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The best books of 2023

This list is part of the best books of 2023.

We've asked 1,681 authors and super readers for their 3 favorite reads of the year.

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My favorite read in 2023…

Book cover of Old Buildings, New Ideas: A Selective Architectural History of Additions, Adaptations, Reuse and Design Invention

Simon Unwin Why did I love this book?

This book deals with one of my absolute favourite subjects: how great architecture can emerge from blending new into old.

Often architecture is thought of as being about creating completely new buildings. But often the most interesting and effective works derive from an architect working with existing fabric. This approach is not necessarily a matter of ‘restoration’ of the old fabric to its original form, but of seeing the opportunities presented by the remnants of the old in the development of something new and vital. 

By Francoise Astorg Bollack,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Old Buildings, New Ideas as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Some architectural transformations are modest, some are revolutionary.

Shining a light on the hidden side of the accepted narrative of the history of architecture, this book explores works which transform existing buildings to build a way forward, through adaptations, additions and visual shifts.

Examining 30 buildings across Europe, North America and South America, spanning from the early Middle Ages to the end of the 20th century, it demonstrates the creative possibilities of working with existing buildings.

The book reveals how formal inventions can shape architecture and our environment over time in a built world constantly in a state of becoming.…


My 2nd favorite read in 2023…

Book cover of Carlo Scarpa and Castelvecchio Revisited

Simon Unwin Why did I love this book?

Richard Murphy is the absolute expert on the work of Carlo Scarpa on the Castelvecchio (now a museum) in Verona, Italy.

This book is an expanded version of his Carlo Scarpa & the Castelvecchio which emerged from detailed studies and measured surveys carried out in the preceding decades. The newer book is nothing less than magisterial in its coverage of one of the greatest ever examples of an architect engaged in creative collaboration with historic fabric. 

By Richard Murphy,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Carlo Scarpa and Castelvecchio Revisited as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Carlo Scarpa worked on the Castelvecchio Museum in Verona intermittently between 1957 and 1975. It is perhaps his most important project. His work there draws on all his remarkable skills. It demonstrates how to work creatively within a building which already possesses a complex history. It is a magnificent example of his highly personal language of architecture, not least his incredible eye for detail and mastery of the crafting of materials. And it contains a museum exhibition which is as radical and timeless today as the day it opened in 1964 and has served as an inspiration to museum designers…


My 3rd favorite read in 2023…

Book cover of The Songyang Story: Architectural Acupuncture as Driver for Progress in Rural China

Simon Unwin Why did I love this book?

This book illustrates the work of architects Xu Tiantian and DnA_Beijing in the Songyang region of China.

All the work manages to respect the culture and character of the region whilst not being a slave to historical appearance and the use of traditional materials and building techniques. The result is a masterclass in the insertion of new buildings into old geography and human settlement.

The authors of the book term this approach ‘acupuncture’, a term which carries both the precision in the way in which the work is conceived and the therapeutic benefit to the communities affected. 

By Wang Jun, Eduard Koegel, Saskia Sassen , Remy Sietchiping , Martino Stierli , Xu Tiantian , Kirsten Feireiss (editor) , Hans-Jurgen Commerell (editor)

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Songyang Story as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In 2014, Xu Tiantian, founder of Beijing-based studio Design and Architecture (DnA) began to work in Songyang County, in China's Zhejiang Province. Her exemplary holistic planning concept of Architectural Acupuncture, which has gained the support of local administrative and political leadership, aims at revitalising rural areas and comprises the renovation of production plants and of tourist and technical infrastructure as well as the creation of venues for culture and education and of social housing. Each of Xu's small-scale interventions at local level is unique, only the small budget is common to all of them. Moreover, they are all inter-related with…


Plus, check out my book…

Twenty-Five+ Buildings Every Architect Should Understand

By Simon Unwin,

Book cover of Twenty-Five+ Buildings Every Architect Should Understand

What is my book about?

This book started life in 2010 as Twenty Buildings Every Architect Should Understand. In 2015 I expanded it to Twenty-Five Buildings Every Architect Should Understand. And now, in this third edition, due to be published on November 3rd, 2023, I have added a number of shorter supplementary analyses of interesting buildings that exemplify, especially to student architects, the variety of ways in which can architecture work. The total number of examples now totals around fifty. Each is illustrated with my own analytical drawings to bring out the architect’s underlying ideas.

Together they provide a rich mix of case studies to supplement my earlier books Analysing Architecture: the Universal Language of Place-Making and Exercises in Architecture: Learning to Think as an Architect