Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Why Architecture Matters

Why Architecture Matters

paul goldberger
Copyright Date: 2009
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 288
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Why Architecture Matters
    Book Description:

    Why Architecture Mattersis not a work of architectural history or a guide to the styles or an architectural dictionary, though it contains elements of all three. The purpose ofWhy Architecture Mattersis to "come to grips with how things feel to us when we stand before them, with how architecture affects us emotionally as well as intellectually"-with its impact on our lives. "Architecture begins to matter," writes Paul Goldberger, "when it brings delight and sadness and perplexity and awe along with a roof over our heads." He shows us how that works in examples ranging from a small Cape Cod cottage to the "vast, flowing" Prairie houses of Frank Lloyd Wright, from the Lincoln Memorial to the highly sculptural Guggenheim Bilbao and the Church of Sant'Ivo in Rome, where "simple geometries . . . create a work of architecture that embraces the deepest complexities of human imagination."Based on decades of looking at buildings and thinking about how we experience them, the distinguished critic raises our awareness of fundamental things like proportion, scale, space, texture, materials, shapes, light, and memory. Upon completing this remarkable architectural journey, readers will enjoy a wonderfully rewarding new way of seeing and experiencing every aspect of the built world.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-15577-8
    Subjects: Architecture and Architectural History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. introduction
    (pp. ix-xviii)

    We could not live without architecture, but that is not why it matters. The purpose of this book is to explain what buildings do beyond keeping us out of the rain. Architecture may be able to stake a claim to being necessary to our lives in a way that poetry and literature and painting cannot, but the fact that buildings give us shelter is not the answer to the question posed by the title. If it were as simple as that, there would be nothing left to say.

    Architecture begins to matter when it goes beyond protecting us from the...

  4. 1 meaning, culture, and symbol
    (pp. 1-40)

    I know that architecture matters very much to me, but I have no desire to claim that it can save the world. Great architecture is not bread on the table, and it is not justice in the courtroom. It affects the quality of life, yes, and often with an astonishing degree of power. But it does not heal the sick, teach the ignorant, or in and of itself sustain life. At its best, it can help to heal and to teach by creating a comfortable and uplifting environment for these things to take place in. This is but one of...

  5. 2 challenge and comfort
    (pp. 41-64)

    In the previous chapter I spoke of how architecture is balanced between art and practicality, and how it can never be perceived as either art or utility but has to be both at once. Keeping a kind of “both/and” rather than “either/or” sense of architecture in one’s head is an essential precondition to understanding. Still, it is the art that thrills as function never can; this is where passion arises and what makes architecture a transcendent experience. No one really remembers Chartres Cathedral because it housed thousands of the faithful efficiently, or Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater because it gave the...

  6. 3 architecture as object
    (pp. 65-108)

    Architecture is physical form. However much we consider its cultural meanings, its symbolism, its social value, or how the computer-driven world of cyberspace is creating new concepts of virtual space, the reality of architecture remains: buildings, not concepts, and how buildings combine to make places that are larger than their parts. Architecture is built form in the physical world and must be understood, experienced, and judged by the standards of built form in the physical world. The traditional principles still apply: architecture depends for its effectiveness on the extent to which the portions of a structure relate to one another...

  7. 4 architecture as space
    (pp. 109-138)

    When you think of a building as an object, you think about its overall shape, about the quality of its facade, and of how its other sides, if they are visible, read as compositions. You think of it as mass and volume and bulk. You see it in terms of line and color and materials. And you consider it in relation to the buildings around it.

    But of course there is another dimension entirely to buildings, and that is the way they feel when you go inside them. Buildings are created to enclose space. The reality of architecture consists as...

  8. 5 architecture and memory
    (pp. 139-170)

    Visual perception plays an obvious role in how we respond to architecture—our inherent sense of such things as proportion and scale, and of the way some materials feel harsh and other materials feel soft, or how some shapes suggest openness and others enclosure. Most people experience these physical elements of a building in roughly similar ways—if a building feels big to me, it is not likely to feel cozy and intimate to you. I want to consider now, however, another aspect of architectural experience, one that is different for every one of us and much harder to quantify...

  9. 6 buildings and time
    (pp. 171-211)

    Because we live with buildings, and see them all the time, our relationship to them is at once more intimate and more distant than our relationship to music or painting or literature or film, things that we experience episodically but intensely. When you are watching a film, your world consists almost entirely of what you see on the screen; when you are in a building, only occasionally do other perceptions and other thoughts disappear from your mind. I spoke in chapter 2 about the extent to which architecture, even good architecture, can encourage complacency; because we see it every day,...

  10. 7 buildings and the Making of Place
    (pp. 212-236)

    Architecture never exists in isolation. Every building has some connection to the buildings beside it, behind it, around the corner, or up the street, whether its architect intended it or not. And if there are no buildings near it, a building has a connection to its natural surroundings that may be just as telling. Le Corbusier’s Villa Savoye, his remarkable modern house in the Parisian suburb of Poissy that was finished in 1929, was designed to stand alone in an open meadow, a machine in the garden. But it is not really alone, any more than an apartment building standing...

  11. glossary
    (pp. 237-246)
  12. a note on bibliography
    (pp. 247-252)
  13. acknowledgments
    (pp. 253-256)
  14. illustration credits
    (pp. 257-258)
  15. index
    (pp. 259-273)