Book List of the Week

Inspired by Everyday Life: Nathalie de Vries’s Book List

By Steve Kroeter October 31, 2012

Nathalie de Vries

Architect Nathalie de Vries: MVRDV (Rotterdam)

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Co-founder of the Dutch architecture and urban design practice MVRDV, Nathalie de Vries is the third designer in the collaboration between the Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD) that features book lists from the GSD and guest lecturers. De Vries will give a lecture at the GSD this Friday, November 2, and a display of books from her Designers & Books list as well as publications by and about MVRDV from the GSD’s Frances Loeb Library collections will be on view in the library through mid-November.

MVRDV, known for its progressive vision of urban space and designs for life in the cities of the future, was established in 1993 by de Vries, along with Winy Maas and Jacob van Rijs (the firm’s name is an acronym). The focus on design for the everyday urban experience also underlies De Vries’s book list choices. “Many of the books on this list are in some way about daily life and how it can inspire us,” notes de Vries in the introduction to her list.

Among the titles she includes on her book list are novelist Orhan Pamuk’s memoir Istanbul, which de Vries describes as “a personal history intertwined with the modern history of one of the most beautiful cities in the world,” and Reyner Banham’s Los Angeles: The Architecture of Four Ecologies, about which de Vries says, “On my first-ever trip to the U.S., I went to L.A. instead of New York because of this book.” And she cites Robert Venturi, Denise Scott Brown, and Steven Izenour’s Learning from Las Vegas (on the book lists of six other Designers & Books contributors), calling it “the mother of all research projects on architecture and urbanism connected to everyday life.”

Nathalie de Vries, Jacob van Rijs, and Winy Maas, eds., Agendas on Urbanism, 2012 (Equal Books)

De Vries also mentions the 2012 addition to a series of photo-compilations created by a Rotterdam photographer, Ari Versluis, and a stylist, Ellie Uyttenbroek, “on people photographed in the street, all over the world,” which show “how we all want to be different yet are still the same.”

In her book list introduction de Vries observes, “Nowadays most of us are working in countries all over the world and we have to keep our eyes open to the everyday lives of people that might not be so familiar to us.” In this vein she recommends Thomas J. Campanella’s The Concrete Dragon, as a "comprehensive and very readable history of 20 years of urbanization in China and the origins of this growth. Offers a better understanding of the context for all architects and urbanists who work in China.”

An author of several books on the work of MVRDV, Nathalie de Vries has most recently co-authored Agendas on Urbanism (Equal Books), published earlier this year.

View Nathalie de Vries’s Profile

View Nathalie de Vries’s Book List

Video of Nathalie de Vries’s November 2, 2012, Harvard GSD lecture

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