Buildings have a story to tell us if we know how to listen, says Alison Lurie, the Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist and author THE LANGUAGE OF HOUSES: How Buildings Speak to Us (Delphinium Books; August 19, 2014). In her entertaining and fascinating exploration of the secret language of architecture, Lurie acts as interpreter and at times biographer for the structures all around us. She explains why your house is as shameless as a tabloid, revealing all about the family living within it. We also learn what the public buildings that surround our lives say—and sometimes shout—about what goes on inside them and the human beings they are meant to serve.
Among the revelations in The Language of Houses are:
Profiles in Courage: Our choice of building materials is like a tone of voice declaring our bravery – or foolhardiness – in areas endangered by violent acts of nature.
How I Made My Money: A McMansion speaks volumes not only about our wealth but also how new we are to being in a higher tax bracket.
How We See God: Churches are a hymn to the type of deity practitioners envision. Puritans built austere wooden structures; Catholics and Episcopalians went for grandeur.
Educational Aspirations: The architecture of colleges and universities speaks volumes about their place in the community as well as the type of education available.
Our Inner Lives: Casting a keen eye over home interiors, Alison Lurie reveals a wealth of information about the people who live there, including secrets not usually divulged.
While there are many books on architecture and shelter design, THE LANGUAGE OF HOUSES goes beneath the surface to explore the psychological, social and emotional meanings of homes, schools, churches, government buildings, museums, prisons, hospitals, restaurants and so much more. Lurie explains why museums by their design announce whether we’ve entered a classical temple, a palace of learning or a science laboratory. She shows how hospitals, prisons and retirement communities are designed to isolate their inhabitants from daily life, and explores how our shopping environments scream, “SAVE!” when they mean “SPEND!”
In 1981 Lurie’s The Language of Clothes, investigated costume and fashion as an expression of history, social status, and individual psychology. Amusing, enlightening, and full of literary allusion, the book was highly praised and widely anthologized. THE LANGUAGE OF HOUSES continues in the same vein, enlightening us about the structures we’ve built and how they both reflect and affect us.
THE LANGUAGE OF HOUSES
How Buildings Speak to Us
By Alison Lurie
Delphinium Books; August 19, 2014
$24.95; 320 pages
Advance praise for The Language of Houses
"There's much to absorb in this sequel to Alison Lurie's The Language of Clothes, but The Language of Houses is an extraordinarily absorbing book—it wears its learning lightly, holding this reader's attention the way a fine novel does. I was particularly fascinated by the linked chapters on religious buildings and museums." - James McConkey, author of Court of Memory
"Alison Lurie, in her lucid, jargon-free way, allows us to read what architecture is saying. Anyone who is building or decorating a house or office will benefit from her helpful analysis. She has culled the best ideas from a vast secondary literature and passed it all through the sieve of her brilliant mind." - Edmund White
"The Language of Houses has every quality you would expect from a work by Alison Lurie: intelligence, authority, wit and charm." - Louis Begley