Ian Ritchie

Architect; Interior Designer; Urban Designer; Product/Industrial Designer / United Kingdom / Ian Ritchie Architects

Ian Ritchie’s Book List

I love words. They are at the root of our communication and culture. Books are central to our existence. To write without reason is difficult, to write without imagination is impossible, and memories are essential to knowing and grounding oneself at any given time. Good books have these characteristics.

The following list is a sampling from libraries at my office and home.

6 books
Walter Benjamin

When this was translated from the German it was a book I had heard about and felt somewhat daunted at opening it. A vast work of thought on the birth of consumerism and the commodification of what has become everything today—education, health, housing… . Its availability in English coincided with our work designing an enormous retail and leisure complex in London, and although the title resonates Paris and “glass structures,” it has little to do with the physicality of space, but with the proximity of traders and “weatherless” strutting and strolling shoppers. The birth of retail as a leisure activity.

Charles H. Gibbs-Smith

Chronicles a remarkable building—an inspired masterpiece synthesizing space, light, technique, engineering, construction, efficiency, economy, and delight. This book, which I bought in 1992, documents through exquisite drawings and text the origin of the Crystal Palace through the final construction details. It would be possible to reconstruct the building from this book alone. It inspired me to do the Leipzig Glass Hall book in a similar way.

I can recall meeting Juhani Pallasmaa accidentally for the first time near Imperial College, London. He was with Peter Buchanan, architecture critic and writer, who wanted to show Juhani a building there. We spoke and we agreed to exchange a few writings. The Eyes of the Skin is a shining example of how prose can clarify the essentials of architecture by referring to its secrets, the need to investigate to find the mystery of why architecture touches our emotions and soul. It reminded me of my own investigations in the early 1990s to define and to reveal the haptic qualities in our built work when I began by writing a text for a conference on “touch” at the Kunst- und Ausstellungshalle der Bundesrepublik Deutschland, Bonn.

Louis I. Kahn

Louis Kahn’s simple and lucid comments on light and his architecture accompany photographs of one of the 20th century’s greatest buildings, the Kimbell Art Museum, designed by Kahn.

Gaston Bachelard

This book had become very quickly a “must read” among architectural students because it was founded upon “imagination” and “experience” of space—not its architectural physicality, but phenomenology. It gave students permission to dream new architectures based upon narratives. A seminal work.

Juhani Pallasmaa sent me this book, and with it, his commentary on a couple of my draft chapters of Being: An Architect and how well he had appreciated the sincerity and literary quality of Barack Obama’s first book, Dreams from My Father. Juhani mentions his growing appreciation of other writings and how thought is shared and layered over time. He mentions Frank R. Wilson’s book The Hand: How its Use Shapes the Brain, Language, and Human Culture (1999); and Richard Sennett’s book The Crafsman (2008).

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