Witold Rybczynski is the Meyerson Professor of Urbanism at the University of Pennsylvania, and is the architecture critic for Slate. His book on American building, Last Harvest, was published in 2007.

IN THE REVIEW

Genius in Concrete

Ove Arup: Masterbuilder of the Twentieth Century

by Peter Jones
Behind every great architect there is a great engineer. Or more accurately, behind every great modern architect there is a great engineer, for until the twentieth century, the two professions were one. The accomplished—and largely anonymous—medieval master-masons who built the Gothic cathedrals, for example, were responsible equally for ornament and …

Shipping News

The Box: How the Shipping Container Made the World Smaller and the World Economy Bigger

by Marc Levinson

Box Boats: How Container Ships Changed the World

by Brian J. Cudahy
Multicolored shipping containers are everywhere: piled up in stacks in ports, rolling down highways behind tractor trailers, and rumbling by on railroad flatcars. Most people don’t give the ugly, utilitarian objects a second glance, except perhaps to note the names stenciled on their sides—Maersk, Hanjin, Evergreen—and probably to wonder where …

How Things Work

Small Things Considered: Why There Is No Perfect Design

by Henry Petroski

Pushing the Limits: New Adventures in Engineering

by Henry Petroski
“In London, Dissent Roils Design Museum,” reported The New York Times a few months ago—a piece of light-hearted news amid the general turmoil. The roiling dissenter turned out to be James Dyson, known to many Americans as the inventor of a newfangled vacuum cleaner. Dyson had resigned as chairman of …

The Triumph of a Distinguished Failure

The Architecture of Humanism: A Study in the History of Taste

by Geoffrey Scott
The Architecture of Humanism was first published in London in 1914. Its author, Geoffrey Scott, a twenty-nine-year-old British architecture school dropout, had been living as an expatriate in Florence, where he worked for Bernard Berenson. Scott’s book was reprinted in Britain in 1924, and in the US in 1965. Now …

Palladio Forever!

The Four Books on Architecture

by Andrea Palladio,translated from the Italian by Robert Tavernor and Richard Schofield

The Drawings of Andrea Palladio

by Douglas Lewis
In New York City last summer, there were two shows of the work of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, one at the Whitney, the other at the Museum of Modern Art, as well as a Frank O. Gehry exhibit at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. In addition, the Philadelphia Museum …

City Lights

The Seduction of Place: The City in the Twenty-First Century

Joseph Rykwert

Laws of the Landscape: How Policies Shape Cities in Europe and America

Pietro S. Nivola
A magazine editor compiling a millennial list recently asked me which city I thought would qualify as the Best of the Millennium. This is a frivolous question that leads to serious reflection. To begin with, what exactly does “best” mean when it comes to a city? Once, the answer was …

Partner in the Park

Country, Park & City: The Architecture and Life of Calvert Vaux

by Francis R. Kowsky
Poor Calvert Vaux, even the title of his own biography gives him second billing. The story of his life. “To F.L. Olmsted, everything; to C. Vaux, the cut direct,” he once complained. F.L. Olmsted was Frederick Law Olmsted, with whom Vaux designed and built some of the best-known—and best—urban parks …

The Fifth City

A Prayer for the City

by Buzz Bissinger
Of the cities that currently serve as backdrops for most television drama, New York dominates; San Francisco, Boston, and Chicago are runners-up; Indianapolis, Cincinnati, and Baltimore recently have all made at least one appearance. Dallas lent its name to a long-running show; so did Miami. Seattle is the setting for …