The understanding of Architecture, Urbanism, and Built form is a subject that has evolved through a process of continually examining and critiquing.

This is inclusive of not only architecture but also social, political, and economic factors that influence the way we build. Writers across history have directly and indirectly contributed to this argument through their work in Art, History, and Urban Studies. It has also piqued the interest of many practicing architects that have used writing as a medium to convey their ideas and imaginations for the future of architecture and civilizations that inhabit them.

Here are Ten such Writers that all architects must know of –

1. Juhani Pallasmaa

Juhani Pallasmaa is a Finnish Architect and Professor whose work spans across architectural practice, academic instruction, and theoretical writing on architecture, philosophy, and culture. Among his many publications, his book called ‘The Eyes of the Skin – Architecture and the Senses’ is a modern-day classic that highlights the focus on vision as the primary sense in the perception of architecture. Pallasmaa’s writing also includes multiple other books and collections of essays that were shortlisted for the RIBA 2005 Book Award.

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The Eyes of the Skin by Juhani Pallasmaa
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The Thinking Hand by Juhani Pallasmaa ©

2. Italo Calvino

‘Invisible Cities’ by Italo Calvino explores 55 imaginary cities through the eyes of an explorer Marco Polo. The imagery and descriptions depict the journey of the traveler that frames the cities through stories of memories, culture, languages, and death that allows the reader’s imagination to take over. The legacy of Calvino’s work includes journalism, multiple essays and publications, and other novels and collections of short stories.

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Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino ©

3. John Berger

 John Berger was an English writer, art critic, painter, poet, and novelist famously known for his essay ‘Ways of Seeing’ that has become a text for academic reading. In his essay, Berger discusses the ideologies and meanings hidden behind imagery while critiquing the traditional western aesthetic. He highlights the political and sexist nature even in the act of looking – using the male gaze as a lens to analyze how the feminine form and image are portrayed in the media. The larger narrative of the essay aims to bring attention to the ambiguity that surrounds the perception of an image.

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Ways of Seeing by John Berger ©

4. Jane Jacobs

Jane Jacobs was an American-Canadian author and activist who engaged with the urban realm through arguments against the insensitive nature of development and slum clearance in cities. Her book ‘The Death and Life of Great American Cities’ critiques large scale urban developments that fail to recognize the complexities and requirements of diverse neighborhoods. She argues in favor of walkable streets, medium density, mixed primary users that enrich the fabric of the city through its neighborhoods. The book is a widely recommended read for Architects and Urban Planners.

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‘The Death and Life of Great American Cities by Jane Jacobs ©

5. Kevin Lynch

Kevin Lynch was an American urban planner and theorist known for his practice and academic contribution in the field. Lynch is an advocate for ‘mental mapping’ that is used by people to orient themselves in their urban environments. A five-year study in the cities of Los Angeles, Boston, and Jersey City were conducted to understand movement and inhabitation patterns in the urban realm.

The mental mapping allows the representation of cities not only through physical experiences but also lived mental images. These themes are discussed in his book ‘The Image of the City’ that has become a reference point for many researchers and urban theorists in history.

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The Image of the City by Kevin Lynch ©

6. Bruno Munari

‘Design as Art’ is an interesting read by Italian Artist and Designer Bruno Munari that focuses on the importance and influence of design in everyday life. The essays make a case for functionality and accessibility along with aesthetics grouped into five areas – Designers as stylists, Visual Design, Graphics, Industrial Design, and Research. Munari uses subjects such as lamps, road signs, posters, children’s books, and chairs to convey his reflections on the relationship between art and design. 

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Design as Art ©

7. Kenneth Frampton

Kenneth Frampton is widely regarded as a pioneer in Architectural criticism and history of Modernist Architecture. His work includes books (Modern Architecture: A Critical History – 1980, Studies in Tectonic Culture – 1995). Frampton’s essay ‘Towards a Critical Regionalism’ is a critique of the mediocrity and commonness of the urban form as a result of globalization, mass consumer culture, and how it has reflected on Architecture. This critical stance presents an essential argument in favor of regionalist urban development that is considerate of the diversity of place, climate, culture, and topography.

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Modern Architecture by Kenneth Frampton ©

8. Jimenez Lai

Jimenez Lai is an Architect, Graphic Designer, and Author of ‘Citizens of No Place’, an architectural graphic novel with short stories on Architecture and Urbanism. The language of the novel emulates the manga-style storyboards. It is a critical account of ‘paper architecture’ and uses a unique voice for storytelling as a medium for architectural theory and critique.

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Citizens of No Place by Jimenez Lai ©

9. Lewis Mumford

Lewis Mumford was an American sociologist, historian, and literary critic known for his contribution to architecture and urban studies through his writing and research. Among his books, The City in History is an award-winning book that uses the example of a medieval city as the ideal city and compares the modern city to a Roman city that eventually ended in collapse. It emphasizes on the city as a product of nature itself and highlights the crises faced by civilization due to insensitive development and detachment from the natural environment.

The City in History by Lewis Mumford ©

10. Francis D.K.Ching

‘Architecture: Form, Space, and Order’ by Francis D.K.Ching is a beautifully illustrated visual reference to the principles of Architecture. It is a classic introduction to the architectural vocabulary and helps examine and understand the form and space of the built environment. It encourages the reader to analyze the built environment with a more evocative understanding of architecture. Ching also uses his blog Seeing.Thinking.Drawing to curate personal sketches of various localities around Washington State.

Architecture: Form, Space, Order ©

Ami Mody is a graduate from KRVIA (Mumbai) practicing as an Architect and Interior Designer. She is a voracious reader, interested in the themes of Gender, Space and Politics and their intersection with the built form. She believes the greatest joy in life comes from travelling and a good meal.

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