Top 5 books on architecture


I'm looking to do a bit of reading...some suggestions would help.


Top 5 favorite books on architecture. Go!

Jul 4, 11 6:39 pm

On Adam's House in Paradise: The Idea of the Primitive Hut in Architectural History

by Joseph Rykwert

(that's all i got, sorry ..)



Jul 4, 11 8:04 pm

top 5 or not, these are all a great read:

Le Corbusier - Towards New Architecture

Robin Evans - Translations from Drawing to Building

Reyner Banham - Architecture of the Well-Tempered Environment

Rem Koolhaas - Delirious New York

Lars Lerup - After the City

Jul 5, 11 2:30 pm

Robin Evans: Yes.

Frampton' s Modern Architecture, which is both canonical and will surprise you at the depth of what-you-thought-were-off-the-radar inclusions; only be prepared to read it with google images and also a decent university library at hand. You will discover a building, if not an entire movement, which you will come to love deeply.

Paul Shepheard, Artificial Love: not mentioned by many on this kind of list but phenomenal.

Colin Rowe, Mathematics of Ideal Villa: to know where everything is coming from, the assumed, familiar knowledge of every critic.

Something as a starting point to your personal niche (and this one you should care for and about): SMLXL/Toyo Ito El Croquis#71 if you imagine yourself pure designer, Delirious NY for the quasihistorian, The Disenchanted Mountain/Wittkower for the actual historian, Parables for the Virtual/We have never been Modern/Tractatus Logico-Philosiphicus for the dutifal theorist, Architectures of Time/McLuhan for the irreverent thoerist, Invisible Cities for the poet, Negroponte for the computational, Architecture and Disjunction for the belligerent, Supermannerism for the simply contrarian, Four (or Ten) Books on Architecture (equally Vers Une Architecture or A Pattern Language) for the unimaginitive, Gyroscopic Horizons if you think the present missed the exit ramp for the future, Metropolis of Tomorrow if you think the past missed the exit ramp for the future, Architecture and Utopia/1000 Years of Nonlinear History/Empire/All that is Solid Melts into Air for the political...

Jul 5, 11 5:59 pm

i was terribly disappointed in lars lerup's 'after the city'. but that may be because his earlier book - 'planned assaults' - was transformative for me. 'after the city' recycled some of the same material, but in a particularly bland way. so i guess that means i'd offer 'planned assaults'! 

also 'how buildings learn' by stewart brand.





Jul 5, 11 7:11 pm

For An Architecture of Reality, Michael Benedikt.  it's a very short, poetic read, but rich.

Jul 5, 11 8:09 pm

architecture depends by jeremy till


Jul 6, 11 5:42 am

"The Architecture of Happiness." Alain De Botton


Jul 6, 11 9:05 am

^ ^ +1, I always recommend reading The Architecture of Happiness.

Someone recommended Frampton's Modern Architecture: A Critical History. If you're interested in his writings on Critical Regionalism (which is one of the main points of the book), I would highly recommend reading about Sverre Fehn's work. "The Pattern of Thought" by Fjeld is very interesting (if a little dense).


Jul 6, 11 10:12 am

The bishop's palace: architecture and authority in medieval Italy, Maureen Catherine Miller

It's not your typical architecture book but it is pretty amazing.

Jul 6, 11 3:14 pm

Wow..."The Architecture of Happiness"???  I found that to be one of the most forgettable books about architecture.

If you are looking for reading material...

"Biomimicry" by Janine M. Benyus

"Structures, or Why Things Fall Down" by J.E. Gordon

"The Death and Life of Great American Cities" by Jane Jacob

"refabricating ARCHITECTURE" by Kieran & Timberlake

"Fay Jones"  by Robert Adams Ivy, Jr.

Jul 7, 11 12:11 pm

the architecture of humanism - scott

digital ground - mccullough

Jul 7, 11 12:27 pm

'the eyes of the skin' by juhani pallasmaa - quick read but oh so instrumental...


Jul 7, 11 2:24 pm

These are currently my top books. It's dynamic, so consider it a snapshot list.

Vittorio Gregotti - Inside Architecture, Casabella

Paul Shepherd - Artificial Love

Jane Jacobs - The Death and Life of Great American Cities

NaJa & deOstos - Ambiguous Spaces

I find some of the best architectural writing is by authors outside of the field. Part of my architectural process is to read of the culture the architecture will be a part of. For example, when doing a project in Istanbul, Turkey I found Orhan Pamuck's "Istanbul" to beautifully capture that city. As a result, the huzun he described became a part of the buildings conception.


