Book List of the Week

Book List of the Week: David Rockwell

Inspired by the magic of theater

By Steve Kroeter December 22, 2014
David Rockwell, Architect, Interior Designer, Scenic Designer: Rockwell Group (New York) (Photo: © Brigitte Lacombe 2014)
View David Rockwell’s Book List

We recently received a list of a dozen books that have inspired David Rockwell—the acclaimed architect of restaurants such as New York’s famed Nobu Fifty Seven and hotels like the W, and the set designer of Oscar ceremonies and award-winning Broadway productions including Hairspray and the currently running Kinky Boots.

The books represent, Rockwell says in the introduction to his list, “people and things that have influenced my approach to design over the past 30 years—from childhood memories to the magic of theater to some extraordinarily creative individuals.”

Among Rockwell’s book selections, which range in topic from theater to architecture to politics to cooking, are John Loring’s Joseph Urban—Rockwell calls Urban “one of my favorite designers, whose profound interest in theater drove his architectural work.” Another book on the list is The Theater Art of Boris Aronson by Frank Rich. Aronson, says Rockwell, “was unquestionably the greatest scenic designer of the 20th century.” Still another choice is the newly published Pop-Up City by Jeroen Beekmans, based on a blog,, which explores the latest designs, trends, and ideas that shape the city of the future. Rockwell comments about the book, “Ever since seeing my first Broadway show as a child, I’ve been fascinated with how ephemeral experiences can have as much impact as permanent structures. I’m always dreaming up and experimenting with portable and temporary structures, so I love this collection of pop-up urban interventions.” View all of David Rockwell’s book list.

Detail of interior spread from What If...?: The Architecture and Design of David Rockwell, edited by Chee Pearlman; texts by David Rockwell, et al., 2014 (Metropolis Books). Photo: courtesy of Rockwell Group

Rockwell is the author of three books, including What If…? The Architecture and Design of David Rockwell (Metropolis Books, 2014), planned for release this December 31 and available for pre-order.

The book showcases a range of Rockwell’s work at the intersection of architecture and theater—35 projects marked by a sense of play and curiosity that drives the designer to continually ask, “What if...?” Edited by Chee Pearlman, the book, which celebrates 30 years of Rockwell’s career, includes texts by playwright and screenplay writer John Guare, director and producer Jack O’Brien, and critic Justin Davidson, as well as a conversation between Rockwell and architect Elizabeth Diller.

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