The Favored Circle: The Social Foundations of Architectural Distinction
A look at the field of architecture written by an outsider who demystifies the mechanics of fame and fortune.
The popular view of architecture focuses on individual creative geniuses, those who have designed the most "significant" works. According to Garry Stevens, however, successful architects owe their success not so much to genius as to social background and a host of other factors that have very little to do with native talent. To concentrate only on the profession of architecture is to ignore the much larger field of architecture, which structures the entire social universe of the architect and of which architects are only one part. This book critically surveys that field, exposing many myths and debunking a number of heroes in the process. Using the conceptual apparatus of French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu, Stevens describes the field of architecture on two levels. First, he provides a detailed account of the field as it is at any given point in time, describing the different components and their relationships. Second, he analyzes the dynamics of the field through time, from the Renaissance to the present. He discusses the system of architectural education, as well as everyday aspects such as the competition for reputation. He concludes that throughout history, the most eminent architects have been connected to each other by master-pupil and collegiate relations. These networks, which still exist, provide a mechanism for architectural influence that runs parallel to that of the university-based schools.