Tadao Ando, Church of the Light, 1989. Osaka, Japan.

Tadao Ando, Church of the Light, 1989. Osaka, Japan.


Philadelphia is a city awash with memorable architecture, so it’s fitting that I stumbled across The Architect Says: Quotes, Quips, and Words of Wisdom at the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s store, which offers a well-curated assortment of books inside of Horace Trumbauer’s imposing Greek structure prominently situated on Fairmont Hill.

Laura Dushkes, the book’s editor, works as a librarian at NBBJ architectural firm in Seattle and began collecting quotes about architecture while purchasing, reading, and cataloging books about design for the firm. The Architect Says: Quotes, Quips, and Words of Wisdom is an elegant compendium of quotations from more than 100 of history’s most opinionated—and dissenting—minds.

The book offers a fascinating glimpse at the creative process. “It’s not a sign of creativity to have sixty-five ideas for one problem,” says Jan Kaplicky. “It’s just a waste of energy.” Then there’s this quote by Charles Eames: “Here is one of the few effective keys to the design problem — the ability of the designer to recognize as many of the constraints as possible — his willingness and enthusiasm for working within these constraints. Constraints of price, of size, of strength, of balance, of surface, of time and so forth.”

Dushkes’ layout and sequencing of quotes also highlights sharp differences of opinion in the field of design: Mies van der Rohe’s “Less is more” versus Robert Venturi’s response, “Less is a bore” is a good example. I also like these rifts on Louis Sullivan’s observation that “form ever follows function”: “Form follows form, not function,” says Philip Johnson or “Form follows profit.” (Richard Rogers).

Also interesting is the relationship between architecture and other creative fields. “I learn more from creative people in other disciplines than I do even from other architects because I think they have a way of looking at the world that is really important,” says Seattle-based architect and MacDowell Colony fellow Tom Kundig.

But there are differences between creative fields too, as Renzo Piano points out: “You can put down a bad book; you can avoid listening to bad music; but you cannot miss the ugly tower block opposite your house.”

Architect Says

(Click pages to enlarge)

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