This is Architecture: Writing on Buildings by Stephen Bayley and Robert Bargery (edd) - review by James Stourton

James Stourton

Ode to the Jubilee Line

This is Architecture: Writing on Buildings


Unicorn 180pp £20

How much does architecture matter to you? To the editors of this anthology, architecture is the most important art because it is the one that cannot be ignored. In their view, ‘a satisfactory, if barren, life could be lived without literature, movies or music, but existence is more or less impossible without architecture.’ Stephen Spender, writing in his journal in 1953, took this to an extreme when he pondered which he would prefer to save: Venice or the Venetians? He came down on the side of the buildings.

Stephen Bayley and Robert Bargery have spent a lifetime reading and thinking about architecture, and here they present the general reader with the fruits of their learning. All of us who read about architecture will have our own choices, but there is no quarrelling with the selection. Most readers will be familiar with at least half of the authors, who form a pleasingly international cast. I particularly enjoyed discovering the Japanese writers Yukio Mishima and Jun’ichirō Tanizaki. This is, of course, the point of such a collection: to encourage us to further exploration.

Most of the authors in this anthology are professional writers and only occasionally is an architect let loose. The editors have eschewed theorists and manuals, which means no Vitruvius and none of the French neoclassical theorists so beloved of the Cambridge art history faculty. For the editors, most

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