If you haven’t read any Herbert Muschamp (the late architecture critic of the New York Times and elsewhere) consider it.  And Jane Jacobs, too. And Lewis Mumford. These are a few of the best writers on urbanism this nation has ever produced. Through their assessments of cities, buildings, and landscapes they illuminate not only the stories behind specific works, but also the broader context.  They ask big questions. What does design mean? Why does design matter? How can we see our surroundings more vividly.

 

So they’re great reads for design professionals—part of the canon, if you will, beside Design With Nature and Gardens Are for People.  But don‘t necessarily rush out and buy Muschamp’s collected works, or Jacobs’s Death and Life.  Instead buy this book: Writing About Architecture by Alexandra Lange. Lange, who blogs for Design Observer and teaches at NYU, has collected six critical essays ranging across about a hundred years of American design history. Joining the three mentioned above are Michael Sorkin, Charles W. Moore, and Frederick Law Olmsted (who was a journalist before plunking some little park down in Manhattan).

 

These six masterworks alone would be worth the price of admission, but Lange accompanies each with a stunning essays of her own. The purpose of the book, as she puts it in the introduction, is to educate a new wave of citizen critics “equipped with the desire and the vocabulary to remake the city.” To that end, she takes apart each essay (referencing others on the same subject) and tries to discover why the piece works and how we might apply those lessons—to our writing, yes, but more importantly to our seeing.

 

The book grew from Lange’s architecture criticism classes, so each chapter also includes a few simple exercises. This is hardly a textbook, however. It is an historical slideshow of excellent design writing coupled with fun and enlightening critiques of the criticism. There is nothing out there like this book. It seems a specialized subject, but think of it not as a primer on actually writing design criticism, but on understanding design. Lange concludes with: “The ability to write about architecture…is relevant to more than criticism.” This book both inspires and teaches the use of the critical eye, a useful tool for any designer.

Writing About Architecture

by Alexandra Lange

Princeton Architectural Press

2012

ISBN 978-1-61689-053-7

Views: 256

Tags: Book Reviews, Books, Reviews

Comment

You need to be a member of Land8 to add comments!

Join Land8

Comment by Lara Moffat on December 4, 2012 at 12:44pm

Adam: I heard her speak last year for the David Dillon Symposium at the Nasher...fabulous presenter as well!  Hope all is well- Lara 

Blog Posts

Drafting Tips: Boosting AutoCAD Productivity with Tool Palettes

In an office, design staff must ensure that project…

Continue

Posted by Nicholas Buesking on February 7, 2016 at 9:00am

Putting the Public in the Right of Way: Streets as Urban Open Space

American cities are in the…

Continue

Posted by Nate Cormier on February 5, 2016 at 8:47am

Latest Activity

Emily Jane commented on Doug Davies's blog post 'Top 10 Websites for Learning Realistic Landscape Architecture Rendering Tips and Tricks'
"Nice work! Look at our works at archicgi.com. We are one of the largest…"
yesterday
Jim Del Carpio replied to Young Z's discussion 'California Supplemental Exam'
"In case anyone else is interested. The source to study and references: Pass the CSE for L.A."
yesterday
Tosh K replied to adam dinn's discussion 'Land Reclamation'
"Context?  This is a very broad and vague questions. In the us it is sometimes required for…"
Monday
A blog post by Nicholas Buesking was featured
Sunday

© 2016   Created by Andrew Spiering.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service