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Alvaro Siza

Huxtable: Postmodernism's 'airhead aesthetic'

"The Unreal America: Architecture and Illusion," by Ada Louise Huxtable. The New Press. 208 pages. $30.

Architecture sums up the civilization it enshrines, the Pulitzer Prize-winning critic Ada Louise Huxtable argues in her latest book. "We are what we build," she says. "Stone and steel do not lie."

But what happens to architecture when the civilization in question increasingly wants to escape reality and be surrounded by artificial environments, such as theme parks and fantasy retail settings that have little connection to the rest of the world?

That's the situation Huxtable, former architecture critic of the New York Times, tackles in...