78 books like The Seven Lamps of Architecture

By John Ruskin,

Here are 78 books that The Seven Lamps of Architecture fans have personally recommended if you like The Seven Lamps of Architecture. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of The Not So Big House: A Blueprint for the Way We Really Live

Shannon Taylor Scarlett Author Of Simple Rules: What the Oldtime Builders Knew

From my list on timeless architectural principles.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a practicing architect, and an avid reader—in a variety of subjects and genres, not just architecture—I love finding patterns and connections between seemingly dissimilar phenomena. Patterns conform to principles, and principles are the fountainhead of wisdom that never runs dry. I will be the first to admit that, even after forty years of absorbing these and other kindred principles, I’m still far from consistent in applying them. And, like the others I cite, my own work suffers from that inconsistency. I commiserate with all architects who are similarly struggling to design buildings that exemplify even a few of the principles in these books. And that is why I chose them.

Shannon's book list on timeless architectural principles

Shannon Taylor Scarlett Why did Shannon love this book?

When Susanka’s book first came out in the 90s, I felt like she had hit on something that many architects were being challenged by—the expanding popularity of the McMansion. Now with Tiny Houses bookmarking her work at the other end, and with all the at-home needs and complications that came with the pandemic, I still think she has got the formula right: Build better, not bigger. Her chapters include many principles on how to build smaller eloquent, gem houses, and to get away from the clunky, gaudy costume jewelry architecture ruining the American suburbs.

When I realized Alexander’s Pattern Language had also influenced Susanka’s work, I began to question why it was not on my list. But, I couldn't decide which book it would replace. Maybe it will make it onto the list for a future book, but that’s for another day. 

By Sarah Susanka, Kira Obolensky,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Not So Big House as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This title offers an inspiration for homeowners and builders from a leading architect. "The Not So Big House" has sold over 500,000 copies since 1998. It features clear guidance that emphasises the use of quality not quantity. This anniversary edition includes 32 extra pages and a new introduction. Now available in paperback, the expanded 10th anniversary edition of Sarah Susanka's "The Not So Big House" is ready to inspire a whole new generation of homeowners and builders. Though a decade has passed, her deceptively simple message remains as powerful as ever: when it comes to our homes, quality should always…


Book cover of The Beautiful Necessity

Shannon Taylor Scarlett Author Of Simple Rules: What the Oldtime Builders Knew

From my list on timeless architectural principles.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a practicing architect, and an avid reader—in a variety of subjects and genres, not just architecture—I love finding patterns and connections between seemingly dissimilar phenomena. Patterns conform to principles, and principles are the fountainhead of wisdom that never runs dry. I will be the first to admit that, even after forty years of absorbing these and other kindred principles, I’m still far from consistent in applying them. And, like the others I cite, my own work suffers from that inconsistency. I commiserate with all architects who are similarly struggling to design buildings that exemplify even a few of the principles in these books. And that is why I chose them.

Shannon's book list on timeless architectural principles

Shannon Taylor Scarlett Why did Shannon love this book?

One of my favorite books, this hidden gem was, unfortunately, for the world—as the author feared it might—spurned because of his association with Theosophy. When I accidentally discovered it a few years ago I was floored by the deep historical and philosophical connections he makes throughout his essays on architecture. In the first short essay, he sketches two-line symbols in a progression, with tight little summaries epitomizing each of the past ages of architecture, that surprisingly paralleled Spengler’s chapters on architecture in Decline of the West. His grasp of mathematics and his novel thoughts on its application in architecture are equally concise and mind-bending. In one essay he offers an elegant proposal for a modern style of ornamentation based on a four-dimensional hyper-space model. Beautiful necessity, a phrase taken from an essay by Emerson, was for Bragdon the essence and purpose of architecture itself. 

By Claude Fayette Bragdon,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The Beautiful Necessity-Seven Essays on Theosophy and Architecture is an art history classic by Claude Fayette Bragdon. One of the advantages of a thorough assimilation of what may be called the theosophic idea is that it can be applied with advantage to every department of knowledge and of human activity: like the key to a cryptogram it renders clear and simple that which before seemed intricate and obscure. Let us apply this key to the subject of art, and to the art of architecture in particular, and see if by so doing we may not learn more of art than…


Book cover of The Process of Creating Life: The Nature of Order, Book 2: An Essay of the Art of Building and the Nature of the Universe

Shannon Taylor Scarlett Author Of Simple Rules: What the Oldtime Builders Knew

From my list on timeless architectural principles.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a practicing architect, and an avid reader—in a variety of subjects and genres, not just architecture—I love finding patterns and connections between seemingly dissimilar phenomena. Patterns conform to principles, and principles are the fountainhead of wisdom that never runs dry. I will be the first to admit that, even after forty years of absorbing these and other kindred principles, I’m still far from consistent in applying them. And, like the others I cite, my own work suffers from that inconsistency. I commiserate with all architects who are similarly struggling to design buildings that exemplify even a few of the principles in these books. And that is why I chose them.

Shannon's book list on timeless architectural principles

Shannon Taylor Scarlett Why did Shannon love this book?

