Book Received: Architecture Visionaries

Architecture Visionaries_3DGeoff Manaugh is probably a literary-cyborg. Everywhere I look he is doing or writing something new. He was a former editor of Dwell magazine, didn’t last long as an (apparently) rogue editor-in-chief at Gizmodo, contributes to Wired UK, writes the incredible BLDG BLOG, taught at USC, somehow gets the (non)self-appointed nickname of Futurist, wrote one of my favorite alliteration-titled books The BLDG BLOG Book, and recently|1| wrote another book titled Landsape Futures – the book and cover look amazing on bookstore shelves, but (unfortunately) it is wrapped in plastic, thus I have never peered inside.|2|

Geoff Manaugh’s BLDG BLOG has an ongoing topic titled, Books Received. Books Received is comprised of books acquired through a combination of publisher review copies and books Geoff has picked up. Geoff apparently receives lots of books, and conceivably cannot read everyone – therefore Books Received is a compendium of all the interesting titles.

I am going to start a similar blog post, but call it Book Received – since I have now received exactly one book.

Unfortunately, I just realized that Book Received cannot be a continuing blog topic. But unlike the aforementioned (lazy) Geoff Manaugh, I have read and reviewed 100% of all books book I have received. 

I love receiving mail. And I love reading “Architectural”|3| books.

Therefore, I was pleasantly surprised to receive an email from Laurence King Publishing (in the UK) – to see if I would be interested in receiving an advanced copy of Richard Weston’s Architecture Visionaries.

This seemed too good to be true. I was hesitant that this may be some sort of pre-order situation – since I’ve never received a free book for simply writing a blog with the word Architecture in the title.

However, I was always taught to never look a gift book in the mouth. Therefore, I explicitly stated that I would love a gratuitous book – and then they immediately placed it on the ship with Sir Francis Drake and 2 years weeks later it arrived at my doorstep.

I got married a couple weeks ago, and have been receiving several other packages in the mail, but this package was the only one that I eagerly anticipated – like a kid on Christmas morning.

I have a tumultuous relationship with the United States Postal Service. They have a monopoly on delivering mail, yet they still need an inpouring of Government funding to function, they waste my entire lunch hour waiting in line to pay for a package, they claim all my letters are non-machinable and force me to buy more expensive stamps, then they were raising stamp prices but couldn’t sell me the higher-priced stamps prior to when they raised prices, then they forced me to buy a ton of 1 cent stamps – that probably cost more than 1 cent to even produce, and ultimately they make me write run-on sentences about why I hate the Post Office.

But this barely-functioning organization constantly delivers joy to my heart on an (almost) daily basis. 

So yes, Bresnan Optimum Charter Communications – continue sending me information about your bundled Triple-Play Package – even though I never want a home telephone.|4| Even though I get pissed that you disguise the outside of the envelope as a bill, I actually become more disheartened when I anxiously open the mailbox – only to see it empty inside. Oftentimes, I don’t believe that it’s empty, so I reopen the lid and peer inside again; perhaps a letter got stuck to the sidewall – like a sock clinging to the sidewall of the dryer. 

But ultimately the Post Man is a magician. Not a magician like Santa Claus who receives no monetary income,|5| yet is able to manufacture toys AND deliver them to every kid in America AND has not gotten Type 2 diabetes from his overindulgence of cookies. But Santa Claus cannot make Welcome mats levitate…


Maybe I’m just not the type of person that sees a box on somebody else’s doorstep and wants the item for myself. But whenever I see a levitating welcome mat, I am miffed by their wizardry and need to investigate further. 

When I picked up the levitating door mat I discovered that Architecture Visionaries had finally arrived. The book is Goldilocks’ dream book.|6| It is not too heavy, nor too light. If you hold the book in both hands, and slowly bounce it up and down a few times, it just feels right – It isn’t too heavy and makes you have poor posture, nor is it too light and becomes weightless upon each bounce.|7|

Also, it is not too large, nor too light. It’s larger format, but not so big you have to set it on the coffee table to turn the pages.

Architecture Visionaries is the perfect complement to Richard Weston’s stellar Key Buildings of the Twentieth Century.

Whereas, Key Buildings of the Twentieth Century goes into great detail regarding all impactful buildings, Architecture Visionaries gives a short bio about every major influential architect. And unlike my architectural history teacher led me to believe – great architecture did not begin with Palladio and end with Bernini.

architectural_visionaries_insideThe book is arranged in chronological order based upon the architects birth. It starts with Antoni Gaudi and Frank Lloyd Wright, and ends with Shigeru Ban.

Each architect is given a timeline description of major events in their life, a 1 page bio, and another couple pages of images. The arrangement is nice as it shows how each successive architect was influenced by their predecessors.

Each bio is fairly short, and it often made me want to delve deeper into a separate monograph. Overall, Richard Weston was fairly objective for each architect but saved a few salty words for Frank Gehry by calling his EMP building “lamentable” and delicately reflected on Daniel Libeskind’s proliferation of iconographic pointy-shard architecture by stating “One cannot help but feel, however, that the authenticity of his seminal achievement in Berlin, where the determination to articulate history was firmly grounded in the city and the Jewish experience, was devalued by the use of similar architectural language” in later projects.

There were some stellar architects that I, sadly, didn’t know much about, but Weston’s writing offered up some interesting narratives:

  • Bruce Goff was an architectural rarity – a child prodigy at age 12, and was designing “polished” buildings by his early twenties – before designing crazy houses in his forties
  • Erich Mendelsohn’s Einstein Tower (1924) was commissioned as an observatory to test Albert Einstein’s theory that gravity changed the colour of light. – That sounds like the greatest commission ever! I thought it was just a wacky observatory. Also, his practice became the largest firm in Germany before he was exiled to Britain in 1933.

Overall, Architecture Visionaries is a fantastic book for a fundamental understanding of every great modern architect. If I were to give it a star-rating I would probably give it several stars.

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Architecture Visionaries_Back

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Finally, if any other publisher would like to send me their “Architectural”|3| related books I have developed the following book review policy:

Review Policy

General information
Publishers, please send your “Architectural” book review inquiries via EMAIL

If I accept a book for review, that does not guarantee a review. But unlike Geoff Manaugh, I have currently reviewed 100% of the books received.

Review Structure
All reviews will include the following:

  • Words
  • Limited Book stats: Title, author
  • Witty Banter

Also, instead of an in-depth, star-rated review, you will probably get a meandering post about Santa Claus, and the Post Office.

I will try to write an honest review, but this does not mean I will always write positive reviews. Oftentimes, instead of a review I might just write a haiku about Bruce Goff’s suspended living pods – in his Bavinger House.

Sleeping pods I rest in
Carpeted. Bring on the shag!
An ode to a prodigy




Click the purple numerals to transport between hyperlinks

1 OK. 2 years ago.
2 And I’m obviously very stingy, and am waiting for used copies to appear on Amazon – but used copies are even more than Amazon’s price! And what the hell is
3 The term “Architectural” is loose, but it could also contain any of the following: scientific theories, biographies on innovative marketers, or an alliteration book about An Afternoon Adventuring to Alvar Aalto’s (H)acienda – but it cannot be a book titled The World’s Greatest Architecture and have a cover image of a Ziggurat (or the Rockefeller Center).
4 I don’t live in year 1992.
5 Unless Canada or Denmark is funding the entire expenses of the Santa Claus international charity organization.
6 And would be a perfect complement with porridge.
7 Only astronauts and technology conspiracists like anti-gravity books.

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