The Best Architecture Podcasts

A list of podcasts about architecture I love..

Podcasts about architecture might seem to be a little counter-intuitive but they have a freedom that writing about architecture doesn’t have precisely because you can’t reasonably include images.

By relying on audio different sorts of debates can occur. Conversations, interviews and and wider ranging topics find a medium that is more natural to them than the written word.

So to start people off I thought to highlight a few podcasts I have been enjoying recently. Also I will leave these as reviews in itunes. Please take a listen and consider supporting these channels. If you have suggestions for additions to the list please feel free to leave them in the comments.

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Learning From Las Vegas Book Review and Notes

Introduction

Less is a Bore! -Robert Venturi

Learning From Las Vegas (LFVLV) by Robert Venturi, Denise Scott Brown, and Steven Izenour is important for two reasons. It was a book that came, in 1972, at the end of late modernism. It proposed a radical break with the immediate past and also a reassessment and incorporation of more traditional forms of architecture back into current thinking.

It was also the book that launched the authors on that path and helped bring that thinking into the forefront of the Architectural debate for over twenty years. It helped launch the style Postmodernism and at first gave it a loose theoretical framework. So on these fronts it was amazingly successful. But that style has since fallen out of favour and ‘modernism’ has made a return.

Even today some fifty years later the book is still controversial. It can often be used as evidence on both sides of the style debate in any ongoing style war. It can at times feel more like a collection of writings rather than one single book.

There is an attitude to urban and architectural studies that covers the full gamut from high art to kitch and so it’s almost necessarily divisive. It contains iconic arguments; all buildings are either ducks or decorated sheds, and it exhaustively analyses a high-tide moment of Americana in the Las Vegas of the late 60s which doesn’t exist anymore at all. It supports the iconic but also the boring, the everyday.

If the Las Vegas strip is no longer at all the same as that in the book it dosen’t matter, we can see the muscle flex of rebellion in the book that is fascinating in itself. We can with some profit see again the arguments now they have played out in the world a little.

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Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino Review and Booknotes

Introduction

The Book Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino is a classic modernist novel yet has had a widespread popularity that elevates it above most books of its type and has come to have an enduring influence among artists and architects.

It’s a staple for architecture students and architects alike, but why is it so popular and what’s so interesting about it? After all it may not seem on first sight to be particularly relevant to the practice of architecture as although it proports to be about cities it’s actually a magical realist book whose cities are dreamlike creations. A post modern novel with little plot and seemingly a much more poetic dreamlike quality.

But on starting to read and being drawn into the novel I think it becomes apparent why this has become such a touchstone for creative thinking about design and cities and why many architects love it so much, me included.

Before the review I will give some background and have a more detailed look at the structure of the book. This I feel is really important because of the way the book was written. The structure of the book in fact, is an integral part of the beauty of its beauty.

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A Pattern Language by Christopher Alexander: Review and Notes

A fantastic Guidebook to design thinking which if you use it as an aide rather than a Bible will educate and enrich your designs. Would love to see an updated New Edition.

Introduction

A Pattern Language: Towns, Buildings, Construction by Christopher Alexander, Sara Ishikawa, Murray Silverstein, Max Jacobson, Ingrid Fiksdahl-King, Shlomo Angel

A Pattern Language came out in 1977 authored by Christopher Alexander with some of his students Sara Ishikawa, Murray Silverstein, Max Jacobson, Ingrid Fiksdahl-King, Shlomo Angel.

At the time I believe Christopher Alexander was teaching Architecture at Berkley and the first group of books he wrote sprung from his teaching, research and designing there. It is one of a series of Books by Alexander but A Pattern Language is his most widely read work.

Alexanders books principally A Timeless Way of Building, A Pattern Language and The Nature of Order have inspired a following not just in Architecture but in other fields also principally Computer Science where his work is more influential than in Architecture.

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Experiencing Architecture by Steen Eiler Rasmussen Review and Book Notes

A classic architectural theory book, easy to read with some unique insights but with a couple of large flaws.

Introduction

Experiencing Architecture by Steen Eiler Rasmussen was a standard text in architectural schools and also for me when I began my studies more years ago than I care to remember.

It was on my reading list as a student and it was one of the first books from the course that made an impact on me. So I was interested to come back to this book after many years and reread it.

Below you will find an introduction, summary and review with a set of notes by chapter for those that want to get into the weeds with detail!

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The Haiku Houses of Japan

An overview of Japanese House Design and why they are like solid Haiku Poems.

As a little follow up to some reading and thinking around the books Lost in Japan and In Praise of Shadows I think its worth looking at an aspect of Japanese architecture I love and I think could be understood better through the lens of the above books and a little analogy which might bring some different insights.

Ghost House by Datar Architecture (Photograph by Takeshi Yamagishi)

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Ways of Seeing by John Berger Book Notes and Review

Adapted in 1972 from a TV series this book revolutionised visual criticism and remains in print today some fifty years after it was written. It challenged conventional art criticism in a startlingly bold way and changed art criticism forever. Although it deals mostly with painting and photography some of the cultural criticism is I believe relevant to Architecture. It’s key arguments seem ever more urgent in the image hunger age of the internet. I think anyone interested in Architecture or Design or even mass media should read this book. Below is a summary and set of book notes with short review.

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Architecture: A Very Short Introduction by Andrew Ballantyne Review and Notes

Architecture: A Very Short Introduction by Andrew Ballantyne

A short Disclaimer

I studied at Newcastle University in the 90’s and Andrew Ballantyne was one of the lecturers there. He never took a project or taught a module I was in but I heard him talk and lecture many times. I remember him well, and would mark him as one of the better teachers I encountered in my education.

A Quick Overview and Introduction

What is Architecture and how can we start to build up a foundation of knowledge with which to understand Architecture better? Architecture: A Very Short Introduction by Andrew Ballantyne answers the first question. The second question requires a framework to be built up in order to apply an order to your understanding and this book will do that too in a clear and unfussy way.

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Delirious New York By Rem Koolhaas: The Film Version (and Review)

Delirious New York: A Retroactive Manifesto for Manhattan by Rem Koolhaas

Opening shot / A black limousine pulls up in front of a glass skyscraper in Manhattan. The camera is so close to the base of the tower that it appears to go up forever disappearing into the clouds. The light bouncing off the plain glass elevations as though all the glass was reflected back, the only articulation of the building are the reflections of the clouds in the sky. Out gets Edward Norton the famous Hollywood actor, director, writer, polymath he is shown limping into the building.

The book Delirious New York was written in 1978 and pushed OMA and Rem Koolhaas into the spotlight where they have never been out of since. This book helped OMA became the architectural office probably with the most influence in the Architecture scene from the 90’s into the 2000’s.

Delirious New York is a retroactive manifesto of the Skyscraper and for New York City. The birth of which occurred around 1910 and its death some thirty years later. The manifesto is an unconscious programme embarked on in the city during its massive growth which only now Delirious New York properly reveals.

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In Praise of Shadows by Junichiro Tanizak

In Prasie of Shadows by Junichiro Tanizak (translated by Thomas J. Harper and Edward G. Seidensticker)

Review

A beautiful book about Japanese aesthetics and the love of perception in the shadows at the edge of darkness.

This book is short and sweet and at well under eighty pages it flits between more weighty subjects of Shadows, Color and Architecture with seemingly more trivial ones, Japanese toilets, paper, wiring Japanese homes among the many.

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