Human life in the 20th century has involved a fight for living space. To live in architecturally interesting housing has often meant either being very rich, or conversely very poor. Unfortunately, in this respect, vast swathes of the world have fallen between the two, resulting in buildings at best undistinguished and at worst uninhabitable. Pushing aside this ignoble architectural rubble, Jonathan Glancey has constructed a pantheon to memorable structures, 370 in total, which have shaped an extreme century. He proves an inspired choice for the job. Stripping his text of the dehumanising jargon beloved of designers, Glancey has arranged his selections in eight sections: Arts and Crafts, Classicism, Organic, Modernism, Postmodernism, Robotic, Futures and Cities, and what a city they collectively make. Within each chapter superbly reproduced photographs are each accompanied by an informative and suitably fulsome or pithy paragraph from Glancey, who is fiercely critical of laziness, yet always quick to applaud honesty and innovative vision. Instructive mistakes are included, as are buildings that no longer exist and a few that never will, and such scope contributes to a diversely rewarding compendium geared to a British audience that has, it must be said, too little of its own to cheer.
The big guns are well represented--Horta, Rennie Mackintosh, Lloyd Wright, Behrens, Lutyens, Gaudi, Le Corbusier, Mies van der Rohe, Rogers and Foster--as are landmark structures, such as the Chrysler Building, the Guggenheim Museums, Sydney Opera House and the "bowellist" Lloyd's Building in London. It has been a century dominated by the moral quest of Modernism (the core of the book and its largest contingent, defying Mies van der Rohe's dictum "less is more"), but if God is in the detail, then the marvels of this collection are the lesser-known buildings that sit comfortably beside their more famous counterparts, and give perspective to the ambitious "big picture". This is an inspiring and consistently enjoyable read, like the very best of its contents, and an invaluably erudite introduction to a towering subject.
Excellent pages, a little edge and D/J wear.