Books about architecture
November 5, 2017 9:34 AM   Subscribe

I recently had the good fortune of finding Virginia Savage McAlester's "A Field Guide to American Houses" at my local library, and now I'd like to find similarly thorough books on related topics.

Specifically, I'm looking for books that cover European residential architecture, and general (including American) commercial architecture. Most survey-level architectural histories focus on stately homes, castles, and chateaux on the residential side, and churches and later skyscrapers on the public side. I'm more interested in smaller buildings: shops, offices, and the homes of the middle-class people who work in them.

What I liked about McAlester is that, for each style, she would present common variations in massing and materials, and typical detail and ornament. It really helped me to see relationships between buildings that I might not have found on my own.

I realize that both European residential architecture and general commercial architecture are pretty wide fields, and an exhaustive look at either would dwarf McAlester's 850-page volume, so more narrowly-focused books are fine. I'd like to learn about the whole continent, but my particular interests are France, Germany, Benelux, and Switzerland, from around the start of the Renaissance to around World War I. I'm not very interested in high style, whether it's Gothic, classical, or Modern. I'd rather see more quotidian buildings: farmhouses, townhouses, office blocks, and artisans' and merchants' shops.

What have you got?
posted by kevinbelt to Media & Arts (6 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Some interesting information on residential architecture can be found in Bernard Rudofsky's "Architecture without Architecture," which is about vernacular architecture worldwide but with lots of European data. Another of his books, "Streets for People," gives info on commercial districts without cars or with strictures to make areas easier for shoppers.
posted by MovableBookLady at 11:52 AM on November 5, 2017

The UK is covered by the Pevsner Guides.
posted by Ideefixe at 11:52 AM on November 5, 2017 [1 favorite]


Two books on the development of Edwardian and Inter-war Houses

The Period House: Style, Detail & Decoration, 1774-1914 (Don't let the title put you off; the first half ...traces the development of the British house, through its various guises, from 1780 to 1914. It offers insight into the building codes and customs of the times and provides an overview of the architectural detail of each period... Each two-page spread also contains a sidebar examining, in anecdotal fashion, the social, technological, and political developments that affected the domestic environment.)

Town House Architecture: 1640–1980 (Shire Library publication; Shire has many neat, tightly-focused architecture books)

[Also -- not European dwellings, but I enjoyed Town House: Architecture and Material Life in the Early American City, 1780-1830]
posted by Iris Gambol at 12:56 PM on November 5, 2017

Ugh, made a typo and missed the edit window. Subtitle. Don't let the subtitle put you off. The book is more than just interiors.
posted by Iris Gambol at 1:07 PM on November 5, 2017

English Architecture Through the Ages: Secular Building illustrated by Lenora Ison with an introduction by Walter Ison. 6,000 Years of Housing by Norbert Schoenauer. The Visual Dictionary of American Domestic Architecture by Rachel Carley.
posted by azalea_chant at 8:28 PM on November 5, 2017

I'd also recommend browsing in your local university's architecture section. There are plenty of country specific books in mine there. They might not be available for check out by the public, or you may be able to pay a yearly fee to do so.
posted by azalea_chant at 8:30 PM on November 5, 2017

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