“With a sharp historian’s eye—and a sharper critic’s pen—Michael J. Lewis guides us through Philadelphia's built past, and with a rare intelligence shines new light on its patrons, its builders, and its architects—both famous and forgotten. His affection for his native city is evident throughout.” —Witold Rybczynski, author of Charleston Fancy

In Philadelphia Builds, architecture critic Michael J. Lewis explains why Philadelphia has produced so many extraordinary architects, including Louis Kahn, Frank Furness, and Robert Venturi. Lewis has written about the architecture of his native city for over three decades, and Philadelphia Builds brings together twenty-two of his best essays―including one about Kahn’s little-known project to design a memorial for Vladimir Lenin and another which is the first substantial profile of Willis G. Hale, cult hero of Philadelphia hipsters.

Arranged in chronological order, the book includes essays on William Penn’s plan, the fierce competitions that gave the city its greatest civic monuments, Frank Furness and Victorian Philadelphia, Louis Kahn and the Philadelphia School, and finally reviews of contemporary buildings like the Museum of the American Revolution. Richly illustrated with drawings and photographs throughout, Philadelphia Builds is an engaging account of the people and forces that shaped the city from the 1700s to the present day. 

"Here, in Michael Lewis’s enchanting and illuminating essays, the reader is brought face-to-face with the iterative and collaborative act of architecture in a democracy, a combination of vision, craft, self-creation, constraint, and compromise. Lewis’s understanding and insight elevate architectural choices into the realms of art and politics simultaneously, all the better in his affable tone and clipped prose. His gift is to enter inside the process, putting the reader in a frame of mind to wonder, question, and appreciate the object world. In Philadelphia—and in American cities more generally—this means having a passionate friend at your side illuminating the familiar and the beloved, all the same. The extra bonus is the introduction of forgotten architects and buildings to our collective understanding of Philadelphia as a crucible of American architecture."Nathaniel Popkin, co-author Philadelphia: Finding the Hidden City


Michael J. Lewis is the author of nine books on art and architecture, including Frank Furness: Architecture and the Violent Mind, The Gothic Revival, and American Art and Architecture. He is the architecture critic at the Wall Street Journal, and his essays and reviews have been published in the New York Times, Commentary, New Criterion, and Architectural Record, among others. Lewis is the Faison-Pierson-Stoddard Professor of Art History at Williams College, and divides his time between Williamstown, MA and Philadelphia.



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