In Search of Elegance: Towards an Architecture of Satisfaction


409 pages
Contains Photos, Illustrations, Maps, Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-7735-1827-4
DDC 720'.1




Reviewed by James A. Love

James A. Love is a professor of architecture in the Faculty of
Environmental Design and an adjunct professor of mechanical engineering
at the University of Calgary. His latest publication (in press) is the
Illuminating Engineering Society’s Recommended


In Search of Elegance embodies Michel Lincourt’s ambitious effort to
elucidate a theory of architecture. He bases his approach on the
phenomenological concepts of construction and reconstruction as
developed by German philosopher Edmund Husserl. After a review of
phenomenology, Lincourt proceeds to enunciate 37 criteria to be
considered in evaluating a design. He then analyzes three environments
that he considers to embody his ideal of elegance: the Palais Royale and
the Fondation Rothschild workers’ housing complex in Paris and the
Town of Outremont on the island of Montreal. Based on the preceding
analyses, he proposes “archetypical” forms for medium-density
housing and public open space. He concludes by summing up his proposed
approach to design.

While verbose, the book addresses questions such as the fundamental
purpose of architecture. Lincourt’s use of archetype as a means of
integrating the complex array of considerations in producing quality
environments is a practical architectural response. Some of the space
devoted to extensive discussions of the case-study environments might
better have been devoted to other perspectives on architectural
questions. For example, Lincourt characterizes quality in architecture
in terms of beauty, whereas other scholars have argued that quality is
more fundamentally a question of meaning. Although Roger Scruton, a
leading contemporary philosopher in the area of architectural esthetics,
appears in the bibliography, a discussion of his ideas is missing.


Lincourt, Michel., “In Search of Elegance: Towards an Architecture of Satisfaction,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 17, 2024,