American architecture is astonishingly varied. From Native American sites in New Mexico and Arizona, and the ancient earthworks of the Mississippi Valley, to the most fashionable contemporary buildings of Chicago and New York, the United States boasts three thousand years of architectural history. It is characterized by the diversity of its builders and consumers who include Native American men and women, African, Asian, and European immigrants, as well as renowned professional architects and urban planners.
Leading historian Dell Upton's revolutionizing interpretation examines American architecture in relation to five themes: community, nature, technology, money, and art. In giving particular attention to indigenous, folk, ethnic, and popular architectures like Chaco Canyon, the Brooklyn Bridge, and Native American houses, as well as to the great monuments of traditional histories such as Jefferson's Monticello and Wright's Fallingwater, Architecture in the United States reveals the dazzling richness of America's human landscape.
Upton has attempted a historical survey that includes contributions by all parts of the United States population. Ancient works of Native Americans and by America's numerous "minority" immigrants are interwoven with the Eurocentric canon with which we are most familiar. Upton resists a chronological presentation of these diverse works, choosing instead to present them through common "themes": community, nature, technology, money and art. Spare on the meaning of visual and physical effects created by architecture, his analyses concentrate on social divisions implied and created by the works. Upton shows, quite convincingly, how most of the American canon is derived from a pastiche of imported images, and gives some considerable insight into the effects of these imports. Jefferson's Monticello, often seen as the first masterwork of American architecture, is derived from various published images of European villas, with a plan that sought to reinforce a lord-servant relationship between Jefferson and his many employees. Major monuments, such as the Nebraska State Capitol, and recent urban projects, such as Florida's Seaside, are similarly deconstructed to show the exclusionary ideology behind their designs. While there are plenty of quick and not terribly helpful laments for the excluded peoples of this country, Upton shows, concrete piece by concrete piece, the complex influences on this country's built environment. Illustrations. (July)