This book was not at all what I was expecting! I had anticipated something like Bill Bryson's immensely entertaining and readable Home, or Stuart Brand's How Buildings Learn, which I adored.
What I got instead was a very academic and scholarly architectural text from Stephen Gardiner, himself a noted architect. It was interesting (when I could understand what the hell he was talking about), but very hard work, and it assumed a level of familiarity with architectural theory and history that I just don't possess. Here's a random sample:
The first trace of the megaron appears in Crete as an incidental reference at the palace of Knossos. But at Tiryans it has assumed a more dominant role in life, commanding the main courtyard facing the entrance. Learning and civilization bring confidence, and the megaron form takes over the palace itself, as one sees in Homeric times. But the final outcome of learning is wisdom, and so, at Nippur, the megaron returns to a position of less dominance, seeming to understand the extent of its limitations within the larger context of existence...
See what I mean? (I never really managed to discern exactly what a megaron was, either!) I did manage to follow Gardiner's main argument, which was that architecture should adhere to a human scale, that buildings work better in harmony with nature, and that a lot of modern architecture is pretty ugly.
I'm embarrassed to say that the only way I managed to finish this book was to read it in tandem with The Book That Made Me. But I'm still in the market for popular, readable, engaging works about architecture -- recommendations will be appreciated!