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Architecture of the Absurd: How "Genius" Disfigured a Practical Art
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Architecture of the Absurd: How "Genius" Disfigured a Practical Art

3.15 of 5 stars 3.15  ·  rating details  ·  65 ratings  ·  24 reviews
Book by Silber, John
Hardcover, 128 pages
Published November 12th 2007 by Quantuck Lane
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(showing 1-30 of 106)
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I hate bad buildings and architects who attempt to justify irrational spatial gymnastics with pseudo-intellectual bullshit as much as the next guy, but seriously? Is this really the best that the president of Boston University can do?

Unfortunately, John Silber took a decent premise for a book and completely shot himself in the foot. As other’s have noted, this book is similar to Tom Wolfe’s From Bauhaus to Our House of a previous generation. Wolfe ranted and raved about the aesthetic, functiona
This book is HILARIOUS! It's basically one long soap box against the sort of artsy-wacky contemporary architecture. Every page made me laugh, which I can only assume is because I work in a building that would elicit just such a response from this author.

Here's a good example: Gehry's Walt Disney Concert Hall.

"Neighbors of the new Disney Hall have complained that the hall's shimmering stainless steel curves direct enough sunlight into their apartments to blind them and raise the temperature of
I liked this book a lot, but I think it would have been better titled "Frank Gehry is a tool" because that's ultimately what the author is talking about. Oh sure, he has a few other examples--he talks about the pyramid at the Louvre and a few of Lloyd Wright's ego trips, but what the author REALLY wants to talk about (what's REALLY under his skin) is how Gehry's stainless steel amoebas are a big hideous waste that are over budget and poorly designed for their purposes. The whole book just builds ...more
The guy who writes this book is pretty pretentious and has a rather stuffy idea of what is "absurd". Although he proves his point about buildings that are nonfunctional or faulty (and once or twice is actually funny when he's trying to be), he comes across as a self righteous blowhard and the best things about this book are probably the pictures.
I normally stay away from reading books like this. I try to avoid reading work related topics in my free time. I made an exception for this book as it was recommended by a friend.

This was an easy read. The language flowed well and the pictures were really well done. I find that in any number of books or articles I read falling into the loose category “scholarly” the authors somehow feel if they want to be taken seriously they should use complicated sentence structure with dictionary level words
In the same vein as Tom Wolf's From Bauhaus to our House, I definitely found this less funny. After hearing an interview with this past president of Boston University, and seeing the structures built under his direction, I really wanted to dislike this book. And I sort of did. To repeat a line I used on another review, "this is the type of book my Mother-in-law might like, which means I hated the damn thing." As an architect, I found his arguments to be quite simplistic, yet at the same time I t ...more
Thom Foolery
I'm not usually one for arguing that artistic types should be constrained by "practical" considerations, but as Silber repeatedly points out, architecture is an "applied," rather than a "fine," art. In part this distinction means that, for architects, working within constraints, whether fiscal, physical, or aesthetic, is a part of the job description. Or at least, as Silber argues, it should be. As someone who has worked for almost a decade with and around professors of architecture, I found Sil ...more
Say what you will about the combative former president/chancellor of Boston University, you really can't argue with the main point he makes in this short book based on a speech he gave to an AIA meeting in Texas: Our worship of "genius" in architecture has given us buildings that don't work. Instead of satisfying the needs of the clients, "genius" architects focus on ego -- their own and those of the people who commission them and the critics who write about their work. Can we return to a world ...more
Jun 16, 2008 Ed rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: those who prefer Frank (L) Wright to Frank Gehry
This was a great read. It's more a big essay than a book, and is well-supplied with illustrations. I knew from a review that it was just what I was looking for. No, I am no student of architecture, art, engineering...but I know what I like when I see it. And I just ain't seein' it in so much modern architecture. To each his own, etc. But this book at least gave me a professional perspective on where willful architects have overstepped the bounds of sense in their quest for "originality." Give me ...more
A cranky old man's views on architecture. I mean that as praise. This man has lived, knows architecture, and has strong opinions. He is not simply railing on creative visionaries, if the building works, he embraces it. Gaudí and Utzon (of the Sydney Opera House) are praised by Silber despite cost overruns and missed deadlines. It is Gehry that really riles this guy up. His crimes? Buildings that don't have form or function working for them.

This is really a printed and bound lecture, quick and t
Cydney Clinton
Very opinionated, but still had some good points to it.
A fun read - easy and witty. I enjoyed Silber's diatribe against the false wall of some modern architecture...
Aug 24, 2008 Eric rated it 1 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: someone with angst against architects
What a strange book. It's approximately a hundred pages of the author ranting about why he doesn't like a particular architect and why another practicing architect is dumb for doing a certain thing. The funny thing is I actually I agree with most of his criticisms. I just wish he had spent another hundred pages being persuasive on why everyone else should believe the way the author thinks.
Jan 06, 2008 Scott rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: art
Much more could be written about this subject, but Silber's short argument is well-considered and compelling. The stories from his time as president and chancellor of Boston University were insightful. I wonder what his peers at other Boston-area institutions think.

Many of the book's featured buildings are familiar sights to Boston area residents, which is kind of fun.
I start by agreeing with the poster who said much more could be written on the subject. However, I would go on to add that I did not find it to be well considered nor very thoughtful. While I agree with much of what Silber has to say, it seemed that some of his arguments were poorly-reasoned and not particularly well developed. In short, the book left me wanting a lot more.
I pretty typical/quick read for any ND Arkie. Felt like old discussions back at school. But for the non-architect, I'd think it's a nice viewpoint from a someone outside the profession. Plus, anyone from Texas (where the author's from) or especially Boston (where the author lives and refers to frequently) will identify with many of the authors points.
Would be totally irritating (except for a very good introduction, largely about his architect father), but not so much because it agreed with some of my prejudices. Skip this: read The Failure of Modern Architecture, or far better still, How Buildings Learn.
An acerbic look at modern architecture and the starchitects who are responsible for it. John Silber is not a stranger to architecture having worked in his architect father's office. He is particularly critical of buildings that make statements but fail to work.
Tim Askin
Makes a few very good points while bashing Gehry (a hobby of mine). Unfortunately proofreading and editing are so bad they're distracting and it's a bit incoherent.
Laird Bennion
Good critique, if too short. Anyone that calls out Danny Libeskind as a fraud has a seat at my table.
It's about time someone wrote a good book on ego-driven architecture run shamefully amok.
Apr 22, 2009 Lindsey marked it as to-read
janelle, you should check this one out--it seems pretty interesting!
bleh. I agree with the premise but silber's an unconvincing doofus.
Fun, Quick... Preaching to the choir
Ben marked it as to-read
Dec 09, 2014
Serene marked it as to-read
Oct 13, 2014
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