New Books Tell the Stories of Those Who Followed the Urge to Build Architects Express Their Ideas in Homes, Cathedrals, Barns

By David C. Walters, writer of The Christian Science Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, December 29, 1992 | Go to article overview

New Books Tell the Stories of Those Who Followed the Urge to Build Architects Express Their Ideas in Homes, Cathedrals, Barns


David C. Walters, writer of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


THE go-go 1980s are clearly over as far as architecture-book publishing is concerned. Gone are the brassy, bold monographs filled with new works by postmodern architects. What remains are a few thoughtful, well-planned projects. Here are brief glimpses of several current releases:

Patricia Bayer's "Art Deco Architecture: Design, Decoration, and Detail from the Twenties and Thirties" (Abrams, 224 pp., $49.50) is a monument to the imagination.

Art Deco was truly a worldwide movement. Bayer guides the reader through a profusion of buildings that were precursors to Art Deco. She then embarks on an exhilarating tour of the international exhibitions between 1925 and 1940 that served as grand showplaces for Art Deco style.

Art Deco buffs who enjoy this book should also search out the 1989 volume published by Abrams called "Art Nouveau and Art Deco Silver" by Annelies Krekel-Aalberse. While narrowly focused on silverwork, the book is an excellent complement to Bayer's comprehensive volume.

Meredith L. Clausen's "Spiritual Space: The Religious Architecture of Pietro Belluschi" (University of Washington Press, 128 pp., $50) makes an elegant case for the successful fit between Belluschi's churches and their congregations.

Clausen also explains Belluschi's dilemma. After World War II, many churches expanded and built new edifices. The architecture of these new structures had to incorporate a balance between the faith and hope that a new building always represents and the growing secular demands on churches and synagogues as they increasingly served as multifunctional community centers.

In an article by Belluschi excerpted at the back of the book, he spells out some of his thoughts on religious buildings: "To design a house of worship is in effect to explore our relationship with God and to search for an understanding of the nature of religion as an institution.... By what means should a church building strive to express its transcendent purpose?"

Clausen explores many of Belluschi's attempts to craft an answer to that question - churches and synagogues that are spare, refined, and tuned-in to the faith of their congregations.

Houses have always been designed as bulwarks against the vagaries of climate. The idea of cooperating with the environment has been anathema to most designers. In "The Naturally Elegant Home:Environmental Style" (Little, Brown, 232 pp., $45), Janet Marinelli debunks the common belief that environmentally sensitive homes are basically unfit for habitation.

Unreliable energy-saving gimmicks and gizmos dating back to the oil crisis of 1973 have "been elevated to flawless engineering and fine art," writes Marinelli. This book shows the magnificent possibilities and the practical realities of environmental design. …

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