ARCHITECTURE & DESIGN

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The Independent Culture
The Mosque eds Martin Frishman and Hasan-Uddin Khan, Thames and Hudson £36. As Islam spread out from its heartland of Arabia, so the regional variations in mosque construction grew more diverse. This book identifies five basic categories of mosqu e and seven distinctive regional styles: Chinese mosques feature walled gardens and pavilions; Anatolians favour the massive central dome; in West Africa, extraordinary soft, rounded, organic shapes are constructed from mud and earth. Plans, photographs and text analyse dozens of examples, from the dilapidated to the splendid, the austerely beautiful to the homely. The roles played by calligraphy and decoration are examined, together with the range of spiritual meanings embodied in the architectural forms themselves .

The Classical Vernacular by Roger Scruton, Carcanet £19.95. Scruton's attack on modernism is based on philosophical principles: ``Art or architecture which portrays us as unfree, will always be received as alien.'' Our nature rejects constant novelty, craves permanence, and expects a community of like-thinking beings. Didactic introduction over, these essays are hugely enjoyable, if contentious and a little out of date ("The Prime Minister herself"?). Hooray for the Georgians and the ancient Romans, booto the modern planners. Sadly reactionary, but well-written: the Albert Hall stands "like a giant dish cover, with a ceramic frieze declaring that poetry, transfixed in pottery, is eternal".

8 Museum Builders ed James Steele, Academy £45. Nothing in the world of architecture stimulates public debate and ire like museum design. This glossy volume reads like a calling card for international architects, alternating pages of pictures with glowing text, and featuring the most notable or notorious schemes of recent years, from the Gare D'Orsay, the Clore Gallery, and Tokyo's astonishing Watari-Um, built on a triangular site, to the giant American schemes resembling grain hoppers and industrial plants. James Steele can't find a bad word for any of them, except perhaps the "mixed success" of the National Gallery's Sainsbury Wing. And that's Prince Charles's fault.

8 The Architecture of Philippe Starck by Franco Bertoni, Academy £35. We've all seen his lemon squeezers but his architecture is less well-known. Bertoni's over-reverential guide includes "preliminary designs" that are little more than doodles, and cryptic bons mots from the great man. His work for the Bains-Douches nightclub and President Mitterand's offices amounted to little more than set-dressing, but over time his designs go up and up in scale, combining funky kitsch with monumental severity. Starc k himself seems rather more whimsical and humorous than the earnest Bertoni gives him credit for; one project had the working title: "Sad and Beautiful as the Buffet of Prague's Railway Station".

8 The Architecture of Richard Rogers by Deyan Sudjic, 4th Estate £28.95.

The inside-out man finds a champion in Sudjic, with this apologia-cum- manifesto. Most famous for the Beau-bourg Centre, which "made explicit the realities of modern building", and the Lloyds building ("The cut may be eccentric, but it is still a Savile Row suit"), Rogers became the focus of an architectural storm when Prince Charles attacked him. For years it was easier for the Richard Rogers Partnership to find work abroad, and his exuberant designs for French factories and shopping centres contrast with thwarted London projects and unrealised schemes, reproduce d here.

8 An Engineer Imagines by Peter Rice, Artemis £37.50. Deyan Sudjic pays generous tribute to the "incisive brilliance" and "philosophical in-sights" of Peter Rice in The Art of Richard Rogers (above), emphasising the devastating impact of the engineer's premature death in 1992 on the English High-Tech school of architecture. Rice was awarded the rare (for an engineer) accolade of a RIBA Gold Metal. This engaging volume is his autobiography, beginning with his early life in Ireland and telling, with greatenthusiasm plus copious illustration, the inside story of the structures he helped create, including the Sydney Opera House, the Beaubourg and the Lloyds building.

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