European Architecture has been inspiring and amazing us for centuries. Starting from the dreamy, white, blue-topped stepped built form in Mykonos to “The Floating City”, also known as Venice, this country has many more hidden secrets and jewels waiting to be unraveled. Europe is present at the top of most travel bucket lists and these books are must-reads for architects or architecture enthusiasts before a trip to find more meaning in the whole experience.

1. The Architecture of the City – Aldo Rossi

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The Architecture of the City_ ©MITPress

This sought-after book is one of Aldo Rossi’s best ones, which offers a unique approach to urban design theory. Rossi accentuates in his book that architecture must recognize the past and historical context and should not be looked at as an individual sole entity. He believes that cities grow in the past, present, and future. Being the first Italian Architect to receive the Pritzker Prize, he also was the founder of the Italian Architectural Movement, La Tendenza.

The book is divided into many chapters with in-depth analyses of the evolution of the city, external factors that drive cities, primary elements of a city, and the structure of urban artifacts which are all explained through examples of European cities. 

2. Landscapes of Communism: A History through Buildings – Owen Hatherley

Image 02_Landscapes of Communism_ ©PenguinBooks

Owen Hatherley describes in his book, the communist style of architecture in a bold and upfront manner, like no other architectural author. This book explains the history of communism in Europe in the 20th century through its buildings. Explained through the communist architectural style, also known as Stalinist architecture, the design features include high-rise buildings with a concrete gray finish and are seen in East Germany, a region in Hungary to Moscow in Russia. The repetitive, rigid patterns were the outcomes of the mass production technology that was very popular during that period. 

2. An Outline of European Architecture – Nikolaus Pevsner

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An Outline of European Architecture_ ©GoodReads

This particular book of Nikolaus Pevsner’s has been a favorite among students for more than 60 years as it allowed readers to see the architecture of the past. Pevsner described and detailed magnificent buildings from the fourth century onwards starting from the Romanesque style to the Baroque in the Roman Catholic Countries to post-war architecture. 

Certainly, a captivating read, An Outline of European Architecture takes you back. 

3. The Architecture of the Italian Renaissance – Peter Murray

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The Architecture of the Italian Renaissance_ ©Goodreads

Peter Murray mentions in the introduction of his book that some believe that there is a difficulty in understanding Renaissance architecture. But, he contends that this style requires knowledge and willingness to understand it. The introduction begins with a description of this particular style and the general rules and simple back-of-the-hand techniques to read Renaissance Architecture. 

To give you a small tip that is detailed in the book, it is scale that is important, not actual dimensions

Murray takes the reader along a journey in Italy from the Romanesque and Gothic style in Tuscany to Palace design in Florence and other parts to Michelangelo’s work in Florence.

4. The Four Books of Architecture – Andrea Palladio

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The Four Books of Architecture_ ©Andrea Palladio

Andrea Palladio, the greatest Italian Renaissance Architect in the 16th century had this book series first published in 1570. He mentions that he wanted to avoid verbose sentences and thus used crisp simple words that induce familiarity. 

The Four Books of Architecture is a treatise on architecture, which also means an essay or book that has evidence, facts, and conclusions. The first section details the techniques and materials of building elements. The second one encloses villa and private home designs, all designed by Palladio himself. City planning is explained in his third book and the fourth comprises five chapters that enclose church and temple design. 

5. Brunelleschi’s Dome: How a Renaissance Genius Reinvented Architecture – Ross King

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Brunelleschi’s Dome_ ©Goodreads

One of the New York Times Bestselling books, Brunelleschi’s Dome literally talks about the construction and development of Florence’s Santa Maria del Fiore, the fourth largest church in the world also commonly known as Florence Cathedral now. 

The fascinating and bewildering fact of this monument is that it was declared impossible to build due to the lack of supporting buttresses that span across domes. The proposal which came into reality after 28 years was then offered by Filipo Brunelleschi, the founding father of the Italian Renaissance and a clockmaker and goldsmith then. 

6. Theory and Design in the First Machine Age – Reyner Banham

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Theory and Design in the first Machine Age_ ©MITPress

Beginning with an introduction to the Machine Age, the book was written in the late 1950s, during which people referred to themselves living in the Jet Age or Detergent Decade, also commonly known as the Second Industrial Revolution. Banham cleverly says that “A housewife alone disposes of, more horsepower today than an industrial worker did at the beginning of the century”. This is how the book starts off, with a beautiful understanding of the Machine Age and ends with a lasting impression on the reader.

