A helpful place to start is with Art History Teaching Resources (AHTR) Architecture Since 1900 lesson. The Goldberger text is not chronological, so this lesson plan offers a good overview of the modern movement in architecture, which is the primary focus of Goldberger’s book. The lesson from AHTR also covers several buildings that will be further discussed in Why Architecture Matters. The following structures are discussed both in the AHTR resource and the Goldberger text:
- Louis Sullivan, Guaranty Trust Building, Buffalo, New York, 1894–95
- Skidmore, Owings, & Merrill, Lever House, New York, NY, 1951–52
- Frank Lloyd Wright, Robie House, Chicago, 1906-09
- Frank Lloyd Wright, Fallingwater, or the Kaufmann House, Mill Run, Pennsylvania, 1937
- Frank Lloyd Wright, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, NY, 1959
- Frank Gehry, Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, Bilbao, Spain, 1991–97
Ada Louise Huxtable, “The Art We Cannot Afford to Ignore (But Do)” The New York Times, 4 May 1958, Section SM, p. 14
Ada Louise Huxtable (1921-2013) was an architecture critic whose writing helped shape conversations about the significant impact of the built environment on people. In 1963, she became the first full-time architecture critic at the New York Times. Her essay, “The Art We Cannot Afford to Ignore (But Do)” was published in the New York Times in 1958. In it, she sets up the importance of fostering public awareness of the built environment. It also offers us a good opportunity to introduce the International Style of architecture.
The questions below can be posed in response to Ada Louise Huxtable’s, “The Art We Cannot Afford to Ignore (But Do)” The New York Times, 4 May 1958, Section SM, p. 14
- According to the author, what factors contribute to architecture as the forgotten art? What factors contribute to architecture as the unavoidable art?
- What does Huxtable include as the responsibilities of the architect? What would you add to this list?
- Huxtable points to many problematic issues surrounding the current state of architecture – what are they? Do you see any of these same problems today?
Paul Goldberger, Why Architecture Matters (New Haven, Yale University Press, 2009)
The following sets of questions are designed to be used in conjunction with the Goldberger book, Why Architecture Matters. The questions include parenthetical page numbers associated with the text and are organized chapter by chapter below.
- Chapter 1 introduces us to Goldberger’s main argument surrounding the significance of architecture in our day-to-day lives. What is his assertion regarding the importance of architecture? Why does architecture matter?
- Consider Goldberger’s statement that he “reject(s) the view that a clear line can be drawn between serious architecture and ordinary buildings” (p. 2). Do you agree or disagree?
- How does ordinary architecture (the vernacular) both shape and reflect culture (p. 3)?
- What is architectural intent, according to the author (p. 6)?
- Think about the Vitruvian triad – Utility (Goldberger calls this “commodity”), firmness, and delight – how would you apply these three components to architecture you encounter daily (p. 7)?
- What is architecture’s relationship to art?
- In what ways do architectural form and symbol come together? What specific examples does Goldberger discuss throughout the chapter (begins on p. 8 and continues to about p. 15)?
- What do you think Goldberger means when he writes that “architecture is social as well as individual: as it exists in physical reality, it exists in social reality, too” (p. 15)?
- In what way(s) can architecture act as the “ultimate physical representation of a culture” (p. 16)? What examples can you think of (other than those that Goldberger discusses)?
- What makes a building an architectural icon (Goldberger discusses a few important examples from pp. 17-24 or so)?
- Goldberger discusses the views of several architects, theorists, and historians in this first chapter – don’t worry about knowing/remembering all of them! – which one(s) resonated the most with you? Why?
- The author concludes with a call to more ethical architecture. How does he define this, and why do you think it is so important to him (pp. 38-40)?
The questions below can be used to review Goldberger, Chapter 2, “Challenge and Comfort.”
- Chapter 2 discusses the paradox of challenge and comfort in architecture. What do you make of the relationship between these two seemingly opposite endeavors?
- Consider Goldberger’s discussion of the ethical function of architecture. How does this relate to the issue of challenge and comfort?
- Look up one of Louis Kahn’s buildings mentioned on p. 44 – do you think Kahn’s work fits a conventional measure of architectural beauty? Does convention matter, according to Goldberger?
- What is the role of vernacular architecture? Why is it important? How does Goldberger’s discussion of the vernacular relate to Huxtable’s writings on architecture?
- Think about, as Goldberger does throughout Chapter 2, of architecture’s relationship to other art forms, like painting or sculpture.
- On pp. 50-52, Goldberger discusses the question of aesthetics and architecture. What examples does he use? Do you think architecture can be purely aesthetic?
- Why does Goldberger prefer the term comfort to function or practicality (discussed on p. 55)
- Look up images of architecture from the Deconstructivist movement. How do they dislocate the viewer? (p. 57)
- What is the difference between “excellence that looks backwards and excellence that strives to leap ahead and change the way people see the world,” according to Goldberger (p. 59)?
- According to the author, can joy and challenge go together? Why or why not? (Discussed on p. 63.)
- How do architects who seek to challenge the viewer interpret the third component of the Vitruvian triad, delight or beauty?
The questions below can be used to review Goldberger, Chapter 3, “Architecture as Object.”
- Chapter 3 addresses architecture’s physical form. The elements of architecture are: proportion + scale, light + color, texture + rhythm, space and ornament (Goldberger brings these up in so many words on p. 73, and then again beginning on p. 97). Which element(s) does Goldberger deem most essential?
- Be sure to pay attention to Goldberger’s discussion throughout the chapter on a building’s relationship to setting.
- Think about how you approach a building – what do you look at first? (Goldberger asks this question on p. 69 of the textbook, and then addresses issues of both physical and temporal context on p. 71.)
- What is a scenographic building (p. 72)?
