Even with the huge amount of architecture media available online, books still hold an unrivaled amount of information that websites and online journals just can’t provide. Architecture books in particular, that often host a whole variety of previously unpublished photographs and/or text are still very much just as popular as ever.
…and here is our list of (in our opinion) the best architecture books.
The beauty of having and building a book collection, is that you are able to form your own personal library of knowledge and data that can be taken and referenced at any time. …it can be stored, presented, transported …it yours, you own it …and it can’t be moved, edited or taken away.
In terms of literature genres, architecture books are a relatively niche subject, and for this reason certain editions are often printed with a limited number of copies available, that if popular, eventually go out of print, and become quite rare …so can prove to be a very good investment!.
Architecture will always be here, and so will be the need to learn and explore it…
So whether you prefer to visit an architecture bookstore or buy online, here we present a constantly evolving and updated list of the most useful and best books on architecture from across all the genres…
The Best Architecture Books Are…
The Poetics of Space
One of the most influential works on art and architecture, this book is an insight into Bachelard’s whimsical imagination, exploring how one’s thoughts and emotions endow distinct ethos and emotions in different spaces. It is a phenomenological, almost magical investigation into the true meaning of intimate spaces. In particular, the “home” is emphasized as the epitome of personalized experiences and memories.
Whether new to the architectural field or a seasoned pro, this book will teach you to look at the world through a more nuanced lens and see the significance in spaces around us, from the most miniature drawer to the largest field.
Beloved and contemplated by philosophers, architects, writers, and literary theorists alike, Bachelard's lyrical, landmark work examines the places in which we place our conscious and unconscious thoughts and guides us through a stream of cerebral meditations on poetry...
The architecture of happiness
A popular feature in any “best architecture books” list, this is a fascinating read for any architect or architecture student. This book focuses on the idea that human beings are greatly influenced by their environment- and investigates the question, “what makes a building elegant?”.
The architecture of happiness is filled with stunning prose and imagery that supports the author’s investigation into how our surroundings impact us and will undoubtedly shift your perspective on the relationship between people and spaces.
The Achitecture of Happiness is a dazzling and generously illustrated journey through the philosophy and psychology of architecture and the indelible connection between our identities and our locations.
Atmospheres is an insight into the sensory aspect of the architecture around us. It focuses on the “architectural quality” of the spaces around us and the quality imbued due to certain tangible or intangible elements, such as light, sound, temperature, materiality, etc.
Zumthor explains these elements in 9 separate chapters, each defining the use of these aspects to achieve the ideal relation between the building, the human, and their surroundings. We recommend this book, especially for architectural students, as it will guide you through the circuitous process of designing buildings that converse with their surroundings instead of going against them.
What really constitutes an architectural atmosphere, Peter Zumthor says, is this singular density and mood, this feeling of presence, well-being, harmony, beauty ... under whose spell I experience what I otherwise would not experience in precisely this way. Zumthors passion...
This book is particularly useful for people interested in architecture or those looking to step into the academic architectural field. It comprises ten chapters that seek to provide a phenomenological lens through which to look at buildings and can be very useful for beginners or enthusiasts.
The book explores the notion that architecture is more than what meets the eye. Rasmussen probes the perception of humans regarding buildings. What makes a building? Is it simply a collection of materials or something more? Do culture and society affect the built environment?
These notions are discussed with clear examples and visual cues.
Profusely illustrated with fine instances of architectural experimentation through the centuries, Experiencing Architecture manages to convey the intellectual excitement of superb design. From teacups, riding boots, golf balls, and underwater sculpture to the villas of Palladio and the fish-feeding pavilion...
Thinking architecture is a short, acutely impactful book that provides insight into Zumthor’s thinking and philosophy. It is an ode to his memories regarding architecture. Due to its division into small excerpts, it makes for an easy read. So it is an excellent recommendation for amateurs and people who find reading difficult.
Winner of the Pritzker Prize for Architecture 2009, Swiss architect Peter Zumthor is considered to be one of the most extraordinary and controversial architects working today.
The language of architecture
While this book can be helpful for everyone associated with the architectural field, it can be incredibly fruitful for students as it’ll help them grasp the basic foundations of architecture.
The language of architecture takes the reader on a holistic journey that starts with an introduction to architectural design, a historical analysis of various design elements, and an overview of how these elements have been utilized. The book is also filled with great visual aids to all concepts and has the potential to become a handy reference book for inspiration and ideas.
