Phyllis Lambert

Critic; Curator; Academic; Editor; Lecturer; Executive / Architecture; Urban Design/Urban Planning / Canada / Canadian Centre for Architecture (CCA)

10 Books on Buildings, Cities, and Landscapes

The following books have always been with me. Every architect might well read them now, but timing was significant in the evolution of my work. The point is that young architects, architects tout court, must be deeply and widely engaged in reading—asking essential questions.

My reading is concerned with the interaction between building and landscape, and the social context writ large. This is true as well for the novels I list below, for which the quality of language also weighs strongly, as does the quality of form in the built world.

3 books
Herman Melville

At university Herman Melville’s Moby Dick mesmerized me by its vast range of space and ideas coupled with a cataloguing of minutiae, the sublime antiquarian language, the smell of puritanical early American settlement, the Pequod and its crew as metaphor for the United States racially and politically, and the idea of alternative learning expressed by Ishmael for whom the adventures of the Pequod were his Yale and his Harvard.

Aldous Huxley

As an adolescent I was intrigued by social conditioning described in Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, without any moral judgment, as well as the technological inventions, many of which have materialized (except the “feelies”).

Henry James

My undergraduate thesis was based on Henry James’s Notes of a Son and Brother and the necessity James felt to live in Europe. This coincided with a time when I was searching my own discomfort with American culture. Reading James became a lifelong pursuit of mine for its subtle and not so subtle America-Europe dichotomy.

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