The best books on interior architecture and the reuse of existing buildings

Why am I passionate about this?

Graeme Brooker is a Professor and Head of Interior Design at the Royal College of Art London. He has written and published fifteen books on the histories and theories of inside spaces, many of which focus on the reuse of existing artefacts, buildings, and cities. Apart from teaching and writing, when he isn’t cycling, he is often staring intently at the sea in Brighton, where he currently lives.

I wrote...

50/50 Words for Reuse: A Minifesto

By Graeme Brooker,

Book cover of 50/50 Words for Reuse: A Minifesto

What is my book about?

50/50 Words is a compilation of the words for reuse. It outlines a lexicon of language, is an expression of vocabularies, and claims a glossary of terms all used to distinguish the transformation of the existing into something new in order to make new interior spaces. In response to a world with finite resources, the very-near future of the built environment will be focused solely on the re-designation of all existing matter. New-build and single-use processes will be obsoleted distinctions for making cities, buildings, interiors, and artefacts. 50|50 characterises centuries of these practices and it specifies their relevance to the 21st century, a time that can be characterised in its responses to the challenges of the climate emergency. 

This book is only available direct from the publisher here.

Shepherd is reader supported. When you buy books, we may earn an affiliate commission.

The books I picked & why

Book cover of On Altering Architecture

Graeme Brooker Why did I love this book?

On Altering Architecture belongs to a small and unique collection of publications that are involved in distinguishing the discipline of working with existing buildings. In the book, Scott constructs an inspired argument for the understanding of the significance of environmental design disciplines such as Interior design and installation art. The book is divided into twelve chapters, each an essay on reuse and overlapping disciplines. 

Each chapter is full of insightful and interesting case studies, expertly analysed and explained. On Altering Architecture is an absorbing and fascinating book that is packed with ideas, witty asides, mischievous digressions, and provocative thoughts. In parts the tone of the book is conversational, in others authoritative, each blends seamlessly into each other providing a compelling read. 

By Fred Scott,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked On Altering Architecture as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Bringing together interior design and architectural theory, this exciting text looks at the common practices of building alteration, reconsidering established ideas and methods, to initiate the creation of a theory of the interior or interventional design.

Fred Scott examines in-depth case studies of interventional design from architectural history across the world - examples discussed are taken from the States, Europe and Japan. Scott expands and builds on the ideas of Viollet-le-Duc, structuralism and other thoughts to layout criteria for an art of intervention and change. The book draws on the philosophy of conservation, preservation and restoration, as well as exploring…

Book cover of The Secret Lives of Buildings: From the Ruins of the Parthenon to the Vegas Strip in Thirteen Stories

Graeme Brooker Why did I love this book?

This book is a provocative and stimulating read, offering a series of stories on and about interior spaces and the buildings they are situated in. The stories of buildings and their changes are fascinating, providing boundless enthusiasm to communicate the ideas and stories of each space. Hollis states that many conversations are started and that maybe not all of them are ever finished, this book provides an inspired beginning for any person who wants to begin an exploration of the art of adapting and altering existing buildings. 

By Edward Hollis,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The plans are drawn up, a site is chosen, foundations are dug: a building comes into being with the expectation that it will stay put and stay for ever. But a building is a capricious thing: it is inhabited and changed, and its existence is a tale of constant and curious transformation. In this radical reimagining of architectural history, Edward Hollis tells the stories of thirteen buildings, beginning with the 'once upon a time' when they first appeared, through the years of appropriation, ruin and renovation, and ending with a temporary 'ever after'. In spell-binding prose, Hollis follows his buildings…

Book cover of The Interior Architecture Theory Reader

Graeme Brooker Why did I love this book?

This book provides a compelling survey of the range of emerging work underpinning the development of the histories, theories, processes, and practices of interior architecture. Its diverse range of contributors and topics outlines a through survey of this new discipline. The book is varied in its scope and content. Start here for a thorough introduction to the fundamental issues surrounding the discipline.

By Gregory Marinic (editor),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Interior Architecture Theory Reader as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Interior Architecture Theory Reader presents a global compilation that collectively and specifically defines interior architecture. Diverse views and comparative resources for interior architecture students, educators, scholars, and practitioners are needed to develop a proper canon for this young discipline. As a theoretical survey of interior architecture, the book examines theory, history, and production to embrace a full range of interior identities in architecture, interior design, digital fabrication, and spatial installation. Authored by leading educators, theorists, and practitioners, fifty chapters refine and expand the discourse surrounding interior architecture.

