Jorge Silvetti

Architect; Urban Designer / United States / Machado and Silvetti Associates

Jorge Silvetti’s Book List

These are the books that come to my mind when I think about the best books I’ve read. They cover most periods of my reading life since I was a teenager in Argentina. They have indelibly shaped my understanding of the world, of people and what they do and make and why, and as such they have also shaped the way I think and perceive. Equally important, these books have given me immense emotional and intellectual pleasure. 

The order they came to mind was not chronological in the sequence they were read over decades—but was more a result of free associations between one book and the next, and I find that interesting and revealing. The 17 books came to mind in the following order. In addition, the Roman numerals that appear in parentheses after each title identify the order in which I read the books: (i) signifying the ones I read first; (iii) the ones I read last; and (ii) the ones in between.

1. The Savage Mind (ii)
2. Tristes Tropiques (ii)
3. Italian Journey (ii)
4. Ficciones (i)
5. My Last Sigh (Mi último suspiro) (iii)
6. Frankenstein (iii)
7. The Leopard (Il gattopardo) (i)
8. Facundo (i)
9. Mythologies (ii)
10. The Pleasure of the Text (ii)
11. The Mathematics of the Ideal Villa and Other Writings (i)
12. Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture (ii)
13. Theories and History of Architecture (Teoria e storia dell’archittetura) (ii) and 14) Interpreting the Renaissance (Ricera dell’Rinascimento) (iii)
15. The Architecture of the City (iii)
16. For Marx (ii)
17. The Order of Things (ii)

17 books
Roland Barthes

The best, sharpest, and most profound articulation of how societies create myths and live with and by them, and how to dismantle them.

Roland Barthes

A profound analysis and reflection about how text and readers interact.

A book that confirmed and outlined brilliantly what I was beginning to suspect and intuit about architecture.

Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley

A moving, enthralling testimony of an artist’s ability to interpret and convey through fiction some of the most profound issues of an era.

Giuseppe Tomasi Di Lampedusa
Archibald Colquhoun Trans.
Gioacchino Lanza Tomasi Foreword

The best historical novel (reality-based fiction) for understanding the evolution of a society.

Claude Lévi-Strauss

The second book that came to mind in making my list for Designers & Books. The best comprehensive, multi-genre book (literature-history-science-autobiography) I have ever read.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Translated by W. H. Auden
Translated by Elizabeth Mayer

Like Tristes Tropiques, a travel diary and a masterful description of the experience of viewing and thinking.

Manfredo Tafuri

This was the best and most startling discovery of what a new practice of “theory” might offer architecture.

Louis Althusser

The best critical reading of Marx that explains broadly how we construct ideologies.

Michel Foucault

This book elicited the startling realization that we are not innocent in our relationships with nature and humankind.

Jorge Luis Borges

The book through which I discovered the crucial importance fiction has in the understanding of reality.

Sarmiento Domingo Faustino

The founding book of Latin American literature and a compelling argument that helps one to understand the good and evil forces that shape societies.

Aldo Rossi

A brilliant reading of the city as a construction of culture and a form of collective memory that exposes the poverty of most current planning ideologies.

Manfredo Tafuri

History of architecture at its best.

Claude Lévi-Strauss

The first book to come to mind when making my list for Designers & Books. Perhaps because it made me understand for the first time what makes us human.

Luis Buñuel

A remarkable autobiography and a lesson in self-reflection by a great artist. How an author makes fiction a normal part of his life.

Colin Rowe

The two original early articles in this book are the texts from which I Iearned how to read buildings.

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