World's Greatest Architect
Artifacts (including works of architecture) play dual roles; they simultaneously perform functions and carry meaning. Columns support roofs, but while the sturdy Tuscan and Doric types traditionally signify masculinity, the slim and elegant Ionic and Corinthian kinds read as feminine. Words are often inscribed on objects. (On a door: “push” or “pull.”) Today, information is digitally encoded (dematerialized) and displayed (rematerialized) to become part of many different objects, at one moment appearing on a laptop screen and at another, perhaps, on a building facade (as in Times Square). Well-designed artifacts succeed in being both useful and meaningful. In World’s Greatest Architect, William Mitchell offers a series of snapshots—short essays and analyses—that examine the systems of function and meaning currently operating in our buildings, cities, and global networks. In his writing, Mitchell makes connections that aren’t necessarily obvious but are always illuminating, moving in one essay from Bush-Cheney’s abuse of language to Robert Venturi’s argument against rigid ideology and in favor of graceful pragmatism. He traces the evolution of Las Vegas from Sin/Sign City to family-friendly resort and residential real estate boomtown. A purchase of chips leads not only to a complementary purchase of beer but to thoughts of Eames chairs (like Pringles) and Gehry (fun to imitate with tortilla chips in refried beans). As for who the world’s greatest architect might be, here’s a hint: he’s also the oldest.
About the Author
William J. Mitchell was the Alexander W. Dreyfoos, Jr., Professor of Architecture and Media Arts and Sciences and directed the Smart Cities research group at MIT’s Media Lab.
—Richard Saul Wurman