Skip to main content Skip to search Skip to search

Architecture Essays

On Architecture

Melvin Charney, a Critical Anthology

by (author) Louis Martin

McGill-Queen's University Press
Initial publish date
Oct 2013
Essays, Artists, Architects, Photographers, General
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Oct 2013
    List Price

Add it to your shelf

Where to buy it


Melvin Charney (1935-2012) spent his career working on the border between art and architecture. His internationally celebrated art employed a variety of media including photography, montage, painting, sculpture, and temporary and permanent installations, relentlessly pursuing the meaning of architectural images in the age of mass communication. A long career as an educator was punctuated by several high-profile and contentious interventions into debates about architecture and urban life in Montreal. In spite of his renown, few realize that his legacy is also that of a prolific architectural critic. Beginning in 1962, Charney published essays assessing the state of contemporary architecture. Assembled here for the first time, these texts place Charney among the most original architectural critics of his generation. Broaching topics as diverse as the Trulli houses of Italy, grain elevators, low income housing, and "The Montrealness of Montreal," they show Charney working through a constantly changing set of preoccupations: the value of everyday and vernacular architecture, the liberatory potential of innovations in building materials and technologies, the dangers of elitist and repressive understandings of formalism and architectural monumentality, the necessarily political nature of architecture, the creation of a built environment by and for people, and a socio-cultural understanding of urban architecture. This volume includes an astonishing visual archive of over three hundred illustrations, many of which served as source material and inspiration for Charney's intellectual and artistic work, and set up a dialogue between his criticism and his landmark projects. Essays from established architectural scholars provide critical assessments of Charney’s body of work as well as new perspectives on many of the key issues he grappled with and that have transformed architecture since the 1960s. A comprehensive and revealing collection, On Architecture presents the extraordinary scope and lasting relevance of one of Canada's leading architectural minds. Contributors include Georges Adamczyk, George Baird, , Réjean Legault, and Louis Martin.

About the author

Louis Martin is a professor of architectural history at Université du Québec à Montréal.

Louis Martin's profile page

Editorial Reviews

“An impressive book. The introductory essays place Charney among the international architectural theorists of the 1960s to 1990s, drawing attention to the convergences and divergences between them. With On Architecture: Melvin Charney, A Critical Antholog

"This homage to Charney assembles critical appreciations of his work, documentation of his projects and examples of Charney's own theoretical writings on architecture. Together, they present a testament to one of Canada's deep thinkers on the uses and abu

"The choice of material written by Charney is excellent, clearly showcasing him as a lively and talented writer, and illuminating his embrace of everyday architecture, his compelling positions on place and displacement, his implicit critique of the profes

"On Architecture reveals Charney's writings, in all their diversity and originality, yet also their polemic provocation and social stereotyping, and offers a closely argued and reasoned explanation for why he held the views that he did. This book will be a benchmark in architectural publishing in Canada." Geoffrey Simmins, professor of architectural history, University of Calgary

“The idea of cross-disciplinarity pervades this seminal publication, provocatively illustrated with the photographs, media images and drawings that the late Charney used incisively throughout his 40-year-long publishing career. Thanks to the comprehensive

“In conversation with his provocative art and design, the writings of Melvin Charney provide an incisive view of Montreal as an observatory open to the world and as a polygon for experimentation. From his youthful travel sketches to his profound meditatio