Zook: A Look at Harold Zook's Unique Architecture

Betty Green. Ampersand, $19.95 trade paper (152p) ISBN 978-0-9818126-8-7
A registered nurse turned Chicago Architectural Foundation Museum docent, Green offers a lavishly illustrated homage to the Midwestern architect R. Howard Zook (1889–1949). After seeing a Zook home being demolished, the author's curiosity in the architect was piqued, and she began tracking down his English Costwald–style cottages and commercial and municipal buildings—romantic, whimsical structures, most boasting the architect's trademark flourishes: a layered, mock-thatch roof and spiderweb-shaped ornamental ironwork. Green has a remarkable eye for detail, and her photographs are assured and dramatic. Zook's spiral staircases, "Juliet balconies," built-in umbrella stands and bunk beds, hidden chevrons, undulating shingles, his earthly material textures and sensuousness come to brilliant life. While the photos enchant, however, the prose disappoints. The introduction and brief biography of Zook are bland and clotted with trivia ("He frequently entertained guests and was described as a good conversationalist"), with the remainder of the book devoted to inspirational quotes only tenuously connected to the material. Still the book is, as Green describes, "a labor of love" (proceeds will go to the preservation of Zook homes) and is a visual treat that would beautifully complement a more conventional biography of the architect.
Reviewed on: 03/28/2011
Release date: 03/01/2010
Genre: Nonfiction
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