How do the spaces we inhabit affect us—and reflect us? A Pulitzer Prize–winning author explores architecture, in this insightful, “breezy” read (The Washington Post).
In 1981, Alison Lurie published The Language of Clothes, a meditation on costume and fashion as an expression of history, social status and individual psychology. Amusing, enlightening and full of literary allusion, the book was highly praised and widely anthologized.
Now Lurie has returned with a companion book, The Language of Houses, a lucid, provocative and entertaining look at how the architecture of buildings and the spaces within them both reflect and affect the people who inhabit them. Schools, churches, government buildings, museums, prisons, hospitals, restaurants, and of course, houses and apartments—all of them speak to human experience in vital and varied ways.
The Language of Houses discusses historical and regional styles and the use of materials such as stone and wood and concrete, as well as contemplating the roles of stairs and mirrors, windows and doors, tiny rooms and cathedral-like expanses, illustrating its conclusions with illuminating literary references and the comments of experts in the field.
Accompanied by lighthearted original drawings, The Language of Houses is an essential and highly entertaining new contribution to the literature of modern architecture.
According to Pulitzer Prize winning novelist Lurie (Foreign Affairs), buildings make statements "in brick and stone... metal and glass" if one knows what to look for. In this companion to The Language of Clothes, the author shows how architecture, buildings, and spaces affect us and how they reveal a wealth of information about their inhabitants. A lighthearted and lucid narrator, Lurie unearths the historical, psychological, social, and emotional meanings of public and private spaces: churches, museums, schools, colleges, hospitals, prisons, hotels, retirement communities, offices, stores, restaurants, and homes. Making use of ample wisdom from architectural historians, sociologists, philosophers, art critics, environmental psychologists, and others, Lurie discusses architecture as a moral force. For example, she writes about the way weather affected how houses were built in different parts of the country; the evolution of popular religious architecture in 19th- and 21st-century America and the particular denominations drawn to each style; and the way current concerns about safety have affected school and playground designs. At times, Lurie belabors the obvious (less welcoming homes have "high wall around the whole property"), though, overall, her observations are witty, insightful, and playful, particularly in the chapter on religious buildings: "Some churches in southern Germany and Austria, with their gilt barley-sugar pilasters and whipped-cream cupids and angels, suggest a highly romantic nature, with a craving for sweets." Illus. throughout.