When architectural idealism meets reality

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Four Walls and a Roof: The Complex Nature of a Simple Profession. By Reinier de Graaf. Harvard University Press; 528 pages; $35 and £27.95. 

HIS name may not be familiar, but Reinier de Graaf’s architecture practice, the Office of Metropolitan Architecture (OMA), designed the CCTV building in Beijing and the Prada Foundation in Milan. Its co-founder Rem Koolhaas is a classic “starchitect”. Mr De Graaf is known in professional circles for his bleakly humorous lectures on architecture as a social act. 

His first book—part essay-collection, part diary—is thus something of a revelation. It covers some familiar ground, such as the frictions between the utopian tendencies in 20th-century architecture and the realities of real estate and realpolitik. But he has produced an original and even occasionally hilarious book about losing ideals and finding them again.

In the early part of the…Continue reading

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