What Is Architecture?

What Is Architecture?

An Essay on Landscapes, Buildings, and Machines

By Paul Shepheard





British architect and critic Paul Shepheard is a fresh new voice in current postmodern debates about the history and meaning of architecture. In this wonderfully unorthodox quasi-novelistic essay, complete with characters and dialogue (but no plot), Shepheard draws a boundary around the subject of architecture, describing its place in art and technology, its place in history, and its place in our lives now. At a time when it is fashionable to say that architecture is everything—from philosophy to science to art to theory—Shepheard boldly and irreverently sets limits to the subject, so that we may talk about architecture for what it is. He takes strong positions, names the causes of the problems, and tells us how bad things are and how they can get better. Along the way he marshals some unlikely but plausible witnesses who testify about the current state of architecture. Instead of the usual claims or complaints by the usual suspects, these observations are of an altogether different order. Constructed as a series of fables, many of them politically incorrect, What is Architecture? is a refreshing meditation on the options, hopes, possibilities, and failures of shelter in society.


Out of Print ISBN: 9780262193412 141 pp. | 5.5 in x 8.5 in


$25.00 X ISBN: 9780262691666 141 pp. | 5.5 in x 8.5 in


  • This is a brilliant book in every respect. It has wit, insight, provocative proposals for the future, and an eloquent use of language.

    James Wines

    President of SITE

  • This is one of the strangest and most enchanting boos I have ever seen. It is like starting again; the same subject but seen with different eyes, told by different characters. Instead of the magnilloquence and opacity with which we (architectural writers) have become so familiar, instead of the increasingly cryptic revisions and restatements of things heard and read before, a lucid introduction to something that we might care to call architecture, if we so wish. The quality of writing is just wonderful, the essay immensely intelligent, for all the simplity of its exposition.

    Robin Evans

    Harvard University Graduate School of Design

  • A sharp and remarkably clever essay which makes a real contribution to the discussion of architecture. Shepheard's work gives a strong and positive sense of someone really thinking.

    Robert Harbison

  • An unusual and personal book which romps through the generalities of architecture with comment and reflection.

    James Gowan