by Barbara Opar, Architecture librarian
In late December of 2019, CNN posted online what they
considered the most influential books of the decade. The article began with the
statement that “A decade is in part defined by
its books. And recent days have seen many roundups of the best books of the
2010s — the titles that critics consider the pinnacle of literary excellence.”
That, of course, made me wonder if it might be easy to compile
a list of the most influential architecture books of the past decade. What defines influence? How important are circulation counts? Do faculty referrals or use in course
reserves (Jean-Louis Cohen’s The Future of Architecture, Since 1889) trump
general circulation? Some books receive high use for a few years (The
Domestic Space Reader) then may be considered core but not circulate
highly. Influence derives from a combination of factors including traditional
academic tracking like citation counts and mentions on social media. We must
also consider that one title might generate interest in a topic (Atlas of
Brutalist Architecture or Archigram: the book) and as such
lead to more titles and expanded research in an area. For instance, while not
the first book on the topic, Mimi Zeiger’s 2009 Tiny Houses I believe helped spawn interest in the topic of small
Some of the specific titles below (Elements,
Fundamentals, Project Japan) are ones that most everyone will agree have
been influential. I presume, though, that not everyone will agree with all my choices.
However, in considering the titles, I came to realize that certain topics stand
out (net zero or climate related topics) or that certain
publishers (DAMDI who published Program Diagrams) have made a
substantial difference. When considering topics that generated a great deal of
interest with respect to architecture during the course of the past decade,
these came to mind: climate change, net zero energy design, sustainability,
building materials, the small house movement, modern architectural movements
such as the Bauhaus, Brutalism and metabolism. Books like 100 Ideas That
Changed Architecture serve as important reference sources. Other titles
like Ecological Urbanism present well written overviews of ecological
concerns and how they might be mitigated through sustainable practices. Some
topics will always dominate the discipline such as architectural detailing (De-tail
–kultur). Manual of Section is another similar work highly
recommended by faculty. Certain authors – Farshid Moussavi being one– have
written works on architecture which have been and continue to be influential in
teaching. The Function of Style- while
not as popular as her Function of Form or Function of Ornament- is
nonetheless an important title. Books on major and contemporary architects like
David Adjaye, Jimenez Lim and Syracuse Architecture’s own MOS are
frequently consulted. Jimenez’s book is a graphic novel – a highly original
topic in architecture. Books on individual projects are not frequent, but when
they appear such as The High Line they prove to be of great use. The Handbook
of Tyranny with its study of refugee camps and prisons introduces important
topics tangential to architecture. One title on my list- The Other Architect–
may not be broadly known but it presents a changing architectural profession
not steeped in traditional design work. This is the catalog of an exhibition
held at the Canadian Centre for Architecture. My last selection is a new
edition of Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture, a title surely on
everyone’s list of influential architecture books.
As we enter the next decade new Bauhaus books are being
issued on its 100th anniversary. These as well as topics yet to be
envisioned will make up the most influential books of the next decade.
But without further ado, here is my list of the most
influential architecture books of 2010-2020.
Adjaye, David. African
Metropolitan Architecture. New York: Rizzoli, 2011.
BIG Bjarke Ingels Group. Hot to cold: An
Odyssey of Architectural Adaptation. Köln: Taschen, 2015.
Borasi, Giovanna. The Other
Architect: Another Way of Building Architecture. Montréal, Québec:
Spector Books, 2015.
Briganti, Chiara. The Domestic
Space Reader. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2012.
Chalk, Warren. Archigram: the
book. London: Circa Press, 2018.
Cohen, Jean-Louis. The Future of
Architecture, Since 1889. New York: Phaidon, 2012.
Deutinger, Theo. Handbook of
Tyranny. Zürich : Lars Müller Publishers, 2018.
Hootman, Thomas. Net Zero Energy
Design: A Guide for Commercial Architecture. Hoboken, N.J: John Wiley & Sons, 2013.
Koolhaas, Rem. Elements.
Venice: Marsilio, 2014.
Koolhaas, Rem. Fundamentals:
14th International Architecture Exhibition. Venice: Marsilio, 2014.
Koolhaas, Rem. Project Japan:
Metabolism Talks. Köln: TASCHEN GmbH, 2011.
Kumpusch, Christoph A. De-tail–
kultur : if buildings had DNA : case studies of mutations : the complex
behavior of collective detail, 10 lenses, 12+1 projects. Beijing: AADCU
James Corner Field Operations. The High Line:
Foreseen, Unforeseen. New York: Phaidon, 2015.
Lai, Jimenez. Citizens of no
place: An Architectural Graphic Novel.
New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2012.
Lewis, Paul. Manual of
Section. New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2016.
McLeod, Virginia. Atlas of
Brutalist Architecture. New York:
Phaidon Press, 2018.
Meredith, Michael. MOS: Selected
Works. New York, New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2016.
mirai toshi = Metabolism, The City of the Future. Tōkyō: Shinkenchikusha,
Moussavi, Farshid. The Function of
Style. New York: Actar, 2014.
Mostafavi, Mohsen. Ecological
Urbanism. Baden, Switzerland: Lars Müller, 2010.
Pyo, Miyoung. Program
Diagrams. Seoul: DAMDI, 2011.
Stalder, Laurent. Atelier
Bow-Wow: A Primer. Cologne : König, 2013.
Venturi, Robert. Robert
Venturi’s Complexity and Contradiction at Fifty. New York: The Museum of
Modern Art, 2019.
Weston, Richard. 100 Ideas That
Changed Architecture. London: Laurence King, 2011.