How Architecture Works: A Humanist's Toolkit
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How Architecture Works: A Humanist's Toolkit

3.62 of 5 stars 3.62  ·  rating details  ·  48 ratings  ·  11 reviews
An essential toolkit for understanding architecture as both art form and the setting for our everyday lives

We spend most of our days and nights in buildings, living and working and sometimes playing. Buildings often overawe us with their beauty. Architecture is both setting for our everyday lives and public art form—but it remains mysterious to most of us.
InHow Architectu...more
Hardcover, 368 pages
Published October 8th 2013 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
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Timo Ivanov
Witold Rybczynski is rightly celebrated as an architect and professor who is bringing architecture to the people.

This book will, unfortunately, not enhance that reputation. Rybczynski's purpose with this book is two-fold: First, to provide the casual reader with an understanding of how the components of architecture come together to make a "good" or "bad" building. Second, to provide the casual reader with a sense of how to judge architecture in a humanist way.

Rybczynski only half-suceeds in his...more
After reading 3 of Witold Rybczynski's 10 books, I definitely need to take a break. I now see that he can continue to write about architectural principles using examples from American architecture, longer than I will have the strength to read them. This books takes themes such as "site," "plan," "structure," "skin," and "details" and describes famous examples for each. I liked his book "The Most Beautiful House in the World." This one seems more formulaic.
rybczynski has an amazing ability to explain very complex ideas in easily understood prose and examples. in this 2013 title, one of many many on architecture and aimed i think to the novice and potential self-explorer, he breaks down buildings and architecture in to: The setting -- Site -- Plan -- Structure -- Skin -- Details -- Style -- The past -- Taste. his main thesis is that there are only two traditions in western arch.: classic and gothic, all others, like modern and post-modern were just...more
Apr 28, 2014 Du rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: planning
This isn't the first book to point out elements needed for architecture to be successful. It also isn't the first book to make a to ten list. The success of this book is the authors ability to take complex esoteric ideas and relate them in a pedestrian way.

He communicates in a mild mannered prose that isn't dumbed down. It is intelligent and useful, but conveyed so that the reader is compelled to think and understand the concepts easily and practically.
Aug 04, 2014 Sd rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: thinking
"Our language and our way of seeing the world are influenced by our bodies, which have fronts and backs...Buildings likewise have identifiable faces (façades) and backs."

"Modern architects' attitudes toward figural details were influenced by Adolf Loos's famous 1908 essay, 'Ornament and Crime,' which advocated the banishment of all ornamental motifs from buildings. it was a Faustian bargain, for it produced buildings that lacked intimacy and the deeper level of experience - intellectual as well...more
Jim Wilson
Like all of Rybczynski's books this is well written and well organized. He knows how to write about architecture and does it in such a way as to make it understood by the non-expert. Straightforward explanation of what to look for. Traditional and solid. Deals with such elemental concepts as Site, Plan, Structure, Skin, Details and Style.
If you don't have a background in architecture or art history, make sure you have the internet handy when you read this book. Rybczynski frequently references architects and buildings in this book, but doesn't always include background on who/what/why. The book helps to give some insight on architectural choices in some very notable buildings, and it does force you to think just a little bit differently about buildings. I enjoyed his discussion of the National Museum of African American History...more
This is a useful discussion of the elements in architectural design. It is aimed at the layperson and is easy to understand. There is a glossary, but I rarely had to refer to it because the author explains most of the technical terms within the main text.

I especially appreciated Rybczynski’s explanations of how different architects approach projects.
A good discussion of architects and architecture. Rybczynski lays out the tools for discussing architecture and how architects understand their work and their profession.
I usually love his writing but without more photos or plans, this was not so useful. Good for overall ideas in certain periods but there's a lot of specific references.
A fascinating breakdown of how architects think about architecture. This will not only change the way you look at architecture, but it also gave me some much needed perspective on how to look at the visual design of the web. Generally I was just very inspired and fascinated by this book.
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Witold Rybczynski was born in Edinburgh, of Polish parentage, raised in London, and attended Jesuit schools in England and Canada. He studied architecture at McGill University in Montreal, where he also taught for twenty years. He is currently the Martin and Margy Meyerson Professor of Urbanism at the University of Pennsylvania, where he also co-edits the Wharton Real Estate Review. Rybczynski has...more
More about Witold Rybczynski...
Home: A Short History of an Idea A Clearing in the Distance: Frederick Law Olmsted and America in the 19th Century One Good Turn: A Natural History of the Screwdriver and the Screw The Most Beautiful House in the World Last Harvest: How a Cornfield Became New Daleville: Real Estate Development in America from George Washington to the Builders of the Twenty-First Century, and Why We Live in Houses Anyway

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