In order to master the foundation of architecture, you must first master the basic building blocks of its language; the definitions, function, and usage. The Language of Architecture provides students and professional architects with the basic elements of architectural design, divided into twenty-six easy-to-comprehend chapters.
Architect + entrepreneur
The book, authored by 30×40 founder Eric Reinholdt, explores the reconciliation of business development and insurance with architecture. Reinholdt, a successful entrepreneur, has penned the book as a narrative guide filled with relevant and contemporary tips and tools that combine entrepreneurship with architecture.
This overlap is unavoidable for architects running their firms, making this book a worthwhile read for all students or practicing architects who want to start their businesses one day.
Modern architecture since 1900
Considered a contemporary classic, it has become a household name in architecture. The book narrows its focus to about 90 years of design and covers all major architectural movements from 1900 to the mid-1990s.
It is highly recommended due to Curtis’ careful acknowledgement of critiques of different movements and the fluid journey he creates from one movement to the next. Each movement is explained through various textual and visual references of built examples, making their distinctions easy to understand.
Manual of Section
This book provides a holistic framework for understanding different types of sections and their effect on other aspects of design, such as form or materiality. There are a total of 63 projects, each organised into one of the seven types of sections (e.g., Extrusion, stack, incline, etc.). These seven categories are the mainstay of the book.
Sections are notoriously tricky to understand and draft for new students, and this book can be a helpful guide in understanding the uniqueness of sections as representational tools.
The section is one of the essential representational techniques of architectural design, until now, there has been no framework to describe or evaluate it. Manual of Section fills this void
The BLDGblog book
The book is inspired by the author’s website of the same name. It draws from various eclectic sources, both fictional and factual, to predict various future scenarios that explore four different themes – the urban underground, the climate, architectural acoustics, and landscape futures.
The book is packed with exciting excursions into part-fantasy, part-reality worlds, each elaborated with stunning comics, graphics, and textual information. The BLDGblog book is entirely different from most architectural books and is immersive enough to the reader’s attention, even if they are not active readers or architectural practitioners.
BLDGBLOG is the leading voice in speculation about architecture, landscape, and the built environment. This Book distills author Geoff Manaugh's unique vision, offering an enthusiastic, idea-filled guide to the future of architecture, with stunning images and exclusive new content.
World history of architecture
The third edition of the book takes the reader on a vibrant journey around the world, describing some of the greatest works of architecture and global heritage. The authors have also incorporated the artistic, economic, environmental, political, social, and technical contexts for each building.
The book is primarily meant for architecture students but can also be a great companion to world travelers.
Updated with expanded coverage of twenty-first century architecture, this new edition uniquely comprises a detailed survey of Western architecture as well as architecture from the Middle East, Africa, Central and South America, India, Russia, China and Japan.
Contemporary Residential detailing
We have all heard the phrase “God is in the details,” As you will learn after reading Mcleaod’s Encyclopedia of detail, the phrase seems entirely accurate. The book is a collection of over 700 construction details explained through a hundred different residential projects. It is the kind of book one can keep handy when figuring out the details of your project.
The book references all types of connections and elements used in residential constructions and is an excellent resource for students and professionals alike.
This comprehensive reference work contains scale drawings of every type of detailing used in contemporary residential architecture. This is a definitive sourcebook, with sections on each element of residential architecture, each one of which contains at least 50 drawings, with detailed keys explaining construction...
101 Things I learned in architecture school
As the name suggests, this book is a collection of 101 lessons related to architectural design, presentation, and drawings. Most architectural books tend to take themselves too seriously and can make for a tedious read, but Matthew Fredrick has managed to write a book that is as hilarious as it is practical.
It has the potential to become an architecture student’s best friend and guide them through some of the harshest times of their early academic years.
This is a book that students of architecture will want to keep in the studio and in their bags. It is also a book they may want to keep out of view of their professors, for it expresses in clear and simple language things that tend to be murky and abstruse in the classroom...
Data is the keyword in Neufert’s book as it is filled with large amounts of information that an architect might need while planning a building. The book is organised by building type and contains over 6000 diagrams regarding the initial planning of various typologies, with the residential section being exceptionally detailed.
Since its primary usage is as a reference book, you can keep going back to it and find relevant information for your work.
