From Bauhaus to Our House

I have a personal theory that architects are not great writers in general. I once read that nobody would buy Le Corbusier books if he didn’t build those great villas and I agree. I find his books unbearable.

However, sometimes, other disciplines bleed into architecture producing great books. That’s the case of Henri Lefebvre coming from philosophy, Rem Koolhaas from script writing and Tom Wolfe from journalism.

I read “From Bauhaus to Our House” while studying architecture in Europe and it was such a breath of fresh air. Europe tends to be academic and serious in architecture. In contrast, Wolfe’s book is actually pretty funny. He has a very personal voice that both makes a dry topic interesting again and pokes fun at modern architecture.

I asked some uni teachers (history, urbanism, landscape) what they though about the book – it was not in any syllabus – and my impression was that they thought it was a curiosity in the field. So, probably well known but still very much Antilibraries.


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Cool, I hadn’t heard of this one, did not know Tom Wolfe wrote a book on the history of modernist architecture. Seems like a fun short read!

Haha I like this excerpt from an Amazon review :laughing:

Obnoxious to architects, great fun for wannabes

…I look forward to reading more nuanced descriptions of this history, but I also really enjoyed reading a version from someone who wasn’t afraid to call modern architecture stupid and ugly.

Also yes I really want to read some Henri Lefebvre at some point, a lot of his stuff looks really interesting like The Production of Space and (for me) Rhythmanalysis seems particularly cool.

Strong agree, and I suspect this holds for all sorts of books that emerge from the interstices between fields, where an author may be an expert in one thing and exploring adjacent area(s) with fresh eyes.

I haven’t read enough architecture books to judge average quality overall compared to other disciplines (that would be a verrry interesting large scale study; maybe it exists somewhere!) but my guess is this too is true for lots of academic fields, partly due to jargon and assumptions creating barriers to clear communication, and it being helpful to come at the topic from a different angle that doesn’t oversimplify but rather is more generally relatable.

That Amazon reviewer is absolutely right! There is a taboo about calling modern architecture ugly, and you won’t find many architects doing it. There are notable exceptions like the Venturis and Christopher Alexander. However, it would be harder to find a European architect doing that!

Strongly agree. In architecture however there is some jargon but the problem comes from the fact that the architects’ tool is drawing. There is a strong focus on learning to draw and discovering things through the very act of drawing. Writing tends to be secondary and I think it has less quality in general.

For a critical look into modern architecture, academic but also with wit I would go for anything written by Beatriz Colomina. Her critique of Corbusier, Mies van der Rohe and Adolf Loos is super great.

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