Book List of the Week

Overlaps, New Connections, and New Readings: Farshid Moussavi’s Book List

By Steve Kroeter October 23, 2012
Farshid Moussavi


Architect Farshid Moussavi: Farshid Moussavi Architecture (London)

Profile     Book List

Architect Farshid Moussavi—who will be the speaker this Thursday, October 25, in the Fall 2012 lecture series of the Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD)—is the second designer in the collaboration between the GSD and Designers & Books that features book lists from a variety of GSD guest lecturers. Concurrent with this collaboration, a display of selections from Moussavi’s Designers & Books list as well as publications from the library’s collections by and about the architect and her work are on view at the GSD’s Frances Loeb Library through October 26.

Frances Loeb Library of the Harvard Graduate School of Design. Exhibit of books from Farshid Moussavi’s Designers & Books list and publications by and about Moussavi and her work from the library’s collections.

The books Moussavi includes on her list have influenced her thinking about formal relationships—as an architect, as a reader, and as a writer. In the introduction to her book list she says, “I am interested in books that can be read in different ways, that offer different insights depending on the spatial position you adopt within them. This way of reading inspired my book The Function of Form, whose chapters are related through a theme but can be read independently of one another; similarly the pages can be read as double spreads or as a series of left-hand pages or right-hand pages.”

Farshid Moussavi, ed., The Function of Form, 2009 (Harvard Graduate School of Design/Actar)

Among the titles she cites are Walter Benjamin’s The Arcades Project, an exploration of 19th-century Parisian glass-roofed arcades through quotations and other reflections, about which Moussavi comments, “The fragments of texts are presented side by side in order to present the possibility of chance connections by individual readers.” She also includes Rem Koolhaas and Bruce Mau’s groundbreaking S, M, L, XL, saying, “This book arranges texts, projects, and images by OMA about the contemporary city according to scale, rather than time or subject. In doing so, rather than simply representing them as they happened, it opens each to overlaps, new connections, and new readings.”

Moussavi’s interest in the investigation of form enters into the fiction choices on her book list, too. There is J. M. Coetzee’s Diary of a Bad Year, which presents three different stores that are related in a way that is “usually unclear, but the form invites you to make connections between texts that share a page.” Moussavi notes that the chapters of Julio Cortázar’s Hopscotch “can be read either one after another or by ‘hopscotching’ through them. Different readers’ narrative choices will produce different endings, rather than one decided by the author.”

And she includes The Egyptian Book of the Dead, which “reveals ancient Egyptians’ belief in each person’s individual and unique journey into the afterlife. Rather than believing in a single route to the afterlife, they allowed each person to compose a book of their chosen spells and prayers to guide their particular journey.”

All of these books—and more (Moussavi told us that creating her book list was “an addictive exercise”)—she continues in her book list introduction, “are not tributes to the thoughts of an author; rather they are nonlinear in their structure in order to trigger different kinds of ideas and understandings.”

View Farshid Moussavi’s Profile     View Farshid Mousssavi’s Book List

Video of Farshid Moussavi’s October 25, 2012, Harvard GSD lecture

See more architects’ book lists


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