Architecture displays the values involved in its inhabitation, construction, procurement and design. It traces the thinking of the individuals who have participated in it, their relationships, and their involvement in the cultures where they lived and worked. In this way, buildings, their details, and the documents used to make them, can be read closely for cultural insights.
Introducing the idea of reading buildings as cultural artefacts, this book presents perceptive readings by eminent writers which demonstrate the power of this approach.
The chapters show that close readings of architecture and its materials can test commonplace assumptions, help architects to appreciate the contexts in which they work, and indicate ways to think more astutely about design. The readings collected in this innovative and accessible book address buildings, specifications and photographs. They range in time from the fifteenth century – examining the only surviving drawing made by Leon Battista Alberti – to the recent past – projects completed by Norman Foster in 2006 and Herzog and De Meuron in 2008. They range geographically from France to Puerto Rico to Kazakhstan and they range in fame from buildings celebrated by critics to house extensions and motorway service areas.
Taken together, these essays demonstrate important research methods which yield powerful insights for designers, critics and historians, and lessons for students.
Introduction: A Case for Close Reading Adam Sharr Opening 1. Breathing Walls David Leatherbarrow Part 1: Extraodrinary Buildings, Divergent Readings Introduction Adam Sharr 2. An Augury of Collapse: Herzog and De Meuron’s Caixa Forum, Madrid Adam Sharr 3. Fostering Relations in Kazakhstan Edward Wainwright 4. Reading the Site at Sverre Fehn's Hamar Museum Suzanne Ewing 5. A Hellish Cloud and a Very Clear Air: Industry, Nature and Weather in Early Eighteenth-Century England Jonathan Hill Part 2: Familiar Buildings, Unfamiliar Readings Introduction Adam Sharr 6. Extension Stories Flora Samuel 7. Lounge Space: The Home, the City and the Service Area Samuel Austin 8. The Architecture of Urban Life: 67 rue des Meuniers Diana Periton 9. The Settings and the Social Condenser: Transitional Objects in Architecture and Psychoanalysis Jane Rendell Part 3: Redolent Details, Insightful Dcouments Introduction Adam Sharr 10. Four Lines Michael Cadwell 11. 'God is in the Details'/'The Detail is Moot': A Meeting Between Koolhaas and Mies Mhairi McVicar 12. Specifying Transparency: From ‘Best Seconds’ to ‘New Glass Performances’ Katie Lloyd Thomas 13. Making Plans: Alberti's Ichnography as Cultural Artefact Paul Emmons and Jonathan Foote 14. How the Mind Meets Architecture: What Photography Reveals Hugh Campbell Opening 2 15. An Architectural Good-life can be Built, Explained and Taught only Through Storytelling Marco Frascari