There are many books which have been written by architects and non-architects alike in a bid to capture the essence and experience of architecture. While some hit their mark, some didn’t resonate with the layman.
Invitation to Architecture: Discovering Delight in the World Built Around Us, a book written by two architectural veterans and published in 2014 by the Taunton Press, can be conveniently classified as one of those books that aptly hits the intended mark bull’s eye.
This review seeks to scratch the surface of the book, whet the appetite of those who haven’t heard of or read the book before and also refresh and reinforce the memory of this book in the minds of those who have.
Written in simple and understandable English, with no unnecessarily flamboyant words, this book introduces the reader to what Architecture is and why it matters amid many other main concerns related to Architecture.
In about 270+ pages, available both in print and ebook, the authors dissect topics that have age-long relevance for the built world, based on triadic principles of Architecture—Firmitas, Utilitas, Venustas—developed in the 20th century B.C. by the Roman Architect Marcus Vitruvius.
About the Authors
Max Jacobson is a founding partner of the Californian architectural firm JSWD Architects, who has been a practising architect for almost 40 years. He was also a lecturer at the University of California, Berkeley. Max is also engaged in the literature of Architecture, being the co-author of ‘Patterns of Home’ (The Taunton Press published the latter).
Shelley Brock, a licensed architect, enjoys training fresh Architecture students about the design process that leads to the end product of aesthetically pleasing buildings. With a broad foundation in art history, literature and language study, Shelley influences an increased awareness of the built world humans inhabit and how it affects daily living.
An Overview of Invitation to Architecture: Book Introduction
The book kick-starts on an open-ended note, inviting us to journey through its pages and explore the world of Architecture. Here, the authors enumerate the various categories of people the book is aimed at: Those who have an interest in Architecture and are looking towards pursuing a degree in architecture…
Also, an overview of what to expect while reading the book was given.
1. Awakening to the Pleasures of Architecture
Here, Max Jacobson and Shelley Brock open the eyes of the reader to look around and consciously observe the buildings around them. This makes one pause and reflect. It is possible to be surrounded by something and yet not savour the underlying pleasure the object was created to deliver. One can take away from this chapter’s discourse that Architecture can open the senses to a level of satisfaction only if we take the time to observe and drink it in.
2. What Is Architecture (and What Isn’t)
What is Architecture? What isn’t? Ordinary or insignificant buildings, modern iconic ones, or historic masterpieces: do these deserve the ‘architecture’ tag?
Answering this question is crucial because it makes it easier to tackle the consciousness of what we are referring to when architecture is mentioned.
This chapter settled this question in a simplified manner.
3. Firmitas: The Strength of Architecture
Starting from the essential component of architecture based on Vitruvius’ coinage, Max Jacobson and Shelley Brock enlighten one about what effect the structural system has on the form of buildings.
Architecture is meant to withstand the external pressure of the environment and the internal pressure from the people who use it. This is determined by several factors like the durability and quality of the materials used for construction etc.
This chapter covers all the typical questions about what makes buildings stand.
4. Utilitas: The Usefulness of Architecture
There is no need for a building that just gobbles up precious space without fulfilling an intended purpose for its construction.
The architectural axiom, ‘Form follows function, is discussed extensively in this chapter. Multipurpose buildings exist and so do facilities dedicated to a singular process. The usefulness of a building cumulates to affect the final form of the building.
5. Venustas: The Beauty of Architecture
This is the climax of the whole book. Here the authors, Max Jacobson and Shelley Brock explain the necessity of the ingredient of beauty as what makes architecture not just an artificial invention but an experience.
This experience cuts across all the senses of the human body:
The visual senses capture aesthetic delight; the ears capture aural pleasure; the skin enjoys thermal and tactile comfort; good scents in the building by the olfactory lobes; and psychological/mental comfort varies from person to person.
Invitation to Architecture: Discovering Delight in the World Around Us is a beautiful read for those who want a holistic view of the ever-widening scope of architecture.
What makes it even more engaging, as opposed to some textbook techniques so rampant in many Architecture-related books, is the personalised language employed. This gives a warm, cosy feel of intimate interaction between the author and the reader.
There are 150 illustrations peppered across the book’s pages, making the book appealing to visual learners. This is an excellent book for those interested, to whatever degree, in architecture.
Jacobson, M. and Brock, S. (2014) Invitation to Architecture: Discovering delight in the world built around Us. Newtown (Conn.): The Taunton Press.