Makers of Modern Architecture: From Frank Lloyd Wright to Frank Gehry

Overview

Everyone knows what modern architecture looks like, but few understand how this revolutionary new form of building emerged little more than a century ago or what its aesthetic, social, even spiritual aspirations were. Through illuminating studies of the leading men and women who forever changed our built environment, veteran architecture critic Martin Filler offers fresh insights into this unprecedented cultural transformation. From Louis Sullivan, father of the skyscraper, to Frank Gehry, magician of ...
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Overview

Everyone knows what modern architecture looks like, but few understand how this revolutionary new form of building emerged little more than a century ago or what its aesthetic, social, even spiritual aspirations were. Through illuminating studies of the leading men and women who forever changed our built environment, veteran architecture critic Martin Filler offers fresh insights into this unprecedented cultural transformation. From Louis Sullivan, father of the skyscraper, to Frank Gehry, magician of post-millennial museum, Filler emphasizes how their force of personality has had a decisive effect on everything from how we inhabit our homes to how we shape our cities.

Why was the sudden shift in architectural fashion that wrecked the career of the Scottish designer Charles Rennie Mackintosh not enough to destroy the indomitable spirit of Frank Lloyd Wright, who rose from adversity to become America’s greatest architect? Why was Philip Johnson, “dean of American architecture” during the 1980s, so haunted by the superior talent of this less-fortunate contemporary Louis Kahn that he could barely utter his name even at the peak of his own success? How did Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s dictum “Less is more” give way to Robert Venturi’s “Less is a bore”?

Surveying such current urban design sagas as the reconstruction of Ground Zero and the reunification of Berlin, Filler also trains his sharp eye on some of the biggest names in architecture today, puncturing more than one overinflated reputation while identifying the true masters who are now building for the ages.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Most of these 17 short essays by Filler (architecture critic, House & Garden) originally appeared in the New York Review of Books; some have been expanded and updated. They touch on aspects of the work and lives of 20-plus giants of modern architecture (e.g., Mies van der Rohe, Le Corbusier) as well as contemporary practitioners (e.g., Frank Gehry, Richard Meier)...Filler's engaging observations and insights are worth reading." --Library Journal

"Since the mid-1980s, Martin Filler has contributed a medley of long critical essays on architects and architecture to The New York Review of Books. A new book by that publisher released on July 17 collects and updates Filler's essays in a single offering entitled Makers of Modern Architecture: From Frank Lloyd Wright to Frank Gehry. Arriving in time for the dog days, Filler provides something to sink our teeth into. Delicious!...Filler's essays consist of a rich amalgam of biographical analyses, emphasizing each individual's career trajectory, with some formal analysis of the architects' built work. Refreshingly, he avoids too much of the latter, preferring to delve into matters often unexplored in the popular press. Along the way, we encounter quotable quotes, digressions, obsessions, professional sympathies, categorizations, personal prejudices, pronouncements, analogies, refutations, as well as political and social observations, and a rich, fulsome exercise of the English language.In our superficial era, when architectural criticism gasps for column inches in the newspapers, and blogs woefully lack erudition or research, Filler's assessments in The New York Review stand apart, eschewing fashion and offering polished, carefully edited and backed-up, though highly personal, assertions.says, clearly a fascination, if not minor obsession, of this New York-based writer...In the course of 300 pages, he engages 17 architects, including the Eamseses (positive review) and Calatrava (less sanguine), but manages to omit Robert Stern, Peter Eisenman, and Michael Graves, all 1980s rock stars, as well as a shopping list of current galactic lights such as Zaha Hadid, Rem Koolhaas, Jean Nouvel, and Thom Mayne...Ultimately, Filler's engaging book entertains and informs as it opines; then the language ceases, leaving us hungering for more of this piquant, yet savory intellectual dish." --Architectural Record

"Martin Filler's Makers of Modern Architecture...should eclipse other works in the field. He incisively places many 20th century architects and their work in a social context. He is also a refreshingly colorful, on-target observer, as when he limns, hilariously, the agonizing approach to (and his disappointment in) Richard Meier's Getty Center in Los Angeles, or notes that Louis Sullivan 'sometimes edged toward the crackpot in the relentless of his passionate obsessions.'" --House & Garden

"Imagine a Vasari's Lives for architects, ranging from Louis Sullivan to Gehry, Piano, Calatrava. That's what Martin Filler has written with vivacity, concision, and encyclopedic erudition in Makers of Modern Architecture. If you're an old architectural hand, you'll need this book as an essential point of reference; if you're an avid amateur who wonders about the built world, you'll find it the best college course you never took. Filler's passionate observations on architecture and art, morality, commerce, and politics will ignite debates for years to come." --John Guare

Publishers Weekly

Made up of essays that originally appeared in the New York Review of Books, this work is a wonderful introduction to 20th-century architecture. Filler focuses each chapter on a single architect or firm, discussing their place in the history of architecture as well as some of their most important works. For some architects, particularly those who have become synonymous with high-profile projects-such as Frank Gehry or Richard Meier-Filler uses a single signature building to shed light on the architect by reading its structure and features as representative of their style. For others-such as Louis Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright-design philosophy is his focus: Filler demonstrates how their aesthetic vision shaped everything they created, from furniture and fixtures to residences and office buildings. The result is magnificent from start to finish. Filler writes elegant prose that captures the feeling of these buildings in a way that makes the illustrations almost unnecessary. He also discusses architecture in a way that will be both satisfying to specialists or practitioners and accessible to nonspecialists. No matter the level of previous experience with architecture, anyone with an interest in the subject will find Filler's work rewarding. (July)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Library Journal

Most of these 17 short essays by Filler (architecture critic, House & Garden) originally appeared in the New York Review of Books; some have been expanded and updated. They touch on aspects of the work and lives of 20-plus giants of modern architecture (e.g., Mies van der Rohe, Le Corbusier) as well as contemporary practitioners (e.g., Frank Gehry, Richard Meier). For the contemporary architects, Filler shares his personal tastes. But his dislike of, e.g., Renzo Piano's redesign of the Morgan Library in New York may not be shared by the public, and he doesn't always make a detailed argument as to why such buildings are unsuccessful. While many of the earlier chapters rely heavily on long quotations from other authors (the chapter on Louis Sullivan, e.g., uses Robert Twombly's eponymous biography of the American architect to provide insight and analysis), there are no specific citations and no complete bibliography of works cited, appurtenances that would have been useful to serious architecture students. A longer introductory chapter on the nature of modernism and postmodernism in architecture would also have made this a more valuable addition to public library collections of art and architecture. Nevertheless, Filler's engaging observations and insights are worth reading.
—Herbert E. Shapiro

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781590172278
  • Publisher: New York Review Books
  • Publication date: 7/17/2007
  • Series: New York Review Books Classics Series
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 987,131
  • Product dimensions: 5.75 (w) x 8.55 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Martin Filler was born in 1948 and received degrees in Art History from Columbia. His writings have been published in more than thirty journals, magazines, and newspapers in the US, Europe, and Japan. Since 1985 his essays on modern architecture have appeared in The New York Review of Books, and he is now architecture critic of House & Garden. Filler was elected a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2003. He and his wife, the architectural historian Rosemarie Haag Bletter, were guest curators for the Whitney Museum exhibition “High Styles: Twentieth Century American Design” (1985), and wrote the documentary film Beyond Utopia: Changing Attitudes in American Architecture (1983). They live in New York and Southampton, and have one son, Nathaniel.
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