You Say to Brick by Wendy Lesser
The Life of Louis Kahn

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This remarkable, readable and humane book pairs painstaking research with poetic interpretations. No detail is too small, as long as it sheds light on one of the 20th century’s most admired, influential architects.
-Star Tribune

Synopsis

The first biography of the iconic American architect that delves fully into his life and work

Born to a Jewish family in Estonia in 1901 and brought to America in 1906, the architect Louis Kahn grew up in poverty in Philadelphia; by the time of his death in 1974, he was widely recognized as one of the greatest architects of his era. Yet this enormous reputation was based on only a handful of masterpieces, all built during the last fifteen years of his life.

Perfectly complementing Nathaniel Kahn’s award-winning documentary, My Architect, Wendy Lesser’s You Say to Brick is a major exploration of the architect’s life and work. Kahn, perhaps more than any other twentieth-century American architect, was a “public” architect. Eschewing the usual corporate skyscrapers, hotels, and condominiums, he focused on medical and educational research facilities, government centers, museums, libraries, parks, religious buildings, and other structures that would serve the public good. Yet this warm, captivating person, beloved by students and admired by colleagues, was also a secretive and mysterious character hiding behind a series of masks.

Drawing on extensive original research; lengthy interviews with his children, his colleagues, and his students; and travel to the far-flung sites of his career-defining buildings, Lesser has written a landmark biography of this elusive man, which reveals the mind behind some of the twentieth century's most celebrated architecture.

 

About Wendy Lesser

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Wendy Lesser is the founder and editor of The Threepenny Review, which Adam Zagajewski has called “one of the most original literary magazines not only in the U.S. but also on the entire planet.” She is the author of eight previous books of nonfiction and one novel. Her most recent book is the prizewinning Music for Silenced Voices: Shostakovich and His Fifteen String Quartets. She has written for The New York Times Book Review, the London Review of Books, The Times Literary Supplement, and other publications. She divides her time between Berkeley, California, and New York City.
 
Published March 14, 2017 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 416 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History, Arts & Photography, Humor & Entertainment. Non-fiction
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Critic reviews for You Say to Brick
All: 4 | Positive: 2 | Negative: 2

Publishers Weekly

Above average
on Jun 21 2017

Exhaustively researched and poetically written, Lesser’s book offers a fitting and eminently accessible tribute to an architect who so ardently sought to bring beauty to the public square.

Read Full Review of You Say to Brick: The Life of... | See more reviews from Publishers Weekly

Star Tribune

Good
Reviewed by Claude Peck on Mar 10 2017

This remarkable, readable and humane book pairs painstaking research with poetic interpretations. No detail is too small, as long as it sheds light on one of the 20th century’s most admired, influential architects.

Read Full Review of You Say to Brick: The Life of... | See more reviews from Star Tribune

The Economist

Below average
on Mar 25 2017

Had Ms Lesser spent more time in this otherwise excellent study comparing Kahn with equally creative architects with less complicated personal lives, she may never have arrived at that theory.

Read Full Review of You Say to Brick: The Life of... | See more reviews from The Economist

NY Times

Below average
Reviewed by Dwight Garner on Mar 07 2017

Lesser’s biography has a flaw, and it’s not insignificant. She races through the eight years Kahn spent in high school and college in eight pages. There’s little exact detail.

Read Full Review of You Say to Brick: The Life of... | See more reviews from NY Times

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