Arch Daily: Top Books on Architecture

Thursday September 13th 2018 by Peter Thomas Lang


Honoured to have the book i co-authored with William Menking included in the top 20 essential books in Architecture.

Architecture, while a profession that is very visibly and tangibly realized, has deep wells of research, thought, and theory that are unseen on the surface of a structure. What urges architects to design the way they do? What are their motivations, their affiliations, their interests? For practitioners and students alike, books on architecture offer invaluable context to the profession, be it practical, inspirational, academic, or otherwise. So, for those of you looking to expand your bookshelf (or confirm your own tastes), we have gathered a broad list of 116 architectural books that we consider of interest to those in the field.

In compiling this list, we sought out titles from different backgrounds with the aim of revealing divergent cultural contexts. From essays to monographs, urban theory to graphic novels, each of the following either engage directly with or flirt on the edges of architecture.

The books on this list were chosen by each of our editors, and are categorized loosely by type. Within their categorization, they are organized alphabetically. Read on to see the books we consider valuable to anyone interested in architecture.

The Essential Reads

A Pattern Language: Towns, Buildings, Construction / Christopher Alexander, Sara Ishikawa, Murray Silverstein

Every design challenge represents a problem to be solved. In this book, Christopher Alexander proposes a cataloging of the types of problems (or design challenges) and analyzes what lies behind each situation, describing it in its essence and proposing a standard solution. – Recommended by Eduardo Souza

Save this picture!


The Architecture of the City / Aldo Rossi

The obligatory world-acclaimed book that proposes a critical reflection on the value of the collective memory in the architecture (of the city). – Recommended by Fabian Dejtiar

Save this picture!


Athmospheres / Peter Zumthor

Peter Zumthor shortly highlights the importance of the sensations in the construction of ‘Athmospheres’, to create a good place for the development of people. – Recommended by Fabian Dejtiar

Save this picture!


Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture / Robert Venturi

A “gentle manifesto for a non-straightforward architecture,” Venturi’s Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture expresses in the most compelling and original terms the postmodern rebellion against the purism of modernism. – Recommended by Diego Hernández

Save this picture!


Conversations with Students (Architecture at Rice) / Louis Kahn

Inspiring text based on conversations lead by Louis Kahn in different workshops. – Recommended by Martita Vial della Maggiora

Save this picture!


Experiencing Architecture / Eiler Rasmussen

Classic book with a very sensitive atmosphere about promising architecture and design. – Recommended by Martita Vial della Maggiora

Save this picture!


The Eyes of the Skin / Juhani Pallasmaa

This book a quick, delightful, and inspiring read – and entirely essential as we continue on the asymptote towards entirely digital practice in architecture. Pallasmaa encourages architects to see the world around them not just with sight but with touch, sound, even smell! – Recommended by Katherine Allen

Save this picture!


The Image of the City / Kevin Lynch

In this 1960s classic, Kevin Lynch presents studies of how cities are perceived and imagined and shows how his findings can impact the building and rebuilding of cities. – Recommended by Becky Quintal

Save this picture!


In Praise of Shadows / Junichiro Tanizaki

Explains the beauty of oriental architecture through their perception of light and shadows in their art and architectural traditions. – Recommended by Martita Vial della Maggiora

Save this picture!


Learning from Las Vegas / Denise Scott Brown, Robert Venturi, Steven Izenour

Seminal work for the history of architecture, the authors analyze the Las Vegas’ strip to better comprehend the common and ordinary architecture, rather than the iconic buildings proclaimed by modernism. – Recommended by Romullo Baratto

Save this picture!


Mutations / Rem Koolhaas, Stefano Boeri, Sanford Kwinter, Nadia Tazi, Hans Ulrich Obrist

Mutations’ reflects on the transformations that urban accelerating processes inflict on our environment, and on the spaces in which architecture can still operate. – Recommended by Victor Delaqua

Save this picture!


Neufert Architects’ Data / Ernst Neufert, Peter Neufert

It presents appropriate standard measures and design tips. Very useful book for all architects. – Recommended by Eduardo Souza

Save this picture!


The Poetics of Space / Gaston Bachelard

Really beautifully written book on the poetics of space within the home. It explores the philosophy of space and how it relates to memories and dreams. – Recommended by Yiling Shen

Save this picture!


The Seven Lamps of Architecture / John Ruskin

“Know what you have to do and do it,” said John Ruskin – words which neatly sum the contents of this book. Ruskin’s writing describes lamps as characteristics that any piece of architecture must have in order to be considered this real architecture – in turn, the principles he deems necessary for architecture to be considered art. – Recommended by Martita Vial della Maggiora

Save this picture!


Superstudio: Life without objects / Peter Lang

This book exposes the work of one of the most famous architecture groups for the radicalization and criticism of utopias. – Recommended by Monica Arellano

Save this picture!


Ten Canonical Buildings: 1950-2000/ Peter Eisenman

Based on interesting diagrams and drawings, Peter Eisenman provides evidence of how some renowned architects of the 20th century changed our way of thinking. – Recommended by Fabian Dejtiar

Save this picture!


Theorizing a New Agenda for Architecture: An Anthology of Architectural Theory 1965 – 1995 / Kate Nesbitt (org)

A collection of the most important and seminal essays in the field of architecture published between 1965 and 1995. – Recommended by Romullo Baratto

Save this picture!


Theory and Design in the First Machine Age / Reyner Banham

Banham’s response to the second industrial revolution. – Recommended by Diego Hernández

Save this picture!


Universal Principles of Design / William Lidwell, Kritina Holden, Jill Butler

This book explains the disciplines of designing anything (from a house to a coffee cup). – Recommended by Dima Stouhi

Save this picture!


The Works: Anatomy of the City / Kate Ascher

After years in architecture school, you may understand how a building is put together – but how much do you actually understand about the processes that make that building function in the first place? Kate Ascher reviews the systems that manage traffic, water, heat, electricity, and much more, tying architecture not just to an image of the urban environment, but to the actual workings of the city. – Recommended by Collin Abdallah

Save this picture!


Yona Friedman: The Dilution Of Architecture / Yona Friedman

Yona Friedman takes up the work of groups such as Archigram to propose cities that propose new ways of inhabiting cities. – Recommended by Monica Arellano

Save this picture!