Terror and Wonder

Terror and Wonder

Architecture in A Tumultuous Age

Book - 2010
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For more than twenty years now, Blair Kamin of the Chicago Tribune has explored how architecture captures our imagination and engages our deepest emotions. A winner of the Pulitzer Prize for criticism, Kamin treats his subjects not only as works of art but also as symbols of the cultural and political forces that inspire them. Terror and Wonder gathers the best of Kamin's writings from the past decade along with new reflections on an era framed by the destruction of the World Trade Center and the opening of the world's tallest skyscraper.

Assessing ordinary commercial structures as well as head-turning designs by some of the world's leading architects, Kamin paints a sweeping but finely textured portrait of a tumultuous age torn between the conflicting mandates of architectural spectacle and sustainability. For Kamin, the story of our built environment over the past ten years is, in tangible ways, the story of the decade itself. Terror and Wonder considers how architecture has been central to the main events and crosscurrents in American life since 2001: the devastating and debilitating consequences of 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina; the real estate boom and bust; the use of over-the-top cultural designs as engines of civic renewal; new challenges in saving old buildings; the unlikely rise of energy-saving, green architecture; and growing concern over our nation's crumbling infrastructure.

A prominent cast of players--including Santiago Calatrava, Frank Gehry, Helmut Jahn, Daniel Libeskind, Barack Obama, Renzo Piano, and Donald Trump--fills the pages of this eye-opening look at the astounding and extraordinary ways that architecture mirrors our values--and shapes our everyday lives.

Publisher: Chicago [Ill.] ; London : University of Chicago Press, 2010.
ISBN: 9780226423111
Branch Call Number: 724.7 KAMIN
Characteristics: xxiv, 291 p. : ill. ; 24 cm.


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Sep 30, 2011

This is an interesting book that should be of interest to a wide spectrum of readers. It is certainly not only for architects or city planners. Although the author focuses on Chicago where he lives & works as a columnist for the Chicago Tribune, he also has chapters (or columns) on other locations. I found many of the chapters interesting (I'm really itching to go to Chicago now) but there were others that missed the mark, in my opinion. Notably, his chapters on the impact of Sept 11th and Hurricane Katrina were disconcerting in their narrow focus on aesthetics and buildings with very little attention given to people. He bemoaned the loss of beauty in Washington DC when Sept 11th resulted in various security barriers being put in place in front of important historical buildings. He seemed to think that the public's right to view the buildings' architecture unencumbered should override the need for safety for the President, Congress and federal employees. I thought that was short-sighted, selfish, and cold. Thousands of people died on Sept 11th; why wouldn't any sane federal employee be concerned for their safety? Likewise, the author wrote about the debate about repairing New Orleans after Katrina but managed somehow to never talk about the number of deaths or the massive numbers of people stranded on roofs and in the hideous coliseum. He acted as if the hurricane was responsible for the devastation when in reality it was governmental decisions (and racism) which put the people of New Orleans and the surrounding area in such jeopardy. He likewise bemoans the security measures taken in airports because they obstruct the architects' grand designs and they make flying "not fun anymore". I was just astounded that he even complained. On the other hand, many of his other columns were interesting and enjoyable. Worth reading.


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