A deep exploration of modern life that examines our cities, public places, and homes In Mysteries of the Mall, Witold Rybczynski, the author of How Architecture Works, casts a seasoned critical eye on the modern scene. His subject is nothing less than the broad setting of our metropolitan world. In thirty-four discerning essays, Rybczynski ranges over topics as varied as shopping malls, Central Park, the Op ra Bastille, and America's shrinking cities. Along the way, he examines our post-9/11 obsession with security, the revival of the big-city library, the rise of college towns, our fascination with vacation homes, and Disney's planned community of Celebration. By looking at contemporary architects as diverse as Frank Gehry, Moshe Safdie, and Bing Thom, revisiting old masters such as Palladio, Le Corbusier, and Frank Lloyd Wright, and considering such unsung innovators as Stanley H. Durwood, the inventor of the cineplex, Rybczynski ponders the role of global metropolises in an age of tourism and reflects on what kinds of places attract us in the modern city. Mysteries of the Mall is required reading for anyone curious about the contemporary world and how it came to be the way it is.
Not many of us pay attention to the architecture surrounding us in our daily lives as we stream in and out of supermarkets, gas stations and other commercial and public places. Much of the architecture we inhabit is increasingly defined by the technology of the time along with the pace of change of activities we like to engage in.
Mysteries of the Mall, a collection of essays from previously published works of architect and author Witold Rybczynski, offers a lucid guide to various architectural developments. In thirty-four essays laid out in four parts, Rybczynski delves into the way we live today, our urban conditions, the art of the building and place makers. The book offers a moving commentary on architectural trends, movements and an accounts of some of the most influential architects over the past five decades.
Rybczynski’s strong interest in the lived experience of architecture and in spaces where form follows function, namely food courts, offers a lively read and raises many important questions. The essay on engineering firm Arup, sheds much needed light on nearly seven decades of work that makes some of the most complex building stand today.
Spaces are not always identified by their physical features as by the events that take or took place. Rapid changes in cities make these spaces acquire significance in one period before they lose it in another. While seaports, railroads and factory complexes created concentration in large cities, recent technological development has supported dispersal. This chain of evolution, invention and change has often been the pattern that drives urban renewal.
Rybczynski’s essays in the fourth part of the book focus on place makers, weaving together stories of common vision from the architectural and development work done by Turner, Durwood and Pritzker.
Witold Rybczynski, Hon. FAIA, is an emeritus professor of architecture at the University of Pennsylvania. He has contributed to The Atlantic, The New Yorker, Time and The New York Times. The recipient of the 2007 Vincent Scully Prize, he was honored in 2014 with the National Design Award for Design Mind from the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum. He is the author of the critically-acclaimed book Home and the award-winning A Clearing in the Distance. His latest book is The Biography of a Building.
“Throughout the collection, Rybczynski’s writing is clear-headed and thoughtful, knowledgeable but unpretentious . . . the awe, appreciation and wonder that Rybczynski has for architecture can be infectious.”
“[H]is writing is, like his architectural leanings, clear and civil, and full of cocktail-worthy trivia.”