Witold Rybczynski on architecture as “fantasy”

“Whether one is looking up at the tall dome of the Pantheon, descending the spiralling vortex of Wright’s Guggenheim Museum, or standing in the living room of Venturi’s small house, the experience of architecture is above all the experience of being in a separate, distinct world. That is what distinguishes architecture from sculpture -it is not an object but a place. The sense of being in a special place that is a three-dimensional expression of the architect’s imagination is one of the distinctive pleasures of architecture. To create a strong sense of place, the surroundings must be all of a piece; space, mass, shapes, and materials must reflect the same sensibility. That is why details are so important. A jarring detail or an inconsistency -something “out of place”- and the fantasy begins to crumble. Yes, fantasy. Illusion has been a part of architecture ever since the ancient Greeks made columns with a gently swelling taper to deceive the eye. This is not to say that architecture is stage décor. When the wind blows, the canvas scenery blows over; the building resists the elements. Architecture surrounds and shelters us. It is the real world but it is also a vision.”

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