A Note from the Editor

Article excerpt


I am the first to admit that my knowledge of architecture is practically nil. As long as my house has sufficient room, does not leak, and is something that I can afford, I am largely satisfied. It is not that I am a complete Philistine; one cannot earn a PhD in literature and remain ignorant of art and artists and their influence on poetry and fiction. I even vaguely remember having read and, at the time, understood John Ruskin. No, it is more that with my general lack of visual perspicuity (to which I have confessed in the past in this space), I never really had the need or even the chance to study the field. At least when I was an undergraduate, one did not have the opportunity to substitute "Architecture 101" for the world history survey or conversational Spanish. So as Woody Allen says (tongue firmly in cheek) about his own lack of ability to understand the art of pantomime, "I possess an Achilles' heel culturewise that runs up May leg to the back of my neck."

Until now, of course. This issue has been an education for me, and a welcome one to boot. While I still do not claim to know my plinth from my cornice or my Doric from my Ionic, at least now I will be able to stem the rising panic if someone brings the topic up in polite conversation. Our authors offer a broad range of ideas and topics as they take us on a journey through the history, theory, people, and practices of architecture. Their essays are challenging, informative, and insightful. And if they can offer hope to a visual idiot like me, then just think of what they have to offer for those of you who are not quite so design-impaired.

To lead off, Leland Roth offers an overview of the history of American architecture. Professor Roth covers major architectural movements and influences from colonial times to the present in a piece that provides context for the articles that follow in the issue. Next, Georgia Bizios advocates that architects and teachers of architecture build on sound architectural principles rather than following the whims of the moment or copying the models of the past. She suggests a systematic approach to design that involves paying attention to design philosophy, principles, guidelines, and standards.

Robert McCarter then explores what he sees as an overlooked tradition in American architecture, the legacy and relationship of Frank Lloyd Wright and Louis I. Kahn. McCarter discusses the achievements of these two great American architects of the past century, in particular the rarely acknowledged influence that Wright had on Kahn's work. …


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