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Words and Buildings

A Vocabulary of Modern Architecture

Adrian Forty

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A wholly original study of the complex relationship between architecture and language that has changed and enriched the way we think and talk about the built environment


The words we use when we talk and write about architecture describe more than just bricks and mortar – they direct the ways we think of and live with buildings. This groundbreaking book is the first thorough examination of the complex relationship between architecture and language as intricate social practices.

Words and Buildings is a wholly original study that will change and enrich the way we think and talk about architecture. It is essential reading for anyone concerned with architecture and culture in the modern era.

Rigorously argued chapters investigate the language of modernism, language and drawing, ‘masculine and feminine’ architecture, language metaphors, science in architecture and the social properties of architecture.

A vocabulary of key words such as ‘Character’, ‘Form’, ‘History’ and ‘Space’, locates each word’s modern meaning within a historical and theoretical framework, and clearly sets out its development and relevance for architects, historians, philosophers, critics and the users of buildings themselves.

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'Essential reading … will change and enrich the way we think and talk about buildings'
Sunday Telegraph

'A forceful, clear and sophisticated exposition'
Robert Harbison, The Architects’ Journal

'Architects should be made to read 'Words and Buildings''
Architecture Today

'Unusually clear and accessible … Students of all kinds will love this book'
The Architectural Review

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Product Information

Book Details

Format: Paperback with flaps

Size: 24.5 x 19.5 cm

Extent: 336 pp

Illustrations: 216

Publication date: 1 March 2004

ISBN: 9780500284704

Contents List

Introduction Part One: The Language of Modernism (six chapters) Part Two: A Modernist Lexicon (explores 19 keywords pertaining to modernism)

About the Author

Adrian Forty is a Professor of Architectural History at The Bartlett, the Faculty of the Built Environment at University College London, now retired. He is also the former Programme Director of the masters programme in Architectural History. In 2003, he was awarded the Sir Misha Black Award for Innovation in Design Education. Forty is the author of many highly regarded books on architecture and design, including Objects of Desire, also published by Thames & Hudson.