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When it comes to determining the relative quality of architecture, who is best equipped to make the distinctions? Is it the public who lives in and among the buildings? The people who commission and pay for the buildings? Art historians? Or architects themselves?
These provocative essays take up the questions of what people value in architecture and how changing values influence opinions about it. In the intriguing opening essay, Michael Benedikt makes an argument for the role of architects in the delineation of value in architecture. He discusses the differences between icon and canon, a theme threaded through many of the essays. In addition to unexpected analyses of buildings such as Eero Saarinen’s Gateway Arch in St. Louis, Paul Rudolph’s Art and Architecture Building at Yale University, and the work of Antoni Gaudí and Frank Gehry, the collection includes a clear-eyed look at the role of architecture in addressing social problems.
Ultimately, these essays assert that judging architecture requires more than a refined sensibility. Buildings also need to be evaluated by their impact on the people living within and around them.
Contributors: John Beardsley, Harvard Design School; Michael Benedikt, U of Texas, Austin; Tim Culvahouse, California College of the Arts; Lisa Finley, California College of the Arts; Kurt W. Forster, Bauhaus-Universität, Weimar, Germany; Kenneth Frampton, Columbia U; Diane Ghirardo, U of Southern California; Charles Jencks; David Leatherbarrow, U of Pennsylvania; Nancy Levinson; Hélène Lipstadt; Juhani Pallasmaa, Helsinki U of Technology; Timothy M. Rohan, U of Massachusetts, Amherst; Roger Scruton; Daniel Willis, Pennsylvania State U.
William S. Saunders is editor of Harvard Design Magazine and assistant dean for external relations at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design. He is the author of Modern Architecture: Photographs by Ezra Stoller and editor of three other Harvard Design Magazine Readers.
Michael Benedikt is Hal Box Chair in Urbanism and director of the Center for American Architecture and Design at the School of Architecture at the University of Texas at Austin.