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21 Must Have Architecture Books

  • by Igor Grushko

21 Must Have Architecture Books

By Igor Grushko, Studio Alternativi

In this subjective list made by Igor Grushko you will find not only architecture essentials, but also books that are dedicated to graphics, proportions, art, design, details, thoughts and ideas. Books in the list will help you in your academic studio, in your practical work in the office, inspire you, make you forget for a moment about planning, turn you into an architecture thinker and help you make your first steps as an architectural critique.

We will appreciate your opinion about this list and kindly ask for your architecture books suggestions in the comments section below.


1. Neufert Architects' Data (Ernst Neufert)
Neufert's Architects' Data is an essential reference for the initial design and planning of a building project. It provides, in one concise volume, the core information needed to form the framework for the more detailed design and planning of any building project. Organized largely by building type, it covers the full range of preliminary considerations, and with over 6200 diagrams it provides a mass of data on spatial requirements. Most illustrations are dimensioned and each building type includes plans, sections, site layouts and design details. An extensive bibliography and a detailed set of metric/ imperial conversion tables are included. Since it was first published in Germany in 1936, Ernst Neufert's handbook has been progressively revised and updated through 39 editions and many translations. This fourth English language edition is translated from the 39th German edition, and represents a major new edition for an international, English speaking readership. Reviews of the Previous Edition: "Neufert's Architects' Data was the first book I bought when I started my studies in architecture. It was invaluable for me then and it is still a useful aid in my designs."
Cesar Pelli "With this thorough rewrite Neufert has produced yet again an invaluable reference book." The Architects' Journal


2. Constructing Architecture: Materials, Processes, Structures. A Handbook (Edited by Andrea Deplazes)
Systematically structured and prepared with the student in mind, the book conveys in one volume the necessary basic technical building construction knowledge to enable readers to implement a wide range of designs. For this reason, over the last 14 years, it has developed into an indispensable information and reference handbook, not only for students and teachers, but also for architects.

The 4th edition of this standard work for building construction has again been revised in terms of content and illustrations. References to standards, thermal insulation standards, and some project examples have been updated; they are now comprehensively and systematically documented, explaining the design process from start to finish.


3. The Power Of Limits (Gyorgy Doczi)
One of the delights of life is the discovery and rediscovery of patterns of order and beauty in nature--designs revealed by slicing through a head of cabbage or an orange, the forms of shells and butterfly wings. These images are awesome not just for their beauty alone, but because they suggest an order underlying their growth, a harmony existing in nature. What does it mean that such an order exists; how far does it extend? The Power of Limits was inspired by those simple discoveries of harmony. The author went on to investigate and measure hundreds of patterns--ancient and modern, minute and vast. His discovery, vividly illustrated here, is that certain proportions occur over and over again in all these forms. Patterns are also repeated in how things grow and are made--by the dynamic union of opposites--as demonstrated by the spirals that move in opposite directions in the growth of a plant. The joining of unity and diversity in the discipline of proportional limitations creates forms that are beautiful to us because they embody the principles of the cosmic order of which we are a part; conversely, the limitlessness of that order is revealed by the strictness of its forms. The author shows how we, as humans, are included in the universal harmony of form, and suggests that the union of complementary opposites may be a way to extend that harmony to the psychological and social realms as well.


4. Manual of Section (Paul Lewis, Marc Tsurumaki, David J. Lewis)
Award-winning architects Paul Lewis, Marc Tsurumaki, and David J. Lewis's essential guide to section. Section, along with plan and elevation, is one of the most important representational techniques of architectural design. Manual of Section is the first book to provide a framework to describe and evaluate this fundamental design process in architecture.


5. S, M, L, Xl (Rem Koolhaas, Bruce Mau)
"S, M, L, XL" presents a selection of the remarkable visionary design work produced by the Dutch firm Office for Metropolitan Architecture (O.M.A.) and its acclaimed founder, Rem Koolhaas, in its first twenty years, along with a variety of insightful, often poetic writings. The inventive collaboration between Koolhaas and designer Bruce Mau is a graphic overture that weaves together architectural projects, photos and sketches, diary excerpts, personal travelogues, fairy tales, and fables, as well as critical essays on contemporary architecture and society.
The book's title is also its framework: projects and essays are arranged according to scale. While Small and Medium address issues ranging from the domestic to the public, Large focuses on what Koolhaas calls "the architecture of Bigness." Extra-Large features projects at the urban scale, along with the important essay "What Ever Happened to Urbanism?" and other studies of the contemporary city. Running throughout the book is a "dictionary" of an adventurous new Koolhaasian language -- definitions, commentaries, and quotes from hundreds of literary, cultural, artistic, and architectural sources.


