World Architecture and Society: From Stonehenge to One World Trade Center

ABC-CLIO. 2 vols. Dec. 2021. 706p. ed. by Peter Louis Bonfitto. ISBN 9781440865848. $204. REF
Art and architectural historian Bonfitto divides this work geographically; the first volume of this set explores the architecture of Europe and the Americas, while the second examines edifices found in Africa, the Middle East, Asia, and the Pacific. There are full entries devoted to 25 buildings per region, each with a small black-and-white photo. However, substantial historical cultural overviews for each region broaden the work’s scope beyond the selected buildings. The entry for each building discusses its history and construction, the creator or designer, events associated with the building, its role in popular culture, its current use, and its impact on society; each ends with a list for further reading. Many iconic sites are included—Machu Picchu, the Parthenon, the Great Mosque of Mecca—though much is omitted (for instance, in France, the Sainte Chapelle and the haunting Mémorial des Martyrs de la Déportation). A list of related topics categorizes selections (e.g., places of worship, tombs/burial complexes). Abundant sidebars discuss building techniques, history, Indigenous buildings, and thematic connections. There are a useful concise and informative introduction covering the basics of architectural history (including a discussion of slave labor), a chronology (500,000 BCE–2020 CE), a glossary, and a selected bibliography. The focus is not just achievement but also complexity, and Bonfitto considers buildings’ historical, economic, cultural, and political elements (for instance, the role of the Tejanos at the Alamo is explored). Bonfitto and contributors write clearly and with scrupulous scholarly regard for recent evidence and societal impact.
VERDICT Erudite but accessible, notable for emphasizing cultural importance over time, these densely informative volumes will attract architecture aficionados, professional or amateur.
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