This is a very useful design guide that is full of data on just about anything you can think of, from the width of a hospital parking bay to the size of a football pitch stand. It’s one of the most useful books you can own as a student and professional.
Famous architecture books
In praise of shadows
In Tanizaki’s essay, change and contrast are predominant topics, and he draws stark comparisons between orientalism and westernisation. The essay delves into the collision between the shadows, from which the Japanese traditional aesthetics emanate, and the glaring lights of the modern era.
In praise of shadows is a compelling essay and should be present in any architect’s library but especially for those interested in understanding the perpetual melee between cultural values and the impact of modernism on the global west.
This is an enchanting essay on aesthetics by one of the greatest Japanese novelists. Tanizaki's eye ranges over architecture, jade, food, toilets, and combines an acute sense of the use of space in buildings, as well as perfect descriptions of lacquerware under candlelight and women...
The eyes of the skin
Love reading about philosophy? Want to read something that combines it with architecture? Considered one of Juhani Pallasma’s most excellent manifestos, the eyes of the skin has had a profound impact on the architectural community.
The book takes us through a journey that explains the hegemony of the eye in most designs and urges the reader not to see architecture simply as an object for visual enticement. It is an immaculately crafted argument that calls for an architecture that caters more to other senses (touch, smell, etc.) and less to the sense of sight.
The Eyes of the Skin has become a classic of architectural theory. It asks the far-reaching question why, when there are five senses, has one single sense? sight? become so predominant in architectural culture and design?
Best architecture design books
Covering a wide range of topics, from design principles and techniques to the history and theory, architecture design books serve as a valuable resource for both architects and students.
Here we’ve curated a selection of our top recommended books for understanding the architectural design process, that we hope will aid in the development of your concepts (our list of architecture concept books can found here) and the cultivation of architectural thinking.
Of course if you have any questions, feel free to reach out or leave a comment.
Forming and centering: Foundational aspects of architectural design
This book presents a comprehensive examination of the fundamental principles of architectural design, focusing on the concepts of forming and centering. The author argues that understanding these underlying concepts can enhance the process of architectural design and deepen appreciation of completed works of architecture.
Presented through a cohesive, analytical narrative that brings together various perspectives on these subjects, using a balance of text and illustrations, including over 450 diagrams. Additionally, the text includes supplementary material available online, including narratives, photographs, and contextual views.
The book delves into the technique of shaping and aligning, featuring over 450 illustrations. The author covers a range of topics including incorporating elements, duplication, removal, manipulation, dimensions, and more.
Architecture: form, space, and order
For over four decades, Architecture: Form, Space, and Order has been the go-to guide for understanding the fundamentals of architectural design. The Fourth Edition has been updated and revised, providing a clear and comprehensive introduction to the elements of form and space in architecture.
The book encourages critical thinking and provides a deeper understanding of architecture by examining concepts such as light, view, openings, enclosures, circulation, proportion, and scale. The text is richly illustrated, demonstrating the relationships between the fundamental elements of architecture throughout history and across cultures.
This is an excellent introduction into the basic vocabulary of architectural design that examines how form and space are ordered in the built environment. It includes sections on circulation, light, views, and site context, with contemporary examples of form, space, and order that encourage and promote a deeper understanding of architecture.
BIG. Yes is more
“Yes is More” is a manifesto of the architectural practice Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) that breaks from traditional architectural monographs. The book, presented in comic book format, expresses BIG’s revolutionary agenda for contemporary architecture, providing a comprehensive documentation of the firm’s innovative methods, tools, and design process.
The book’s title, a play on words, represents BIG’s approach of creating socially, economically, and environmentally perfect places as a practical objective, and their belief in a “pragmatic utopian architecture” that lies between the extremes of avant-garde and corporate consultants.
The book showcases BIG’s many award-winning projects and its approach to involving the public in its designs. The use of the comic book format makes the content easily accessible and reflects the company’s irreverent attitude towards excessive formalism.
This book by Bjarke Ingles (BIG) demonstrates how to present and break down your work in a way that can be easily understood. As an architect he is very good at bringing and creating architecture to and for the public. BIG not only inspires and demonstrates how...
Design process in architecture
Designing architecture is a complex and nuanced process that can seem mysterious to those who are just starting out. This guidebook aims to demystify the design process by providing a comprehensive introduction to the various steps and strategies involved in creating a building. It covers all aspects of the design process and offers examples from a wide range of architectural styles.
