Denise Costanzo, assistant professor of architecture in the Stuckeman School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture, has released her first book, What Architecture Means: Connecting Ideas and Design. Published by Routledge, the book introduces readers to architecture by drawing connections between design ideas and values from around the world, from prehistory to the present. It analyzes both famous and common buildings, and presents and questions the positions of important architects and theorists. It is also intended to help readers determine what sort of qualities and values they believe should shape architecture.
What Architecture Means evolved out of Costanzo’s approach to teaching Architecture 100, the Department of Architecture’s largest course for a campus-wide audience. “Teaching this class was a real pleasure, and a special challenge,” Costanzo notes. “It was an opportunity to help students outside our professional program become more engaged. It was great to see students in engineering and allied fields, who are already invested in design, gain a new perspective. So did students preparing for other professions, who often developed a strong, well-informed interest in the subject. Since we all shape architecture as clients, consumers, and citizens, this can only help make our built environment better in the future.”
To extend the course’s reach, Costanzo created the Department of Architecture’s first online course, and hopes the book will do the same. James Wines, Penn State professor of architecture and President of SITE New York, praised the book, calling Costanzo’s approach "profoundly revealing” because it “explores how conceptual thinking in design impacts on the final results.” He considers it “an essential book for anyone who is curious about how human habitat is conceived and its significance."
Costanzo holds degrees in Environmental Design from Texas A&M University, and an M.A. and Ph.D. in Art History from Penn State. She has served on the Department of Architecture faculty in the Stuckeman School at Penn State since 2009. Her research on the interaction of American and Italian architectural cultures has been published in the Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, the Journal of Architecture, and the Memoirs of the American Academy in Rome, and several edited volumes. In 2014 she was awarded a Rome Prize fellowship from the American Academy in Rome for her current book project, Eternal City, New Lessons: Modern Architects and the Postwar Rome Prize, a multi-national study of architectural modernism and academic tradition after the Second World War.