Paul Goldberger is an American architecture critic best known for his ‘Skyline’ column in The New York Times, for which he earned the Pulitzer Prize. Why Architecture Matters is one of his ‘Why X Matters’ books. This book, like his other books such as the Hamptons Houses, Building Art: The Life and Work of Frank Gehry, etc., is published by Yale University Press and creates awe among readers. He assists us in finding answers to some deep-seated questions about how the roof over us inspires amazement and joy.

“…Architecture is a conversation between the generations, carried out over time…In architecture, the conversation is the most conspicuous, the most obvious, the most impossible to tune out. We may not all participate in the conversation, but we all have to listen to it.  For that reason alone, architecture matters: because it’s all around us, and what is all around us has to have an effect on us.”  – Paul Goldberger (Why Architecture Matters)

Book in Focus: Why architecture matters by Paul Goldberger - Sheet1
Paul Goldberger_ ©Getty Iris

Regardless of the building’s size and cost, and the symbolic expression it creates in the user’s eyes, architecture has cultural value on an emotional, physical, and social level. Unlike other architecture-related publications, ‘Why Architecture Matters’ provides a unique perspective on architecture for the general public, which he didn’t disappoint with his references to colors, columns, and Frank Lloyd Wright’s structures, as well as human emotion.

’Why Architecture Matters (Why X Matters)’ by Paul Goldberger_©BookForum

Throughout the book, the author takes the reader on a vibrant and engaging tour of important buildings and an in-depth discussion of the ideas of several architects, such as Frank Gehry and Mies van der Rohe. The author discusses the principles of architecture, the materials used in the past, and how, contrary to popular perception, it improves the user’s living moods. He examines the evidence-based design and how it prioritizes serenity and distinguishes function and beauty in a significant way, using the author’s figurative examples. The author mentions how basic shapes and colors that we essentially observed blooming are much more cherishing, or so they typically felt, because art plays such a vital role in the aesthetics and social value of buildings. He also adds a layer of intrigue to the chapters by revealing previously undisclosed facts about how some of history’s greatest figures came to be. He also makes the chapters more intriguing by providing some previously unreported facts about how some of the magnificent structures that we appreciate in terms of art and architecture were severely disturbed by their owners.

The author demonstrates how, from the hospital of birth, to school, to the kind of burial after death plays a big effect in our lives in a subtle way, creating a virtual image and beautiful images through texts. The book also considers how highways, streets, and landscapes have evolved and how this has influenced people’s perceptions of modernity. He says that today’s largely modern architecture is affected by a metropolitan attitude that prioritizes privacy over the public contacts that characterize life on a crowded street, which is a noteworthy argument. Suburban architecture, which is now being built well beyond the suburbs’ borders, indicates disinterest, if not outright contempt, for the street. The street, according to Goldberger, is the foundation of urban life, or at least it was assumed to be. The book, ‘Why Architecture Matters’, is a combination of architectural history, materials, and aesthetics. Paul Goldberger makes an impression on the reader and primarily assists them in discovering their answers to why architecture matters, and how it is particularly present around us, even if we are unconcerned. The book follows a consistent pattern, providing readers with several examples of buildings that span many ages. The author indicates that a building’s aesthetics or kind should not be used as a major criterion, because in the end, it is a service that elicits emotion in users, and rather than enjoying it individually, we must see it in a subtle way as highly collective. 

The author also explains the importance of light and ventilation as well as their effects. He visualizes some iconic structures and how height, space, and courtyards create diverse feelings and emotional buildup, just as he does in previous chapters. Regardless of the configuration or shape, space maintains a balance between all axes.

He covered the untouched areas of history, which is highly significant, with many examples of how many different types of great buildings did not produce peace among the population. The work of Paul Goldberger produces a soothing image in the minds of all readers, even the common ones, or so they thought. By the end of the book, a sense of visualization is sought which aids us in embracing the particularly overwhelming impression of architecture and its huge presence around us. However, for someone who isn’t familiar with architecture, the description of so many structures may be daunting, depending on a variety of factors. Otherwise, it may give a tinge of travel motivation to experience everything described in the book, which is often noteworthy.


  1. Goldberger, P. (2011). Why architecture matters. New Haven, Conn. ; London: Yale University Press.

Devika Bhaskaran is an architecture student with absolute love for writing, poetry and travelling. She believes that there are beautiful and mind-blowing untold stories within people and places and she hopes to be a voice for the same. She is in a constant search for architectural wonders that are accessible to all kinds of humans.