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Simon Unwin Chats with Routledge about the 4th Edition of Analysing Architecture

Analysing Architecture, 4e

"Traditional Japanese creativity has the concept of 'kaizen' or 'endless improvement', which recognises that although perfection might always be out of reach, things can be made better, gradually, bit by bit."

You’re now a relatively seasoned Routledge author! How did your experience in writing this book differ from those that preceded it?
I am always pleased to have the opportunity to do a new edition. Architecture is such a rich and complex field of creativity that it will be impossible ever to provide a full account of its workings, but a new edition gives me the opportunity to offer a few more insights and examples as well as refine those included previously. Traditional Japanese creativity has the concept of 'kaizen' or 'endless improvement', which recognises that although perfection might always be out of reach, things can be made better, gradually, bit by bit. Since the first edition of Analysing Architecture I have tried to express what I see in the workings of architecture as clearly as I can, in words and drawings; but in each of the subsequent editions I have found shortcomings that needed a bit more thought!

What, in particular, excites you about this new edition of Analysing Architecture?
In this fourth edition I have been able to include a few more chapters on Themes in Spatial Organisation. I am always trying to understand works of architecture in terms of how they frame our lives (more than as ornamental objects) and in this edition I have added short chapters on 'Occupying the In-between', 'Inhabited Wall', and 'Refuge and Prospect'. Each looks at how architecture can put people in particular situations with emotional and aesthetic effects. I have also added a couple more case studies: one of these is a simple (but subtle) mud house in southern India that I was taken to see by a friend when I was lecturing there; and the other is a tea-house that mesmerised me on a recent trip to see Japanese gardens. It was my first time in Japan, and I was excited by the poetic sophistication and beauty of its architecture (buildings and gardens).

What do you hope that readers will take away from Analysing Architecture, 4e?
I have, since its first edition, been gratified to receive positive feedback about Analysing Architecture from correspondents across the world. I am really pleased to have been able to write (and draw) a book on architecture that seems to speak to so many varied cultures, or at least find a way into the underlying architectural language we all seem to share. Writing a new edition, informed by recent travel, has allowed me to reinforce this by including examples from a wider variety of places. I hope this will help students around the world find lessons and inspiration in the architecture near to them as well as from further afield.

How do you think the field of architecture is evolving today? What are some ongoing controversies?
Architecture is changing radically. The profession, through its apparent inability to define clearly what it is that architects do, has allowed itself (apart from a few stars) to become more and more marginalised by an industry that feels it can do without them. Architectural education has tended to exacerbate this, by focussing on what might be called esoteric 'fantasy' projects and polemic expressed primarily in words. Any field of creativity has to push the boundaries to remain vital but the schools also have a responsibility to help students learn the basics, the foundations of the 'noble and ancient' art of architecture. Architecture has a lot more dimensions and subtleties than most people realize. It is certainly about a great deal more than appearances. By organizing space, architecture helps us make sense of our lives. I just hope that Analysing Architecture offers those who want it a way into its rich possibilities.