The History, Theory, and Criticism of Architecture
A distinguished group of architectural educators—men who have a large responsibility for the form that the architecture of the future will take—address themselves here to architects at large, as well as to their teachers. They are concerned primarily to weigh the relative roles of history, theory and criticism in the teaching—and practice—of architects.
The architect is a public artist with the largest of “captive audiences”—the total population. As such, he has responsibilities which go beyond pure art—he must concern himself with social, economic and political matters.
The contributors to this volume emphasize that in order to produce a meaningful and humane environment, he must also develop an acute sense of history.
They point out that the American architect in particular is so rootless and mobile, has so limited an architectural tradition and is so scantily educated in history—even architectural history—that his buildings by and large tend to be exercises in personal or fashionable whim; however interesting in themselves, they fail over-all to express a sense of place, of time, of continuity. Whether highly individual sculptures, or glass-box copies, they are divorced from local and regional traditions, and from the larger aspects of American life.
In spurning the eclecticism of the 19th century, which was based on superficial historicizing, the modern architect has gone so far in the opposite direction that his work has been described as “individualistic eclecticism,” resulting from too little historical awareness. In decrying this, the contributors do not, of course, call for a return to the past: they rather feel that today's building should grow from the past, should respect and relate to the environment and should express in a tangible way the continuous unfolding of our civilization.
Sibyl Moholy-Nagy notes that "The elimination or paralysis of history in architectural schools a generation ago has left a gap that... has not been replaced by a workable method, explaining to the student his place in the continuous phenomenon of man-made environment."
And Stephen W. Jacobs argues that this educational “gap” must be filled: "Not only must the teachers and graduates of architecture schools attempt to “make” architectural history but they must understand it.... They must see architectural history not a presenting a succession of selected “examples” in an imaginary museum but as one of significant means of gaining insight."
Contributors Bufors L. Pickens, Peter Collins, Bruno Zevi, Serge Chermayeff, Sibyl Moholy-Nagy, Stephen W. Jacobs, Stanford Anderson, and Reyner Banham.