The Favored Circle
The Social Foundations of Architectural Distinction
264 pp., 7 x 9 in, 45 illus.
- Published: December 14, 1998
- Published: February 22, 2002
A look at the field of architecture written by an outsider who demystifies the mechanics of fame and fortune.
The popular view of architecture focuses on individual creative geniuses, those who have designed the most "significant" works. According to Garry Stevens, however, successful architects owe their success not so much to genius as to social background and a host of other factors that have very little to do with native talent. To concentrate only on the profession of architecture is to ignore the much larger field of architecture, which structures the entire social universe of the architect and of which architects are only one part. This book critically surveys that field, exposing many myths and debunking a number of heroes in the process. Using the conceptual apparatus of French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu, Stevens describes the field of architecture on two levels. First, he provides a detailed account of the field as it is at any given point in time, describing the different components and their relationships. Second, he analyzes the dynamics of the field through time, from the Renaissance to the present. He discusses the system of architectural education, as well as everyday aspects such as the competition for reputation. He concludes that throughout history, the most eminent architects have been connected to each other by master-pupil and collegiate relations. These networks, which still exist, provide a mechanism for architectural influence that runs parallel to that of the university-based schools.
Stevens cuts to the very heart of assumptions about architecture and architects, holds them up fro critical study, and then exposes the lack of foundation for many cherished beliefs... the writing is clear and succinct, the theory well-articulated and appropriate, and the treatment of other studies fair and thorough.
Diance Ghirardo, University of Southern California
Gary Stevens X-rays the architectural profession, going way beneath the surface to uncover its underlying value system—and what really makes it tick. His incisive, cross-cultural analysis should be recommended reading for anyone interested in examining the architectural mystique.
Kathryn H. Anthony, School of Architecture, Department of Landscape ARchitecture, and Women's Studies Program, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Over 500 years and much of the western world, The Favored Circle analyzes the lived experience of architects, pulling out patterns that make sense of it all. In clear language, Garry Stevens enlists theory and research to reshape our views of practice, education, and the evolution of architecture. This provocative portrait unravels the social logic of the architectural profession. In its most compelling argument, The Favored Circle explicates the cultural construction of architectural creativity and even genius. Stevens joins a notable, growing group of sociologists examining architecture (including Blau, LArson, and Gutman), to the benefit of practitioners, educators and students. The book is a real contribution to the field.
Dana Cuff, Professor of Architecture and Urban Design, UCLA