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Why is construction so backward? - reviewed by Penny Lewis

We are grateful to Penny Lewis, Editor, Prospect architecture magazine, for her review of Why is construction so backward? If you wish to contribute your review please email Ian Abley. We welcome a discussion.

Why is construction so backward? James Woudhuysen, Ian Abley, Stefan Muthesius and Miles Glendinning

This is a passionate critique of the sluggish and conservative nature of the construction industry and the planning process. This book turns on its head the current consensus about the role of the architect within the industry.

Perhaps it is time we reviewed the mythology surrounding the role of the architect. The idea of the architect - the lone defender of principles struggling against an industry hostile to the value of good design - is no longer sustainable.

The authors argue that today's architects believe that really good architecture is defined by its uniqueness. Bespoke trophy buildings may be seen as the most innovative products of our time, but, say the authors, these iconic buildings, far from being innovative and progressive, promote a craft-like attitude to construction.

The 'starchitect', however hi-tech, undermines attempts to develop building systems and process that could make the industry as a whole more productive and efficient.

For most architects the act of studying the industry in which they operate is usually an uninspiring activity, focusing on contract law and case studies. This book brings the subject to life by providing a proper, grounded understanding of the industry, and the particular role of the architect.

The state of the housing market, the regulation of the construction process, the inflexibility of the planning process, the preoccupation of the architect with their personal and individual contribution, all contribute to produce an industry that is currently incapable of innovating to meet demand.

This book brings new depth to the discussion about the relationship between architecture and society.

Rather than trying to identify fixed formula to understand the relationship, it provides an analysis of the key economic, social and political trends of our age, and tries to explain how these trends affect the process of creating new homes and workplaces.

Penny Lewis, Editor, Prospect architecture magazine

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Sustaining Architecture in the Anti-Machine Age, edited by Ian Abley and James Woudhuysen

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