Amanda Dameron

Editor / Architecture; Interior Design; Product Design / United States / Dwell Media

Design Editor’s Choice: Amanda Dameron’s Book List

Reading has always been a simple pleasure for me, something I’m driven to do. I don’t remember a time in which I didn’t know how to read—though perhaps I should say I don’t remember a time in which I didn’t know how to lose myself by simply enjoying a book.

Last year I moved from the West Coast to New York, and I barely brought any furniture or clothes with me. What I did bring was 50 boxes of books and vintage magazines. For the first time in my life, I am lucky enough to have enough bookcase space to display all of my collection.

My list contains books that have seeded my design education, books that have contributed to my understanding of and appreciation for editing, and books that have simply delighted me.

5 books
Miriam F. Stimpson

Every time I have the opportunity to travel in Europe, I peruse this book, assembled by Stimpson, a professor at Brigham Young University. Within it are simple line drawings of structures of note, organized by country, with a small paragraph of explanation accompanying the illustration. It was published in the mid-1980s and it’s an incredible resource for travelers or for lovers of modern architecture in general.

Hermann Muthesius

This is a recent acquisition. I’ve long known of Muthesius, founder of the Deutscher Werkbund, and his influence on the modern architecture movement in Germany, but I’d never read any of his own published works until I ordered this one. I was prepared for a scholarly take on the decorative arts, but what I was not prepared for is his arch wit and social commentary. This is an essential read for anyone wishing to get a sense of popular aesthetic impulses at the turn of the last century. It really helped me frame my own understanding of just how shocking the modern movement was to the prevailing winds of the time.

Lewis Mumford

I studied this book in college, but it wasn’t until I started working for Dwell that I purchased a second-hand copy for my bookshelves. This collection of 37 essays, penned by everyone from Mumford himself to Philip Johnson and Henry David Thoreau, has solidified my foundational knowledge of architecture and filled in the gaps of my design education. This is not a book that’s meant to be read cover-to-cover, at least, not for me. I read one essay at a time, and I return to them again and again. My favorite time to tackle these essays is first thing in the morning, on the train to work. Then I try to turn the ideas over in my mind over the course of the day, and I return to the same essay on my way home. I won’t say that I can quote it from memory or that I have completely mastered the ideas contained within the pages, but it’s a book that I try to challenge myself with on a regular basis.

Ai Weiwei

I picked this one up at the Monterey Design Conference last year, knowing that the architect and artist Ai Weiwei had maintained an important online diary that had contained his musings on art, politics, design, furniture, people, and a great deal many other things. I knew that the Chinese government had shut the blog down on several occasions but had done little to dampen the author’s influence both in his own country and abroad. The way that it’s written and printed, with many entries, some short, some longer, make it possible to open this book at any page and get sucked in immediately. I just opened it, and I landed on this: “Writing one’s feelings is simple, but can also be a difficult thing, for at least the following reasons: You can’t be sure this is really what you are thinking; If you write something down, it will never be anything else; It’s difficult to maintain a good writer’s posture from beginning to end.”

Ryan E. Smith

This book has aided in my technical understanding of prefab construction like no other. Written for architects and design and construction professionals, Smith’s book is packed with informative background on the methodology of prefab. Though I am not a building professional, the content presented is easy to understand and parse. Smith presents case studies, interviews with architects in the field, and the book contains a multitude of photographs and illustrations that reinforce the ideas within the pages. I return to this book again and again.

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