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Architecture Professors Grabow and Spreckelmeyer publish "The Architecture of Use"

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

LAWRENCE – Routledge, a publisher of humanities and social sciences books, has just issued “The Architecture of Use,” a book written by University of Kansas Department of Architecture Professors Stephen Grabow and Kent Spreckelmeyer.The book is the culmination of a decade-long collaboration between the professors.  

“Stephen and I had talked for a long time about not being able to find a book that examined the importance of the role of function as a force in generating the final, built form of a building,” Spreckelmeyer said.  

“There was always a thought that if you were talking about function you had to set the aesthetics aside,” Grabow said, “and look at those two things independently. But we felt strongly that good buildings could be looked at without separating these, in terms of beauty as well as basic human use.

“Books that were written about function treated it as almost a mechanistic issue, involving measurements and shelf heights, aisle widths, seating capacities," he said. "Ergonomics isn’t the side of it that we thought was missing. What was missing was how the way that a building’s use informs its parti and its aesthetics.”

Grabow and Spreckelmeyer provide 10 highly detailed case studies of iconic 20th century buildings, familiar to most architects. The diverse examples include the Berliner Philharmoniker concert hall, the Paimio Sanatorium in Finland, the Mount Angel Abbey Library in Oregon and the Halen Housing Complex near Bern, Switzerland.

Each building is described from the point of view of a major functional concept or idea that influenced its spatial organization, built form and structure. The authors consider their choices to be exemplars that reach far beyond the pragmatic concerns of their relatively narrow programs.

“We want to share the way these concepts can inspire great design, evoke archetypal human experience and help us to understand how architecture embodies the deeper purposes and meanings of everyday life,” Spreckelmeyer said.

Grabow has been teaching at KU since 1973. He is the recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Endowment for the Arts and the American Fulbright Commission. He was educated in architecture at the University of Michigan and at Pratt Institute, in landscape architecture at the University of California at Berkeley, and he holds a doctorate in urban planning from the University of Washington.

Spreckelmeyer has taught at KU since 1981. He is a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects, the recipient of a Kemper Teaching Fellowship and numerous grants in the field of health care planning. He studied architecture at KU, at University College, London, and has a doctorate in architecture from the University of Michigan.