A History of Architecture (Magill's Literary Annual 1986)
Spiro Kostof believes that architecture is anything that man does to impose some kind of order on nature, from a prehistoric hut made of sticks to a grouping of houses in a Nepalese village to a Manhattan skyscraper. Architecture makes the difference between the way things are and the way man wants them to be. Within this broad context, everything is fair game. Almost anything piled on something else can be included as long as that something serves some purpose.
Kostof, a professor of architectural history at the University of California at Berkeley, and a former president of the Society of Architectural Historians, is as good as his word. He begins his narrative with a description of the dwellings of a Stone Age community; he then discusses the cave paintings at Lascaux, and considers the four stages of construction at Stonehenge, the most famous of Neolithic monuments. The rest of this impressive book is a chronologically ordered analysis of construction throughout the ages. All the major periods are covered with their principal monuments, most of these illustrated with photographs; in addition, the text is augmented with maps and with original drawings of general site plans and with reconstructions. Kostof not only gives the reader detailed technical descriptions, but he also examines the buildings in terms of their historical and social context, showing how they expressed the values and activities of the times in which they were first constructed and...
(The entire section is 2153 words.)
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