An Inside-Out Look at Architecture

What better way to understand a structure than to look at it through isometric drawings?

That’s the thinking behind Architecture Inside-Out by John Zukowsky and Robby Polley, from Rizzoli.

The pair teamed up for Polley’s drawings and Zukowsky’s writing to examine 50 of the great buildings on this planet. Among them are Fallingwater, the Chrysler Building, the Louvre and the Doge’s Palace. And then the great domed churches, like St. Paul’s, St. Peter’s, the Florence Cathedral and the Hagia Sophia.

“I wanted some more contemporary buildings in it too, so I lobbied for newer ones,” Zukowsky says. “There are museums like the Guggenheim and the Kimbell from same era, and later the Pompidou and then the Guggenheim Bilbao. Those all span a 40-50 year building era.”

The intent was for Polley to take a building apart. “When you do, you see how it was built – in many ways and many designs,” Zukowsky says.

An architectural historian by training and profession, Zukowsky drew on a depth of knowledge and research from the Art Institute of Chicago to build his narrative arc for each masterpiece.

“For the Chrysler Building, I looked at it from the point of view of Walter Chrysler himself, not the architect,” he says. “The stainless steel was from Krupp’s, for the Chrysler Corporation – they used it in the way they were bending automobile fenders. There’s brick and mahogany for the lobby, but stainless steel is the signature material.”

Then there’s Le Corbusier’s chapel at Ronchamp – a symbol of modern French architecture that wouldn’t exist except for World War II.

“There was an older church before that that was used as a German strongpoint and destroyed in the process – it was also a Vichy site, and considered contaminated after the war,” he says. “The French wanted a new philosophy and new people and wanted more progressive clerics, and one was in favor of modern art and moving to a new century, and that led to Le Corbusier being chosen and creating his great masterpiece.”

A perfect introduction for how buildings work, with anecdotal prose and excellent drawings, the book is available here.

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