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Best Architecture Book Recommendations from Influential Architects – Part 1

During my studies I wrote an article entitled List of Top 10 Architecture Books for Student Architects.The books were selected because they inspired creativity, innovation and invention.

The following Architecture book recommendations are from Architects who have inspired their peers and generations of students to follow.

In this three part series, I have asked influential Architects to share the books that have inspired them. The following architecture books are a must-have for every Architect, student Architect and Architect enthusiast.


1. Best architecture book recommendations from Daniel Libeskind:

1. The Cloud of Unknowing by Thomas H. Cook

the-cloud-of-unknowing-thomas-cookIn The Cloud of Unknowing, Thomas H. Cook explores the power of blood and family mythology. David Sears grew up in the shadow of his brilliant sister, Diana, convinced by their father that she would accomplish great things. Instead, she married and had a son, Jason, who – like David and Diana’s father – is schizophrenic.

Her husband, Mark, a geneticist, never made peace with Jason’s condition. Perhaps this is why Diana will not accept the authorities’ conclusion that Jason’s drowning death was accidental. Or perhaps Diana is going mad. As she builds a case against her husband and the seductive qualities of her manic energy become impossible to ignore, David finds himself afraid for his own family’s safety.

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2. Dialogues with Marcel Duchamp by Pierre Cananne

Dialogues-with-marcel-duchamp-pierre-cabanneMarcel Duchamp  moved his work through the retinal boundaries of impressionism into the field of impressionism where language, thought and vision act upon one another. There it changed form through a complex interplay of new mental and physical materials, heralding many of the technical, mental and visual details to be found in modern art. In the 1920s Duchamp quit painting to encourage the attendant mythology.

The Large Glass was a greenhouse for his intuition; erotic machinery was the Bride held in a see-through cage. Duchamp cross references sight and thought, the changing focus of the eyes and mind to give fresh perspective to the time and space we occupy. Duchamp sought to negate any concern with art as transportation.

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3. On Nature by Heraclitus

on-nature-hercaclitusOn Nature is a philosophical treatise written by Heraclitus. It was divided into three discourses; one on the universe, another on politics (and ethics), and one on theology. Theophrastus says (in Diogenes) “… some parts of his work are half-finished, while other parts make a strange medley.”

Heraclitus deposited his book, inscribed on a single papyrus roll, as a dedication in the great temple of Artemis, the Artemisium, at Ephesus, one of the largest temples of the 6th century BCE and one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Ancient temples were regularly used for storing treasures, and were open to private individuals under exceptional circumstances; furthermore, many subsequent philosophers in this period refer to the work. As with other pre-Socratics, his writings only survive in fragments quoted by other authors.

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2. Best architecture book recommendations from Bernard Tschumi:

1. Town and Revolution: Soviet Architecture and City Planning by Anatole Kopp

town-and-revolution-Anatole-KoppA survey of Soviet architecture and planning in the early years of the Russian revolution. First published in 1967, Town and Revolution was the first comprehensive account of the birth, development and impact of Soviet Modern Architecture from the October Revolution in 1917 to the mid 1930’s when the introduction of Stalin’ s Socialist Realism brought Modernism to a halt.

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2. Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino

invisible-cities-Italo-CalvinoInvisible cities explores imagination and the imaginable through the descriptions of cities by an explorer, Marco Polo. The book is framed as a conversation between the aging and busy emperor Kublai Khan, who constantly has merchants coming to describe the state of his expanding and vast empire, and Polo. The majority of the book consists of brief prose poems describing 55 cities, apparently narrated by Polo.

Short dialogues between the two characters are interspersed every five to ten cities and are used to discuss various ideas presented by the cities on a wide range of topics including linguistics and human nature. The book is structured around an interlocking pattern of numbered sections, while the length of each section’s title graphically outlines a continuously oscillating sine wave, or perhaps a city skyline

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 3. Best architecture book recommendations from Ben Van Berkel (UN Studio):

1. Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg

lean-in-sheryl-sandbergThirty years after women became 50 percent of the college graduates in the United States, men still hold the vast majority of leadership positions in government and industry. This means that women’s voices are still not heard equally in the decisions that most affect our lives. In Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg examines why women’s progress in achieving leadership roles has stalled, explains the root causes, and offers compelling, commonsense solutions that can empower women to achieve their full potential.

In Lean In, Sandberg digs deeper into these issues, combining personal anecdotes, hard data, and compelling research to cut through the layers of ambiguity and bias surrounding the lives and choices of working women. She recounts her own decisions, mistakes, and daily struggles to make the right choices for herself, her career, and her family. She provides practical advice on negotiation techniques, mentorship, and building a satisfying career, urging women to set boundaries and to abandon the myth of “having it all.”

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2. Hyperobjects by Timothy Morton

Hyperobjects-timothy-mortonHaving set global warming in irreversible motion, we are facing the possibility of ecological catastrophe. But the environmental emergency is also a crisis for our philosophical habits of thought, confronting us with a problem that seems to defy not only our control but also our understanding. Global warming is perhaps the most dramatic example of what Timothy Morton calls “hyperobjects.”

