Ever since the lockdown, life seems to have suddenly slowed down for most of the people around the world. Every person we know has at some point or the other started thinking now what? Most of us reworked our working systems, learning systems and even rescheduled our timings to be able to cope up with the balance of pandemic family life and work balance. As architects and designers, this becomes an interesting pause phase, because although we think and create on the virtual, but we build in and for the physical. Giving us some extra time to recreate and rejuvenate ourselves.
Reading is an excellent way to reconnect with the processes of building fantasies for our clients. Here I have created a list of eight very different, radical and light architectural reads one can do during the grim times of pandemic and lockdown in between the regular chores:
1. Yes is More, Archinomic on Architectural Evolution by Bjarke Ingels Group.
“Yes is More is a play on words that represents the company’s ethos and sums up its irreverent attitude towards excessive formalism, and its determination to involve the population at large in its creations.”
This one’s on the top of my recommendation because it is not your regular architectural read. This 400-page Manifesto by the BIG, yes you read that right, 400 page long read is amost interesting page-turner because it is in the form of a comic book. Taking you through the thoughts, processes and results of several projects by the group involving various dynamics and challenges turning into radical and functional spaces. Do not get disheartened by the number of pages, because this book will keep you hooked for more on every page flip. You will see Bjarke Ingels as your narrator taking you through the pages of this dynamic volume.
2. Sapiens, A Brief History of Mankindby Yuval Noah Harari
“About 70,000 years ago, organisms belonging to the species Homo sapiens started to form even more elaborate structures called cultures. The subsequent development of these human cultures is called history.”
Although not a book on architecture, this comes second on my list just for the amazing and simple language used in the book to explain the entire history of humankind right from the evolution to the current day. The 368-pagebook is interesting for architects because it takes a multidisciplinary approach covering the nuances of evolution through the history, biology, philosophy and even economics. A must-read for history enthusiasts and architecture students.
3. The Social Life of Small Urban Spacesby William H. Whyte
“What has fascinated us most is the behavior of ordinary people on city streets — their rituals in street encounters, for example, the regularity of chance meetings, the tendency to reciprocal gestures in street conferences, the rhythms of the three-phase goodbye.”
This book is an essential read for those interested in understanding the dynamics of spaces and people. This 125-page, 30-year old book (published in 1980) is a compilation of the findings done by the experimental research group called The Street Life Project. The launch of this book by William H. Whyte brought about a revolution in the way public spaces were planned and studied till then. A personal favourite, also on the syllabi of a lot of architecture and planning faculty; this book has an accompanied 55- minute long film throwing insights into the urban life.
The Street Life Project has brought about the Project for Public Spaces who continue to do Whyte’s work on public life.
4. The Life of an Architect… and what he leaves behind by MikeHermans
“Engineers take all the fun out of Designing.”
This is a comic stripcompilation about a fictional architect called Archibald and his daily struggles in his life. Archibald runs an architectural practice with an engineer partner Gerald.These 136 pages of satiric humour can be read at one sitting or in parts as separate comics.
But this one will definitely take you back to your own experiences with your office colleagues, contractors, vendors, clients and all the other people involved leaving you nostalgic and wanting to go back to your own architectural practices and offices.
5. 101 Things I Learned in Architecture SchoolbyMatthew Frederick.
This book by Matthew Frederick and published by MIT press is a special recommendation for architectural students. 101 precise lessons with simple language and graphics for topics related to drawing, design, thinking processes and even presentations. This book can be used as a manual for students to navigate their architectural studios and curriculum and for practitioners as an inspiration to go back to the basics and simplicity.
6. Anime Architecture: Imagined Worlds and Endless Megacities by StefenRiekeles
For all you Anime and Manga loving architects and designers out there, this is the perfect book to satisfy both your passions. This book is a visual delight showcasing the cityscapes and buildings in the most influential anime movies.
“Part of what makes anime so popular are the memorable and breathtakingly detailed worlds designed by the creators, from futuristic cities of steel to romantic rural locales. Anime Architecture presents the fantastic environments created by the most important and revered directors and illustrators of Japanese animated films, such as Hideaki Anno, Koji Morimoto, and Mamoru Oshii.”
Whatever it be, keep your anime library nearby, because you never know, you might be tempted to see some of these movies again.
7. The Fountain Headby Ayn Rand
“I don’t wish to be the symbol of anything. I’m only myself.”
This one’s here especially for nostalgia sake. Most architects have read The Fountainhead either before or after joining architecture. For those who are coming across this for the first time, this 1943 novel has an architect protagonist who is a hardcore modernist and refuses to compromise his principles. It is believed that Ayn Rand was majorly influenced by the works and principles of architect Frank Lloyd Wright while writing this book.
8. Da Vinci Codeby Dan Brown
The last book on the list is for all the mystery and fiction lovers with architectural backgrounds. A symbologist, a cryptologist, mysterious messages, murder and timebound saving the world along with architectural descriptions peppered all over the novel is a perfect formula for a popular narrative. Although this book has grabbed a lot of criticism due to its inaccurate or exaggerated description of art and architecture, it is still a fast-paced read for people who enjoy fictional stories in architectural backdrops.
Wishing you all a wonderful and lovely reading time during the lockdown. Grab a cup of tea or coffee, relax and start reading!