AAJ Press
Architecture & Design, New Books

Book Review: Adrian Forty — Words and Buildings – A Vocabulary of Modern Architecture

Adrian Forty: Words and Buildings – A Vocabulary of Modern Architecture.

This is a major book: it is like an old classic historical survey in the sense that it is deeply scholarly yet can be read by anyone. Now ten years old, it nonetheless still reads like a current assessment of the relation between architecture and the words we use to talk about it (and architects use to design with). The book is in two parts, the first comprising of six essays on language-related themes, and the second eighteen sections each headed by a major architectural concept (from character, context, form, function and so on). The book’s approach to its subject is ‘critical’ in the sense that it is attentive to the limits of language, the non-naturalistic nature of linguistic representation, and the social contexts of architectural language’s evolution. It is rich with historical reference, drawings, diagrams and photographs. It is not even just about architecture, but through architecture we can read a cultural history and the development of our experience of the aesthetics of the visual. From the classical orders to Renaissance, baroque, neo-gothic, modern and postmodern. Part two is particularly important in this respect, offering short essays on each key term, it arms the reader with a useful lexicon, while demonstrating the term’s malleability and historical change.

Paperback with flaps: 24.50 x 19.50 cm, 336pp: 216 Illustrations, 0 in colour. 2012 (first published 2004) Thames & Hudson. ISBN 9780500284704. £19.95


About Jonathan Vickery

I research the politics of contemporary culture, the role of culture in the public sphere, and cultural economy discourse in International Development. I also work as an art critic, editor and public speaker.


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