Online architectural blogs?
March 29, 2011 5:26 PM   Subscribe

If I liked "A Pattern Language" what online architectural resources would you recommend?

I really enjoyed reading "A Pattern Language". I'd like to read content that tickles me in a similar way on a daily basis.

More specifically, I really enjoyed thinking about ideal spaces or trying to design ones.

Are there any websites, online magazines, or even other books you would recommend? I've never been too curious about architecture, but this has sparked a fire.
posted by Suciu to Home & Garden (7 answers total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
This is a bit off-beat and not quite what you're after I expect, but have a trawl through CarFree.

More in line with your question, but unfortunately it seems getting more esoteric and theoretical over time, is BLDGBLOG.

This one can be a bit whack too, but inspiring: InfraNet Lab.
posted by wilful at 6:16 PM on March 29, 2011

I'm no fan of A Pattern Language (a good number of his recommendations are for things that I've absolutely despised about houses I've lived in), but it and a few other books have me interested in enough of architecture that I'm currently doing my own drawings in preparation for (mostly) swinging my own hammer for a building that I plan to have fully inspected. And I'm finding that in the process I'm learning more about architecture and building than many professionals in the field (part of the reason I'm going to be swinging my own hammer is that I am definitely poised to be a legendary client from hell).

But I'll also assume that you're interested in the higher level conceptual stuff, and not how much extra wire you need to leave when installing an electrical socket, or what the nail density in sistered studs needs to be (although some of the debate over electrical socket placement in kitchens is actually fascinating...).

I assume you're familiar with Sarah Susanka's whole Not So Big empire. I've found some interesting reading at Dornob. I recently picked up a whole bunch of back issues of Fine Homebuilding off of Freecycle, and in reading through that I saw that they deal with a lot of design issues, might be worth poking through the archives at the Fine Homebuilding website, I subscribe to the Fine Woodworking website and access to all of their back catalog can be very useful.

In running back through the archives of my blog, I notice a link or two to the Tiny House Blog. And a couple of college students of my acquaintance have dropped some notes at Core V – Modular CLT and before that My Home Your Home, but don't seem to actually be keeping that going. Sigh.
posted by straw at 6:31 PM on March 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

Well, if you liked A Pattern Language, you should read Alexander's other books, chiefly The Nature of Order

Straw, what is it about A Pattern Language that you despise? Just curious!
posted by Tom-B at 7:24 PM on March 29, 2011

Another superb book on architecture is How Buildings Learn by Stewart Brand.
posted by pmb at 8:04 PM on March 29, 2011

Its been a while, Tom-B, but the three things I remember as being particularly egregious:

First, his recommendations for laying out a neighborhood, although rationalized as creating a better space for foot traffic and less automobile traffic, seem to have exactly the opposite effect in practice. Give me a grid neighborhood any day vs one of those twisty cul-de-sac scattered ones where one house can drag its neighbors down much quicker, and where the inevitable cars have to drive a lot further, and where the best-intentioned separation of pedestrian traffic just means that drivers feel comfortable going faster, and the pedestrian areas feel less trafficed and less safe.

Second, his recommendation to make hallways and passage areas darker than room areas has always frustrated me in houses, mostly because that's where the closets end up, so when architects under-light hallways... well... more than once I've commented that I'd like to meet an architect in the hall of a house they designed with a baseball bat. Luckily in my current house, the advent of CFLs means I can get some serious light out of 60 watts in a fixture, so when we turn on the lights in the hall we can bloody well see.

Third, the suggestions for window placements in relation to outside features seemed to just encourage visual clutter.

I really should read A Timeless Way of Building just to better understand what he was trying to accomplish, but I remember reading those three things and realizing that I prefer spaces that run exactly counter to his recommendations on those points.
posted by straw at 6:23 AM on March 30, 2011

If you like Christopher Alexander for his prescriptive, humanist approach, you will like reading the work of the "New Urbanists" as it applies to town building. There is a ton of reading online (easily enough to last you daily for quite some time) and there are countless books on the subject.

Aside - The buildings produced by these folks are generally very traditional in nature and have always found themselves outside the "favor" of many architects. As a rule, (with many notable exceptions) architects have egos like flamboyant hot air balloons, and choose to think they are each personally responsible for creating the next new wheel. A wheel unlike any other wheel out there, a wheel that others will admire and mimic for the foreseeable future, a wheel that rewrites the past and boldly re-imagines the future. It's not just's rounderer!

But Alexander's and the New Urbanist's notions of towns will be hard to argue with. They tend to discount our now unavoidable reliance on cars, but only to the extent that they choose to focus on the kinds of towns that encourage human interaction. Think Europe, not Houston. Here are some places to start:

Leon Krier - the "father" of the New Urbanist movement. The quintessential paper tiger, meaning he hasn't built much and is more of an ideologist.

Poundbury - The famous town he created with Prince Charles.

Duany Plater-Zyberk - the firm that, along with Krier, created the town of Seaside, FL..

There are endless links and reading from there, and many books that detail both the ideas and accomplishments of the practitioners of New Urbanism.

Footnote - I'm an architect, and my comments above directed at architects in general is in half jest. I tend towards modernism myself, but there are like three architects out there, possible fewer, who do not love traditional European cites.
posted by nickjadlowe at 7:59 AM on March 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

Oh, I don't want to turn this into a discussion (oh hell, yes, I do, and I appreciate input like nickjadlowe's above and completely agree with "flamboyant hot air balloons", but I realize that this is AskMeFi, and I'm supposed to stay on topic and stick to answers) but:

My current gig involves a lot of research into the world of transportation, and I've found my time looking into issues involved in that extremely rewarding. There's a whole bunch of really good writing out there on urban and transit planning, and how planning can have completely counter-to-the-intended effects, that's well worth reading. The thing that brought this to mind was thinking about my complaints with Alexander's recommendations for laying out towns and how separating automobile and pedestrian traffic in practice makes towns less walkable(!).

Anyway, two blogs you might find interesting: Human and Brad Templeton's Robocars. And a few hours spent searching on random phrases you find there that look interesting can come up with all sorts of interesting reports from various transportation agencies looking at these issues in more depth.

Also, if you get into this deeply in the "ideal spaces" and urban planning side of things, please start making friends with your town's council members and members of any advisory committees your town may have. We need more excited interested people who are knowledgeable about the issues in social and urban planning involved in local government. Far too much of the discussion of planning at the municipal and county level is harshly divided by people with specific agendas driven by ego and feelings rather than by thoughtful deep looks at all of the issues involved.
posted by straw at 8:35 AM on March 30, 2011 [1 favorite]

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