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220 × 171 × 23 mm
320 pages
241 illustrations
01 Oct 2007
Modern Architectures in History
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USA Modern Architectures in History Gwendolyn Wright

Since the turn of the twentieth century, the American built landscape has epitomised modernity. From towering skyscrapers, movie theatres, theme parks, shopping malls and factories, to mass-produced, moderate-cost housing, both iconic and generic examples of American architecture have become quintessential images of modern life.

In this new volume in the ‘Modern Architectures in History’ series, Gwendolyn Wright contends that American modern architecture is not merely a branch of the European Modernism brought across the Atlantic Ocean with European émigrés, but rather an exciting hybrid of cultures, sensibilities and style. From the neo-Gothic aftermath of the American Civil War to the Art Deco that flourished in the 1920s, to postmodernism and the major new projects of today, Wright investigates how each movement reflects the social and political issues of its time. She takes full account of how architects in the US have had to share their domain with clients, financiers and politicians, media and advertising interests, an ambitious middle class of consumers, and upwardly mobile workers and immigrants, and consequently how they developed an architecture that was and remains diverse, contentious, competitive and creative.

Wright applies this understanding to a number of famous and lesser-known buildings across America, and explores popular trends as well as public responses to architecture. Ultimately, she reframes the history of American modern architecture as a constantly evolving sensibility that reshapes a richly diverse mélange of ideas into something uniquely American.

An insightful, concise and richly illustrated account of American design and culture, this timely book will be essential for all those interested in architecture and its place both in contemporary America and the world.

‘Sure to become a standard in the field, this latest installment in the series . . . is critical of the timeworn view that American modernism is simply a wholesale adoption of avant-garde styles imported from Europe. Wrights history is far more rich and complex . . . This book is a joy to read and copiously illustrated. Wrights enthusiasm for her topic comes through in her vivid, compelling writing . . . Essential.’ — Choice

‘. . . inclusive without impeding narrative flow, sensitive to politics, and tuned to the ways opinion and reputations may change over time . . . This is a survey to stimulate thought and further investigation.’ — Architects Journal

‘An engaging overview of American modernism . . . [Wrights] on-air talent for making the arcane accessible translates well into print this remarkably comprehensive volume is full of telling, even funny details alongside the scholarship . . . Deft, knowledgable text.’ — Modernism Magazine

‘In a mere 320 pages, Gwendolyn Wright has managed to pack a staggering amount of information and visual documentation about the modernization of American architecture. She covers the evolving social, cultural, and political context as well. It is a credit to her neat, economical, agile prose and prodigious command of this vast material that she has also succeeded in making it an enthralling narrative and a major piece of criticism. . . . Gwendolyn Wright has produced a classic.’ — Architects Newsletter

‘Lucid and readable. . . . USA is dazzling.’ — Next American City

‘Tackling the history of modern architecture in America - over 140 years of it - in under 300 pages is no easy task. Yet it is one that architecture professor and TV personality Gwendolyn Wright pulls off extremely well in this thorough, concise and often critical look at buildings and their architects from the reconstruction to today.’ — Archidose

‘Gwendolyn Wrights splendid book updates, revises and enriches everything we know about the development and influence of American architecture with new material, brilliant insights, and the perspective of a new century. She makes the story so new and compelling and writes it so well that it will supplant older versions to become the standard reference.’ — Ada Louise Huxtable, Pulitzer prize-winning Architecture Critic of The Wall Street Journal and author of The Unreal America: Architecture and Illusion (1997).

‘I am always amazed at Gwendolyn Wrights ability to bring excitement and positive joy to urbanism and architecture in a rare way. Her enthusiasm for historical examples surely inspires others to take a deeper look and to reflect. In this moment of rapid urbanization worldwide, that reflection is needed more than ever.’ — Steven Holl, architect

‘At last, the book I have been waiting for:the story of modern American architecture deeply contextualized in the history of the last century and a half.Wright is that rare scholar who understands how intricately the built environment is laced into larger historical trends.This is a wonderful book for all who care about architecture and the long history of modern work, housing, and public life in the United States.’ — Lizabeth Cohen, Professor of History, Harvard University, and author of A Consumers Republic:The Politics of Mass Consumption in Postwar America

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Gwendolyn Wright is professor at the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation at Columbia University. She is co-host of the PBS television series History Detectives and is also the author of Building the Dream (1981) and The Politics of Design in French Colonial Urbanism (1991).

One: Modern Consolidation, 1865-1893
Two: Progressive Architectures, 1894-1918
Three: Electric Modernities, 1919-1932
Four: Architecture, the Public and the State, 1933-1945
Five: The Triumph of Modernism, 1946-1964
Six: Challenging Orthodoxies, 1965-1984
Seven: Disjunctures and Alternatives, 1985 to the Present
Select Bibliography
Photo Acknowledgements