Witold Rybczynski Quotes

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There may be fewer people in the American house of the nineties, but there are a lot more things.
Witold Rybczynski (Looking Around: A Journey Through Architecture)
I enjoy visiting building sites. Unlike the ordered anonymity of office bureaucracy or the featureless regularity of a factory assembly line, a building site appears disorderly and chaotic. In fact, there is organization, but it is a loose orchestration of many separate trademen, working side by side but not necessarily together.
Witold Rybczynski (Looking Around: A Journey Through Architecture)
The truth is that a nineteenth-century warehouse exhibits greater craft in its construction than all but the most expensive modern buildings.
Witold Rybczynski
THE THING THAT ENTRANCED ME about Chicago in the Gilded Age was the city’s willingness to take on the impossible in the name of civic honor, a concept so removed from the modern psyche that two wise readers of early drafts of this book wondered why Chicago was so avid to win the world’s fair in the first place. The juxtaposition of pride and unfathomed evil struck me as offering powerful insights into the nature of men and their ambitions. The more I read about the fair, the more entranced I became. That George Ferris would attempt to build something so big and novel—and that he would succeed on his first try—seems, in this day of liability lawsuits, almost beyond comprehension. A rich seam of information exists about the fair and about Daniel Burnham in the beautifully run archives of the Chicago Historical Society and the Ryerson and Burnham libraries of the Art Institute of Chicago. I acquired a nice base of information from the University of Washington’s Suzallo Library, one of the finest and most efficient libraries I have encountered. I also visited the Library of Congress in Washington, where I spent a good many happy hours immersed in the papers of Frederick Law Olmsted, though my happiness was at times strained by trying to decipher Olmsted’s execrable handwriting. I read—and mined—dozens of books about Burnham, Chicago, the exposition, and the late Victorian era. Several proved consistently valuable: Thomas Hines’s Burnham of Chicago (1974); Laura Wood Roper’s FLO: A Biography of Frederick Law Olmsted (1973); and Witold Rybczynski’s A Clearing in the Distance (1999). One book in particular, City of the Century by Donald L. Miller (1996), became an invaluable companion in my journey through old Chicago. I found four guidebooks to be especially useful: Alice Sinkevitch’s AIA Guide to Chicago (1993); Matt Hucke and Ursula Bielski’s Graveyards of Chicago (1999); John Flinn’s Official Guide to the World’s Columbian Exposition (1893); and Rand, McNally & Co.’ s Handbook to the World’s Columbian Exposition (1893). Hucke and Bielski’s guide led me to pay a visit to Graceland Cemetery, an utterly charming haven where, paradoxically, history comes alive.
Erik Larson (The Devil in the White City)
Venerable architecture critic Witold Rybczynski, for instance, suggests in his book How Architecture Works: A Humanist’s Toolkit that “the first question you ask yourself approaching a building is: Where is the front door?” But this is by no means the first architectural question many among us will ask; it is altogether too straightforward a query for a segment of the population. Some of us deliberately and strategically seek out, say, an attic window within reach of a strong tree branch or an unlocked storm shelter leading down into someone’s basement, even a badly fit screen door that looks easy to slip through around back. Perhaps you even did this yourself as a teenager, just looking for a new way to sneak out of the house past your bedtime or to avoid the all-seeing gaze of your girlfriend’s parents.
Geoff Manaugh (A Burglar's Guide to the City)
One of the largest obstacles to true Sabbath-keeping is leisure. It is what cultural historian Witold Rybczynski calls “waiting for the weekend,” where we see work as only an extended interlude between our real lives. Leisure is what Sabbath becomes when we no longer know how to sanctify time. Leisure is Sabbath bereft of the sacred. It is a vacation—literally, a vacating, an evacuation. As Rybczynski sees it, leisure has become despotic in our age, enslaving us and exhausting us, demanding from us more than it gives.2
Mark Buchanan (The Rest of God: Restoring Your Soul by Restoring Sabbath)
Josiah Parkes, inventor of a tile system for draining soils.
Witold Rybczynski (A Clearing In The Distance: Frederick Law Olmsted and America in the 19th Century)
A chair is the first thing you need when you don't really need anything and is, therefore, a particularly compelling symbol of civilisation. (Attributed to Ralph Caplan)
Witold Rybczynski (Now I Sit Me Down: From Klismos to Plastic Chair: A Natural History)