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15 must-read’s any architect should own (or gift somebody with)

Essays, manifestos, dictionaries, handbooks, novels… Here’s the Goodreads Top Architecture Books for all tastes

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Fancy to gift someone with a book, but you are still not sure of what is the best to pick? Forget the Amazon and Tuttolibri charts, as the one you are looking for may lie under tons of fellow tomes. Luckily enough, Goodreads – the world’s largest social network for readers and book recommendations – is the best place to rummage through for secret publishing gems. Indeed, users can sneak a peek into friends’ favourite book lists or browse a boundless array of titles and genre, so to snatch the highest rated books according to readers from any corner of the world. So, now, let’s take a look at the 15 most acclaimed architecture publications of all times…

1. Toward a New Architecture

A timeless masterpiece, Towards a New Architecture by Le Corbusier is the English translation of Vers une Architecture (1923), a compilation of articles, as well as a political manifesto, originally written by the Swiss architect for his own avant-garde magazine, L’Esprit Nouveau. Within the volume, Le Corbusier expounds his technical and aesthetic theories, views on industry, economics, relation of form to function, and the "mass-production spirit”.

2. 101 Things I Learned in Architecture School 

This is a book that students of architecture will want to keep in the studio and in their backpacks. These 101 concise lessons range from the basics of "How to Draw a Line" to the complexities of color theory, and provide a much-needed primer in architectural literacy. Each lesson makes use of a two-page format, with a brief explanation and an illustration aimed to remove any fleeting doubt.

3. The Architecture of Happiness

Alain de Botton, a widely acknowledged author of non-fiction books emphasising philosophy’s relevance to everyday life, here discusses the nature of beauty in architecture and how it is related to the well-being and general contentment of the individual and society. He describes how architecture affects people every day, though people rarely pay particular attention to it. 

4. A Pattern Language: Towns, Buildings, Construction

At the core of A Pattern Language: Towns, Buildings, Construction is the philosophy that in designing their environments people always rely on certain architectural codes, which, like the languages we speak, allow them to articulate and communicate an infinite variety of designs within a formal system providing coherence. The authors outlined more than 250 patterns, each consisting of a problem statement, an illustrated discussion, and a solution.

5. Thinking Architecture

With Thinking Architecture, Peter Zumthor leads us inside his mind and expresses his motivation in designing buildings, which speak to our emotions and understanding in so many ways, and possess a powerful and unmistakable presence and personality.

6. Delirious New York: A Retroactive Manifesto for Manhattan

Starting from its publication in 1978, Delirious New York: A Retroactive Manifesto for Manhattan has turned into a major icon. Rem Koolhaas's celebration and analysis of New York depicts the city as a metaphor for the incredible variety of human behaviour at the end of the 19th century.

7. The Poetics of Space

French philosopher Gaston Bachelard has left a bold authorial mark in many fields of the human knowledge including philosophy, literary critique and architecture. First published in 1964, The Poetics of Spaceis a lyrical exploration of home, showing the way our perceptions of houses and other shelters shape our thoughts, memories and dreams.

8. The Death and Life of Great American Cities

A 1961 book by writer and activist Jane Jacobs, this is a direct, detailed and fundamentally optimistic indictment of the short-sightedness and intellectual arrogance that has dominated much of urban planning in the 19th century: the book is a critique of 1950’s urban planning policy, which it holds responsible for the decline of many city neighbourhoods in the US. Going against the modernist planning dogma of the era, it proposes a newfound appreciation for organic urban vibrancy in the United States.

9. Architecture: Form, Space, & Order

Architecture: Form, Space, and Order has been the classic introduction to the basic vocabulary of architectural design. The updated edition features expanded sections on circulation, light, views, and site context, along with new considerations of environmental factors, building codes, and contemporary examples of form, space, and order.

10. The image of the city

What does the city's form actually mean to the people who live there? What can the city planner do to make the city's image more vivid and memorable to the city dweller? To answer these questions, Mr. Lynch, supported by studies of Los Angeles, Boston, and Jersey City, formulates a new criterion – imageability – and shows its potential value as a guide for the building and rebuilding of cities.

11. Learning from Las Vegas

Learning from Las Vegas created a healthy controversy on its appearance in 1972, as it was hailed by progressive critics for its bold indictment of Modernism, and by the status quo as blasphemous. The volume basically called for architects to be more receptive to the tastes and values of "common" people and less immodest in their erections of "heroic”, self-aggrandising monuments.

12. The Fountainhead

Published in 1924 by Russian author Ayn Rand, The Fountainhead is the first fiction novel featured in this chart and exposes the author’s groundbreaking philosophy, Objectivism. This is the story of an intransigent young architect, his violent battle against conventional standards, and his explosive love affair with a beautiful woman who struggles to defeat him. 

13. Brunelleschi's Dome

Brunelleschi's Dome: How a Renaissance Genius Reinvented Architecture is a journey through one of Italy and whole world’s most celebrated architectures of all times. An exploration of Brunelleschi’s sparkling creativity and daring approach to materials, which also analyses a dramatic stretch of history torn by numerous wars and epidemics.

14. A Visual Dictionary of Architecture

This highly intuitive dictionary defines over 5,000 terms relating to architectural design, history, and technology. along with accurately illustrated definitions.

15. The Timeless Way of Building

Published in 1978, The Timeless Way of Building reveals Christopher Alexander’s personal take on architecture. A kind of introduction to Pattern Language, the book delves deep into a great thinker’s passionate vision. 


by Stefano Annovazzi lodi / 10 November 2017


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