World's Greatest Architect: Making, Meaning, and Network Culture

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Overview

Artifacts (including works of architecture) play dual roles; they simultaneously perform functions and carry meaning. Columns support roofs, but while the sturdy Tuscan and Doric types traditionally signify masculinity, the slim and elegant Ionic and Corinthian kinds read as feminine. Words are often inscribed on objects. (On a door: "push" or "pull.")
Today, information is digitally encoded (dematerialized) and displayed (rematerialized) to become part of many different objects, at one moment appearing on a laptop screen and at another, perhaps,
on a building facade (as in Times Square). Well-designed artifacts succeed in being both useful and meaningful. In World's Greatest Architect, William Mitchell offers a series of snapshots--short essays and analyses--that examine the systems of function and meaning currently operating in our buildings, cities, and global networks. In his writing, Mitchell makes connections that aren't necessarily obvious but are always illuminating, moving in one essay from Bush-Cheney's abuse of language to Robert Venturi's argument against rigid ideology and in favor of graceful pragmatism. He traces the evolution of Las Vegas from Sin/Sign City to family-friendly resort and residential real estate boomtown. A purchase of chips leads not only to a complementary purchase of beer but to thoughts of Eames chairs (like Pringles) and Gehry (fun to imitate with tortilla chips in refried beans). As for who the world's greatest architect might be, here's a hint: he's also the oldest.

The MIT Press

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Here's a provocative collection of witty, insightful, and argumentative essays that helps us think about the world of architecture and design in new and startling ways." Steve Paul
Kansas City Star

The MIT Press

"Like the extraordinary Whole Earth Catalog of our youth, these brilliant essays create patterns of possibility that allow the reader to see and design one's personal connection between each essay. The allusions to various cultural icons and their views on topics ranging from maps and communication to modern culture and creativity make this book a must read for the hungry mind. World's Greatest Architect is incisively written and along with William Mitchell's other contributions, firmly establishes his place in the pantheon of learning professionals." Richard Saul Wurman

The MIT Press

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780262633642
  • Publisher: MIT Press
  • Publication date: 9/30/2008
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 168
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.46 (d)

Meet the Author

William J. Mitchell was the Alexander W. Dreyfoos, Jr., Professor of Architecture and Media
Arts and Sciences and directed the Smart Cities research group at MIT's Media Lab. He authored many books, including The World's Greatest Architect (2008) and Placing
Words: Symbols, Space, and the City
(2005), both published by the MIT Press.
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Table of Contents

Prologue: Making Meaning

1 Kicking the Bottle 1

2 Paper Wonders 5

3 Viva Venturi 9

4 Sin No More 13

5 Loveliest of Trees 17

6 Alberti's Anniversary 21

7 The Net Has a Thousand Eyes 25

8 Surveillance Cookbook 33

9 Forget Foreign Wars 37

10 Everyday Low 41

11 Texas Chain Store 45

12 Right Place at the Wrong Time 49

13 Best Practices 53

14 Mama Don't Take My Megapixels 57

15 Instruments and Algorithms 61

16 Theory of Black Holes 65

17 Elegy in a Landfill 69

18 Theory of Everything 73

19 Deep Focus 77

20 Dappled Things 81

21 Morphology of the Biopic 85

22 Little Blue Coupe 89

23 Bicycle Socialism 93

24 Faux Book 97

25 Man of Steel 101

26 Its Not Easy 105

27 Imagined Wall Street 109

28 The Eagle Flies 113

29 Architectural Assassination 115

30 Urban Plastination 119

31 Civic Immunology 123

32 World's Greatest Architect 131

Epilogue: Writing and the Web 135

Index 139

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