The Best Architecture Books of 2015
December 9, 2015
by Rowan Moore
The Guardian, Dec 7, 2015
(Image: An Eames office design from the ‘handsome’ World of Ray and Charles Eames. Courtesy of The Guardian, photo by Eames Office)
A new warmth towards brutalism, handsome volumes on Charles and Ray Eames, Le Corbusier, and George Gilbert Scott’s prodigious gothic output
A striking aspect of Elain Harwood’s Space, Hope and Brutalism (Yale University Press), a hefty survey of postwar British architecture, is that it isn’t about brutalism precisely, but about this and many other styles of architecture. So it seems that someone, her publishers maybe, inserted the B-word because they thought it would help to sell the book. Which no doubt it does. Because brutalism, once the encapsulation in three-and-a-half syllables of everything thought hateful about modern architecture, a word whose inventors didn’t even want to sound nice, is now exciting, sexy, intriguing. Which could have been predicted: baroque and gothic were once also terms of abuse.
Owen Hatherley has done more than most to bring about this reappraisal, and this year further pushed the boundaries of received taste with Landscapes of Communism (Allen Lane), a loving exploration of the housing estates, TV towers and bureaucratic palaces built by eastern bloc countries in the Soviet era. It has the merit of confronting you with an alternative reality – in this case a different version of 20th-century architecture – to the one you thought you knew. The book is the outcome of epic travelling through places most architecture writers never visit. It also tries, with varying degrees of success, to reconcile Hatherley’s beliefs that both communism and modernism have been wrongly written off. Read more…