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On Architecture, Dead To Me

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Going to Borders bookstore was the easiest and fastest way to obtain the newly-published Ada Louise Huxtable compilation On Architecture.  This is a greatest-hits collection of her no-nonsense, lollipop-discovering (here’s looking at you, 2 Columbus Circle) observations.  The articles I did have in my possession, written by Huxtable for the New York Times, were photocopies of photocopies (long story) that seemed to be at about 50% of their original size.  I had to squint as I read a classic article on Park Avenue architecture, so I thought one hardcover resource for these texts would do my eyes good.  Unfortunately, I failed to obtain a copy from the premises.  And so, On Architecture is dead to me.  Here is my story:

On the first floor of Borders, I found bestsellers and new releases.  The bustling café was located to my left while fiction and children’s books were placed to my right.  No sign of architectural criticism yet.  I walked by the Sony Digital Reader display and started to ascend the stairway to the second floor (I’m not implying any lack of respect for this genre, only building suspense).  There were a couple of shelves of criticism and history among the enormous Phaidon atlases of contemporary architecture.  On Architecture was facing me on the shelf, the lone criticism book inviting me in from afar.  It was a new hardcover, and therefore a whopping $35!

On Architecture has a simple white cover with stark, grey-shadow lettering.  I opened the book and was surprised to read about the history of architectural criticism itself, most interestingly a takedown of Tom Wolfe’s From Bauhaus to Our House as snarky and trivial.  Huxtable instead focuses on more serious critics, such as Charles Jencks and Kenneth Frampton.  This was a surprising find, as I had only read her reviews of buildings, from the CBS Building to 2 Columbus Circle, of course.  This was good stuff. 

How did I fail to buy this book?  It was an existential crisis or maybe just my own indecision.  Faced with the whopping $35 fee, I told myself that I could find all of the pieces from this book on the internet.  The New York Times internet archive offers its archived articles for purchase.  I recently subscribed to the paper copy of the Times, so I could get 99 stories (free, per month? I’m still finding out how this works).  However, after two weeks, I had read only one article.  Face it, reading articles on a backlit screen lacks the coziness of flipping through, in a warmly-lit café or a sunny park, the pages of a real book.  

I‘ll probably pick up the paperback copy of On Architecture, when it is released. That is, if I remember to buy it one year down the road.  Maybe it’s time to invest in an Amazon Kindle or Sony Reader, but I am skeptical of doing so, not only because I have nightmares of megalomaniacal Jeff Bezos (creator of the Kindle), but because the recently released Amazon Kindle 2 exposes the planned obsolescence of these devices.   My indecisiveness made me 35 dollars richer, but it means that On Architecture will never be a part of my book collection.

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Written by Wegener

February 22, 2009 at 12:26 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

One Response

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  1. the Kindle’s main selling point for me is it’s text-to-specch feature — very clever

    Joe

    February 24, 2009 at 4:30 am


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