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What Do You Read?

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As an architecture student in college, I noticed one of the major difference from kids in other majors revolved around text books. As my roommate was cycling through a new physics textbook what seemed like every month, I was using the same architectural theory book required for my first day as a freshmen. I realized that the books I was required to get retained their value throughout my schooling and now into the professional world. Even now I have a shelf full of a variety of books that I use regularly for reference, education, and inspiration. In this post, I’ll point of the types of books I have at my desk while highlighting a few of my favorites. Most if not all of them can be found available at your local bookstore or online new or used through online site like amazon.

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1.  Patter Books:

“A Pattern Language”, Christopher Alexander: This book is vital and entertaining resource for all designers of the built environment. It is basically a collection of hundreds of rules-of-thumb pertaining to all scales of the community, the buildings themselves, and construction details.

“Death and Life of a Great American City”, Jane Jacobs: Originally published in 1961, this book is a wonderful narrative of how the trends of vacating the city center to live in the suburbs was set to ruin the American city as we knew it. With the constant motion towards New Urbanism and redevelopment of walkable communities, this book has been at the forefront by advocates for change both in the classroom and in communities.

2. Treatises:

“Towards and New Architecture”, Le Corbusier; “Sweet Disorder and the Carefully Careless”, Robert Maxwell; “On the Art of Building in Ten Books”,  Alberti, “Modern Architecture”, Otto Wagner: I grouped these books together as they all extremely academic in nature. I have to admit I don’t find myself reaching for these very often anymore as they were repeated to me in school over and over again. But no matter what way of thinking and design you were taught, it is always important to learn the other side of the coin as well. There aren’t too many similarities to Alberti and Le Corbusier, but if you are to support one way, you better have knowledge of the other.

3. Inspirational:

“The Architecture of McKim, Mead & White: In Photographs, Plans, and Elevations, McKim, Mead & White; “Vienna – 1900: The Architecture of Otto Wagner”, V. H. Pintaric: Call me a nerd, but one thing I love is looking through an architect’s collection of works. In school, we were often taught that, in order to learn the characteristics of a particular architectural movement, one had to read and draw. And draw some more. It is amazing to see how quickly someone understands something by seeing and drawing historic precedents. Plus the pretty pictures in these types of books provide for excellent coffee table books.

4. My Favorite:

“Great Streets”, Allan Jacobs: This book gets its own callout because it is my favorite architectural and design book. It identifies all the historic streets around the world and shows sections, vignettes, and plans accompanying descriptions of why they are so terrific and successful. After spending a year in Rome for school, I got the travel bug hardcore and creating a sequel to this book would be a dream come true. And speaking of coffee table books- this book can be found on the coffee table or tv in many of the seasons of Frasier!

5. Reference:

“Building Construction Illustrated”, Francis D. K. Ching: All of these books were required in school for studios and building technology courses. But they are still extremely useful in the professional world. Reference materials help you understand general information like clearances, required offsets, and sizing information that becomes very useful for developing designs at the schematic level. The more integrity a design has from the beginning, the less chances of conflict when structural, mechanical, and other consultants join the team. 

6. Drawing:

“Design Drawing”, Francis D. K. Ching: This book is incredible useful for all students as it breaks down the essentials of all drawing types like plans, sections, perspectives and axonometric, and drafting techniques. I come from a strong background in hand drafting and design drawing work, so whenever I need to check again how to construct a perspective drawing, this is the reference to go to. 

7. Another Favorite:

“New Palladians”, Alireza Sagharchi and Lucien Steil: Coming from a background rich in Traditional Architecture, I have a great level of admiration for those practicing it in modern times. This book showcases some of the most prominent architects, designers, and educators and their work around the world.

8. The Basics:

“A Visual Dictionary of Architecture” and “Architecture: Form, Space, and Order”, Francis D. K. Ching: These are two more of Ching’s wonderful reference books. However, these stand apart from the other books because they are the most used books I have. Each were required the first day I of my freshmen classes and I can hardly remember a day I haven’t opened one of them up. “Form, Space, and Order” is especially handy at the beginning portions of the project the day of a charrette. Before my pen touches goes to the trace roll, this is a must look through.

9. Personalization:

What desk hutch is complete without a little personalization? It wouldn’t be home without something Notre Dame and a Lego!

Thanks for hanging in through all of that! We want to try and showcase more of the basics that go into what we do every day so look for more of these Tools of the Trade –type pieces soon.

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