Charleston Fancy: Little Houses and Big Dreams in the Holy City (Hardcover)

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A captivating chronicle of building in modern-day Charleston, making a case for architecture based on historical precedent, local context, and the ability to delight

Charleston, South Carolina, which boasts America’s first historic district, is known for its palmetto-lined streets and picturesque houses. The Holy City, named for its profusion of churches, exudes an irresistible charm. Award-winning author and cultural critic Witold Rybczynski unfolds a series of stories about a group of youthful architects, builders, and developers based in Charleston: a self-taught home builder, an Air Force pilot, a fledgling architect, and a bluegrass mandolin player.

Beginning in the 1980s, this cast of characters, exercising a kind of amateur mastery, produced an eclectic array of buildings inspired by the past—including a domed Byzantine drawing room, a fanciful medieval castle, a restored freedman’s cottage, a miniature Palladian villa, and a contemporary Mediterranean street. In his careful profiles of these protagonists and the challenges they have overcome in realizing their dreams, Rybczynski compellingly emphasizes the importance of architecture and urban design on a local level, how an old city can remake itself by invention as well as replication, and the role that individuals still play in transforming the urban landscapes around them.

About the Author

Witold Rybczynski is an architect and emeritus professor of urbanism at the University of Pennsylvania. He is the author of twenty books, has served as architecture critic for Slate, and has received numerous awards.

Praise For…

“It is in the search for beauty, the careful execution of each detail, that the ensemble of her buildings creates a city that is admired and loved. Charleston Fancy teaches us this is still possible.”—Joseph P. Riley, Jr., Mayor of Charleston (1975–2016)

“Rybczynski brings Charleston alive, architecturally, journalistically, humanly.”—Paul Hendrickson, author of Hemingway's Boat

“In this engaging and fascinating account of development and urban conservation in and around Charleston, Rybczynski masterfully tells a series of interconnected stories that, like a complex Russian novel, involve a variety of characters, bound together by the place itself and its unique history and culture.”—Steven W. Semes, author of The Future of the Past

“An absorbing portrait of idealistic builders in Charleston whose efforts, at times eccentric, confirm that small-scale beauty is the secret of authentic urbanism.”—Anthony Alofsin, FAIA, author of Wright and New York: The Making of America’s Architect


Product Details
ISBN: 9780300229073
ISBN-10: 0300229070
Publisher: Yale University Press
Publication Date: May 28th, 2019
Pages: 256