New Nonfiction: Why We Build – Rowen Moore

Moore is architecture critic for London’s Observer, a frequent contributor to The Guardian, and former director of the Architecture Foundation. Better than that, he’s fun. This book wears its erudition lightly and quite seductively pulls the reader into a discussion that is less about buildings than about what buildings mean to us. In that way it is a book about us—and about the world right now. As might be expected (and certainly appreciated) are the illustrations included throughout.

Editor Cal Morgan writes: “As a culture, [Moore] says, we build because of desire. We have emotional urges to change our world–urges that involve ego, and lust, and a love for beauty, and most of all a thirst for power–and the architects who thrive in our culture are those who use the language of steel and glass and concrete to convert those urges into permanent form. And in doing so we are creating the world we will leave to our children–for better, and often for an atrocious worst.”

British reviews have made the book a hit in England. Here’s the flavor:

“Moore’s writing is lively and engaging, his language straightforward, his case studies unpredictable and instructive. . . . Moore certainly knows how to make these sacred monsters come alive on the page.”
The Evening Standard

“With unfailingly fresh insight… today’s architectural criticism rarely seems so humane or intelligent.”
   — Sunday Telegraph

First advance reviews here look likewise strong:

Architecture is about activated emotion and desire, argues Observer architecture critic Moore in this wide-ranging, informative, and impassioned narrative of why architecture is fascinating, unstable, and a necessary poetry of the everyday. The book’s aim, he argues, is not to “instruct” but to reveal the actual intent behind building so as to correct what Moore defines as the central failure of development and architecture: disguising emotional choices as practical ones. Structuring his narrative thematically, Moore begins his lively account with the subject of desire… other themes are equally grand: architecture as persuasion, propaganda, and power; building as a sometimes deceptive and hopeful vision of the future; the relationship between building, financial value, and social values; architecture, death, and the eternal. … This is a highly engaging if at times overbroad vision of architecture’s emotive and pragmatic powers.”
Publishers Weekly

Why We Build: Power and Desire in Architecture (9780062277534) by Rowan Moore. $30.00 hardcover. 8/20/13 on sale.

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