cover image The Most Beautiful House in the World

The Most Beautiful House in the World

Witold Rybczynski. Viking Books, $18.95 (224pp) ISBN 978-0-670-81981-2

As a young architect, Rybczynski felt trapped inside a paper world of blueprints and cardboard models and itched for the nitty-gritty experience of building with his own hands. He soon devised a plan of escape. It was modest enough--to design and build a boatshed--but it was the beginning of a creative journey that questioned the nature of architecture and the architect's role: What makes a cathedral but not, say, a boatshed architecture? When should an architect design iconoclastic solutions to old problems, when to apply traditional principles? As Rybczynski writes of how his concept of a shed evolved into a full-fledged house, he discusses his wide-ranging research, meditates on the varied sources of his inspiration and on the ``game'' of architecture. He also incorporates the kind of historical tidbit that keeps the reader turning pages--the ritualistic origins of the elements of classical architecture; the not-quite-tongue-in-cheek parallels between architecture and gastronomy; the distinguished structural descendants of the humble barn. Written with the easy-going charm that marked his Home: A Short History of an Idea , this delightful ramble through the creative process will beguile architecture buffs and general readers alike. Illustrated. (May)