The Most Beautiful House in the World

( 2 )


Witold Rybczynski takes us on an extraordinary odyssey as he tells the story of the designing and building of his own house. Rybczynski's project began as a workshed; through a series of "happy accidents," however, the structure gradually evolved into a full-fledged house. In tracing this evolution, he touches on matters both theoretical and practical, writing on such diverse topics as the distinguished structural descendants of the humble barn, the ritualistic origins of the elements of classical architecture, ...
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Witold Rybczynski takes us on an extraordinary odyssey as he tells the story of the designing and building of his own house. Rybczynski's project began as a workshed; through a series of "happy accidents," however, the structure gradually evolved into a full-fledged house. In tracing this evolution, he touches on matters both theoretical and practical, writing on such diverse topics as the distinguished structural descendants of the humble barn, the ritualistic origins of the elements of classical architecture, and the connections between dress and habitation, and between architecture and gastronomy. Rybczynski discusses feng-shui, the ancient Chinese art of locating a home in the landscape, and also considers the theories and work of such architects as Palladio, Le Corbusier, and Frank Lloyd Wright. An eloquent examination of the links between being and building, The Most Beautiful House in the World offers insights into the joys of "installing ourselves in a place, of establishing a spot where it would be safe to dream."
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
As a young architect, Rybczynski felt trapped inside a paper world of blueprints and cardboard models and itched for the nitty-gritty experience of building with his own hands. He soon devised a plan of escape. It was modest enough--to design and build a boatshed--but it was the beginning of a creative journey that questioned the nature of architecture and the architect's role: What makes a cathedral but not, say, a boatshed architecture? When should an architect design iconoclastic solutions to old problems, when to apply traditional principles? As Rybczynski writes of how his concept of a shed evolved into a full-fledged house, he discusses his wide-ranging research, meditates on the varied sources of his inspiration and on the ``game'' of architecture. He also incorporates the kind of historical tidbit that keeps the reader turning pages--the ritualistic origins of the elements of classical architecture; the not-quite-tongue-in-cheek parallels between architecture and gastronomy; the distinguished structural descendants of the humble barn. Written with the easy-going charm that marked his Home: A Short History of an Idea , this delightful ramble through the creative process will beguile architecture buffs and general readers alike. Illustrated. (May)
Library Journal
Young architect decides to build boat, needs boat house to work in, ends up years later with country place and no boat, and meditates thereon. An extended reflection on the meaning of a house to its inhabitants, this personalized extension of the author's earlier Home ( LJ 9/1/86) does reveal some of what an architect does, albeit when the same person is architect, client, and builder, and it is simply written. More revealing, more detailed, more particular, and preferred is Tracy Kidder's House ( LJ 8/85).-- Jack Perry Brown, Ryerson & Burnham Lib., Art Inst. of Chicago
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780140105667
  • Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 7/28/1990
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 224
  • Sales rank: 1,456,406
  • Product dimensions: 5.06 (w) x 7.74 (h) x 0.63 (d)

Meet the Author

Witold Rybczynski of Polish parentage, was born in Edinburgh in 1943, raised in Surrey, and attended Jesuit schools in England and Canada. He received Bachelor of Architecture (1960) and Master of Architecture (1972) degrees from McGill University in Montreal. He is the author of more than fifty articles and papers on the subject of housing, architecture, and technology, including the books Taming the Tiger, Paper Heroes, The Most Beautiful House in the World, Waiting for the Weekend, and Looking Around: A Journey Through Architecture (all available in Penguin), and most recently, City Life. He lives with his wife, Shirley Hallam, in Philadelphia and is the Martin and Margy Myerson Professor of Urbanism at the University of Pennsylvania.

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Table of Contents

The Most Beautiful House in the World 1. Wind and Water
2. The Building Game
3. Making Space
4. Fitting In
5. Just a Barn
6. Chrysalis
7. The Mind's Eye
8. The Most Beautiful House in the World
Notes on Sources

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 17, 2001

    Shelter for Dreams

    A wall of glass bottles was the final feature completing the house Witold Rybczynski built for himself. On the oval bottom of a brown bottle of Armagnac, he inscribed the date and the names of his coworkers and signed off like an ancient craftsman: ''RYBCZYNSKI FECIT.'' This gem of a book rewards the reader with a wealth of meaning in those words, ''Rybczynski made it,'' revealing the whole experience - esthetic, architectural, didactic, domestic, historical, laborious, linguistic, mechanical, philosophical, poetic, sensory, symbolic - contained in this house. As it takes shape in the reader's mind, the sense of building unfolds, constructing once again Heidegger's unity: building-dwelling-thinking. The book owes its arresting title to Joseph Rykwert, chairman of the doctoral program in architecture at the University of Pennsylvania, who invited Mr. Rybczynski to address his seminar on the subject of a design competition sponsored by an Italian journal. The author responded, ''The most beautiful house in the world is the one that you build for yourself.'' In a previous study, ''Home: A Short History of an Idea,'' Mr. Rybczynski, who teaches architecture at McGill University in Montreal, went beyond architecture to provide a fascinating historical exploration of domestic well-being. In his new book, he tells what it means to build his own home. First Mr. Rybczynski dreamed of a boat, then of a shelter to build it in - something between a shed and a cathedral. He and his wife, Shirley Hallam, decided to include temporary living quarters in the plan, with the idea of constructing a house nearby sometime in the future. They chose a site, he ruminated over designs, enlisted the help of his wife and his friend Vikram Bhatt, an Indian architect. They poured a foundation before completing the design. In vacation periods, on weekends and afternoons after work they put their energies into the project. Mr. Rybczynski assembled notes, made drawings, jotted down reflections on architecture and reviewed the experience of his practice. This building, in the reader's mind, grows larger than a shed or even a cathedral; it concretizes architecture and all its connections. As time passed the author wondered: a boatbuilding workshop or a house? The living quarters expanded and the intended boat shrank from dory ketch to catboat. The building should look traditional; it must fit the location, speak the local language. He chose the form of a barn. Vast barns dominated the landscape, he explains, ''and if my building was to fit it, it could only be as a little offspring of these heroic leviathans.'' For a year and a half he immersed himself in its paper existence, gestating a hybrid dream that looked like a barn but sheltered boatbuilding at the west end, living quarters at the east. Then these three builders, colonists in the meadow, people with little experience in construction, put up frame and sheathing in a few weeks, working with hand tools. They changed the place, occupied the meadow; it was ''the reenactment of a primeval process that began with the first hut erected in a forest clearing, and it gave me the feeling of playing out an ancient ritual.'' At sunset the glass bottles of the final wall ''blazed with the amber and emerald colors of several hundred wine and liquor bottles - a bacchanalian rose window.'' The physical house sank the maritime dream, partly in the weariness of construction, partly by fulfillment. He explains: ''After years of designing on the drawing table . . . I had wanted to build something, anything, with my own hands and with proper tools and real materials.'' The Rybczynskis turned the boatbuilding workshop into living quarters, decided to make a comfortable permanent home instead of temporary shelter. This transformation changed Shirley from an associate builder into a client, who challenged him with questions, objections, demands. She had a better knowledge of house design than he, ''not of co

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 29, 2011

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