Jul 7, 11 2:56 pm

The Fountainhead

Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions

Hot, Flat, and Crowded

The Tipping Point

The Architecture of Happiness

Jul 7, 11 3:23 pm

Who else does not consider "The Fountainhead" to be a book about architecture? Architecture merely serves as an analogy for Rand's ideology...

Jul 7, 11 10:05 pm

+1 for the death and life of great american cities

the seven lamps of architecture is pretty damn good, too, just to fire up the spirits

modern architecture:  a critical history

From the Temple to the Castle: An Architectural History of British Literature, 1660-1760

an evolutionary architecture

Jul 7, 11 11:00 pm


Theory and Design in the First Machine Age (1960) - Reyner Banham

Society of the Spectacle (1967) - Guy Debord

A Thousand Plateaus (1980) - Deleuze and Guattari

Perspective as Symbolic Form (1991) - Erwin Panofsky

Modernism and the Posthumanist Subject (1992) - K. Michael Hays

Empire (2000) - Hardt and Negri



"Metaphysics of genetic architecture and computation" (2006) - Karl Chu

"Is it Still Possible to be a Hegelian Today?" (2011) - Slavoj Zizek

Jul 9, 11 5:27 pm

i forgot about , society of the spectacle --- great book

reminds me, too --- the production of space --- one of my all-time favorites

Jul 9, 11 8:42 pm

The Fountainhead is a shitty romance novel that cursed architects with the image of the "suffering genius" for generations.  Is that enough of a renunciation Olivia?!  

Fuck Ayn Rand, seriously.  I blame her in part for the state of our profession.  To that end, I'll add Design Like You Give A Damn to the list of top five.

Jul 10, 11 12:03 am

3west: that's "the 5 densest books" list, if you discount Banham ;) 

These Foucault texts have far-reaching implications for architecture:


"What is Enlightenment ?"

Air Guitar by Dave Hickey is an excellent primer in criticism.

Ladders by Albert Pope is an extremely sharp analysis of the contemporary city.


Jul 10, 11 12:08 am
Smokety Mc Smoke Smoke

3west ... curious about why you chose those texts.

(A minor point, but <i>Perspective as Symbolic Form</i> is not even a book, but a heavily annotated essay)

Jul 10, 11 10:10 am

Space, Time and Architecture:  The growth of a new tradition - Sigfried Giedion

Jul 10, 11 11:08 am

@Donna Sink: I completely agree with you on that point. The ideas espoused in "The Fountainhead" are completely antithetical to what design is and ought to be.

I die a little inside every time one of my non-architecture friends tells me that I should enjoy "The Fountainhead" because I am an architecture major...

Jul 10, 11 5:38 pm


Primarily because they all, in their own way, unsettle architecture's perceived autonomy. From a variety of perspectives, they not only claim that architecture can act as a mediator of social relations, but its contingencies are also made manifest through those very same relations.

I tend to get nervous when I hear that we are in a post critical age - that what matters most is practice without regard to a critical awareness of our actions. I cannot tell you how many times I have heard that "buried beneath the rubble of September 11 one can find the corpus of irony," or, "with the end of postmodernism we now live in an age of the real." It is as if we are only given two choices: revisit the unfinished project, or produce objects that address the "real."

Are we suppose to read from this that postmodernism was a period of folly, and it is now time to get serious? (I know, all my architecture friends cringe when they hear postmodernism, but its implications far exceed Graves' Portland Building.)

Nevertheless, we are experiencing change at a high magnitude, both socially and professionally,  but this change should not come at the expense of negating our past or critical discourses.

The Fountainhead is not only antithetical to my list of "5 texts," but is exactly what is wrong with our political landscape today.


Jul 10, 11 6:38 pm

you guys are reading the fountainhead all wrong

and it's bummin' mah stone

Jul 10, 11 7:11 pm

Okay, I totally get 3west's point now.

It's kind of similar to how people claim that the "Bilbao Effect" is something new and genius to architecture. However, in the wonderful world of planning, the "Bilbao Effect" is simply known as placemaking— a topic that has been 'formally' discussed since the early 1970s. Before the 1970s, placemaking or the "Bilbao Effect" could have been summed up by this sentiment, "put a god-damned bell tower there and call it a day."

And essentially all we're teaching people is that to make a place, all you need to do is dump a giant, expensive piece of architecture on a favorable piece of land— it neglects all of the finer points of what placemaking actually is.

