Book Review: The Elements of Modern Architecture

The Elements of Modern Architecture
Understanding Contemporary Buildings

Recently, my co-blogger Sabine made an observation that while interior design is relevant in creating spaces, it falls firmly under the umbrella of architecture.  Moods, styles and transitions are important but architects tend to have these already incorporated in the structure itself and prefer a clean, stark background, which might be construed as a “modern” style.  In my mind, this would be likening architecture to that classic black dress that is equally beautiful today or 20 years from now while this summer’s gypsy look will fade by Halloween.

In my wanderings in the book store, I came across this totally approachable book which perfectly illustrates Sabine’s point of view.  It is an architectural analysis of 50 buildings – anyone is bound to know a good number of them – replete with annotated diagrams – bonus for those (like me) who can’t draw and really need things drawn out in an understandable format.  Before you think dumbing down, think again and take a closer look.  Each write-up covers that building’s response to its unique environment, whether natural or cultural as well as architectural influences whether from its time period, the country in which it is located or the architect’s own bent.  Technical diagrams – again understandable for the lay person – clearly show technical solutions both design and function driven.  Buildings in their entirety show a prevailing design without the overlay of interiors per say.

What did I learn?  In the Sarabhai House by Le Corbusier, rooms and shaded arcades echo traditional Indian homes as they are aligned in a series of vault like rooms that simultaneously take advantage of the monsoon and evening breezes.

For the math nerd in me, hyperbolic roofs are prevalent in a good number of the 50 buildings described while its treatment in the Yoyogi National  Gymnasium in Japan echoes the roofs of the Meiji and Shinto shrines as well as the Yale Hockey rink.

Roof pic

Hyperbolic shape of roofs in modern architecture (Radford et al., 2014)

Closer to my own origins, the renewal of the Lincoln Center in New York City maintained its original facade with technical solutions for repurposing the space for outdoor and indoor use would boggle your mind.


The Lincoln Center’s exterior renovation (Radford et al, 2014)

I fully recommend a read…although in digestible chunks!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s