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Modern Architecture And Other Essays

Date of publication: 2017-10-05 07:46


"This book is long overdue. The absence of a comprehensive collection of Scully's work has left the field unfortunately--even suspiciously--unbalanced. His writings are important for their immediate impact and for their enduring lessons. The book will appeal to practicing architects and architectural historians, but it is also a major contribution to general cultural history that should attract audiences far outside architecture." --Michael Hays, Harvard University

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Vincent Scully is surely one of the most influential architectural historians and critics of the twentieth century.... None of the essays included here are available in Scully's (more than 65) published books. Interestingly, I think the selection will work well both for readers familiar with Scully and his work, as well as for those to whom his writing will be new territory.... The very best thing about this book is the wonderful quality of Scully's writing itself 656 clear, learned and witty.
656 Victoria Keller

Modern Architecture and Other Essays by Vincent Scully

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Modern Architecture and Other Essays

[An] overdue and welcome anthology. Scully owes his reputation to an authorial voice that is as arresting in the classroom as the printed page. In lecture, it is the elegant literary and formal precision that startles on the printed page, the intimate spoken quality.
656 Michael Lewis

Reading [this book], one sees quickly why Vincent Scully (now emeritus) was such a popular lecturer, a charismatic professor whose influence extended broadly throughout the architectural profession and the academy.... Scully's writing bears comparison with [the] elevation of the esthetic to an almost religious level, and his particular approach to the architectural object 656 which he regards ideally both as internally coherent and as somehow 'corresponding' with reality itself 656 is very much in keeping with the New Criticism.

[An] overdue and welcome anthology. Scully owes his reputation to an authorial voice that is as arresting in the classroom as the printed page. In lecture, it is the elegant literary and formal precision that startles on the printed page, the intimate spoken quality.

In Scully’s recurring counterpoint between act and environment, free will and its limits, we learn little of what gives each building he discusses geographical and historical specificity. Instead, we absorb the agon of a mid-twentieth-century American maverick searching for images of his own masculinist, liberal-democratic ethos in the built environment. This approach eschews history for myth. Scully’s accounts are at once sensual and ideal, without ever quite becoming social or historical. They teach readers to assess how well a building uses empathy and association to strengthen virtuous social ideals. This is not necessarily a bad critical program, but such distorting interpretations jeopardize scholarly authority.

These books are represented in the new anthology by the lectures and articles in which Scully developed their concerns. These essays, and others dealing with Scully’s Yale colleagues Louis Kahn and Robert Venturi, as well as his students Andres Duany and Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk, are valuable for their full-spectrum engagement with the built environment. Scully is a perceptive critic, attuned to the experience of encountering and exploring a building in its topographical context. The author’s great virtues are his critical acuity, his ability to translate experience and interpretation into lyrical prose, and his consistent foregrounding of the ways architecture orients us toward one another and toward a larger cosmos.

Scully... may find a place among the gallery of distinguished American critics... for his historically grounded but engaged architectural criticism. That possibility is enhanced by the well-chosen essays in this volume. Not only did Neil Levine make an excellent selection, he also provided a brief but illuminating biographical essay tracing Scully's career. Better yet, the headnotes he has written for each of Scully's essays are themselves gemlike mini-essays.
656 Thomas Bender

"I greet this book with great pleasure. Neil Levine's editorial commentary adds immeasurably to the appreciation that this and future generations will take in reading Vincent Scully's remarkable and remarkably influential writings." --Robert Stern, Yale University

In the tradition of great intellectual biographies, this finely made book chronicles our most influential architectural historian and critic. It is a gift to architecture and its history.

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