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Annmarie Adams on Writing About Architecture
17 December, 2020
This annotation is an extract from Annmarie Adams (2013) review of ‘Writing About Architecture: Mastering the Language of Buildings and Cities’, Canadian Architect, No. 4 2013, 38
Architects are notoriously poor writers.
Two new books address this problem – Alexandra Lange’s Writing About Architecture and Tom Spector and Rebecca Damron’s How Architects Write. The simultaneous appearance of these texts and the question of how to teach architecture students to write are the focus of an edifying Pedagogy blog recently hosted by the Society of Architectural Historians. The discussion topic of ‘Teaching Writing to Architects’ makes abundantly clear that more than a few architecture schools are trying to address the problem. Lange’s book is particularly groundbreaking in its stance as a handbook. She takes six classic pieces of critical writing in architecture and analyzes each one’s rhetorical strategies. Lewis Mumford on Lever House, Herbert Muschamp on Bilbao, Michael Sorkin on adding to the Whitney, Charles Moore on the monument, Frederick Law Olmsted on parks, and Jane Jacobs on cities: these all serve as snapshots of architectural criticism since 1870, and especially since 1952.
Lange believes that we can all become better critics by studying the writing techniques of these masters. This incitement to imitate (plus a healthy dose of repetition) is the way we learn to dance, to play music, to cook, to drive and even to design buildings.