6. KM3: Excursions on Capacities (MVRDV)
Three-dimensionality can be seen as architecture's fundamental existence, the profession's acclaimed domain. In times of globalism and scale enlargement, an update of this definition seems needed: meters turn into kilometers, "M3" becomes "KM3". KM3 is a story about a world that is getting dense. Very dense. It constructs its logical response: a city that is denser. A city that is continuously under construction, with space for limitless capacities, populations. Beyond scarcity. Beyond separation. Beyond pessimism and protectionism. The 3D City. A free-fall in endless space. From right to left, from front to back, from above to below. Pure depth. KM3 is more a construct than an analysis. KM3 is a hypothesis, a theoretical city, a possible urban theory. KM3 can also be seen as a science-fiction novel, a twin pair that describes this upcoming city as an emerging presence, an already existing 'other' world. The book includes a DVD of animations and two urban planning software programs by MVRDV.


7. The Death and Life of Great American Cities (Jane Jacobs)
A direct and fundamentally optimistic indictment of the short-sightedness and intellectual arrogance that has characterized much of urban planning in this century, The Death and Life of Great American Cities has, since its first publication in 1961, become the standard against which all endeavors in that field are measured. In prose of outstanding immediacy, Jane Jacobs writes about what makes streets safe or unsafe; about what constitutes a neighborhood, and what function it serves within the larger organism of the city; about why some neighborhoods remain impoverished while others regenerate themselves. She writes about the salutary role of funeral parlors and tenement windows, the dangers of too much development money and too little diversity. Compassionate, bracingly indignant, and always keenly detailed, Jane Jacobs's monumental work provides an essential framework for assessing the vitality of all cities.


8. A Pattern Language: Towns, Buildings, Construction (Christopher Alexander)
You can use this book to design a house for yourself with your family; you can use it to work with your neighbors to improve your town and neighborhood; you can use it to design an office, or a workshop, or a public building. And you can use it to guide you in the actual process of construction. After a ten-year silence, Christopher Alexander and his colleagues at the Center for Environmental Structure are now publishing a major statement in the form of three books which will, in their words, "lay the basis for an entirely new approach to architecture, building and planning, which will we hope replace existing ideas and practices entirely."
The three books are The Timeless Way of Building, The Oregon Experiment, and this book, A Pattern Language. At the core of these books is the idea that people should design for themselves their own houses, streets, and communities. This idea may be radical (it implies a radical transformation of the architectural profession) but it comes simply from the observation that most of the wonderful places of the world were not made by architects but by the people. At the core of the books, too, is the point that in designing their environments people always rely on certain "languages," which, like the languages we speak, allow them to articulate and communicate an infinite variety of designs within a forma system which gives them coherence. This book provides a language of this kind. It will enable a person to make a design for almost any kind of building, or any part of the built environment. "Patterns," the units of this language, are answers to design problems (How high should a window sill be? How many stories should a building have? How much space in a neighborhood should be devoted to grass and trees?). More than 250 of the patterns in this pattern language are given: each consists of a problem statement, a discussion of the problem with an illustration, and a solution. As the authors say in their introduction, many of the patterns are archetypal, so deeply rooted in the nature of things that it seemly likely that they will be a part of human nature, and human action, as much in five hundred years as they are today.


9. The Image of the City (Kevin Lynch)
The classic work on the evaluation of city form.

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. The wide scope of this study leads to an original and vital method for the evaluation of city form. The architect, the planner, and certainly the city dweller will all want to read this book.


10. 100 Years of Swiss Graphic Design (Christian Brändle, Karin Gimmi, Barbara Junod)
100 Years of Swiss Graphic Design takes a fresh look at Swiss typography and photo-graphics, posters, corporate image design, book design, journalism and typefaces over the past hundred years. With illuminating essays by prominent experts in the field and captivating illustrations, this book, designed by the Zurich studio NORM, presents the diversity of contemporary visual design while also tracing the fine lines of tradition that connect the work of different periods. The changes in generations and paradigms as manifested in their different visual languages and convictions are organized along a timeline as well as by theme. The various fields of endeavor and media are described, along with how they relate to advertising, art, and politics. Graphic design from Switzerland reflects both international trends and local concerns. High conceptual and formal quality, irony and wit are its constant companions. A new, comprehensive reference work on Swiss design. With Essays by the editors and Hans-Rudolf Bosshard, Christoph Bignens, Max Bruinsma, Jurgen Doring, Meret Ernst, Ulrike Felsing, Roland Fruh, Ariel Herbez, Richard Hollis, Martin Jaeggi, Andres Janser, Roxane Jubert, Urs Lehni, Claude Li


11. Grid Systems in Graphic Design : A Visual Communication Manual for Graphic Designers, Typographers and Three Dimensional Designers (Josef Mulller-Brockmann)
This volume provides guidelines and rules for the function and use for grid systems from 8 to 32 grid fields which can be used for the most varied of projects, the three-dimensional grid being treated as well. Exact directions for using all of the grid systems possible presented are given to the user, showing examples of working correctly on a conceptual level. Or simply put: a guidebook from the profession for the profession.


