Monday, 31 August 2015

9 Books about Architecture

This post is published in December 2015, when I finally found the time to proof read and check. This post is a snapshot of my thinking back at this time.

For a long time, I've had the reading list on the left panel. However, over time it felt a little bit un-curated. Inspired by a list of recent retweets from Jeff Sussna, especially a post by Mike Sall, I thought compiling it differently could make sense.

Let's dive right in - here is my list of 9 (well, actually 12) Architecture Books every interested Software Practitioner should read:

Basic Architecture

These are books that give you an initial understanding of what Architecture is about (hint: something "entirely different") without being to engineering-heavy (if you want that, read Francis D.K. Ching), patronising or historic:

Matthew Frederick, "101 Things I Learned In Architecture School". A small, lovely, extremely simple book that gives you a first glimpse of how to think like an architect.

Doug Patt, "How to Architect". An indexical volume of architectural elements, making it an easy reader and introduction to architecture. Mainly because of his great videos, actually.

Anthony di Mari's "Conditional Design" and "Operative Design". Because it shows the commonalities of structural elements and patterns in building and software architecture in a simple, visual way (as opposed the Alexander's "Pattern Language").

As a bonus: Joel Kotkin, "The City". Not strictly architecture, as it is about urbanism, but a great, short, intense history of human habitat, before you read Jane Jacobs.

Elementary contemporary texts

These are texts that defined contemporary architecture, giving you a feeling of the philosophic foundations of "living and dwelling" - something that is often ignored by engineers talking about architecture.

Robert Venturi, "Complexity And Contradiction In Architecture". Not an easy read, but one of the most defining ones of contemporary architecture. A manifesto against dogma and black and white thinking, introducing the hybrid, notably one of the most often used concepts in IT (often read as counter-example of Le Corbusier's "Towards a New Architecture" and only followed by Bjarke Ingels "Yes is More").

Ram Koolhaas, "Delirious New York". Because it took complexity to the next level, added emergence, and cross-pollination between society and building. Read it as Conway's Law and be astounded. No idea why, after that, it took Architecture so long until Marc Kushner introduced feedback to it.

Kate Nesbitt, "Theorizing a New Agenda for Architecture". An extremely well curated collection of elementary texts that stands out not only as a reader, but for bringing all of those thoughts into a structure that, at least to me personally, was never before so clear.

As a bonus: Fred Brooks' "Design of Design", because it is a software book dealing with architectural design.

Tertiary Literature

Those texts are not directly about architecture, but about the motivations of architecture, it's impact on society and the public.

Adam Sharr, "Heidegger for Architects". Actually the whole "Thinkers for Architects" series is pretty good, and this is just one example. Architects like, and learn, to think from the perspective of other disciplines. Might be a good example for IT.

Stewart Brand, "How buildings learn". Brand is a classic, working on the edge of design thinking/service design since the "Whole Earth Catalog". This is a great introduction into the evolution of buildings and hence an answer to the question: Can architecture emerge?

Geoff Manaugh, "The BLDGBLOG Book". Imho the single best blog about architecture in the interweb, probably the only real alternative to an AA files subscription. The book captures the full spectrum of cutting edge contemporary ideas into one volume.

As a bonus: Jo Steffens', "Unpacking My Library: Architects and Their Books" is a nice tabletop book listing a wide range of architects and their favourite book inspirations - Thomas Pynchon's "Gravity’s Rainbow" is named surprisingly often.