In this short, intentionally polemical book, Neil Leach draws on the
ideas of philosophers and cultural theorists such as Walter Benjamin
and Jean Baudrillard to develop a novel and highly incisive critique
of the consequences of the growing preoccupation with images and
image-making in contemporary architectural culture.
More like expanded essays than exhaustive studies, these brief pieces are take radically different approaches to the perception and experience of buildings. Hildebrand (architecture/art history, Univ. of Washington), author of The Wright Space: Pattern and Meaning in Frank Lloyd Wright's Houses (Univ. of Washington, 1991), applies his considerable descriptive skills to examples from the history of architecture before and after the domestic work of Wright. Examining the spatial rhythms of his selections with evident pleasure and helpful clarity, Hildebrand applies the intriguing classifications of refuge and prospect--romantic enclosure vs. classical openness--to describe interior space. More illustrations would help concretize the original and important observations here. To the degree that Hildebrand's volume explores the materiality of his examples, Leach (architecture, Univ. of Nottingham) focuses on the abstract and philosophical implications of his choices. The editor of Rethinking Architecture: A Reader in Cultural Theory (Routledge, 1997), Leach discusses the sometimes difficult theories of Walter Benjamin, Jean Baudrillard, and Guy Debord, among others, to make the point that the architectural preference for imagemaking, along with the sensory overload of our society, devalues, or anaesthetizes, our experience of their work. Leach expresses sharp indignation toward theories of post-Modernism; the writings of Robert Venturi, Scott Brown, and Steven Izenour; and the tendency in the style to dissociate form from content, though the offense he takes at a recruiting advertisement by the London firm of T.P. Bennett Associates seems insufficiently explained and remains puzzling. General academic collections will benefit from the addition of Hildebrand's study, while only highly specialized collections will require Leach's as well.--Paul Glassman, New York Sch. of Interior Design Lib. Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.