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Context: Architecture and the Genius of Place

Monday, April 27, 2015 12:00 am EDT

How can a building’s setting inform and stimulate rather than limit architectural design?This book responds with a highly engaging, informative discussion of context in architectural theory and practice. Eric Parry, one of the UK’s most respected architects — whose work has been widely lauded for its innovative response to its setting — addresses the contemporary definition of context and its importance for sustainable everyday living and urban design. Looking beyond the formal agenda to explore the fundamentals that give new social and cultural perspective to this vital point of departure for designers, this book turns the urban statistician’s telescopic focus on global trends inside-out; in so doing, it provides essential insights into the cultural and physical conditions that make archetypes like the Parisian café, the London high street, the Baltic city square and the Mumbai market part of the architect’s lexicon. From the ground up – from the pavements beneath our feet through to the horizon beyond and above us and the wider landscape – context is explored at every level in all its manifestations.

Context draws on Parry’s extensive experience within complex urban settings to show how the existing fabric and social conditions can provide an essential starting point for design, offering a framework for thinking about the relationship between architectural design and the cultural origins of place. Whereas existing city centres, particularly historic ones, are generally regarded as limiting to architectural creativity, context here is demonstrated to be a source of inspiration that can act as a significant catalyst for the revitalisation of urban areas internationally.

Beautifully illustrated with some of Parry’s own original hand-drawn sketches and 150 colour images of cities and buildings around the world, the book comprises an introduction and five thematic chapters:

  • Pavements: the fundamentals of the ground beneath our feet
  • Horizon: the importance of orientation
  • Simultaneity: the dialogue of parts within a whole
  • Kinetics: the sequential understanding of urban space
  • Artifice: landscape and the city

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Eric Parry leads one of London’s most eminent practices, Eric Parry Architects, which is renowned for delivering beautifully crafted and well-considered buildings. He is best known for his high-quality contemporary buildings for historic sites in London’s City and West End, such as Aldermanbury Square, 60 Threadneedle Street, 23 Savile Row and 50 New Bond Street. He is also responsible for the award-winning renewal project at St Martin-in-the-Fields in Trafalgar Square. He is a Royal Academician (RA), chaired the Royal Academy Architecture Committee and sits on the Royal Academy Exhibitions Committee. He is also on the Mayor’s Design Advisory Panel. In addition to his work in architectural practice, Eric has held a number of distinguished positions, including President of the Architectural Association. He has in the past served on the Arts Council of England’s Visual Arts and Architecture panel and chaired the RIBA Awards Group. He was for many years a Lecturer in Architecture at the University of Cambridge; he has also held lectureships at the Graduate Design School at Harvard University and the Tokyo Institute of Technology. Eric speaks at conferences worldwide and lectures internationally

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