Book cover of The Re-Use Atlas: A Designer's Guide Towards the Circular Economy

Graeme Brooker Why did I love this book?

The Re-Use Atlas is a timely and comprehensive book, overflowing with projects and ideas, work that is suffused with the compelling enthusiasm of its author and contributors. Upon the first reading of this Atlas, my initial reaction was how reliant all aspects of the book were on the abundance and also the scarcity of existing matter. It is this variability in the sources of the raw material for reuse that has led to the development and description of numerous, clever, engaged strategies for reworking existing materials and buildings. The Re-use Atlas brings these sensibilities into sharp focus, through the numerous ideas and people that it contains, and the exemplary projects that it meticulously depicts. 

By Duncan Baker-Brown,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Re-Use Atlas as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This book is a highly illustrated 'atlas', taking the reader on a journey via four distinct 'steps' (recycling, reuse, reduce, closed loop), from a linear economy towards a system emulating the natural world, i.e, a circular economy. Featuring over 25 detailed case studies describing design exemplars from the worlds of textile and fashion design, product design, interior architecture, architecture and urban design, this book's purpose is to show designers how they can successfully navigate and exploit the emerging field of resource management and the circular economy.

Each step is supplemented with an in depth interview with an expert who is…

Book cover of Secondhand: Travels in the New Global Garage Sale

Graeme Brooker Why did I love this book?

This is a revelatory, timely book that details the afterlives of the numerous discarded and recycled objects from around the world. It gave me great insights into where stuff goes once we decide that these are things that we no longer need or want and who are the people and the places who find value in what we leave behind. 

By Adam Minter,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Secondhand as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From the author of Junkyard Planet, "an anthem to decluttering, recycling, making better quality goods and living a simpler life with less stuff." -Associated Press

Downsizing. Decluttering. Discarding. Sooner or later, all of us are faced with things we no longer need or want. But when we drop our old clothes and other items off at a local donation center, where do they go? Sometimes across the country-or even halfway across the world-to people and places who find value in what we leave behind.

In Secondhand, journalist Adam Minter takes us on an unexpected adventure into the often-hidden, multibillion-dollar industry…

You might also like...

Book cover of Benghazi! A New History of the Fiasco that Pushed America and its World to the Brink

Ethan Chorin Author Of Benghazi! A New History of the Fiasco that Pushed America and its World to the Brink

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Story-lover Middle East expert Curious Iconoclast Optimist

Ethan's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

Benghazi: A New History is a look back at the enigmatic 2012 attack on the US mission in Benghazi, Libya, its long-tail causes, and devastating (and largely unexamined) consequences for US domestic politics and foreign policy. It contains information not found elsewhere, and is backed up by 40 pages of citations and interviews with more than 250 key protagonists, experts, and witnesses.

So far, the book is the main -- and only -- antidote to a slew of early partisan “Benghazi” polemics, and the first to put the attack in its longer term historical, political, and social context. If you want to understand some of the events that have shaped present-day America, from political polarization and the election of Donald Trump, to January 6, the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, Russian expansionism, and the current Israel-Hamas war, I argue, you need to understand some of the twists and turns of America's most infamous "non-scandal, scandal.”

I was in Benghazi well before, during, and after the attack as a US diplomat and co-director of a medical NGO. I have written three books, and have been a contributor to The NYT, Foreign Affairs, Forbes, Salon, The Financial Times, Newsweek, and others.

By Ethan Chorin,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Benghazi! A New History of the Fiasco that Pushed America and its World to the Brink as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

On September 11, 2012, Al Qaeda proxies attacked and set fire to the US mission in Benghazi, Libya, killing a US Ambassador and three other Americans.  The attack launched one of the longest and most consequential 'scandals' in US history, only to disappear from public view once its political value was spent. 

Written in a highly engaging narrative style by one of a few Western experts on Libya, and decidely non-partisan, Benghazi!: A New History is the first to provide the full context for an event that divided, incited, and baffled most of America for more than three years, while silently reshaping…

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in architecture, philosophy, and urban planning?

10,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about architecture, philosophy, and urban planning.

Architecture Explore 80 books about architecture
Philosophy Explore 1,586 books about philosophy
Urban Planning Explore 53 books about urban planning