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Re-Reading Perspecta: The First Fifty Years of the Yale Architectural Journal

review - Edited by Robert Stern et al. MIT Press, 2005. 830pp. £48.95

Though more suited to the sturdiest table than the average lap, this massive heavyweight volume has a reason to be so, writes Andrew Mead, for it reflects both the format of Perspecta and the number of 'classic' submissions to it during its first 50 years. There are Rowe and Slutzky's two celebrated essays on 'Transparency: Literal and Phenomenal', Frampton on Critical Regionalism, Venturi's Complexity and Contradiction in embryo. Louis Kahn, Jim Stirling, Charles Moore, Sandy Wilson and Giancarlo De Carlo are some of the architects who contribute; Vincent Scully and Henry Russell-Hitchcock some of the scholars.

One-time chair of Yale's Department of Architecture, Paul Rudolph, is a recurring presence, both as author and subject; and Scully's verdict on the troubled Art and Architecture Building is that: 'With every passing year, one is more and more pleased that Rudolph fought it out as he did. There his building stands, as indestructible as he could make it - one of the enduring monuments to the marvellous irrationality of art and to the blessed restlessness of the human spirit.' There were 30 issues of Perspecta in its first half-century, each with student editors free to pursue their own agenda. But while that means the focus may change sharply from issue to issue, the journal does indicate (sometimes even inaugurate? ) shifts in architectural culture in the world outside Yale - especially as Post-Modernism comes to the fore.

In the late 1980s, Perspecta 22 was, in editor Peggy Deamer's words, 'a circling of the wagons to postpone the invasion of theory'; then Perspecta 23 'opened the floodgates'. Though Moneo's 'The Idea of Lasting', with its stress on materials and making, is a counter to such 'essays' as Jennifer Bloomer's 'Vertex and Vortex', with its endless futile wordplay, it seems from the selections in this volume that Perspecta has lacked its old momentum since.

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