Cover: Four Walls and a Roof: The Complex Nature of a Simple Profession, from Harvard University PressCover: Four Walls and a Roof in PAPERBACK

Four Walls and a Roof

The Complex Nature of a Simple Profession

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$24.00 • £20.95 • €21.95

ISBN 9780674241466

Publication Date: 10/15/2019


528 pages

6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches

70 illus.


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Jacket: Four Walls and a Roof

HARDCOVER | $35.00

ISBN 9780674976108


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Something of a revelation… [De Graaf] has produced an original and even occasionally hilarious book about losing ideals and finding them again… He deftly shows that architecture cannot be better or more pure than the flawed humans who make it.The Economist

This is a book about power, money and influence, and architecture’s complete lack of any of them. It is a book not about architecture’s successes but about its failures. Witty, insightful and funny, it is a (sometimes painful) dissection of a profession that thinks it is still in control.—Edwin Heathcote, Financial Times

[It] tells the stories that tend to get left out of official histories, but which actually shape our physical environment… De Graaf’s book is sharp, revealing, funny, drily passionate and not always encouraging.—Rowan Moore, The Guardian

Provocative… De Graaf has no fixed method. But the impressive extent and depth of his knowledge persistently inform his meditations, which take in many subjects. His mood is invariable. He is constantly and exhilaratingly cynical… Because he displays such candor—albeit polished candor, and such a perfectly gauged lack of tact—it is easy to forget that de Graaf is an architect, an insider, part of the system he dissects… De Graaf is likely to remain an architect for decades to come. In those circumstances, his enthusiasm for biting the hand that feeds him is admirably risky.—Jonathan Meades, Literary Review

De Graaf is an excellent, witty and perceptive essayist. The heart of the book is a series of astonishing accounts of the protracted—and as it turns out, all doomed—sagas to get big urban projects approved and built in London (just pre-crash), Moscow (just pre-Putin), the Emirates (just pre-oil slump), and Kurdistan (just pre-Isis). The way de Graaf builds up to each (in hindsight) inevitable disappointment is masterly…He emerges as an unlikely, deeply skeptical architectural Everyman.—Hugh Pearman, The Spectator

This is the most stimulating book on architecture and its practice that I have read for years. Not only is de Graaf a good anecdotalist (his hilarious account of a long-winded and fruitless masterplanning competition in Russia should be turned into a film), but a perceptive analyst of how architecture represents, or connects with, wider political and economic movements and trends.—Paul Finch, Architects’ Journal

Takes an idiosyncratic look at architectural history and dissects contemporary practice—from the quotidian (and sometimes comic) frustrations to the occasional triumphs and memorable failures.—Josephine Minutillo, Architectural Record

Reinier de Graaf paints an honest picture of what it is like to work as an architect today… [He] provides engaging stories about the banal, everyday reality of working for an acclaimed firm. These vivid, uncompromising narratives are contextualized with shrewd essays about architecture’s lost ideals, its false pretentions, and utter dependence on forces far more powerful than design.—Mark Minkjan, Failed Architecture

A refreshingly accessible, honest portrayal of a quixotic field from someone within the most successful architecture firm 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.—Erick Villagomez, Spacing

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

The title of this book, provided by an innocent enquirer, has provoked Reinier de Graaf into a shrewd, lucid, and engaging survey of the architecture and building scene. He seems to have been everywhere and listened to anyone who is—or has been—active and influential in building and planning, from Prince Charles to Buckminster Fuller. Yet he has also managed to direct attention to some neglected personalities, past and present—Ernst Neufert, Lucien Kroll. You will not find a better guide to planning, building, and architecture of the last half-century!—Joseph Rykwert, Professor Emeritus, University of Pennsylvania

This is a terrific book. It weaves together reflections on design, history, politics, and economics in a seamless and illuminating manner, offering a kaleidoscopic portrait of the state of architecture and its recent history. The writing is delightful, always irreverent, and at times exceedingly funny.—Bernardo Zacka, Research Fellow, Stanford University and University of Cambridge

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