With the third chapter Baird focuses on his research on urban morphology and building typology at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design and the University of Toronto in the text “Theory: Vacant Lots in Toronto and in Studies on Urban Morphology in North America” (1988). Then with “Mutant Urbanity: Revising Las Vegas” (2004), Baird analyzes Las Vegas’s contemporary architectural urban form and urban design as public policy and presents “Thought on ‘Agency,’ ’Utopia,’ and ‘Property’ in Contemporary Architectural and Urban Theory” (2013), a synthesis of his “apparently diverse interest in urban form and in political theory.”
In the fourth chapter, Baird presents a critical biography of four of his colleagues reflecting first on Rem Koolhaas’s critical method as well as on their personal relationship starting with “Les Extremes Qui se Touchent” (1977), and ending with the “Open Letter to Koolhaas.” Subsequently he analyses Ignasi de Solà-Morales’s methodological combination of post-structuralism and phenomenology and then concludes in “Oppositions in the Thought of Colin Rowe” (1997) that the “larger intellectual and historic project of Rowe’s that is not only still incomplete but also not completable.” Finally in “A Promise as Well as a Memory: Towards an Intellectual Biography of Joseph Rykwert” (2002), Baird explains Rykwert’s effort to “bring to the conscious awareness of his contemporaries, the implications and potential consequences of the assumptions lying within the beliefs, social forms and artifacts that form their horizon of existence, however individualized or however collective those forms at first seem to be.”
In the fifth chapter, Baird focuses on public space, discussing Machado and Silvetti’s confrontation of the question of the public dimension of architecture in “On Publicness and Monumentality in the Work of Machado and Silvetti” (1994). In “Exemplary Projects” (1999), Baird looks at public space as understood in the Berlin Free University Project by Woods, Candilis, Josic, which to him continues “to offer us the model of a project that seeks to innovate simultaneously in the spheres of the social, the programmatic, the formal, the urban, and the technological.” Finally in “The New Urbanism and Public Space,” (2001) Baird asks to avoid the concepts of new urbanism and post-urbanism and declares public space a key component of urban form.
In the sixth and final chapter, Baird attempts to bring clarity on an “unfolding divergence of opinion between two important generations of thinkers on the scheme of American architectural theory” and calls “for much more careful reflection from us all.”
The book ends with a question: Why can’t architecture just be happy? Baird’s answer is that “even if architecture itself ‘can’t just be happy,’ it does have the capacity to find numerous, engaging ways to insert itself into the consciousness of its users, so as to evoke responses that might well be ‘happiness.’”
With Writings on Architecture and the City, George Baird has created a critical architecture autobiography that aims to make a deeper argument for the larger project of socially and culturally responsible architecture theory and practice.