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books

Lewis Mumford

I USED TO THINK OF MYSELF as the love child of Lewis Mumford and Diana Vreeland. Meaning, architecture critics need a moralistic streak (Mumford’s was a mile wide), but we should also know how to wrap and tie it into a fetching bow from time to time. If the ethical dimension of architecture is giving you a headache, Why Don’t You . . . wear a headache band?

Everyone of my generation grew up with their heads glued to two previous paperback collections of Mumford’s New Yorker Skyline columns from the ’40s and ’50s, The Highway and the City and From the Ground Up. This new volume of New Yorker columns from the ’30s is a useful thing to have. Unlike the earlier collections, it shows that Mumford wasn’t limited to major pronouncements on big civic projects. He also had a fine sense of style. Some of the freshest pieces in the book deal with ephemeral designs, like the interior of a new Longchamps

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