Treib showcases these artists, avoiding placing them on a clear gradient while he compares extremes (Wright and Mies) and considers hybrids (the rest of architects). By unveiling his subjects’ thoughts through their work, texts, and correspondence, he creates an excellent book that remains open to several interpretations; then, he allows himself a final detailed statement, situating their work in regard to their approach.
This Yale University press book of 268 pages, a result of many years of research and travel, is organized around 128 color and 74 black-and-white illustrations. The drawings are chosen well and the photographs not only confirm the author’s visits to and impressions of most of the buildings, they also serve to accurately frame his inquiry. They never overwhelm the narrative, but only support it. Yet, being strangely common, they reveal “life after publication,” an issue that Treib has always been aware of and intrinsically weaves in with his ideas of landscape and site.
While most of his subjects talk about nature, Treib uses the word landscape in the title of the book. Is it because Treib aims to talk about the work in a clearly projective manner and landscape is a more appropriate term? In the introduction, he admits to using the words site and landscape interchangeably. Is it an intellectual lapsus or an intentional comment for the generic use of these terms within the design praxis? Or is it that both terms, as well as nature, for the author and the architects he examines, in the end, mean the architecture’s surroundings, the form and materials for a future human habitat?
For architecture, nature often means climate as it aims to provide the best conditions for inhabitation. As expected, the architectural language does not engage with larger landscape morphologies or natural processes; Treib, as well as the architects he portrays, pays little attention to this. He demonstrates that, several times, in the life of these select architects, nature becomes the perfect metaphor in a design process based on analogy.