Review Detail

Unique Architectural Overview
Overall rating
Writing Style
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
Learning Value
This book is an interesting overview of a variety of architecture, although the vast majority of it is from western Europe. Divided into two main parts, this takes young readers through a very conversational introduction to architecture and then introduces them to ways "How to Build a Beautiful City". There are plentiful examples of color photographs of buildings, and readers are often prompted for their thoughts, but then told what they should be thinking. This is more of a coffee table type book (although the trim size is that of a novel), and lacks an index.
Good Points
I'm a huge architecture geek, and my children frequently text me pictures of buildings they see and ask me to give them approximate dates of when they might have been constructed. I like the idea of showing young readers a variety of buildings and having them think about whether they are well designed. This book would have been HUGELY useful to the architects who redecorated my school library ten years ago, who didn't really think about form following function. In fact, my favorite part of the whole book was the assertion that much architecture is not very pleasing because architects are more worried about impressing other architects than about designing good buildings.

Middle school students are often given assignments to design a town or an island and incorporate elements of units they are studying, so I really enjoyed the sections on what constitutes a good city and think it might be very useful. There are so many places in the US where architects have not scaled things to human size, developed local style, or made the area lively for pedestrians, so they could certainly use this book. On the down side, anything outside of the western European cannon is seen as exotic, and the idea of "beauty" is a bit narrow and comes across as rather judgmental.

Taken with a grain of salt, this is an interesting and quick read. Since there are so few books about architecture for young readers (other than David MacCauley's wonderful works like City), this fills a lacuna in nonfiction literature for children.
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