I have always turned to books not only for a sense of escape but also to better grapple with the problems that face me, which nine times out of ten involve some type of creative block. At times when I couldn’t wrap my head around a project I was working on, I turned to the words of my favorite architects, to understand what they thought of the daunting process. Somehow, words written on a page have always had empathy for the problems I go through. The architecture books I read helped me not only overcome my block but helped me start thinking about design critically. They helped me understand the process of design and how I could better understand where to begin while thinking of a problem. A few of the books that inspired me during my days in college and will continue to do so are listed below.
Theory and design process
1. Thinking Architecture by Peter Zumthor
This book is a collection of five essays by Peter Zumthor, an acclaimed architect whose philosophy of phenomenalism continues to inspire me while creating spaces, in which he talks about a lot of different things from human memory, to the lines of a poem, all of which helped him experience and think about the spaces he lives in. The book has an atmospheric quality about it which helps one better understand the design approaches Zumthor is talking about. The essays read almost like a series of snapshots throughout Zumthor’s life, and how these have affected his spatial impressions.
“Architecture is exposed to life. If its body is sensitive enough, it can assume a quality that bears witness to the reality of past life.”
2. Towards a New Architecture by Le Corbusier
As almost any professor will tell you, this book is an absolute essential when it comes to understanding the mystery that is modern architecture. The book showcases the radical ideas Corbusier had for his time and gives a unique perspective into how he believed architecture should function. Most architecture, since this book was published, either follows its dictates or tries to defy them, which makes this book a must-read to understand design today.
“The house is a machine for living in.”
3. A Place In The Shade by Charles Correa
As a student in India, coming across books that vividly talk about design and its practice in a vernacular context is hard to come across. However, in this collection of essays, Correa explores architectural concerns in India with wonderfully detailed examples and insights into not only buildings but cities and the people who live in them. It is interesting to look at ‘how to think critically while designing’ within an Indian context. `
4. Ways of Seeing by John Berger
Admittedly, this is a book that talks about how to critically appreciate art. But, as most architects will tell you, what we do is an amalgamation of the traits of art and science. This book helped me gain an understanding of how to view the design from a historical context. Scale and perspective were also important recurring themes in the book which could easily be translated into design.
“The spectator-buyer is meant to envy herself as she will become if she buys the product. She is meant to imagine herself transformed by the product into an object of envy for others, an envy which will then justify her loving herself.”
5. Architecture and Disjunction by Bernard Tschumi
This book, another collection of essays by Bernard Tschumi attempts to talk about key issues in the architecture of the day from deconstructivism to the notions of ‘event’ and ‘program’. The book tries to realign the ‘making of architecture’ with the new world culture which is vastly characterized by its heterogeneity. The book will make you question everything and get you to see the world around you in a new light.