12. Modern Concrete Construction Manual (Edited by Martin Peck)
Concrete's multifaceted nature has made it very popular today with planners and builders. Besides the enormous potential inherent in its load-bearing capacity, the material offers a diversity of properties and surface characteristics. This publication focuses not just on the design and construction of concrete load-bearing structures, but also especially on concrete material characteristics and thus on the haptic and sensual side of this material.
The Modern Concrete Construction Manual provides planners with expert information on concrete as a construction material, ranging from manufacturing to material characteristics, to the design of concrete load-bearing structures, including details on current digital design and production process options. Designed as a standard reference work, the publication offers comprehensive and detailed insights into a range of topics, including cost-effectiveness, energy and sustainability, renovation, design and interior design. An extensive index of successful projects, with a selection of real-life examples, provides inspiration, while inviting readers to make modern use of this classic construction material.


13. Architectural Principles in the Age of Humanism (Rudolph Wittkower)
A brief examination of the theory and practice of Renaissance architecture that draws attention to the values underlying this style.


14. Walkable City: How Downtown Can Save America, One Step at a Time (Jeff Speck)
Jeff Speck has dedicated his career to determining what makes cities thrive, and he has boiled it down to one key factor: walkability. The very idea of a modern metropolis evokes visions of bustling sidewalks, vital mass transit, and a vibrant, pedestrian-friendly urban core. But in the typical American city, the car is still king and downtown is a place that's easy to drive to but often not worth arriving at. Making walkability happen is relatively easy and cheap; seeing exactly what needs to be done is the trick. In this essential book, Speck reveals the invisible workings of the city, how simple decisions have cascading effects, and how we can all make the right choices for our communities. "Insightful and passionately argued" (Maria Popova, Brain Pickings), bursting with sharp observations and real-world examples, giving key insight into what urban planners actually do and how places can and do change, Walkable City lays out a practical, necessary, and eminently achievable vision of how to make our normal American cities great again.


15. Landscapes in Landscapes (Piet Oudolf)
A leading figure in the New Perennial planting movement, garden designer Piet Oudolf emphasizes plant structure as the most important aspect of a successful garden. Form and texture are valued as much as color, and perennials--prized for their beauty throughout a natural life cycle--are used almost exclusively. Oudolf challenges conventional approaches to gardening that rely on short-lived bursts of color and constant maintenance and shows the delights of working with versatile, expressive perennials to create lasting, ecologically sound panoramas that relate to the greater landscape and the shifting seasons. This glorious full-color volume features twenty-three of Oudolf's most beautiful public and private gardens, including the widely acclaimed High Line and the Battery in New York City; the Lurie Garden in Millennium Park in Chicago; Wisley, the Royal Horticultural Society Garden in Surrey, England; the Pensthorpe Nature Reserve and Gardens in Norfolk, England; the Trentham Estate in Staffordshire, England; Il Gardino delle Vergini at the 2010 Venice Biennale; the Dream Park in Enkoping, Sweden; and his own perpetually evolving garden in Hummelo, The Netherlands. Insightful, accessible text by gardening author Noël Kingsbury places Oudolf's work in context and explains how each garden and the plants selected for it fit the specific environment. Oudolf's detailed plans provide inspiration and insight for all interested in small personal gardens and the design of large-scale public landscapes alike.


16. Understanding Architecture (Juhani Pallasma , Edited by Robert McCarter)
Intended both as an introductory text for students and professionals in the field as well as an accessible read for the general public, Primer on Architecture (working title) addresses the basic principles of architecture and uncovers its ongoing influence in contemporary culture. The volume is organized in a series of chapters based on key architectural themes--space, time, matter, gravity, light, silence, dwelling, ritual, memory, landscape, and place--with an introductory essay for each chapter that includes a wide variety of historical examples from around the world followed by more in depth analyses of key buildings that further exemplify the theme of a particular chapter. By combining a broad historical sweep with a jargon-free architectural study of space and the direct experience of architecture, this volume will be a unique introduction to architecture as a timeless and enduring art.


