Books have always been seen as a powerful tool that can liberate an individual and transform the world. It opens up a whole new world of ideas and possibilities for everyone who believes in the magic of books. As architects, we understand the importance of books and their pivotal role in architectural education and practice. Architecture and design books act as invaluable repositories of knowledge, ideas, and inspiration for both architecture students and practitioners. The history of architecture books is a great way to understand and question the evolution of architecture.
“Books are our guardians of memory, tutors in language, pathways to reason, and our golden gate to the royal road of imagination.”
— James H. Billington
Below is an interesting list of 10 books on the history of architecture that architects should read:
1. Architecture of First Societies: A Global Perspective by Mark Jarzombek
One way to understand architecture is to see it through the lens of history, starting with First Societies. This book begins at the dawn of human society and traces the different cultural formations that developed in various parts of the world. Through photographs, maps, and drawings it illustrates how indigenous societies built and how factors like climate, geography, cultural and religious traditions, and technology affected their built environment.
2. A Global History of Architecture by Francis D.K. Ching, Mark M. Jarzombek, and Vikramaditya Prakash
This comprehensive book presents architectural history from a global perspective from 3,500 BCE to the present. It presents an in-depth understanding of how the varied styles and characteristics of each time period evolved through drawings, photographs, and maps.
3. Modern Architecture – A Critical History by Kenneth Frampton (Fourth edition)
Architectural Design reviews it as, “One of the most important works on the modern architecture we have today”. Since its first publication in 1980, it is lauded as one of the most important works on modern architecture and its origin. The fourth edition has an additional chapter that explores the effect of architecture in the age of globalization.
4. The Four Books on Architecture by Andrea Palladio
Since its first publication in 1570, it has been translated into many languages. The Four Books on Architecture by the Renaissance architect Andrea Palladio is undoubtedly one of the most important architectural books ever written. It talks about an architectural theory that we now call Palladian architecture. Through trial, error, observation, and study of Roman architecture, Palladio has laid out proportions which if followed can lead to beauty and harmony in architecture.
5. Concepts of Space in Traditional Indian Architecture by Yatin Pandya
Through the book, Yatin Pandya seeks to express the idea of spatial experiences in the Indian context. It narrates the idea of space through notions of time, space, and existence. The book later illustrates how these concepts are translated into architecture by analyzing five ancient monuments.
6. Indian Architecture by Percy Brown
There are two volumes of Indian Architecture – Volume I: Buddhist and Hindu Period and Volume II: Islamic Period. Both offer a comprehensive understanding of India’s history, both architecturally and culturally, providing insights into the different buildings, their origin, and evolution.
7. Towards a New Architecture by Le Corbusier
This classic has been a manifesto for a generation of architects, city planners, and cultural historians. It is a collection of seven essays that explores the concept of modern architecture. Le Corbusier talks about his views on industry, economics, mass production, and relation to form and function. It also includes his famous ‘the Five Points of a New Architecture’.
8. Learning from Las Vegas by Denise Scott Brown, Robert Venturi, and Steven Izenour
The book presents the authors’ analysis of Las Vegas’s strip and its common and ordinary architecture that we most often ignore. Inspired by the signs and symbols they found in the Las Vegas strip, the book is a critique of modern architecture explained through the comparison between the ‘decorated shed’ and ‘duck’. The former talks about imagery and signage to convey its program whereas the latter expresses the program through its form.
9. Genius Loci – Towards a Phenomenology of Architecture by Christian Norberg-Schulz
It is one of the most important books that talk about phenomenology in architecture. Following the philosophy of Martin Heidegger, the book describes the concept of dwelling and how the man orients and identifies himself within an environment. The idea of Genius Loci or ‘spirit of place’ and how fundamental it is in creating meaningful places where a man can dwell.
10. Delirious New York by Rem Koolhaas
A ‘Retroactive Manifesto for Manhattan’ is a critical investigation of Manhattan in which Koolhaas interprets the dynamic relationship between its architecture and culture. It describes the concept of ‘Manhattanism’ and how by the end of the 19th century, population and invasion of new technologies led to the city becoming a laboratory to test the potential of modern life: ‘Culture of Congestion’.