- What does Goldberger’s comparison between the Lincoln Memorial and The Parthenon (pp. 73-74) illustrate?
- How do we perceive shape (p. 75)?
- We will compare + contrast the three skyscrapers Goldberger discusses on pp. 75-82 in class, so pay attention to Goldberger’s point here (Seagram Building, New York, NY; General Motors Building, New York, NY; + Hancock Tower, Boston, MA.)
- How does the Pantheon, pictured on p. 83, shape space? What other simple/essential geometric shapes does Goldberger address?
- What does Koolhaas and Scheeren’s CCTV Headquarters in Beijing, China reveal about the relationship of form + function? What questions does it raise (pp. 93-96)?
- Throughout the chapter Goldberger asserts that architecture is a composition – what examples discussed by the author were most memorable to you?
- The issue between Modernism and Postmodernism is addressed on pp. 104-106. What do Le Corbusier and Venturi’s opposing viewpoints reveal about Modernism’s “shortcomings” in terms of how the viewer perceives a building?
The questions below can be used to review Goldberger, Chapter 4, “Architecture as Space.”
- Chapter 4 addresses the essential component of space in architecture. How does Goldberger describe space throughout the chapter?
- Consider Goldberger’s assertion that: “Whatever form it takes, interior space will almost always provoke a greater emotional response than the outside of a building does” (p. 111). Do you agree or disagree?
- Think about the different types of space Goldberger brings up: directional space (p. 111); focused space (p. 111); negative (left-over) space (p. 119); Baroque/non-static space (p. 121); continuous space (p. 131); “ineffable space” (p. 134)
- Why do you think we talk about space in terms of how it makes us feel (p. 112)?
- Is a visitor’s experience of space subjective (p. 115)?
- What does Goldberger mean by, “Space is shaped” (p. 120)?
- What role does time play in our experience of architectural space (p. 125)? What about movement (p. 128)?
- What does a building’s plan reveal (discussion begins on p. 128)?
- According to Goldberger, what is it about structures created for religious purposes allows for especially great architectural space (p. 134)
The questions below can be used to review Goldberger, Chapter 5 “Architecture and Memory.”
- In Chapter 5, Goldberger begins to dissect the complicated role of memory in architecture – what’s the first building you remember?
- How does memory affect the way we perceive buildings?
- How is your worldview shaped by architectural memory?
- What does Goldberger mean by “the street was a place” (p. 144)?
- According to Goldberger, how is our general sensibility of architecture formed (p. 145)?
- Try tracing your own architectural journey – what are some of the first spaces you remember?
- Can you picture, as Goldberger describes on p. 147, buildings coming together to make a place?)?
- What is the importance of the public realm (p. 148)?
- What is significant to the author about his experience of the Gothic revival buildings by James Gamble Rogers at Yale (pp. 152 – 154)?
- Describe the two ways we experience architecture, according to Vincent Scully— associatively and empathetically (p. 154).
- About ½ the chapter is about the individual experience, and ½ is about the shared experience (Goldberger begins to discuss this on p. 155). What are some examples of this shared experience that the author outlines?
- Can you think of examples of architecture as it is described in other media, as Goldberger does, such as painting, film, and literature?
The questions below can be used to review Goldberger, Chapter 6 “Buildings and Time.”
- In Chapter 6, Goldberger discusses buildings and time – what are some of the reasons Goldberger gives for buildings changing over time?
- What does Goldberger’s example of Paul Rudolph’s Yale Art and Architecture Building reveal (p. 181)?
- After learning about Michael Graves’ Portland Building, what do you make of Goldberger’s suggestion that a Graves revival might be in the cards for the future (p. 182)?
- Consider Goldberger’s quote: “…every work of architecture, from the most ordinary to the most transcendent, has roots in a particular time” (p. 183)?
- What is your definition of a civic space (p. 188)?
- What does it mean for an architect to reinterpret a historical language (p. 191)? o How crucial is technology in determining the architecture of an era (p. 193)?
- According to Goldberger (via Lewis Mumford), how do buildings make time itself visible (discussion begins on p. 194)?
- What are Goldberger’s views on historic preservation? What qualities make a building worth preserving in your eyes? How do we resolve the conflict between preservation and real life (discussion begins on p. 195 and continues to the end of the chapter)?
- What role does a landmark commission play in preserving buildings? What are some examples of buildings that should have been preserved? What argument does Goldberger make regarding these structures?
The questions below can be used to review Goldberger, Chapter 7 “Buildings and the Making of Place.”
- Can you reflect on Goldberger’s main themes throughout the book – how does he tie it all together in this last chapter, “Buildings and the Making of Place”?
- Goldberger (re)examines the relationship of architecture and setting in this chapter – we’ll explore this in class further. What examples does Goldberger use to make his point (p. 214)?
- Why is variety important to the energy of a street? Goldberger uses Central Park West as a prime example of visual variety – what examples can you think of?
- What does Goldberger point to as the single most important principle of urban architecture (hint: it’s on p. 219)?
- What do you think makes for an inviting urban environment? Do you agree with Goldberger’s criteria (he begins outlining these on p. 220)?
- What are the roles of foreground and background buildings (p. 221)?
- What does Goldberger mean when he writes: “If I have learned anything about what makes a city comfortable as a work of design, it is that streets matter more than buildings” (p. 222)?
- “How much do cities mean in an age of cyberspace, and how much does sense of place— one thing we expect buildings will help give—matter?” What do you think of this quote (p. 224)?
- What gives you a sense of place? Is architecture still relevant in the shaping of this place (p. 226-227)?
- What is the new urban paradigm, according to Goldberger (p. 228)?
- What is New Urbanism (p. 231)?
- What does architecture mean to you?