17. Paris Haussmann: A Model's Relevance (Edited by Benoit Jallon, Umberto Napolitano, Franck Boutte)
In the 19th century, Paris underwent profound transformations above and below ground, from the city center to its outskirts. Georges Eugene Haussmann, Prefect of the Seine from 1853 to 1870, embodies this entire century of public works that continue to shape the city's organization and identity. Paris Haussmann explores and analyses the characteristics of this homogenous yet polymorphous cityscape, the result of a lengthy process of changes and evolutions, even in recent times. Research was conducted at all levels to classify and compare roadways, identify public spaces, and organize the blocks and buildings according to their current geometry. For the first time, the qualities of the Haussmann model have been set forth to show how they grapple with the challenges that contemporary cities face. Rich illustrative material, photographs, various plans and maps, floor plans and sections, axonometric projections, diagrams and other graphics, and statistical analyses complement topical essays. The book is published in conjunction with an exhibition at the Pavillon de l'Arselnal in Paris in spring 2017.


18. Geometry of Design 2nd Edition: Studies in Proportion and Composition (Kimberly Elam)
At last, a mathematical explanation of how art works presented in a manner we can all understand. Kimberly Elam takes the reader on a geometrical journey, lending insight and coherence to the design process by exploring the visual relationships that have foundations in mathematics as well as the essential qualities of life.
Geometry of Design takes a close look at a broad range of twentieth-century examples of design, architecture and illustration (from the Barcelona chair to the paintings of Georges Seurat, from the Braun hand blender to the Conico kettle), revealing underlying geometric structures in their compositions. Explanations and techniques of visual analysis make the inherent mathematical relationships evident and a must-have for anyone involved in art, design, or architecture graphic arts.
The book focuses not only on the classic systems of proportioning, such as the golden section and root rectangles, but also on less well known proportioning systems such as the Fibonacci Series. Through detailed diagrams these geometric systems are brought to life giving an effective insight into the design process.


19. The Future of Architecture in 100 Buildings (Marc Kushner)
The founder of Architizer.com and practicing architect draws on his unique position at the crossroads of architecture and social media to highlight 100 important buildings that embody the future of architecture. We're asking more of architecture than ever before; the response will define our future. A pavilion made from paper. A building that eats smog. An inflatable concert hall. A research lab that can walk through snow. We're entering a new age in architecture--one where we expect our buildings to deliver far more than just shelter. We want buildings that inspire us while helping the environment; buildings that delight our senses while serving the needs of a community; buildings made possible both by new technology and repurposed materials. Like an architectural cabinet of wonders, this book collects the most innovative buildings of today and tomorrow. The buildings hail from all seven continents (to say nothing of other planets), offering a truly global perspective on what lies ahead. Each page captures the soaring confidence, the thoughtful intelligence, the space-age wonder, and at times the sheer whimsy of the world's most inspired buildings--and the questions they provoke: Can a building breathe? Can a skyscraper be built in a day? Can we 3D-print a house? Can we live on the moon? Filled with gorgeous imagery and witty insight, this book is an essential and delightful guide to the future being built around us--a future that matters more, and to more of us, than ever.


20. What is Architecture?: And 100 Other Questions (Rasmus Waern)
This entertaining and informative book explores the world of architecture through a series of 101 questions and answers that cover a wide range of issues on its practice and theory. There are historical questions, such as 'Who was the first architect?' and 'Are all churches architecture?' as well as ones that relate to contemporary activity, such as 'Have computers changed architecture?' or 'How small can a home be?'. There are also many that are intriguing and irreverent, such as 'Why do architects want to paint the world white?' and 'Is Dubai a city?'.

For each of the questions there is a brief, one-line answer and then a more extended discussion. Aimed at both general readers as well as those in the field, this book will make a perfect purchase or gift for anyone interested in architecture.


21. Elements of Architecture (Rem Koolhaas)
Elements of Architecture focuses on the fragments of the rich and complex architectural collage. Window, facade, balcony, corridor, fireplace, stair, escalator, elevator: the book seeks to excavate the micro-narratives of building detail. The result is no single history, but rather the web of origins, contaminations, similarities, and differences in architectural evolution, including the influence of technological advances, climatic adaptation, political calculation, economic contexts, regulatory requirements, and new digital opportunities. It's a guide that is long overdue-in Koolhaas's own words, "Never was a book more relevant-at a moment where architecture as we know it is changing beyond recognition."

Derived, updated, and expanded from Koolhaas's exhaustive and much-lauded exhibition at the 2014 Venice Architecture Biennale, this is an essential toolkit to understanding the fundamentals that comprise structure around the globe. Designed by Irma Boom and based on research from the Harvard Graduate School of Design, the 2,600-page monograph contains essays from Rem Koolhaas, Stephan Trueby, Manfredo di Robilant, and Jeffrey Inaba; interviews with Werner Sobek and Tony Fadell (of Nest); and an exclusive photo essay by Wolfgang Tillmans.
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