“Why Architecture Matters”
“Why Architecture Matters”, Paul Goldberger
Winston Churchill authored the famous quotation, “We shape our buildings; thereafter they shape us.”
We spend the vast majority of our lives in buildings. Architecture is that broad and diverse built environment that, in serving our needs, makes us feel exhilarated, awed, sheltered, secure, oppressed, confused, frustrated, bored, and a hundred other reactions…or sadly, nothing at all. “Why Architecture Matters”, by the New York Times architectural critic, Paul Goldberger is a book ten years in the writing and a lifetime of observing that answers the question, “Why?”
Not all critics have the ability to identify and address the big questions in their fields in understandable terms. When so much of architecture discussion is either deeply theoretical or just picture galleries, Goldberg’s clarity is refreshing in tackling the challenging questions of when, where, why, how, and what makes architecture, good, bad, or just mundane.
From Vitruvius to Lewis Mumford, Goldberger draws on the wide experience of architects, theorists, critics, and his own experience of architecture to describe how architects think about architecture and the influences that proportion, scale, shape, form, space, light, materials, texture, colour, and a host of others bring to create architecture.
Though limited to examples from western civilization, “Why Architecture Matters”, contains much to assist us in understanding what makes architecture more substance than just the mere style of a building: how it can help or hinder intended function on the multiple levels of human experience, how architecture marks the time, place, and memory of our personal and social meaning, and why it expresses who we are and what we value individually and collectively.
While the qualities of architecture described by Goldberger are sufficient to create their own images in your imagination, you may be tempted to indulge in more than the simple black and white photos strategically located throughout the book and trip the night fantastic in an orgy of Google image searching for more.
As a practicing architect for the past 28 years, this is one of the best book I have read on the nature of architecture and its impact on our lives as individuals and communities. You will never visit a city, walk a street, and enter a building or a room again without the understanding the experience of architecture.
“Why Architecture Matters”, Paul Goldberger, Yale University Press, 2009. ISBN 978-0-300-14430-7
David Lavender is a local architect with an international practice.
You can contact David at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at @LavenderArch.