Steel Architecture (book)

This recently published book discusses the characteristics of a range of International Style buildings. It is intended to provide a fresh look at steel architecture and to call out some of the myths that surround it, and that have been generated by the manner in which it has been written up by both historians and critics. The book explores the contribution, both aesthetic and technical, that steel buildings have made to the development of Modern architecture, seen from the perspective of the present day world of climate change and ecological emergency. It differs from conventional histories of Modern architecture, which, with a few exceptions, tend towards advocacy the Modernist cause and neglect its negative aspects.

The idea for the book arose from a perception that in conventional histories of Modern architecture, steel and glass buildings have been portrayed in a purely positive light. Features such as the transparency of the envelopes and the juxtaposition of freely planned spaces, which were seen as important aspects of the Modern aesthetic, based on the mainly ideological and formalist approach to design, have, in most accounts, been portrayed in a positive way and their disadvantages quietly ignored if not actually suppressed.

This book is intended to provide a balanced account of steel architecture and its consequences for the environment of the planet. It also examines the motivations and intentions of both the architects and the individuals who commissioned the buildings, and offers a critique of the architecture itself and of the ways in which it has been portrayed in the architectural media.

An aspect of the project has been the many discussions which I have had with students in Edinburgh University on topics related to the ideas discussed in the book. The insights that are provided by fresh young minds are a constant source of inspiration and it is heartening to observe the extent to which many students of architecture are now seriously questioning its orthodoxies.