Naegele’s Guide to the Only Good Architecture in Iowa is a deceptive title but it is not a misnomer. Guide is accurate. Iowa is fairly accurate. Naegele’s is there because this is a personal account, one that makes no attempt to be unbiased. Naegele’s qualifies Good, “good” being not absolute but contingent and personal and therefore a very questionable qualifier. Only is the title’s difficult word. “Only Good Architecture in Iowa” suggests that architecture is a scarce commodity in Iowa, a suggestion with which Naegele would agree if by “architecture” one means high architecture.
By Architecture, however, Naegele means “good building,” regardless of whether or not that which is built was designed by an architect or whether, in fact, it is a habitable structure or even a building at all. Most entries in this guide are concerned either with vernacular works that are habitable tools—barns, corncribs, ventilator machines, silos—or with built works that are not really buildings at all: billboards, bridges, murals, graveyards, landscapes, wind turbines and water towers. Only brings irony to the title, rendering questionable the assumption it asserts and initiating debate within an otherwise matter-of-fact description. Its inclusion in the title predicts the book’s mildly contentious, but always utterly practical, nature.
What Others Say About the Book
Daniel Naegele brings together an acute visual sensibility with serious archival research and original, often surprising insights engaging the reader in a way that few architectural historians do. Both the photos and the written descriptions are pure delight, showing not only Naegele’s deep knowledge of the architecture and material culture of the state, but also his marvelous and admittedly idiosyncratic sensibility… It’s exactly the kind of book I would purchase should I plan a trip to Iowa.
– Mary McLeod, Professor of Architecture
I cannot think of anyone else who can shed a new light on many known as well as unknown Iowan landmarks.
– Mira Engler, Professor of Landscape Architecture
This book is a fascinating reframing of the Iowa environment, offering witty and well-informed insights on both low and highbrow architectural highlights. This mixture retrains minds, allowing individuals to find the aesthetic value within the unexpected. Naegele mingles photos and observations with his patented wit and peppers it with mythology, carrying on the uniquely American sensibility of Mark Twain. I can’t recommend this book highly enough. It is nothing less than a guidebook for rediscovering wonder in our world.
– Andrew Gleeson, Architect, Lecturer of Architecture