Yona Friedman. The Dilution of Architecture – Yona Friedman

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The Dilution of Architecture_ ©Goodreads

Yona Friedman was a French architect and urban planner known for his theory on “mobile architecture” that allows residents to choose the style of their dwellings which is intriguing as a choice is not something everybody can afford in today’s world. His book on the other hand is not as specific and takes on a path that involves all of Friedman’s projects. This illustrative book includes the rise and fall of the megastructure, emergency architectural construction in disaster zones, his journey with Archigram, and his influence from information technology, art, sociology, and filmmaking. 

7. Thought by Hand: The Architecture of Flores & Prats 

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Thought by Hand_ ©FloresPrats

Thought by hand is an engaging and descriptive book that encloses interesting chapters like Drawing without Erasing, Edible Architecture with Escriba, Roof gardens in the Ensanche District, and in-depth analyses of intriguing buildings and processes. It is guaranteed that you would not have seen a digital preview of a book that is as enchanting as this one. The authors describe their design philosophy as thriving in the process of doing and making things. There is no particular format or arrangement of content and it all just goes with the flow which again is in sync with their design motto. 

8. The history of the city – Leonardo Benevolo

Yet another esteemed Italian architect, teacher, and planner, Leonardo Benevolo details the history of the built environment in Europe and how cities grow and evolve. It is created for the general audience which makes it very simple to understand. European cities in the middle cities, Renaissance Art, Italian cities during the Renaissance, European colonization, and The Industrial Revolution are some of the highlights.

The history of the city – Leonardo Benevolo_ ©Robin Halwas Limited

References:

  1. Flores Prats (2020). Thought by Hand. [online]. Available at: THOUGHT BY HAND ♦ Flores i Prats (floresprats.com) [Accessed date: 17/07/21].
  2. World Architecture. Yona Friedman. The Dilution of Architecture. [online]. Available at: Yona Friedman.The Dilution of Architecture (worldarchitecture.org) [Accessed date: 17/07/21].
  3. Banham, R. (1967). Theory and Design in the First Machine Age. Available from: Banham_Reyner_Theory_and_Design_in_the_First_Machine_Age_2nd_ed.pdf (monoskop.org) .[Accessed: 17/07/21].
  4. Murray, P. (2013). The Architecture of the Italian Renaissance. Available from: The architecture of the Italian Renaissance : Murray, Peter, 1920-1992, author : Free Download, Borrow, and Streaming : Internet Archive. [Accessed: 17/07/21].
  5. Book Depository. The History of the City. [online]. Available at: THE Benevolo: the History of the City : Leonardo Benevolo : 9780262021463 (bookdepository.com) [Accessed date: 17/07/21].
  6. Yona Friedman. Yona Friedman. [online]. Available at: www.yonafriedman.nl [Accessed date: 17/07/21].
  7. Goodreads. Brunelleschi’s Dome: How a Renaissance Genius Reinvented Architecture. [online]. Available at: Brunelleschi’s Dome: How a Renaissance Genius Reinvented Architecture by Ross King (goodreads.com) [Accessed date: 17/07/21].
  8. MITPress. The Four Books on Architecture. [online]. Available at: The Four Books on Architecture | The MIT Press [Accessed date: 17/07/21].
  9. Waterstones. An Outline on European Architecture. [online]. Available at: An Outline of European Architecture by Nikolaus Pevsner | Waterstones [Accessed date: 17/07/21].
  10. Rowan Moore (2015). Landscapes of Communism review- flights of fancy in an age of revolution. [online]. (Last updated: 2015). Available at: Landscapes of Communism review – flights of fancy in an age of revolution | Art and design books | The Guardian [Accessed date: 16/07/21].
  11. Henry McNeil. (2013). The Architecture of the city – Aldo Rossi – Henry McNeil, Jack Elliot and Daniel Panico. [online]. Available at: (1) The Architecture of the City – Aldo Rossi – Henry McNeil, Jack Elliott and Daniel Panico – YouTube. [Accessed: 16/07/21].
Author

A believer in keeping the quirkiness alive, Harshini is an architect by profession, and a psychology fanatic by heart. With a strong interest in culture and the urban environment, she aims to bring them closer.

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