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By Anthony Vidler, London: MIT MIT - Massachusetts Institute of Technology  Press, 2000, [pound]22.50

The idea that space is the essential ingredient of architecture is so commonplace we forget that it emerged relatively recently, in the nineteenth century. As it emerged, according to according to
1. As stated or indicated by; on the authority of: according to historians.

2. In keeping with: according to instructions.

 this book, it cast a sinister shadow -- the fear of space, taking various pathological forms, most obviously agoraphobia Agoraphobia Definition

The word agoraphobia is derived from Greek words literally meaning "fear of the marketplace." The term is used to describe an irrational and often disabling fear of being out in public.
 and claustrophobia claustrophobia /claus·tro·pho·bia/ (-fo´be-ah) irrational fear of being shut in, of closed places.

An abnormal fear of being in narrow or enclosed spaces.
. Anthony Vidler is not interested in the positive, liberating potential of architectural space; he is interested only in the dark shadow, the 'fear, anxiety and estrangement' associated with the experience of space in the modern world.

The first half of the book traces the path of this shadow through psychiatry, literature, philosophy, film-making and architecture, from Blaise Pascal, who was haunted by an imaginary abyss that appeared from time to time to the left of his chair, through the casebook A printed compilation of judicial decisions illustrating the application of particular principles of a specific field of law, such as torts, that is used in Legal Education to teach students under the Case Method system.  of Sigmund Freud and the urban meditations of Walter Benjamin, to the sublime imagery of Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead foun·tain·head  
1. A spring that is the source or head of a stream.

2. A chief and copious source; an originator: "the intellectual fountainhead of the black conservatives" 
 and Le Corbusier's l'espace indicible -- ineffable space. The emphasis throughout is on written accounts and theories so that spatial experience is presented at one remove. As if aware of this weakness, Vidler devotes the second half of the book to specific examples, all taken from the most elevated and rarefied rar·e·fied also rar·i·fied  
1. Belonging to or reserved for a small select group; esoteric.

2. Elevated in character or style; lofty.


 strata of artistic and architectural production - Rachel Whiteread's 'House', Martha Rosler's urban photographs, Mike Kelley's pseudo-architectural models, and architectural projects by such as Daniel Libeskind, Greg Lynn and Eric Owen Moss Eric Owen Moss (b. 1943 in Los Angeles, California) is a widely recognized Los Angeles based architect.

Eric Owen Moss was born and raised in Los Angeles, California. He received a Bachelor of Arts from the University of California, Los Angeles in 1965.

But the structural shift does nothing to stem the flow of relentlessly abstract theorizing. Vidler is more interested in the words of critics than in direct encounters with works of art, let alone buildings or cities. The paucity of illustrations does not help. Each chapter in Part 2 is provided with just one black and white photograph, which, if the reader is not familiar with the oeuvre in question, renders the text practically useless. But then the text wanders off the subject anyway. Vidler can never resist the temptation to make another oblique theoretical connection, drop another obscure name, construct another convoluted six line sentence. The effect is to obscure the subject matter.

This book should be consumed in small portions, a chapter at a time. Taken as a whole, it is rambling, tedious and repetitive. Vidler himself seems to suffer from a kind of agoraphobia -- an intellectual agoraphobia. There are some original thoughts here and some difficult ideas are clarified, but he really should try to get out more.
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Publication:The Architectural Review
Article Type:Book Review
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Mar 1, 2001

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