Book List of the Week

Books Old and New, Thin and Thick: Mels Crouwel’s Book List

By Steve Kroeter July 2, 2013

Mels Crouwel


Architect Mels Crouwel: Benthem Crouwel Architects (Amsterdam and Aachen)

Profile     Book List

A list of a dozen books Mels Crouwel sent along showcases the Dutch architect’s affinity for modern architecture classics, contemporary culture, and sprawling storytelling. Crouwel is a founding partner in Benthem Crouwel, whose high-profile portfolio of architectural and infrastructure projects in the Netherlands includes the recent renovation and expansion of the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, the restoration and expansion of the Anne Frank House, and the master plan for Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport. He calls his book list “just a selection—old and new.”

Crouwel is the eighth Designers & Books contributor to list the eight-volume Le Corbusier: Oeuvre Complète (Complete Works). He comments, “I borrowed this set of books from my father, Wim Crouwel, and read them thoroughly. Everything has already been invented by this genius architect.” Other books on modernist architecture Crouwel chooses include John and Marilyn Neuhart’s Eames Design (“beautiful overview of these all-rounders”) and Deyan Sudjic’s New Directions in British Architecture: Norman Foster, Richard Rogers, James Stirling, about which Crouwel says, “A great combination of architects and work . . . I have drawn a lot of inspiration from this book.” And “still modern” is how he describes Anatole Kopp’s 1970 study Town and Revolution: Soviet Architecture and City Planning 1917–1935.

Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam expansion, designed by Benthem Crouwel Architects (2012). Photo: Jannes Linders, courtesy of Benthem Crouwel Architects. The firm’s work has been collected in two monographs, both published by nai010, the most recent being BC AD: Benthem Crouwel 1979–2009 (2010).

Among the several novels on Crouwel’s list is Gabriel García Márquez’s 1967 epic One Hundred Years of Solitude (“real storytelling”). Another is Alfred Döblin’s Berlin Alexanderplatz, written in 1929, which tells the story of an ex-convict in 1920s Germany and was made into an acclaimed television miniseries and film by director Rainer Fassbinder in 1980.

Crouwel also cites the more recent, and seminal, S, M , L, XL by Rem Koolhaas and Bruce Mau from 1998 (also on the book lists of architects Florian Idenburg, Farshid Moussavi, and Terence Riley), for its structure in which “content and form are one.” But, he observes of this 1,376-page book—which mixes architectural projects, photos and sketches, diary excerpts, personal travelogues, fairy tales, and fables, as well as critical essays on contemporary architecture and society and arranges the material according to size and scale—it’s also the “beginning of too many thick books.”


View Mels Crouwel’s Profile

View Mels Crouwel’s Book List

See more architects’ blog posts and book lists


comments powered by Disqus