ANYONE who has taken Fine Arts 1d at Harvard, or has sat in on the lectures dealing with present-day American architecture, will rejoice that Professor Edgell has found time to set forth, more fully and in permanent form, his knowledge and opinions on this subject. With America at present going through an era of extreme self-consciousness, with the country never before so financially able to enter the field of art, and with a problem almost unique to be solved in its building, no book could be of more timely interest.
It is strange, as Mr. Edgell notes, that even those most interested in art, who know every painter by his first name, do not stop to think of the artist responsible for some monumental pile. His book will help remedy this condition, and those who have eyes but now see not will find new pleasure even in a sky-scraper.
"American Architecture" is, in the first place, not a text-book for architectural school students. Rather is it a history and critique of architecture. The problems discussed are those which would interest the student of art, perhaps the architect, certainly not the contractor. The questions discussed are matters of taste, with but few blue-prints. In brief, the book is written for the layman.
Secondly, Mr. Edgell is an optimist. Into the bad side of American architecture he does not enter--not at least when he can help it. He admits in his preface that there is plenty of poor building in America, as in all countries, but maintains, and it would seem, rightly, that no particular purpose is served in exhibiting the family unmentionables. Where there is so much beauty, why seek out the ugly spots?
Mr. Edgell devotes one short chapter to the development of our various styles as a background for the main body of the work, which deals almost exclusively with contemporary structures. The book is divided according to the purpose of the buildings considered, the divisions being three in number: domestic and academic, ecclesiastical and monumental, and commercial. Mr. Edgell perhaps is most satisfying in his treatment of this last class--the most characteristically new and native.
The book is, of course, copiously illustrated with examples of the types discussed. Here again, though the author cannot hope to include every outstanding structure, he has shown once more his rare catholicy of taste.