cover image Architect, Verb: The New Language of Building

Architect, Verb: The New Language of Building

Reinier de Graaf. Verso, $24.95 (272p) ISBN 978-1-839-76191-1

In this perceptive study, Dutch architect de Graaf (Four Walls and a Roof: The Complex Nature of a Simple Profession) expounds on the state of 21st-century architecture. Architects, urban designers, and urban planners are so boxed in by external constraints that they have little creative autonomy, he contends. The proliferation of design awards, sustainability certifications, standards that gauge the impact of public spaces on well-being, and livability assessments—all increasingly commercialized—are hindering architectural excellence, while the jargon-laden language of real estate development (which touts “hedonistic sustainability,” “lifestylism,” “needfinding,” and more) stifles an understanding of good design and how it can best be done. De Graaf further criticizes the narrative of the creative city that extols innovation at the expense of addressing inequality, the formulaic approach to placemaking that permeates development schemes, and the reluctance of governments to publicly discuss the importance of beauty, substituting economics in its place. These forces, de Graaf argues, “transform spaces of spontaneity into preprogrammed, overdetermined areas” with little vitality or aesthetic appeal. De Graaf’s biting prose rails against the canon of modern architecture, and he interweaves real-world examples throughout. Passionately argued and expertly told, this is a rousing architectural critique. (Jan.)