An assessment of the social, political and economic factors that have shaped Western concepts of privacy, domesticity and comfort.
In a loosely configured essay, Rybczynski (Architecture, McGill Univ.) discusses the idea of comfort and the Western cultural attitudes that have shaped it since the end of the middle ages. Rather than dealing with the technical aspects of architecture, he reviews such cultural variables as intimacy and privacy, domesticity, ease, and ideas about light, air, and efficiency as they have changed over time. Essentially Rybczynski makes a plea for the primacy of cultural ideals as a basis for creating psychologically comfortable homes. Though he is selective in his history and examples, this is a worthwhile counterweight to the all-too-common technical practices of modern architects. Recommended. Jack Perry Brown, Ryerson & Burnham Libs., Art Inst. of Chicago