The Edifice Complex – Deyan Sudjic (2005)

The Edifice Complex

The Edifice Complex by Deyan Sudjic is a book on architecture, architects and their patrons. The subtitle, “How the Rich and Powerful Shape the World” may make you think it’s some sort of communist rant, but no, it’s actually quite literal. Overwhelmingly the choices of what buildings are erected are made by the wealthy and powerful people in society. The interesting question is to what end, and how well does it work?

The book examines the building programs of some of the more powerful political figures of the century, starting with Hitler, Stalin and Mao, and then moving along to related topics like the U.S. Presidential libraries, iconic structures like the Bilbao Guggenheim, other museums and government buildings, and ending with a chapter on high-rises, starting with the WTC. Sudjic is interested in the relationship of the patron and the architect, the egotism of both, and the impact of the finished work on both them and the rest of the world.

The book touches on interesting bits of history and biography. I’d recommend it, though I did find that the book jumps around quite a bit, as shorter bits on people like the Shah of Iran and the Marcoses get slotted in to various themed chapters.

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