THis is a very, very good introduction to the complexities of architecture, at about the freshman level of college. Starting with the dawn of civilization (in what is now Iraq), Glancey takes the reader on a tour of human history from the angle of what we build to worship, work, and live in. THe basics are covered extremely well, providing a context for further research.
Glancey writes with grace and clarity, dividing each major movement into regular cuts of two pages, each with brilliant images. While this format shoehorns things into categories that are a bit too sharply delineated, that kind of reductionism is a necessity in this kind of survey. In the latter part of the book, some of the distinctions appear artificial, but then we are in a period where no dominating style - you get post-modern, decontructivist, and organic, etc. - has emerged and the author had to make some decisions regarding how to put them in the format. To his credit, Glancey does not ignore the exceptions and quirks.
One thing I enjoyed about the book is that Glancey does not shy away from making strikingly loud judgements, many of which I did not share. Corbusier, he writes, "was the most inventive and poetic architect who ever lived." Now that is strong stuff and I would never have expected it in a routine survey! (While I can respect and understand what Corbusier did, I don't love it like Glancey.) But that is what makes this book more than a run of the mill overview - it adds flavor and stimulates. Also, while international, because Glancey is a Brit, much of it focuses on Britain and contemporary Europe, which provides a valuable contrast to more US-centric views.
Great book to review the history of architecture, it is concise and well illustrated.