Concrete Reveries: Consciousness and the City

Mark Kingwell

Concrete Reveries: Consciousness and the City
Mark Kingwell
(Viking Canada)
The author begins by reconsidering, if not defending, concrete as an architectural material, not to mention the style it's often identified with---Brutalism. That alone is valiant. The fuller project: a philosophy of architecture. More than housing residents and workers, architecture, Kingwell argues, shapes our consciousness as it reveals meanings of exterior and interior. Kingwell uses New York and Shanghai as case examples and enlivens the experience of walking in (to use the more appropriate British preposition over the North American "on") the streets and in the buildings (validly pointing to the "thresholds" we cross by entering and moving within a built structure) of those cities. Drawn line, historical images and black-and-white photos seamlessly support the ideas and arguments; they don't jump out at and stun the reader or act as simple decoration. But the problem is in Kingwell's use of heavy-hitting philosophers, ancients to contemporaries. Early on he writes, "Although I have tried to make them accessible as possible, these remain somewhat difficult ideas for those without an extensive background in philosophy." But, isn't that his job---to ensure concepts are clear and understood? Plus, it makes his many pop-culture references seem a bit patronizing.
---Sean Flinn

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