clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Seven Grandiloquent Lines Appraising Sex and Buildings

Today over in the UK, The Telegraph reviews Sex and Buildings, author Richard J. Williams' titillating ("thigh-flashing," winks reviewer Keith Miller) investigation into architecture's "decent stab at sexual utopia," which, if one is to summarize the essay Williams published prior to his book release, seems to boil down to open living spaces, liberated bedrooms, and (at least the illusion of) shared sexual partners. In his assessment, Miller unleashes his arsenal of big words and long-winded—what is it, exactly, about architecture that seems to produce such grandiloquence?—yummy turns of phrase. Let's break it down.

First of all, he opens with this description of the publishing house:

7. "If we were to personify publishing houses as our predecessors did republics, rivers and so on, Reaktion Books would be a groovy former-polytechnic lecturer with a beard, accoutred in beret and polo-neck, nodding along to a free-jazz set."

Then, his expectations:

6. "A dour theoretical tract hiding, I assumed, behind a thigh-flashing title; an assault on my innocent right to take pleasure in my environment, a bucketful of jargon."
And it goes on:

5. "To take the domestic arrangements of small human groups in isolation from the broader social goals identified by progressive architects of the period is maybe to narrow the scope of inquiry a little."

4. "Our tour begins in California, where Rudy Schindler and Richard Neutra built houses for quack physician and amateur bodybuilder Philip Lovell, and other forward-thinking patrons."

3. "There's a rather melancholy photograph of what I take to be Williams sitting in one of Reich's 'Orgone Accumulators' – boxes that supposedly allowed one's libidinal energies to build up, with wide-ranging benefits."

2. "In the middle chapters there's a certain confusion between the broad church of Freudian phallic symbolism, which extends to things like hats, overcoats and even the number three, and what you might call the Looking like A Penis sense of the term – though obviously several skyscrapers are both."

Oh, and this gem, which is a product more of the book itself rather than the review:

1. "There's a chapter on the 'phallic skyscrapers' of New York, and one on the "pornomodernism" of the Seventies."

Now don't try to pretend you're not over the moon to use the phrase "pornomodernism" at your next work function. Yeah, you're welcome.

· Sex & Buildings: Modern Architecture and the Sexual Revolution, by Richard J Williams, review [Telegraph]
· Exploring Architecture's 'Decent Stab at Sexual Utopia' [Curbed National]
· 17 Grandiloquent Sentences in Robb Report's Home & Style [Curbed National]