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While CAC docents, staff members and volunteers practice safe spatial distancing, we’re busy listening to, viewing, and reading various media to rediscover why design matters. This week, we’re exploring novels that feature architecture.

by Hallie Rosen

Summer is just about here and it’s time to start making a list for your summer reading. Architecture can be more than just a setting in a book. It may influence the characters, tone and mood of the story, and as such, it plays an important role in the books recommended this week.



“The Glass Room” by Simon Mawer takes place over a span of 60 years—beginning in the 1920s, through World War II and continuing into the Cold War. The story follows the relationship of Viktor and Liesel Landauer and the Modernist house they built to share. Modeled after the Villa Tugendhat designed by Mies van der Rohe, the house becomes a central character in the novel and the story unfolds through the events that happen there.



“The Paris Architect” begins in 1942, when architect Lucien Bernard is offered large sums of money to design unique hiding places for Jews that will be virtually invisible to the Gestapo. At the same time, Bernard accepts a commission to design a German factory, which results in him working with a German officer who admires architecture and art. The novel asks readers to consider what we owe each other and how far we are willing to go to make things right. Its author, Charles Belfoure, is an architect himself, and architectural details are seamlessly integrated into the details of the book.



At the end of World War II, Cyril Conroy combines luck and a single investment to launch an enormous and successful real estate empire that propels his family from poverty to great wealth. He purchases the Dutch House, a lavish Modernist estate located in the suburbs of Philadelphia. Meant as a surprise for his wife, it sets into motion the undoing of everyone he loves. The novel, written by Ann Patchett, spans five decades, and tells the story of Cyril’s children, Maeve and Danny, who are unable to overcome their past. The house itself becomes the third main character, as it is an integral part of everything that happens to the siblings.

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