A Real Living Contact with the Things Themselves

A Real Living Contact with the Things Themselves

Essays on Architecture

The things themselves are as interesting and instructive as the underlying concepts and theories about them




Irénée Scalbert

1st edition

, 2018

Text in English


312 pages, 39 color and 59 b/w illustrations

16.5 x 21.5 cm

ISBN 978-3-03860-111-1


Contemporary architectural criticism tends to focus on the theories and concepts behind buildings. Yet there is much to be learned by venturing beyond the library walls to contemplate the real buildings: the things themselves. This urge for “real living contact” is the impetus behind this new and inspiring collection of essays by renowned British architectural critic and scholar Irénée Scalbert.

The essays, written throughout Scalbert’s career from the early 1990s to the present, comprise detailed studies of major buildings and pieces that represent broader examinations of historical movements and ideas. All are based on direct experience, whether through quiet contemplation or candid interviews with architects, builders, or inhabitants. An architect by training, Scalbert aims at illuminating the design efforts made and to enrich the form of the architectures he describes. His incisive and boldly original criticism—together with a wealth of illustrations—make this a book an enlightening read for anyone with an interest in architecture and its history.

Autoren & Herausgeber

Irenée Scalbert

 is an architecture critic and historian based in London. He has taught at the AA School in London, as a Visiting Professor at the Harvard Garduate School of Design, the Politecnico de Milan, the Ecole National Supérieure Paris Malaquais and the Tokyo University of Fine Arts. He currently teaches at the University of Limerick in Ireland. He is the author of Never Modern (Park Books, 2013) and other essays.


«Architekturkritik wird zu einem eigenen Raum, in dem Gebäude und Gedanken widerhallen; der Akt der Kritik gerinnt zu einer eigenständigen Kunstform, welche die Realität des besprochenen Gegenstandes mit eigenen Mitteln immer wieder neu hervorbringt.» Tibor Joanelly, werk, bauen + wohnen


«In a time when theoretical view and concepts dominate architectural writing, I see Scalbert’ mode and optics as a welcomed rehabilitation of the (im)balance between abstract theories, empirical material and phenomenological experiences.» Mikael Andersson, Arkkitehti / Finnish Architectural Review


«Es macht aber vor allem Spass, sich mit Scalbert auf Tauchfahrt in die Tiefen der Architekturgeschichte zu begeben und wie aus dem Inneren einer Taucherglocke seinem Scheinwerfer zu folgen, der uns ganz langsam verschiedene Stellen hell beleuchtet und erklärt, um dann langsam zur nächsten Stelle zu wandern.» Florian Heilmeyer, BauNetz


«One of the most readable, intelligent, and instructive books lately emerged.» Elizabeth B. Hatz, Journal of the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland RIAI Journal