--as he does also with his recounting of the comfortable sense of place he felt at McGill in his student days (""A Place Map""). Never afraid to be personal (""The building raises my spirits each time I pass it,"" he says of a recently completed structure), he can bring a casual immediacy even to the 16th century by discussing Palladio as an architect whose genius lay largely in inventive cost-cutting (""Low-Cost Classicism""). Rybczynski never raises his voice, but neither does he flinch from the truth (""Never have there been so many celebrated architects; rarely, so few great ones"") or hesitate to name crucial ills for what they are (""Since the reign of modernism...the art of building has been transformed into an art of packaging""). Even so, with its own share of pieces that read as much like architecture reviews as essays, the volume can have a feel of drift--not so much a trip through architecture as a bumping around within it--and one is wistful for the brevity and subtle chronology that helped make The Most Beautiful House so alluring. Rybczynski--estimable critic and valuable observer--in a form best browsed through.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1992
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Viking