Books Every Architect Should Read
The first architecture book I bought was Frank Lloyd Wright’s A Testament. That was in 1961, two years after the old man had died. I was 18 and in the second year of architecture school. I don’t know that I ever read the text straight through; it was Wright’s beautiful drawings that attracted me. That was the case with most of my architecture books, which were less for reading than for examining the plans and photographs. That was certainly true of the two George Braziller series, Masters of World Architecture and Makers of Contemporary Architecture. These inexpensive monographs introduced me to the work of Le Corbusier, Mies van der Rohe, Alvar Aalto, Pier Luigi Nervi, Louis Kahn, and Eero Saarinen.
One of the few books that I do remember reading—it had no illustrations—was Anonymous (20th Century), by the Italian architect Leonardo Ricci. Another was New Frontiers in Architecture: CIAM ’59 in Otterlo, a chronicle of a Team Ten meeting that consisted largely of transcripts of conversations between Aldo van Eyck, Ralph Erskine, and Alison and Peter Smithson.
After I graduated, I bought the seventh volume of Le Corbusier’s Oeuvre Complète, and one volume of the Girsberger edition of Aalto’s work.
One of the books I pored over when I was a young architect designing houses was Vincent Scully’s slim volume The Shingle Style Today, which contained illustrations and drawings of houses by Charles Moore, whom I admired greatly, as well as Robert Venturi, and a very young Robert A. M. Stern. Stern’s 1988 Modern Classicism, which included the work of a variety of post-postmodern designers, ranging from canonic classicists such as John Blatteau to more pragmatic traditionalists such as Jaquelin Robertson, was another book whose contents influenced me.
Architects will always acquire books for visual inspiration, but what follows are ten books definitely to read. They are not necessarily the “best” or the most influential, but they will repay careful attention.