But, jimmy jillickers! Don't reduce a hot architectural trend down to a shit-caked piece of concrete, some wonderful elderly people, a bag of bread and 14 dozen rats-with-wings also known as pigeons.

Mind you, shiny and attractive architecture is a lot more complicated than feeding pigeons but the idea is basically for the city to include something different that's not sleeping and working.

Jul 10, 11 7:46 pm

i think y'all would really enjoy Lee Morrissey's book, From the Temple to the Castle: An Architectural History of British Literature, 1660-1760

Jul 10, 11 9:15 pm

seriously, it is a literary history book, but it has a strong architectural thesis embedded within it, and given the comments you just shared, i think you'll find it interesting.  the author will show you vestiges of the modern and post-modern in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and offers a thesis about what these architectural design trends are symptomatic of and suggest why they recur

Jul 10, 11 9:23 pm

Two must reads for any architect:

"How Buildings Learn" by Stewart Brand

"The Death and Life of Great American Cities" by Jane Jacobs

Good architecture porn:

"Searching for True: Cutler Anderson Architects"

Design related:

"Design With Nature" by Ian McHarg

"Robert Irwin: Getty Garden" by Lawrence Weschler

Dec 15, 12 3:42 pm

The fountainhead is a must read I think. No body is telling you that you should assume everything it says is right and true. Smart people form their own conclusions based on a reading and I think Rand's book does make some good questions pop out regarding our profession... you make the answer... 


Italo Calvino has some good books. Maybe in english.

Dec 15, 12 3:53 pm

In my opinion there's no point to read anything about architecture unless you understand the context of city and landscape. For that, I recommend:

1. Cities, Design and Evolution - Stephen Marshall

2. Constructing Landscape - Birkhäuser

3. Landscape Infrastructure - Case studies by SWA

4. The Death and Life of Great American Cities - Jane Jacobs

And for books about architecture that read like beautiful novels, I highly recommend Canadian-American writer Witold Rybczynski. Anything by him is fantastic, but for a first try maybe:

5. A Clearing in the Distance: Frederick Law Olmsted and North America in the Nineteenth Century

On the Fountainhead:

Read it during undergrad. The only relationship to architecture which I can clearly see is that we are all doomed to take it up the arse from our employer and go broke at some point. Coulda told you that before I read this book. Oh well... it had a nice cover...

Dec 16, 12 3:00 am

A couple more:

-Thinking architecture - Peter Zumthor

-The eyes of the skin - Juhani Pallasmaa


On another topic:

-The selfish gene - Richard Dawkins. Not about architecture directly. Its about evolution and life. It did give me some great understanding about architecture and design... after all, design and thinking is always in evolution, mutations, darwinian laws... I really recommend it whatever your background is. 

Dec 16, 12 9:54 am

For an Architecture of Reality is one of the top five for me, if not #1.

Dec 16, 12 10:51 am

Alice Foxley, 'Distance & Engagement'
James Corner, 'Recovering Landscape'
El Hadi Jazairy, 'New Geographies 4: Scales of the Earth'
John Hejduk, 'Such Places as Memory'
Hans Dieter Schall, 'Paths and Passages'

Dec 16, 12 12:10 pm
chatter of clouds


your first 5 books are better suited for an anti-architectural list (within the bounds of one genre)

landscape urbanism as the opposite of palladianism, no?

does urbanism share the same standard of success as urbanism? do we really measure the weissenhofsiedlung by how well successful it is from the communal and urban-contextual stand point?

Dec 17, 12 7:40 am
chatter of clouds

in another way, i would also go even beyond stephanie and ask whether there have ever been books on architecture...not architectural history, arch technology, archi-ography, structure, archi hermeneutics, phenomenology, drawing..but architecture.


Dec 17, 12 7:49 am
vado retro

rereading Peter Blake's The Master Builders. Accessible and informative.

Dec 18, 12 9:54 am
Kos Scarpa Kos

Alain Danielou "The Hindu Temple: Deification of Eroticism"

Paul Zanker  "The Power of Images in the Age of Augustus"

Federico Zeri "L'arco di Costantino"

Giulio Camillo "The Idea of the Theater"

Giampaolo Lomazzo "Trattato dell'arte della pittura, scoltura et architettura"

Dec 18, 12 5:17 pm

Defensible Spaces by Oscar Newman

Dec 19, 12 7:54 pm

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