In this much-anticipated sequel to his critically acclaimed Makers of Modern Architecture (2007), longtime New York Review of Books contributor Martin Filler—“probably the best all-round architecture critic currently working in the United States,” according to the architectural journalist David Cohn—offers another penetrating series of concise but authoritative studies on leading exponents of the building art from the late nineteenth to the early twenty-first century. Exemplifying his belief that an architect’s personality and character have a direct and profound bearing on this most public and social of art forms, Filler’s lively melding of biographical and aesthetic perspectives gives these accessible yet scrupulously researched interpretations a rare human immediacy.
From profiles of such universally admired masters as Frank Lloyd Wright and Le Corbusier to emerging figures including Michael Arad, creator of New York City’s National September 11 Memorial, and the international design collaborative Snøhetta, Filler’s shifting focus remains consistently trained on the enduring values of great architecture. His panoramic vision encompasses the historically inspired Gilded Age urbanism of the celebrated New York bon vivant Stanford White as well as the expressive collages of ancient and modern elements orchestrated by the reclusive Venetian intellectual Carlo Scarpa. The increasing role of women in architecture is given special emphasis in this new collection, from the pioneering work in 1920s Germany of Margarete Schütte-Lihotzky, inventor of the standardized modern kitchen, to such innovative contemporary practitioners as Elizabeth Diller, Kazuyo Sejima, and Billie Tsien.
In this superb follow-up to his first volume of essays on modern building’s pioneers and major designers, architecture critic Filler brings his expertise to bear on architects who have been neglected (Carlo Scarpa), those who have fallen out of critical favor (Edward Durell Stone), and others whose standing has been debated (Eero Saarinen), while deftly evaluating the work of contemporaries such as Bernard Tschumi and Snøhetta…. A highlight of the collection is Filler’s deeply moving essay in support of Michael Arad’s National September 11 Memorial—an unforgettable piece of writing that cuts through the media babel that surrounded the memorial’s unveiling….his contribution to both architecture criticism and general readers’ understanding is invaluable.
Filler writes amazing descriptions of buildings with an ability to maneuver through space with words like a very good perspective drawing: clear, articulate, and very often inspired…Filler’s discussions on the method and orchestration of buildings are superb, as is his ability to cite sources and the derivation of architects’ work….This brand of criticism is elegant and worldly….
—Oculus, The Center for Architecture
Praise for Makers of Modern Architecture, Volume I:
There is only one regular critic in the American press who writes consistently well about architecture and whose pieces are a guaranteed pleasure to revisit—or to read for the first time. He is Martin Filler, whose collection of essays is entitled Makers of Modern Architecture…by far the most intelligent and shapely writing on architecture done in recent years. Filler’s opinions are direct, subtle, written with clarity and intense feeling, and (not least in importance) clean of hidden interests: in a field often disfigured and muddied by undeclared allegiances, he is a highly trustworthy critic.
—Robert Hughes, The New York Review of Books
This work is a wonderful introduction to 20th-century architecture…. The result is magnificent from start to finish. Filler writes elegant prose that captures the feeling of these buildings in a way that makes illustrations almost unnecessary. He also discusses architecture in a way that will be satisfying both to specialists or practitioners and accessible to nonspecialists. No matter the level of previous experience with architecture, anyone with an interest in the subject will find Filler’s work rewarding.
Filler’s assessments in The New York Review stand apart, eschewing fashion and offering polished, carefully edited and backed-up, though highly personal, assertions…. Filler’s razor-sharp mind and sharper tongue set him apart. We gobble up what he thinks, as well as how he serves it up.
—Robert Ivy, Architectural Record
Martin Filler’s book is liberating…. For those seeking a brilliant if potted guide to modern architecture, Filler fits the bill. His book bristles with bracing insights, incisive judgments, and wicked lines.
—Robert Zaretsky, Houston Chronicle