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.

35 books
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.

Ruth Benedict

I read this book in 1969 and it gave me my first insight into how an anthropologist recorded and interpreted observations of a very different culture, one which I was about to visit and engage with in 1970.

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.

John Berger

I saw a couple of the BBC programs that were delivered by John Berger and was astonished at his insights and lucidity. I have since read many of his books, the latest being Railtracks—a wonderful poetic conversation and photographic adventure.

John Berger

I love Berger’s writing—he is an artist who understands other artist’s ambitions and can describe and analyze them with acute and poetic sensitivity. In this book his critical eye and conscience reveal human political resistance to global economics and military activity.

Filip de Boeck
Marie-Françoise Plissart

A remarkable research over many years, and an analysis of the Democratic Republic of Congo capital city, into the nature of physical urban reality but also that invisible city of the mind and the imagination and how cultural strategies help overcome the breakdown in the city’s infrastructures.

Robert Burns

The first book of poems I received. My father was born in Edinburgh and I sensed his desire that I should know my “roots” and the significance of Burns to the Scots.

J. P. Donleavy

A freedom to express what religion has wished to suppress—and although I am not an avid reader of novels, I found this one enthralling and particularly enjoyed the ditties at the end of each chapter.

Joffre Dumazedier

This book was recommended to me by Peter Wilmott, one of my readers, while I was studying free-time leisure space at the Polytechnic of Central London Planning School. Dumazedier, a French sociologist, seemed to be ahead of others in searching for a more meaningful and less wasteful evolution of mass leisure.

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.

Jean Giono

A fascinating postwar essay and a parable that I found irresistible: a sole planter (living with nature and nurturing life) is contrasted with those who make war—how one person can make a significant change in our world through the simplest of repeated action. Just brilliant and one of my all-time favorite stories.

Edward Goldsmith Editor

A collection of essays on Man and Nature, Politics of Food Aid, Nuclear Energy after Chernobyl, Man and Gaia, Acid Rain and Forest Decline, and Water Fit to Drink are accompanied by 400 articles on subjects ranging from additives to zero population—and a Pandora’s box of information on our planet. It is also an evidence-based collection of environmental damage across the globe that challenges the current political and economic systems that lies at the heart of this crisis.

Richard L. Gregory

I became interested in the biology of seeing, or how images are translated. This book was recommended when I was a student in Liverpool in the late 1960s and gave me a fascinating introduction to how the brain translates images. Neuroscience was to become a subject with which I would get far more involved starting in 2009 with helping to realize the Sainsbury Wellcome Centre for Neural Circuits and Behaviour.

Willy Brandt

A “stand-up” for global justice book that appealed because of the caliber of those who helped inform and shape it as a manifesto for equality.

James Joyce

I just wanted to discover an utterly different way of writing. Years later, Dublin became a very significant city in my life, and I still derive huge pleasure from its writers and from Dubliners’ wit.

Julie Houis et Collectif

An extraordinary exhibition touching on all the great artists involved with “dynamic and kinetic” art, and beautifully captured in this catalogue—a jewel.

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.

Jerzy Kosinski

This short story is a wonderfully satirical view of the unreality of America’s media culture. It captured the emergence and domination of TV upon individuals and mass culture. I just about managed to read it all out loud in one go despite crying with laughter throughout. It was published in 1970, when I was writing about “leisure” and that society (families) seemed to be retreating to the living room—the TV—rather than engaging in social spaces beyond.

Sorley Maclean

I discovered the writings of Sorley MacLean during a short working holiday in Raasay, a finger of an island lying between the Isle of Skye and the mainland. MacLean was a poet who wrote in Gaelic about his home and the struggles of the islanders during the 18th- and 19th-century clearings, but in this volume he wrote about his inner conflict and angst during the Spanish Civil war and World War II—whether to go and fight or to stay home and alive with his loves. His moral dilemma set in a historic and social context is so beautifully expressed in this book of love lyrics.

George B. Mair

At the age of 15, I began to be fascinated with other cultures, and Russia was prominent in the news—space, Communism, the Cold War. This book was about the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Herbert Marcuse

I read this more or less at the same time as I did The Making of the English Working Class. I sensed the relationship between a society that had evolved but I knew not, and a society being challenged by the one I was living in. Technology was the dominant theme of the time (and still is), and passivity seemed to be the consequence. As my friend Cedric Price once said, “Technology is the answer. What was the question?”

Marshall McLuhan

The seminal book that asked what communications are and how they affect us. I read the book again (it is at times impenetrable, like reading Joyce for the first time) before teaching “communications” at the Polytechnic of Central London’s Planning School.

Arthur I. Miller

A book that captures how aesthetic ideas are not the sole domain of the artist, but also of the scientist, and how these two giants of the 20th century, Einstein and Picasso, were essentially working on the same problem: how to better describe the universe’s geometry once it was clear that the classical view was no longer sufficient, Einstein through relativity and Picasso through Cubism.

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.

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).

Michel Pastoureau

The first book I read about a single color—my favorite (with 480nm wavelength being the blue I enjoy the most). It presents not the physics of blue but the origins, its history seen through the social, economic, cultural, and religious perspectives woven into a fascinating story. (Translation of Bleu, Histoire d’une Couleur.)

Robert M. Pirsig

This was already a cult book when I bought a copy, and its combination of philosophy and emotion through conversations was akin to ongoing seminars and discussions I was having in the mid-1970s, except this was a written reference.

Charles A. Reich

One of a number of books I read in the early 1970s as I investigated commentators, critics, and writers on the emerging youth culture (in the U.S. and Europe) that challenged the conventional “paths to success,” and sought a more collective, shared approach, which in parallel was questioning the power of technology to support yet also control our lives.

Mark Rothko
Edited and with an introduction by Christopher Rothko

Having visited the Whitechapel Art Gallery not long ago to listen to an archive recording of John Hoyland talking about his art, he mentioned Rothko, whom he knew. I found this book of his writings in the gallery’s bookshop. It has been a revelation and convinced me of Rothko’s strength and breadth of mind.

John Seymour
Herb Girardet

I was asked by Herb Girardet if I would like to chair the book’s launch at the Ecology Centre in London. It was a major wake-up call, in the vein of North-South.

Susan Sontag

As with Marshall McLuhan’s Understanding Media, this book appealed because I thought that it would offer insights into our society and the emergence of a “thin” world where image (not content, argument, or even words) was becoming the dominant cultural expression. It did not disappoint.

Lucien Stryk

I saw this book at John Hoyland’s studio—it had several pages tabbed by John—and I read a few of them. This book has given me a new and richer perspective on John, the painter and very special friend.

Jun’ichiro Tanizaki

As light had always been the material of architecture for me, and about which I was increasingly passionate, this book appealed because it presented the subtlety of light’s absence.

E. P. Thompson

This masterpiece of understanding how society evolved through shared values between those whose interests differ fundamentally from the values of others (employee/employer) and how society changes. The book was seminal in giving me a historical background to my own world in England, and showing how identity and passion to make one’s own life was a fundamental aspect of creating society, and changing it.

Theodore Zeldin

I cannot recall who suggested I read this book, but what a delight—a cascade of experiences written with insight and wit (I could not put it down)—a dance through history revealing insights and hence futures way beyond the few female characters the author explores in different eras.

comments powered by Disqus