Robert Harbison

Robert Harbison has lectured widely on architecture at the Museum of Modem Art in New York, the University of Toronto, Stanford University, Cornell University, and the Architectural Association, London. His previous books include Eccentric Spaces, Deliberate Regression, and Pharaoh's Dream.

  • Eccentric Spaces

    Eccentric Spaces

    Robert Harbison

    The subject is the human imagination—and the mysterious interplay between the imagination and the spaces it has made for itself to live in: gardens, rooms, buildings, streets, museums and maps, fictional topographies, and architectures. The book is a lesson in seeing and sensing the manifold forms created by the mind for its own pleasure.

    Like all of Robert Harbison's works, Eccentric Spaces is a hybrid, informed by the author's interests in art, architecture, fiction, poetry, landscape, geography, history, and philosophy. The subject is the human imagination—and the mysterious interplay between the imagination and the spaces it has made for itself to live in: gardens, rooms, buildings, streets, museums and maps, fictional topographies, and architectures. The book is a lesson in seeing and sensing the manifold forms created by the mind for its own pleasure.

    Palaces and haunted houses, Victorian parlors, Renaissance sculpture gardens, factories, hill-towns, ruins, cities, even novels and paintings constructed around such environments—these are the spaces over which the author broods. Brilliantly learned, deliberately remote in form from conventional scholarship, Eccentric Spaces is a magical book, an intellectual adventure, a celebration.

    Since its original publication in 1977, Eccentric Spaces has had a devoted readership. Now it is available to be discovered by a new generation of readers.

    • Paperback $26.95 £22.00
  • Thirteen Ways

    Thirteen Ways

    Theoretical Investigations in Architecture

    Robert Harbison

    In this book, Robert Harbison offers a novel interpretation of what architectural theory might look like. The title is an echo of Wallace Stevens's "Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird." Like the poem, Harbison's work is a composite structure built of oblique meanings and astonishing shifts that add up to an engaging portrait—in this case a portrait of architecture in which use, symbol, and metaphor coexist.The chapter titles indicate Harbison's themes, all of which bear parallel, implied, or tangential relations to architecture: Sculpture, Machines, the Body, Landscape, Models, Ideas, Politics, the Sacred, Subjectivity, and Memory. The journey through the chapters is roughly a journey from the physical to the metaphysical, a journey that is at once poetic, technical, and philosophical. Harbison examines his subjects with as few preconceptions as possible, taking familiar concepts and stripping away all associations until they become strange, producing ideas that are refreshing and new for architecture. The book straddles the ground between the intellect and the senses, leading the reader beyond the realm of theory and practice into the universe of the imagination, where "space" is experienced as something touched, seen, and thought.

    • Hardcover $30.00 £25.00
    • Paperback $9.75 £7.99
  • The Built, the Unbuilt, and the Unbuildable

    The Built, the Unbuilt, and the Unbuildable

    In Pursuit of Architectural Meaning

    Robert Harbison

    The pristine, the ruined, the ephemeral, and even the notional are the subject of Robert Harbison's highly original and admittedly romantic contribution to the literature of architecture. His fresh perceptions open this practical art to new interpretations as he explores the means by which buildings, real or imagined, evade or surpass functional necessities while sometimes satisfying them. What fascinates Harbison in these discussions are the paradoxes and ironies of function that give rise to meaning, to a psychological impact that may or may not have been intended. He chooses examples from an architectural borderland - of gardens, monuments, ideal cities and fortification, ruins, paintings, and unbuildable buildings -where use and symbolism overlap; he examines the exceptions at the edges of a field that will illuminate its center. Harbison's pursuit of man's efforts to "fashion art from nonhuman life" begins with a consideration of gardens and the organic architecture of the English Arts and Crafts movement and of Gaudi, then turns to monuments (Claes Oldenburg, Christo, the Vietnam Memorial) that are "either the nearest or the furthest thing from gardens." Harbison's discussion of fortification and urban planning leads to metaphorical themes (fort-features in churches or prisons or Fascist municipal buildings) and mocked-up worlds (Williamsburg, Disneyland), and to the subject of fictional space as expressed in ruins, in painting, in the unbuildable, and finally in the inconceivable as revealed in Kafka's sketches.

    • Hardcover $38.00
    • Paperback $25.00 £20.00