Moving fluidly between philosophy, science, literature, visual and conceptual art, and popular culture, the book argues that hyperobjects show that the end of the world has already occurred in the sense that concepts such as world, nature, and even environment are no longer a meaningful horizon against which human events take place. Instead of inhabiting a world, we find ourselves inside a number of hyperobjects, such as climate, nuclear weapons, evolution, or relativity.

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3. The Architectural Detail by Edward R. Ford

The-Architectural-Detail--Edward-R.-FordWe all know the mantra first expressed by French novelist Gustave Flaubert and later by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, “le bon Dieu est dans le detail,” (God dwells in the details.) But what is a detail?  “Is detailing nothing more than small-scale architectural design, requiring a bit more technical knowledge simply because it occurs at the end of the process?” asks Edward R. Ford. If there is anyone that knows details it is Edward R. Ford, and he tries to answer this seminal question in his latest book.

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 4. Best architecture book recommendations from Ricardo Scofidio (DS+R):

1. Devil and The White City by Erik Larson

Devil-in-the-white-city-erik-larsonA Saga of magic and murder at the Fair that Changed America. The No. 1 New York Times bestseller about the architect who led the construction of the great Chicago World’s Fair of 1893, and the prolific serial killer who used the fair as a lure. Just blocks from the fairgrounds, the killer built a hotel of horrors equipped with an acid vat, dissection table and crematorium. The book won an Edgar Award for best fact-crime writing, and was a finalist for a National Book Award. In November 2010, Leonardo DiCaprio acquired the rights to make a feature film based onDevil, and has stated he plans to play the role of the killer, Dr. H. H. Holmes.

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 2.  Flatland: a romance of many dimensions by Edwin Abbott

flatland-edwin-a-abbottFlatland is a masterpiece of science (and mathematical) fiction. A unique and highly entertaining satire that has charmed readers for more than 100 years. The work of English clergyman, educator and Shakespearean scholar Edwin A. Abbott (1838-1926), it describes the journeys of A. Square, a mathematician and resident of the two-dimensional Flatland, where women-thin, straight lines-are the lowliest of shapes, and where men may have any number of sides, depending on their social status.

Through strange occurrences that bring him into contact with a host of geometric forms, Square has adventures in Spaceland (three dimensions), Lineland (one dimension) and Pointland (no dimensions) and ultimately entertains thoughts of visiting a land of four dimensions – a revolutionary idea for which he is returned to his two-dimensional world.

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3. Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson

snow-crash-neal-stephensonSnow Crash presents the Sumerian language as the firmware programming language for the brainstem, which is supposedly functioning as the BIOS for the human brain. According to characters in the book, the goddess Asherah is the personification of a linguistic virus, similar to a computer virus. The god Enki created a counter-program which he called a nam-shub that caused all of humanity to speak different languages as a protection against Asherah (a re-interpretation of the ancient Near Eastern story of the Tower of Babel).

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5. Best architecture book recommendations from Michael Sorkin:

1. Critique of Judgement by Immanuel Kant

the-critique-of-judgement-immanuel-kantThe Critique of Judgment is a 1790 philosophical work by Immanuel Kant. In it, Kant lays the foundations for modern aesthetics. The book is divided into two main sections, the Critique of Aesthetic Judgment and the Critique of Teleological Judgment, and also includes a large overview of the entirety of the Critical system, arranged in its final form. The so-called First Introduction was not published during Kant’s lifetime, for Kant wrote a replacement for publication.

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frankenstein-mary-shelleyThe story of Victor Frankenstein and the monstrous creature he created has held readers spellbound ever since it was published almost two centuries ago. On the surface, it is a novel of tense and steadily mounting horror; but on a more profound level, it offers searching illumination of the human condition in its portrayal of a scientist who oversteps the bounds of conscience, and of a monster brought to life in an alien world, ever more desperately attempting to escape the torture of his solitude. A novel of hallucinatory intensity, Frankenstein represents one of the most striking flowerings of the Romantic imagination.

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 the-interpretation-of-dreams-sigmund-freudThe Interpretation of Dreams is a book by psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud. The book introduces Freud’s theory of the unconscious with respect to dream interpretation, and also first discusses what would later become the theory of the Oedipus complex. Dreams, in Freud’s view, are all forms of “wish fulfillment” attempts by the unconscious to resolve a conflict of some sort, whether something recent or something from the recesses of the past (later in Beyond the Pleasure Principle, Freud would discuss dreams which do not appear to be wish-fulfillment). Because the information in the unconscious is in an unruly and often disturbing form, a “censor” in the preconscious will not allow it to pass unaltered into the conscious.

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Top Stay tuned for part two featuring architecture book recommendations from Architects including Alex Mustonen, Steven Holl, Maya Lin, Greg Lynn, Richard Meier and Denise Scott Brown.

Id love to hear your thoughts on the above recommendations. List your own recommendations in the comment section below! 

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