The Architecture of Arthur Dyson by Mark Hammons and Scot Zimmerman


Publication Date: August 1995
This is the only book published in the US about Arthur Dyson and his work, and it’s time someone writes another.
When I read Tracy Kidder’s House years ago, I was deflated.  I’d previously thought I might write a book about building my first house with an idealistic Art Dyson when we were idealistic 20-somethings, our contractor Greg Potter and builder Dave Friesen were idealistic 30-something characters.  I’d hadn’t been scooped; my book would be different than Kidder’s because of those characters and this architecture, but I used it (and toddlers and a job) as an excuse to shelve the project.

Years later, I had just read Kidder’s Mountains beyond Mountains: The Quest of Paul Farmer, A Man Who Would Cure the World.  As an embedded author, Kidder develops the story of a man who himself is a great story.  Before I even finished Kidder’s book, I knew I had to write my own book this way.  I’m not proposing a book about architecture; it’s not even a biography per se.  It’s my story of Art.

I anticipated this would take me several years because, although my toddlers are adults now, I work full time and keep busy with other projects, but I wanted to get started because there are people to interview NOW:  Art’s grandchildren who are growing up, older people who will get even older.  My memory will fade (I wish I’d started taking notes 25 years ago). I started during a sabbatical while we were in the process of building my second Dyson home and my husband Greg’s school UHS, a Dyson design, was under construction, so I had the opportunity to observe two projects intimately.

One daunting problem is that Art is a fine writer himself, but if he writes an autobiography it will be fundamentally different.

The Amazon blurb reads like this: Arthur Dyson has won over 40 design awards in the last five years alone. In 1993 he was awarded the Gold Medal by the Society of American Registered Architects, the highest honor the society can bestow on a living architect. He has lectured at over 40 major universities, and his work has been exhibited at more than 50 art museums and institutions around the world, including the Royal Institute of British Architects Museum in England. He served his architectural apprenticeships with Frank Lloyd Wright, Bruce Goff and William Gray Purcell. He currently teaches at the San Francisco Institute of Architecture. In 1994 he was presented proclamations from the California state senate, the governor of the state of California, the United States Senate and House of Representatives, and from President Bill Clinton.
There are two reader comments.  One is from Carl Casey (whom I know):
The Modern Day Architect Lives On! November 30, 2010

Ok, disclaimer here. I hired Arthur Dyson to design our home, so I’m biased. This book is not bad if you keep in mind that it is the beggar’s version of an architecture book to represent a world-class architect. Now, I really love Lautner. I own three Lautner books that, according to amazon, are worth about $2,500. I consulted with his concrete contractor and interviewed surviving members of his office. But I must say, with the paperback version of the Dyson book only fetching $19, is Lautner’s work really worth 40 times that of Dyson? I say not! Having spent the last 15 years implementing a Dyson vision, I think I can say my mind has melded with the architect. I’m just not sure if it is Spock’s Vulcan mind meld, or a Locutus assimilation. Anyway, I do also own The Architecture of Arthur Dyson by Hammons and Barrett. The book has the look of being produced on a shoestring budget, which it no doubt was. The picture quality suffers from budget reproduction. If done today and delivered as an electronic book, I’m sure the pictures could be improved dramatically. The book does include some really nice color drawings by the architect. I’d love to see a high quality catalog of these drawings on-line some day. It also includes pictures of Dyson’s staff at time of publication, a generous gesture by the architect. Overall, we need a book about Dyson that has the quality of The Architecture of John Lautner by Weintraub. Dyson is certainly deserving of it. Dyson comes by my house about once a year to check on the progress. A true gentleman to the end. For photos of my house, designed by Arthur Dyson and built completely by my weary old hands, see […].
I don’t know Scott Knudsen, but I’d like to meet him–I agree with Casey’s comparison of Dyson’s work to Lautner’s and Knudsen’s comparison of his work Bart Prince’s.
Arthur Dyson, artist, architect. February 14, 2004

If you want a comparison to what Dyson’s work looks like, then I would have to compare it to Bart Prince’s work.This book was written 10 years ago (1993), and shows less than seven percent of Dyson’s work that had been built. It is a catalog from an exhibition of his first solo museum exhibition.I am not sure how to rate it, being it is a ‘catalog’, so I am rating it as I would a normal book. The photography is not very good, and it also leaves you wanting more views of certain buildings. Also some of the writing is repetitious since there is first an essay and then further on in the book a list of projects that have lots of the same stories. The layout is also not very well done since two write ups on homes will be on one page and then the pictures will be on the next two!

Anyhow, there is allot of great architecture in this book, along with lots of beautiful illustrations of Dyson’s work done by him and other artists. This is the only book on Arthur Dyson so far, so if your curious either get it from the library, buy it or wait until someone else publishes a newer book on his work.Image

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s