Philip Jodidio
Elizabeth Dowling
Universe (Rizzoli), New York, 2013, English
Nonfiction, Architecture
9.9 x 12.9 inches, hardcover, 260 pages, 100 color photographs and illustrations
ISBN: 9780789327079
Suggested Retail Price: $45.00

From the Publisher. This exceptionally produced art book with die-cut windows, overlays, and blueprints identifies, decodes, and explains the world’s architectural masterpieces. Based on the successful format of Discovering the Great Masters, this is an accessible reference for anyone interested in great spaces and spectacular buildings and for anyone keen to know more about architecture. Each of the architectural works features clever overlays and die-cut windows that allow the reader to identify and focus on specific design elements. Each featured window includes a thoughtful caption explaining the significance of the highlighted area: building materials, historical context, and insights into the planning and architectural influences. Including such works as the Tower of London, Notre-Dame de Paris, and the Taj Mahal in India, the book is organized chronologically and presents buildings from all genres, covering more than two millennia of architectural history. In addition to the clever die-cut captions, each building is featured in an essay filled with essential information on the construction, as well as the social, political, cultural, and geographical considerations of the architect. Stunning photographs allow the reader to appreciate the technical feats and aesthetic brilliance of both the buildings and architects past and present.


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John Hill

Books explaining architecture to a general audience are a commendable if tiny segment of books on the subject. Yet as architects ask for a more educated public in matters of architecture, there is room for much improvement. For every Understanding Architecture or How Architecture Works there is Architecture for Dummies or some other title that is lacking in how to convey the most elementary information. So Philip Jodidio’s Discovering Architecture is a welcome addition to the genre, with its wide-ranging selection of buildings, large color photos, and inventive captions.

Jodidio (a prolific author who seems to pen ten books on a slow year) normally focuses on contemporary buildings by big-name architects, but less than twenty of the fifty buildings collected in this coffee table book were completed after 1900; only two since 2000. Most of the selection “from the Christian era to the present” is fairly obvious, be it Hagia Sophia, the Great Wall of China, the Eiffel Tower, the Bauhaus, or the Guggenheim Bilbao. This is to be expected with such an overview. And while Jodidio is not afraid to venture to Asia beyond the usual European and North American masterpieces, only one building in Australia and South America each are found, and none from Africa. But this does not detract from the book’s strong presentation.

Each of the 50 buildings is treated in the same manner: one page of descriptive text faces a full-bleed, full-page photo (many, but not all of the projects have two more pages of photos). In between the text and photo is a gray page with rectangular die cuts and captions describing the respective views onto the photo underneath. These die-cut captions highlight the important formal aspects of each building (the photos typically show the exterior, but sometimes the interior, such as with Grand Central Terminal), but they also educate the reader on how to “read” architecture through photographs. This tactic makes a good deal of sense given today’s preference for documenting buildings, old and new, through photography.

The die cuts and captions elevate the book above a fairly cursory presentation of 50 great buildings—in addition to the above criticism about geography, I wish there were just more photos. On first reading the windows in the gray pages also add a bit of surprise to the chronological journey through architecture, making it fun even for the most knowledgeable architecture buffs.

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