This Book is Showing Its Age
By William S. B. Dana
Skyhorse Publishing, $14.95, 139 pages
If asked to imagine a Swiss chalet, you would probably think of decorative balconies, steep roofs, large windows and plenty of snow in sunny Switzerland. It is a style that remains as popular now as it was a century ago. Author William S. B. Dana was so taken with the style back in the early 1900s that he wrote The Swiss Chalet Book: An Elegant Guide to Architecture and Design. Dana’s book, first published in 1913, has been reprinted so that today’s readers can appreciate and study this unique building style. Chapters highlight granary, balcony, gable, door and window, the construction and ornamental detail that were part of the chalet façade. There are several sections covering the interiors of chalets, decorations and furniture. The book concludes with a brief discussion of the appearance of the Swiss chalet in other countries. Architectural plans, photographs, hand sketches and drawings are scattered throughout the text. The back cover boasts that the book is a piece of design history. Considering that it is more than 100 years old, that statement is right on target. Dana’s text is hard to read and his language is odd and outdated. The facts and material may be correct, but the reader will get frustrated wading through archaic sentences and over-the-top descriptions. A forward written by a modern-day architect would have added a contemporary context. As it stands, there is nothing to make the book relevant to 2013. College and graduate students enrolled in architecture courses and people with a general interest in Swiss chalets will find Dana’s book useful.
Reviewed by Elizabeth Franklin