The book is designed to help students understand the nuances of design, and provide them with the tools and knowledge to develop their own unique approach to the design process. With clear and accessible text, and hundreds of images, this guidebook is an essential resource for architecture students and anyone interested in understanding the design process.
Every building starts with an idea. But how do you get from a concept to a piece of architecture? Why do some ideas work better than others? What is a "good" design?
Design strategies in architecture
In this book, Geoffrey Baker presents a method for analyzing modern architecture, which can be difficult to study due to changes in fashion and the many different design styles.
The book is divided into two parts. Part One provides a comprehensive overview of the nature and role of architecture, including discussions on geometry and symbolism. Part Two applies the analytical methodology by examining the design of cities and specific buildings by modern architects such as Aalto, Meier, and Stirling.
This second revised edition includes a new chapter that explores the relationship between modern perceptions of science, art, and philosophy and their impact on architecture, comparing different architectural movements such as Futurism, Constructivism, Suprematism, High Tech, Deconstruction and the avant-garde, with the phenomenology of Bachelard and Heiddeger.
Through its clear methodology of architectural design analysis this book provides an excellent explanation of how architectural concept strategies are developed and implemented. Using many historical references it reveals the underlying organisation of buildings, and makes sense of there meaning through line drawings and text.
Precedents in architecture: analytic diagrams, formative ideas, and partis
Precedents in Architecture, Fourth Edition is an essential guide for architects and designers looking to analyze and create innovative designs. The book uses a diagrammatic technique to analyze over 100 buildings by 38 leading architects, including 14 new buildings and 7 new architects, to provide a vocabulary for architectural analysis.
The book explores the commonality of design ideas in a broad range of structures by renowned architects, providing valuable insight into the evolutionary process of architectural history. This updated edition is an ideal tool for both beginners and experienced professionals to expand their design vocabulary and evaluate buildings in today’s changing landscape.
This informative book is packed with design inspiration and an in-depth understanding of how prominent architects developed their conceptual ideas - providing an insight into how to effectively represent architectural desing ideas in drawings.
Analysing Architecture is a comprehensive introduction to the subject of architecture, aimed at students and professionals in the field. Now in its fourth edition, the book has become a widely recognized resource for understanding architecture.
The author uses illustrations from his own notebooks to analyze examples from around the world and all periods of history, providing insights into the underlying strategies in architectural design and showing how drawing can be used as a medium for analysis.
The new edition has been revised and expanded, with an enlarged chapter on the basic elements of architecture, new chapters on themes in spatial organization, and additional case studies from India and Japan. The bibliography and index have also been updated. Architecture is a complex and subtle field, but this book provides a clear and accessible guide for understanding it.
It is an invaluable resource for anyone studying or working in architecture or related disciplines such as archaeology, stage design, garden design, and installation art.
Aimed at architecture students, Analysing Architecture offers a clear and accessible insight into the underlying strategies behind architectural design, exploring the various architectural elements and spatial organisation strategies required to develop design concepts with depth.
Best architecture books FAQs
What books should I read as a beginner?
It is entirely normal to be a little confused when starting your reading journey as a young architect or someone with a general interest in architecture. And most books that feature on these best architecture books lists are often too complicated or information-heavy to be easily understood by beginners.
We recommend you start your journey by reading some light-hearted and engaging books (such as 101 things I learned in architecture school or Yes is more). There are also a few great introductory books that will help you familiarize yourself with some of the most impactful buildings (Such as Twenty-five buildings every architect should understand )
And, of course, Francis D.K. Ching’s work, especially Form, Space, and Order, is a must-read for all beginners. Once you have grasped the basics, you can move on to the more complex and conceptually challenging books.
A comprehensive reading guide for beginners is provided in the link below:
What books should I read as an architecture student?
Architecture is a multi-disciplinary field, and keeping a comprehensive information inventory that could guide you through your education seems almost impossible. As an architecture student, one always looks for good reference books and resources to be a guide through various academic stages.
It is essential not to rely on your tutors and their lectures alone to sustain your knowledge. And every architecture student should strive to learn more through the extensive literature available online or in printed form.
And to help you navigate through your reading journey, we have provided a list of books for architecture students in the link below: