Witold Rybczynski

Critic; Academic; Writer / Architecture / United States / School of Design, University of Pennsylvania

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. . . . View the complete text
10 books
Léon Krier

An anti-modern architectural rant. Krier’s language is inflammatory but his drawings are delightful, and the combination of the two produces the best kind of indignant propaganda. His ideas about urbanism, especially, are compelling.

Raymond Unwin

Unwin raised town planning to the level of an art. His wide-ranging urban manual is full of useful information and encapsulates a lifetime of practice. Should be read in conjunction with Camillo Sitte’s The Art of Building Cities. I wish more new urbanist planners would read these books and broaden the palette of what is sometimes a rather narrow range of solutions.

Christopher Alexander
Sara Ishikawa
Murray Silverstein

You don’t have to agree with the author’s philosophy—or share his taste in architecture—to appreciate this compact and sensible distillation of architectural wisdom. The roughly 250 patterns cover towns and neighborhoods as well as buildings. Something every young architect should own.

Venturi, who knows a lot of architectural history and has an extremely good eye, brings the past to life. His lucid book predates the descent into obfuscatory jargon that bedevils most theoretical texts. Still a stimulating read, even if the movement it helped to launch—postmodernism—fizzled out.

Frank Lloyd Wright
Bruce Brooks Pfeiffer Editor

I have to include something by the old wizard. Wright’s own books are flawed by his self-promotional histrionic style, but he produced many important essays and lectures, which are gathered here together in one volume. It spans from “The Art and Craft of the Machine” (1901) to “The Natural House” (1954), which remains a practical guide by one of the great house builders of all time.

Peter Collins

Collins was my architecture professor at McGill, and this wide-ranging history of architectural ideologies examines the 200 years from 1750 to 1950. For three years I memorized buildings and architects, assisted by a well-thumbed copy of Bannister Fletcher. Collins’s quirky but razor-sharp intelligence is apparent throughout Changing Ideals, which punctures many modernist dogmas. The “gastronomic analogy” still fascinates.

Edward R. Ford

Art historians merely describe the appearance of buildings, whereas Ford shows how they were actually built. A combination of philosophy and technological history, this book discusses iconic buildings of early modern architecture, from H. H. Richardson to Frank Lloyd Wright. The comparison of the (sophisticated) building technology of Beaux-Arts architects with the (crude) details of the early modernists is particularly fascinating. A companion volume covers the period 1928–1980.

Peter Thornton

Architects should know history, not only the history of buildings but also the history of interiors—not at all the same thing. Thornton, of the Victoria and Albert Museum, provides a magisterial survey, examining the architectural shell as well as the loose furnishings within, and illustrating each period with contemporaneous paintings, drawings and (for the latter part of the nineteenth century) photographs.

Vincent Scully

If you never took Scully’s course at Yale, or had the privilege of hearing him lecture, this book is a good substitute. This is not a conventional history, rather a series of essays that examine the intersection of the built environment and the natural world: Greek temples, Italian urbanism, French classical gardens.

Geoffrey Scott

Scott (1884–1929) was a scholar and garden designer who worked on Bernard Berenson’s garden at I Tatti, and wrote this lovely evocation of the Baroque that contains important insights into the nature of architecture and how buildings touch us.

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