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Thinkin' 'bout buildin's
June 7, 2010 10:24 AM   Subscribe

Recommend me stuff to read to help me learn how to think about architecture.

I want to be able to increase my understanding of architecture. I find architecture to be a pretty fascinating topic when it pops up on Metafilter, and I know there are some smart people out here who can help point me in the direction of resources.

In a sense, I want to be able to develop a vocabulary or way of thinking that can help me express what it is that makes me like or dislike a building. At the same time, I'd love to learn some of the underlying concepts that might change the way I think about certain building forms. I know that there must be books or major articles that can help me start thinking on this topic, but I don't really have the background to know where to start looking.

In looking through previous AskMe's, I have found reference to Alexander's "A Pattern Language", and I will be grabbing that shortly. I have access to academic journals and libraries, so recommend away!
posted by barnacles to Society & Culture (14 answers total) 38 users marked this as a favorite
101 Things I Learned in Architecture School.
posted by Jaltcoh at 10:33 AM on June 7, 2010

Also from Alexander, look at The Timeless Way of Building. It establishes the concept of what a Pattern Language is, and puts it all in context.

Alain de Botton's 'The Architecture of Happiness' is a great introduction.

I've been meaning to grab a copy of Peter Zumthor's "Thinking Architecture," but I haven't read it yet. I think it might be a good fit for you too.
posted by jon1270 at 10:36 AM on June 7, 2010

I'm like you. Yesterday I stumbled across a book called "How Buildings Work" that looks like just the thing.
posted by neuron at 10:42 AM on June 7, 2010

The Poetics of Space, Bachelard

Landscape and Memory, Schama

Why Buildings Stand Up, Salvadori

Towards a New Architecture,
Le Corbusier

The Image of the City,

Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture, Venturi

History of Modern Architecture,

Studies in Tectonic Culture, Frampton

European Architecture 1750 - 1890,

Architecture: Form, Space, & Order, Ching

Modern Architecture since 1900,

Architecture and Modernity, Heynen

Programs and Manifestoes on 20th Century Architecture,

Architecture Culture 1943 -1968, Ockman

Architecture Theory Since 1968, Hays

Differences: Topographies of Contemporary Architecture, SolĂ -Morales
posted by xod at 11:10 AM on June 7, 2010 [1 favorite]

I really enjoyed Stewart Brand's How Buildings Learn (IANAA).
posted by box at 11:11 AM on June 7, 2010

The Royal Institute of British Architects has a good bookshop, with staff recommendations.

- Books Every Architectural Practice Needs.
- Theory and history
- Architects and their Work
- World Architecture
posted by MuffinMan at 11:15 AM on June 7, 2010

Your profile has you in the Bay Area. I can't recommend William Stout Architectural Books highly or often enough.
posted by xod at 11:37 AM on June 7, 2010

The Chicago Architecture Foundation has a reading list for people training to be docents. Most of the books are Chicago-centric, but here are the general ones:

*Ching, Francis D.K. A Visual Dictionary of Architecture. New York: John Wiley and Sons, 1997.
*Hitchcock, Henry-Russell and Philip Johnson. The International Style. New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1966.
*Poppeliers, John C., S. Allen Chambers, Jr., and Nancy B. Schwartz. What Style is It? A guide to American Architecture. New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc, 1983.
posted by Xalf at 1:05 PM on June 7, 2010

Anything by Witold Rybczynski.

He's an architect and writer who specialises in making the layperson see the architecture around them. His books are engaging and incredibly accessible. I particularly liked:

Looking Around: A Journey Through Architecture
City Life: Urban Expectations in a New World

posted by fso at 6:01 PM on June 7, 2010

Form, Space and Order by Ching is absolutely the first book you should get. Sadly, I don't think current editions are in the hand lettered format the older ones are, but it's still worthwhile.
posted by LionIndex at 10:54 PM on June 7, 2010

Thirding Form, Space, and Order.
Also, Architecture: Choice or Fate by Leon Krier.
posted by daniel striped tiger at 12:12 AM on June 8, 2010

Nthing the books by Ching, also Hearn's Ideas That Shaped Buildings.
posted by inkonmylar at 12:01 PM on June 8, 2010

Thanks, everyone, for your answers. I have already started to raid the library. I really appreciate it!
posted by barnacles at 11:35 PM on June 9, 2010

I haven't read Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture, mentioned above, but I have read the follow-up, Learning from Las Vegas, and found it to be one of the more readable books in the canon. The authors make a case for post-modernism (I don't know that they use that term, though) as a reaction to modern architecture. I don't agree with all of their arguments, but they give an easy to follow explanation of what modernism is. I think this is also where the terms "duck" and "decorated shed" originated. Just be warned that the book is far better than the built work it spawned.
posted by Pork-Chop Express at 3:18 PM on June 10, 2010

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