Peter Pennoyer

Architect / United States / Peter Pennoyer Architects

Peter Pennoyer’s Book List

I may not be wired like most architects because I find words even more evocative than pictures. So my complete book list—my top 100—would be heavy on fiction and poetry. Working back, my favorite authors of the recent 100 years or so (skipping many great writers on design), would include Roberto Bolano, William Gaddis, Walker Percy, Frederick Buechner, Anthony Powell, Robert Musil, Paul Bowles, Evelyn Waugh, J. G. Farrell, Edith Wharton, and Isabelle Bolton. Instead, I am limiting my list to ten books that made a mark on me as I became an architect. Some are high, some are low, but these were books that stand out as touchstones.

10 books
Paul Marie Letarouilly

This reprint of etchings by Paul Letarouilly of many of the greatest buildings of Renaissance Rome was invaluable as I tried to understand the complexities of iconic buildings that stretched my concept of classically inspired architecture.

Tom Wolfe

Just passing 30 years after its first publication, Tom Wolfe’s acerbic attack on modernism remains relevant.

Essay by Leland M. Roth

One of the great architectural monographs of an American practice, this book was a great source for helping me better understand the buildings that I thought I knew well from New York to Boston. Though thin on the earliest work of the firm, many of the greatest civic buildings in America are documented here. I spent many hours poring over the plates.

Robert A. M. Stern
Gregory Gilmartin
Thomas Mellins
With David Fishman
With Raymond Gastil

This is my favorite volume in the ten-million-plus-word series of books on New York architectural history, which includes New York 1880, New York 1900, New York 1960, and New York 2000, written by Robert A. M. Stern, et al. Architecture and urbanism between the two world wars are illuminated by this exhaustive study based on contemporary articles and penetrating research. Many lesser-known gems are brought to life, and what was built is understood in the context of the age and the intentions of the designers. Extensive footnotes make for extremely useful fuel for further research into some of my favorite buildings in New York City.

Corrected and with notes by Claude Perrault

I had a copy of The Ten Books on Architecture by Vitruvius (a 1960 Dover edition that I came across in 1975 in my family library) and was fascinated by the illustration of the orders. Later, I was fortunate to make friends with Lucien Goldschmidt, a book dealer on Madison Avenue in New York, who kept an eye out for architectural treatises. In 1979 I was able to acquire from him this beautiful edition by the polymath Claude Perrault, who designed the west facade of the Louvre. I love the large format, the rag paper, and the fine lines in the plates.

Robert A. M. Stern
Edited by Cynthia Davidson

A fascinating and insightful book on the postmodern era.

Paolo Portoghesi

Written by a brilliant scholar and architect, this book is a feast of photographs and drawings of Baroque Rome.

A.S.G. Butler

These three mammoth volumes document the work of the great British architect who was an inspiration when I was in Bob Stern’s office in the early 1980s. There were deft moves in plans, especially in houses, that seemed enticingly sensual compared to the prudish minimalism of many of the modernists practicing then. This work showed that classical and vernacular influences could be synthesized to create an architecture that was an inventive reinterpretation of precedent.

Stewart Brand

As the youngest of four children growing up in the 1960s and ’70s, I was exposed early to the best and worst of the counterculture, so it was not surprising that our house had a couple of copies of this splendidly bizarre catalogue (which I filched from my sister in 1969) of everything needed to live-survive-compost-build-meditate-activate in the psychedelic era. I was smitten by the geodesic domes and stimulated to think of the kind of home that could be cobbled together from products (and ideas) in this catalogue.

Andrew Alpern

This compilation of plans of buildings in New York held a deep fascination for me and would lead me to write a paper on artists’ studio buildings. I would gaze at the plans and summon interiors, furnishings, and characters to inhabit these places.

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