A Book Review: Why You Can Build it Like That

I hope this is the right person.

Writing this book review has angered me quite a bit, Mr. Zukowsky. A glance at your book cover lured me into snapping your book up. After all, the name suggested it was a nerdy, complex pocket-sized university textbook explaining the physics behind how tall structures stand straight, how bridges do not crumble, and how crazy architectural forms still hold up.

I really should have known better, however, because the title was a trick that John Zukowsky committed. And that crime of his was naming this book “Why You Can Build It Like That”. Which naturally begs the question, why must you give it a title like that? Of all the great book names in the world, why choose such a poor title does not explain the content at all?

After doing some research, I actually realised that this book was part of a larger series called “Why You Can xxx like that”, so I have a slight feeling it was his publisher that might have forced him to name it that way. (NOTE: I’ve read the other one about art, which is a brilliant read, surprisingly).

Critical language issue detected

This book is fine in terms of prose. This is not always the case in some books of the same genre. Zukowsky described the buildings with colourful language, and each building has a brief write-up about the architects behind each building. He also picked some quotes, talked about funny, unheard-of anecdotes, and offered a helpful list of similar buildings in each building’s context. But no matter how good that content is, I still have to reitarate my initial point: Your book does not answer the title, “Why You Can Build It Like That“. Hopefully, Zukowsky can change the title of the book if it gets a second edition. Don’t trick people, please.

screenshot of book spread


On a more serious note, I would like to question the selection of buildings: After reading just a few pages, it would become shockingly apparent that there is an extreme shortage of Asian architecture—the rest are from other parts of the world. I only recall the book mentioning a few skyscrapers in China (Taipei 101), the stunning Petronas twin towers in Malaysia. That was it. Even our very own The Interlace, an architechtural marvel designed by firm OMA and RSM Architects. There are great buildings in Asia that I would have liked to see in this book. I propose two of them: Singapore’s Marina Bay Sands, and Jewel. There is no more excuse to have such ignorance on our continent.

I cannot restate how important it is to have a diverse range of locations to choose from. No one except a book collector buys Euro-centric or US-centric books. That is the truth.

Overall, this book scores well in terms of content. Even though it is riddled with some minor issues here and there, this is still a beginner-friendly read that will pique the interest of an individual.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

(P.S. If you’re very angry, drop me an email at thomas.rettig.11@gmail.com, and I will promptly delete your email. Thank you!)


Published by Thomas Rettig


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