It's amazing how Tom Wolfe packed the whole sorry history of the failure of modern architecture into this brief, funny, sarcastic book.
Of course, architects and architectural students hate this book. It so pithily lays out how the emperor of modern architecture has no clothes. I'm not talking about Gropius or LeCorbusier, I'm talking about the very concept of modern architecture as the emperor with no clothes. There are very few "great ideas" that have failed so miserably.
I recommend buying several copies and keeping it in your hip pocket to hand out to (sadly) deluded young architects who believe that vast sheets of smooth glass, granite, concrete and/or stucco lined with a little bit of stainless steel somehow constitutes a building worthy of human habitation. Of course, some architects have now added vast smooth areas of flat wood to humanize their failures.
Yes, Robert Hughes' book Shock of the New, along with the film program, are must viewing, too. Whether Tom Wolfe cribbed from Hughes or not, Wolfe makes his points quickly and clearly.
If you doubt the truth of Wolfe's book just start visiting architects' websites on the internet and look at the gray and/or white bunkers that are supposed to pass for houses. Notice how every building now comes in a few basic styles: Prison/medieval fortress (vast stretches of concrete with narrow vertical slits for windows), bunker (a favorite both for houses and for public buildings), Cyclops/Star Trek Planet Eater=a giant rectangular box with one huge window/set of windows at one end, the Iron Giant--a variation on the Cyclops where a set of windows is surrounded by a square concrete frame that juts out like a jaw, the ship (really popular, "the image is of a ship"), glass curtain walls on a stucco box, the coffin: a long low 70's style/DDR Plattenbau building with horizontal windows. Throw in a few windows wrapped around a corner; have a little flat piece of metal stick out over the roof edge or somewhere AND, especially in Germany, long, thin, tall, spindly pillars.
Wolfe's book will never be out-of-date as long as the totally out-of-date (and never any good in the first place) Bauhaus style is used as a bible by architects who have lost all sense of proportion, art, beauty, humanity and practicality. And, don't forget: it's a terribly fun read!
Eine großartige Beschreibung der Tendenzen in der Architektur, vom Anfang der klassischen Moderne bis in die 80er. Wer mit viel Humor die Verstrickungen und Gedankengebäude dieser Perioden erleben möchte, ist hier richtig. Ob man allerdings allem Gesagtem Glauben schenken sollte, muß jeder für sich entscheiden. Es lohnt sich!
Wolfe's little book is actually an extended polemic against the Bauhaus school and all its offshoots in architecture and design. Although never boring, I found nothing new here. In fact, I found several direct steals from Robert Hughes's landmark SHOCK OF THE NEW (1980), the book and teleseries which came out the year before Wolfe wrote his little screed. I'd advise anyone interested in pursuing the iconoclast's case against modern architecture to check out this earlier work as well.
If you're lazy and don't mind regurgitated information from someone more interested in self-promotion than contributing to a useful dialogue, then read this book. If you're interested in an excellent, thorough, carefully reasoned, researched and argued book on this same subject - and ultimately a much more effective book at making the same point - you're in luck. It's called The Decorated Diagram: Harvard Architecture and the Failure of the Bauhaus Legacy, by Klaus Herdeg. It's a great book, I highly recommend it, and it's everything that Wolfe's book isn't. Where Wolfe makes an unsubstantiated blanket statement and then rushes off to his next sophomoric display of fireworks, Herdeg carefully and systematically dissects, analyses, reasons and concludes. Where Wolfe skims the surface, hoping that vitriol will substitute for substance, Herdeg stays calm, focused, polite - and hits his target dead center and with deadly force. Don't waste your time with Wolfe - he's a bonehead.
Der Autor polemisiert von der ersten bis zur letzten Seite gegen den Bauhaus-Stil. Wer sich mit diesem Architektur-Weg - wie ich - identifiziert, sollte die Finger weg lassen, weil man sich über diese Schmähschrift tierisch ärgert.