The most beautiful house in the world

by Witold Rybczynski

Paper Book, 1989




New York, N.Y., U.S.A. : Viking, 1989.


Witold Rybczynski takes us on an extraordinary odyssey as he tells the story of designing and building his own house. His project began as a workshed, but through a series of "happy accidents," the structure gradually evolved into a full-fledged house. In tracing this evolution, he touches on matters both theoretical and practical, writing on such diverse topics as the ritualistic origins of the elements of classical architecture and the connections between dress and habitation. He discusses feng-shui and considers the theories of such architects as Palladio, Le Corbusier, and Frank Lloyd Wright. An eloquent examination of the links between being and building, The Most Beautiful House in the World offers insights into the joys of "installing ourselves in a place, of establishing a spot where it would be safe to dream."… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member manatree
Rybczynski is a talented writer who could probably write a captivating book about the sex life of roofing nails. The fact that he writes about architecture is an added bonus.
LibraryThing member jcbrunner
"The most beautiful house in the world is the one you build for yourself" (p. 186). Fortunately for Rybczynski and his fellow architects, this is not true. The difference in financial firepower and professional skill will see to it that most fail to build something as grand as the Taj Mahal. Your self-designed and self-built house, however, can accommodate your personal preferences and foibles, and acquire an intimate connection in the process. I wish Rybczynski's long suffering wife had told her story in an epilogue. After all, it took Rybczynski three years to add walls and a roof to his house (first intended as a workshop for a boat). It took another two years to convert the barn into a private residence. Only if you are your own client, can you bungle a job like this. A valuable lesson for any prospective builder. Transforming a dream into reality is hard work which tests organizational skills, financial resources and the strengths of relationsships.

In this personal recollection, Rybczynski concentrates mostly on the architecture bit, enlightening readers to the core ideas of feng shui, the process of designing, architectural history as well as famous architects. Curiously absent are any mentions of building codes and permits as well as financial aspects. Not missing are trivia about Rybczynski and his life, and a rather preposterous lineage of great writers and their houses, in whose company the author places himself. To get to the morsels about architecture, one has to listen to the Rybczynskiana. Overall, it's not bad, especially his short introduction to domestic architecture. Tracy Kidder's House, however, gives a much closer and humane report of the building process.
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LibraryThing member bojanfurst
How readable could a book about building a boat shed be? You'd be surprised. Rybczynski skillfully brings together his reflections on history, art, architecture, games and myriad of other things into a text that is a pleasure to read. After you're done, it feels like you just spent a great evening with your best friend.
LibraryThing member Asperula
A sweet and fascinating history of an architect's dream of building a shed in which to build a boat, but that evolves into a home. Great discussion on what defines a building's character.
LibraryThing member heavywinter
A great read (perhaps because I want to do the same sort of thing someday). I thoroughly enjoy first person accounts of personal projects. Maybe because I'm analytical by nature, but I revel in the minutiae, the trials & errors and the highs & lows of achieving your personal goals.


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