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Paperback | $35.00 Short | £24.95 | ISBN: 9780262631181 | 225 pp. | 8 x 11 in | July 1988

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The Secret Life of Buildings

An American Mythology for Modern Architecture


Not since the 1920s has American architecture undergone such fundamental changes as those which are revitalizing the profession today. But in this period of great artistic fertility and unrest, there has yet to emerge a critical theory capable of analyzing the conditions and examining the attitudes by which our architecture is being redefined.

Gavin Macrae-Gibson is the first of a generation of architects educated in the 1970s to construct a method of criticism powerful enough to interpret this new architecture. The theory is built upon a close reading of seven works, all completed in the 1980s: Frank Gehry's Gehry House in Santa Monica, Peter Eisenman's House El Even Odd, Cesar Pelli's Four Leaf Towers in Houston, Michael Graves' Portland Public Service building, Robert Stern's Bozzi residence in East Hampton, Allan Greenberg's Manchester Superior Courthouse in Connecticut, and Venturi, Rauch and Scott Brown's Gordon Wu Hall at Princeton.

The author uses urban plans, and architectural drawings and photographs to reveal the layers of meaning present in each building, including the deepest layer—its secret life. At this level the buildings have in common the fact that their meaning is derived from the realities of an imperfect present and no longer from the anticipation of a utopian future.

A Graham Foundation Book.

About the Author

Gavin Macrae-Gibson is a practicing architect. He has been Visiting Lecturer in Architectural Theory at Yale University since 1982, and has taught and lectured widely throughout the United States and Canada.



"The book contains some of the most acute and memorable architectural criticism I have ever read."
Sir John Summerson