Open question on architecture books

I didn’t see much over the past few days in the MLS.  The only I came close to posting was this one.

An architect friend & I were chatting about architecture books last weekend (over a very fine meal at Odd Duck Farm to Trailer).  One question that came  up I thought would be an interesting to get your feedback on:

  • What do you want in an architecture book?
  • Do you just look at the (hopefully) pretty pictures?
  • Do you want architectural or floorplan drawings?
  • Do you care about critical commentary or would prefer more fact based text (or virtually no-text at all)?

If you need a more concrete example:  If there was a book about mid-century modern and / or current modern architecture in Austin, what would you want out of it?


ps.  The above photo doesn’t have anything to do with anything here.  It is a picture of a 360 degree camera obscura on the island of Aegina in Greece.  I took the picture on the second to last day of our a sailing trip through the Greek isles this past summer.  Absolutely brilliant way to see Greece.  If you ever consider it, we sailed with Anko Yatching and Thanos & Alicja were amazing hosts.

12 Responses to “Open question on architecture books”

  1. Heather says:

    I would mostly like to look at the pictures, but I would like some text. For this type of book, I would prefer fact-based text. I also really enjoy looking at floorplan and architectural drawings, so I would like those included.

  2. Bob says:

    I have a mostly practical interest. I am usually looking for ideas for remodeling my current house or to incorporate into a future house.

    Pictures are first.

    Floor plans with enough high level dimensions to calculate the scale of a particular feature are a nice to have.

    Text is useful to describe special materials. Text also is useful if it explains a design constraint (site, previous footprint, utilities, etc) or a particularly creative modification of the design by the architect or subsequent re-modelers.

    I am not really a strong preservationist or revivalist. I am not looking for a “class” in architecture history. Not that it hurts, its just not why I pick up a book.

    Also, while not obsessed with “green”, I personally am interested in designs that are adapted to the site, views, weather, light, and neighborhood and make reasonably good use of space.

  3. Eric says:

    Purty pictures, inside and out, a few floor plans for kicks, and information on the architect(s) and what they were trying to achieve with their structure(s).

  4. love that odd duck!

    I jump on that pretty picture train, and I always like to see floor plans to help me understand exactly how the pictures relate to each other.

    as for text, I appreciate information of how materials may have been used in non traditional applications or explaining something that was left unobvious by the pics. what I don’t care to read is floral and vague architect-artist speak that uses long drawn out verbiage to explain the design, “the impetus for the design” “a delicate interplay of light and shadow”, “the dialogue between the two volumes”; that sort of thesaurus application just makes the text taxing.

  5. mixette says:

    I always want good large color photographs and a floor plan.

    If there was to be a book about mid-century buildings in Austin, I would love to see as much history as possible. What it looked like when it was built and what it looks like today, inside and out. That’s why I go to estate sales and open houses: I can usually recognize the period of the building but am curious about what it looks like 50+ years later good, bad, and ugly!

  6. chris says:

    Extensive color and B&W photography that demonstrate the moods of the structure in changing light/times of day and night… proper books should always should include floor plan drawings, elevation and design sections that reveal the “mechanism” of the structure. Phaidon Press understand this fairly well.

  7. Ana says:

    All great responses! I’ve been dying for someone to do this. Perhaps categorized by architect with bios, then classic examples from each. Finishing with a section on “one hit wonders”? Sign me up for an advanced copy!

  8. chuck says:

    Ben as you know I kicked around the idea of doing a Stenger book but never made the time to fully dig in; this idea sounds much better, doing an overview of architects who have contributed to this area. You could likely draw some distinct threads through a book like that. My Dad and his partner (both deceased) brought mid-century to Bell county but that may be out of the scope of this idea.

    Nothing to add as far as what should be included. I have and love the Julius Schulman book of photographs, they’re so lovingly done. Let me know if I can be of help otherwise. Great idea.

  9. rob c says:

    I go for the color pictures. Useful text includes the description of materials and the project’s constraints.

  10. Eric says:

    Chuck, oh man, that Stenger book would be depressing, the before and afters (from the Stenger’s I’ve seen up close and personal) would KILL!

  11. Mark Lind says:

    Big color fotos are definitely a must, but so are floor plans. That’s the biggest deficiency of Dwell magazine: they rarely, if ever, have floor plans accompanying their fotos! Drag. (It’s also helpful to see a North arrow on the plans, when they’re shown.)

    I also think that close ups of arhcitectural details should accompany the overall views! And these are all too rare, unfortunately, in most books but should be de rigueur for an architecture book!

    Usually a well written and substantive introduction helps to set the tone and historical context, but still lets the majority of the book be mostly photos.

    Finally it may be a nice idea to have at least a couple of sections that group certain architectural features that are a “signature elements” of the architect together, so there may be sections on partitions/room dividers/screens, or movable exterior door systems (a.k.a.: “Nana Walls”), or stairs, etc — that are fotographed side by side for comparison. That’s cool to see when they’re shown like this….

  12. David Mathias says:

    Mark beat me to the North arrow comment. Running controversy in Dwell to be sure. I’ll admit I own fewer books and more magazines. The relevance is that Dwell, Modernism and Atomic Ranch are among the three I’ll regularly pick up at the newsstand. Each has their strengths and weaknesses. Atomic Ranch sometimes goes overboard with cute and kitch in an attempt to be broadly attractive to its readers. I agree with @paul schuster that the pseudo-serious architect speak is also a real turn-off. Honesty in speech referencing honesty about the problem for which the structure was a solution reaches me (and it doesn’t hurt if the architect used honest materials honestly, either). :-)

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