Architecture Books – A Key Reading List

29 September 2019

There is no definitive best list of Architecture books for Students or Architects or anyone. But there are amazing and vital books to help those who want to get to grips with any aspect of the profession and as widely and deeply astray want. So in that spirit I have compiled a list that might act as a foundation for your reference and future reading in the subject. Students can take the list and start to go through it. Anyone else can take what they might find interesting or useful and run with that.

I believe there are books in here will inspire you and which you will want to keep your whole life and from which you could build a solid Architectural library. It’s not an exhaustive list, but a good way in if you are a student, or a good one to complain about if you are a practising Architect! I have broken the list up into four separate areas to give a little structure to the varied list of books I have compiled.

Key Areas

  • Key & Reference
  • History & Theory
  • Culture & Inspiration
  • Technical & Business

Foundational & Reference

These refer to some of the knowledge you need to acquire at the beginning and which you can always refer to. A few core texts to open up the subject can be found here.

Architecture: Form, Space and Order Francis by Ching, John Wiley & Sons

Beautifully illustrated book that has been the classic introduction to the basic vocabulary of architectural design in graphical form for students from all over the world. 

Sir Banister Fletcher’s A History of Architecture ed. Dan Cruickshank

The standard encyclopaedia for Architecture full of detail very thorough and so very heavy. A great reference book. Anyone on a budget could look for an older edition second hand.

Structures – or Why things Don’t Fall Down by J.E.Gordon

I can’t imagine a better introduction to structures than this book. It will help provide a foundation for your Architectural sense of structure you need to develop.

History and Theory

Knowledge of older buildings their styles and the ideas behind them. Art, culture and place also located in time and inform our understanding of the built environment so as we can be critical of it.

Ten Books on Architecture by Marcus Vitruvius Pollio (link to Gutenberg)

The first known architectural and military treatise written by Architect and military engineer Marcus Vitruvius Pollio, written in the first century BC and first translated into English in 1692.

The Story of Art by E.A.Gombrich

A bestseller for over 40 years this is not only a classic narrative study of art history. But it’s lively, opinionated and controversial. You will see art differently after reading this book. The first tw lines of the book are now famous ‘There really is no such thing as Art. There are only artists.’

Modern Architecture, A Critical History by Kenneth Frampton

History of Modern Architecture in context in essay format, easy to digest and well illustrated. Fourth edition addresses issues such as globalization, starchitecture, and sustainability.

A Pattern Language: Towns, Buildings, Construction by Christopher Alexander

A Mathematician influenced by computer programming developed a set of design patterns even a language with which to design and communicate design ideas. Original approach that is well worth absorbing. Read my full review and notes here.

Culture and Inspiration

Touching on wider questions and cultural influences in Architecture and design. How and why things arise the way they do and ideas that ground them.

The Eyes of The Skin by Juhani Pallasmaa.

An inspirational book that advocates for the others senses, not just sight, as important in Architectural Design. Spaces may not seem the same to you after reading. For the student in 2nd year onward. See my review here. Also I have reviewed the follow up The Thinking Hand.

S,M,L,XL by Rem Koolhaas and Bruce Mau.

An introduction to the most influential Architect of this century. Many of the younger generation of Architects learnt at his knee. Bruce Mau responsible for the graphic design resets the standard for Architectural monographs here too.

Ways of Seeing by John Berger

What do paintings ‘mean’? What’s the history of oil painting and what role did they play in society and what they teach us about those societies. A Fascinating and important book. Read my review here.

The Secret Lifes of Buildings by Edward Hollis

The many and varied lives of some thirteen well known buildings over history. Illuminating and beautifully written, for the history nerd but also to remind us of buildings ability to adapt and hold meaning down the generations.

Technical and Business

A technical competence is needed to bring all your other skills together. Most of these books are great ever green references.

Architectural Graphic Standards by American Institute of Architects , Dennis J. Hall, Nina M. Giglio

For American students authoritative guide for representation of materials and drawing standards.

Metric Handbook: Planning and Design Data by Adler BSc DIC CEng MICE, David (Editor)

How big things should be. An introduction to the SI and Metric systems, anthropomorphic data, thermal & environmental design, building types all in the Metric system.

Architect’s Pocket Book by Jonathan Hetreed , Ann Ross , Charlotte Baden-Powell 

Pocket book for UK architects primarily but pretty nice to have as a quick reference for any Architect. Unlike the metric handbook easily pocketable.

Sketching for Architecture and Interior Design by Stephanie Travis

I wish I had this book as a student. 45 steps to take your sketching up the gears from beginner to expert. Sketching is a key skill to learn as an Architect to allow you to think and design and also to communicate your ideas.