An Architectural Survey in Search of America


“A Field Measure Survey of American Architecture,” from Mack, is—and isn’t—the exhaustive compendium that it claims to be. The book’s two hundred and twenty-four black-and-white photographs, taken between the late nineteen-sixties and just a few years ago, are exterior and interior views of houses from Pennsylvania to Alaska.

The range of architectural styles is narrow, limited to variations on rural and roadside twentieth-century vernacular, but richly detailed. Most of the buildings are modest, ordinary two-story homes; nearly all have been boarded up and abandoned, often for a long time before they were photographed. Aside from the occasional brief caption (“1812 West Muhammad Ali Boulevard, Louisville, Jefferson County, KY”), the book has no text, only a gnomic quote from Thomas Pynchon and a note acknowledging its source material: “All images courtesy of the Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Historic American Buildings Survey.”


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