Four Walls and a Roof
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Architecture, we like to believe, is an elevated art form that shapes the world as it pleases. Four Walls and a Roof challenges this notion, presenting a candid account of what it is really like to work as an architect. Drawing on his own tragicomic experiences in the field, Reinier de Graaf reveals the world of contemporary architecture in vivid snapshots: from suburban New York to the rubble of northern Iraq, from the corridors of wealth in London, Moscow, and Dubai to garbage-strewn wastelands that represent the demolished hopes of postwar social housing. We meet oligarchs determined to translate ambitions into concrete and steel, developers for whom architecture is mere investment, and the layers of politicians, bureaucrats, consultants, and mysterious hangers - on who lie between any architectural idea and the chance of its execution. Four Walls and a Roof tells the story of a profession buffeted by external forces that determine'at least as much as individual inspiration'what architects design. Perhaps the most important myth debunked is success itself. To achieve anything, architects must serve the powers they strive to critique, finding themselves in a perpetual conflict of interest. Together, architects, developers, politicians, and consultants form an improvised world of contest and compromise that none alone can control.
Ruthlessly honest about what it is like to work at architecture and wickedly cynical about how power works in our current economy, Reinier de Graaf's vantage point from a top architectural firm doesn't make him crow of success but, rather, pushes us architects, for better or worse, to keep fighting the good fight. Reading Four Walls and a Roof will make you laugh, cry, and so identify.--Peggy Deamer, Yale School of Architecture
A refreshingly accessible, honest portrayal of a quixotic field from someone within the most successful architecture firms in the world today...One of the most intelligent, candid discussions on architecture I have read to-date. Thus, Four Walls and a Roof offers an entertaining, penetrating, and much needed primer on the current state of the profession and the contemporary global forces influencing the built environment. A must-read list for architects, planners and urban designers, alike.-- (05/01/2018)