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Building America    by Janice Weaver & Bonnie Shemie order for
Building America
by Janice Weaver
Order:  USA  Can
Tundra, 2002 (2002)
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Building America explores the architecture of the continental United States, celebrating the nation's buildings in the context of both history and geography. The author tells us that the 'landscape of America is more than just lakes and rivers, canyons and deserts; it's also the buildings that surround us' and then introduces notable examples of architecture, along with the backgrounds and motivations of the groups who built them.

First we take a tour of what was built in each period of history, ranging from the use of Native American-style adobe bricks in the 1600s Santa Fe Palace of the Governors through the Age of Revolution redesign by Thomas Jefferson of Charlottesville's Monticello, and on to representative buildings of the Age of Commerce, grouped under headings like Halls of Power, Houses of Worship, In the Heartland, The White City, and Space Age Expressionism. The book is full of clear, crisp images of the buildings described, illustrated by graphic artist Bonnie Shemie. Those that particularly caught my eye included Newport's Redwood Library, Carmel's San Carlos de Borromeo mission, Chicago's Robie House, Pennsylvania's Fallingwater, and the Portland Public Services Building, but the range is truly fascinating.

It's a lovely and informative book, designed for pre-teens up, and of equal interest to adults. The illustrated glossary explains terms like finial, keystone and portico, and a timeline shows a structural evolution from 1730 to 2001, with annotation of events like the Declaration of Independence, the Emancipation Proclamation, the World Wars, the end of the Cold War, and the 2001 destruction of the World Trade Center.

I recommend Building America to you as an accessible introduction to (and celebration of) American architecture and its remarkable diversity.

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