In this lavishly produced volume, authors Virginia and Lee McAlester explore outstanding landmark houses that exemplify America's major architectural and interior design styles from Colonial times to the mid-twentieth century. These twenty-five houses are illustrated with more than 350 specially commissioned full-color photographs of interior and exterior views, 125 black-and-white line drawings and floor plans, historical paintings, and vintage photographs.
The text not only discusses the houses architectural innovations and design elements but also profiles the architects and their clients. The featured houses were built by many of the country's leading architects—from Alexander Jackson Davis, Richard Morris Hunt, Henry Hobson Richardson, and McKim, Mead and White to Frank Lloyd Wright, the Greene brothers, and Walter Gropius—and owned by some of its most celebrated citizens, including Thomas Jefferson, Mark Twain, Thomas Edison, Jay Gould, the Guggenheim's, the Phippses', and the Vanderbilt's. As a result, the book is as much a cultural history as it is an architectural study. The authors also include an informative discussion of each style as it can be seen in vernacular versions around the country.
Located all over the United States, most of the featured houses are open to the public, and the book provides their addresses and other helpful information for visitors. Great American Houses and Their Architectural Styles will be irresistible to all house lovers, architects, and designers, and will give readers a deeper understanding and appreciation of our rich architectural heritage.
Virginia Savage McAlester is an American author, architectural historian, preservationist, and political activist. She is best known for her book A Field Guide to American Houses, a standard guide to American home styles.
As an avid architecture and design enthusiast, I consider this book to be one of the seminal volumes on the American vernacular in my library. The authors explore 25 grand houses--ranging from Monticello to Mark Twain House to Vizcaya--and the changing tastes in housing design over a period of over 300 years.
The book is divided into four main sections and within each they introduce, in chronological order, each of the grand mansions that illustrate the evolution of a principal style. For example, under the Colonial section, Georgian, Federal, Classical Revival, French Colonial and Spanish Colonial are each examined. The format provides a narrative of the progression of that style, photography and the historical cultural aspects contextualize its development. Each style is then deconstructed in a double page spread featuring illustrations highlighting the design elements.
What I most enjoy about this book is its versatility for anyone interested in architecture. This book is for the novice and informed alike. It can be used as a quick reference tool, a visual dictionary of architectural terms, or as a more in depth volume on the development of the stylistic elements that comprise the great American house.
This book is nice and it is appropriate, but most certainly it is a display book. I had hoped it would be more like McAlester's other books, and was not so much disappointed, but certainly thought it lacking the same depth and usefulness of the other books the author has been involved with. Glad I finally read it, but wished for more.