The Most Beautiful House in the World

The Most Beautiful House in the World

by Witold Rybczynski


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780140105667
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 07/28/1990
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 224
Sales rank: 543,461
Product dimensions: 5.10(w) x 7.80(h) x 0.60(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About 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.

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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The Most Beautiful House in the World 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
Asperula on LibraryThing 6 months ago
A sweet and fascinating history of an architect's dream of building a shed in which to build a boat, but that evolves into a home. Great discussion on what defines a building's character.
bojanfurst on LibraryThing 6 months ago
How readable could a book about building a boat shed be? You'd be surprised. Rybczynski skillfully brings together his reflections on history, art, architecture, games and myriad of other things into a text that is a pleasure to read. After you're done, it feels like you just spent a great evening with your best friend.
heavywinter on LibraryThing 6 months ago
A great read (perhaps because I want to do the same sort of thing someday). I thoroughly enjoy first person accounts of personal projects. Maybe because I'm analytical by nature, but I revel in the minutiae, the trials & errors and the highs & lows of achieving your personal goals.
jcbrunner on LibraryThing 6 months ago
"The most beautiful house in the world is the one you build for yourself" (p. 186). Fortunately for Rybczynski and his fellow architects, this is not true. The difference in financial firepower and professional skill will see to it that most fail to build something as grand as the Taj Mahal. Your self-designed and self-built house, however, can accommodate your personal preferences and foibles, and acquire an intimate connection in the process. I wish Rybczynski's long suffering wife had told her story in an epilogue. After all, it took Rybczynski three years to add walls and a roof to his house (first intended as a workshop for a boat). It took another two years to convert the barn into a private residence. Only if you are your own client, can you bungle a job like this. A valuable lesson for any prospective builder. Transforming a dream into reality is hard work which tests organizational skills, financial resources and the strengths of relationsships.In this personal recollection, Rybczynski concentrates mostly on the architecture bit, enlightening readers to the core ideas of feng shui, the process of designing, architectural history as well as famous architects. Curiously absent are any mentions of building codes and permits as well as financial aspects. Not missing are trivia about Rybczynski and his life, and a rather preposterous lineage of great writers and their houses, in whose company the author places himself. To get to the morsels about architecture, one has to listen to the Rybczynskiana. Overall, it's not bad, especially his short introduction to domestic architecture. Tracy Kidder's House, however, gives a much closer and humane report of the building process.
manatree on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Rybczynski is a talented writer who could probably write a captivating book about the sex life of roofing nails. The fact that he writes about architecture is an added bonus.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
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