Over his lifetime, Alexander’s controversial approach to architecture incited widespread criticism, yet it is precisely these unique and thought-provoking ideas that make The Nature of Order an essential read. Beyond his sometimes obscure writing style and lackluster built examples, Alexander's deep commitment to architecture as a complex layered system of patterns—an idea he first popularized in his hippy-architects bible, A Pattern Language—is still palpable in this four-volume magnum opus. 

I found the second volume, where he offers a guide for how to “create life” through patterns, most pertinent to this list. Here he distills his earlier work down to fifteen essential patterns that lead to architecture as a living structure. There is gold to be mined here, for those in search of some semblance of order in the chaotic current of modern architecture. 

By Christopher Alexander,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Christopher Alexander's masterwork, the result of 27 years of research, considers three vital perspectives: a scientific perspective; a perspective based on beauty and grace; a commonsense perspective based on our intuitions and everyday life.


Book cover of Architecture: Form, Space, & Order

Antony Radford Author Of The Elements of Modern Architecture: Understanding Contemporary Buildings

From my list on analysing architecture.

Why am I passionate about this?

My passion as a teacher and writer is to help students and others interpret, understand and enjoy architecture and the built environment, and to help them respond in their own designs to the complexities of place, people, and construction. I have chosen five well-established books on analysing architecture that are highly illustrated, avoid jargon, can be explored rather than needing to be read sequentially cover-to-cover, and have lasting value. They offer guidance for beginning students and a checklist for the experienced. They are books to be kept handy and repeatedly consulted. Of course, analysing existing architecture is invaluable in designing new architecture. I hope you enjoy them.

Antony's book list on analysing architecture

Antony Radford Why did Antony love this book?

In one of the most popular books published on form and composition in architecture, Francis Ching examines basic elements of form and space (edges, corners, planes, etc.) and strategies for their organisation (axes, grids, symmetry, etc).

Like Baker, he includes approach, entry, and movement through built form.

The examples are taken from contemporary and historical buildings. The text is short and the diagrams plentiful.

Ching has also written good books on basic ideas in building structure and construction, both helpful in analysing buildings beyond form and space.

By Francis D. K. Ching,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The revered architectural reference, updated with contemporary examples and interactive 3D models The Interactive Resource Center is an online learning environment where instructors and students can access the tools they need to make efficient use of their time, while reinforcing and assessing their understanding of key concepts for successful understanding of the course. An access card with redemption code for the online Interactive Resource Center is included with all new, print copies or can be purchased separately. (***If you rent or purchase a used book with an access code, the access code may have been redeemed previously and you may…


Book cover of In The Scheme Of Things: Alternative Thinking on the Practice of Architecture

Rasmus Wærn Author Of What is Architecture? And 100 Other Questions

From my list on what architecture is about.

Why am I passionate about this?

My lifelong search for how contemporary architecture can be as loved and graceful as the buildings and environments of our heritage have made me create numerous books, lectures, and films on matters I find crucial. But every new text seems to create more questions than answers. Perhaps it is better to build the talk? Architecture has dimensions, such as time, that make the reading richer than most books. But that brings you back to interpretation. It seems as books and buildings will be impossible to separate. At least for me.

Rasmus' book list on what architecture is about

Rasmus Wærn Why did Rasmus love this book?

Sometimes the best books are not the ones that make you take notes, but the ones that make you think new thoughts.

Fisher’s book is one of these thought-provoking pamphlets where the best moments of reading are when you let the book rest on your lap and reflect upon how his thoughts on practicing architecture can reflect on your own work. This happens to me as I read about the revival of the language of brick and mortar.

By Thomas R. Fisher,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked In The Scheme Of Things as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.


Book cover of Designing Your Natural House

Jeanie and David Stiles Author Of Cabin: A Guide to Building the Perfect Getaway

From my list on hand-illustrated books on building.

Why are we passionate about this?

As the authors of 27 hand-illustrated books, we are acutely aware of the time and skill required for good rendering. We are old-schoolers ourselves, having cut our teeth on “how-to” books before computers came into vogue. Our readers often tell us that a computer drawing does not have the same appeal and clarity as hand drawing. We are able to ‘talk’ a reader through the process of building something with our drawings. We have also found that the best illustrated books often have the best content!

Jeanie's book list on hand-illustrated books on building

Jeanie and David Stiles Why did Jeanie love this book?

This is an outlier that maybe not many have heard about or read. It features two award-winning designers who define, and illustrate, some 200 “rules of good architecture”. The artwork and lettering are by Malcolm Wells—an architect well-known for his sharp wit and off-beat leanings (underground houses being one). The messaging is accurate and timeless. The tone is light, as is the author’s back-and-forth banter. Wells’s illustrations bring the message home with clarity and force. It is a book that is at the same time funny, useful, and beautiful. Good luck finding one! 

Book cover of Measure and Construction of the Japanese House

Azby Brown Author Of The Genius of Japanese Carpentry: Secrets of an Ancient Woodworking Craft

From my list on Japanese carpentry and construction.

Why am I passionate about this?

Azby Brown is a widely published author and authority on Japanese architecture, design, and environment, whose groundbreaking writings on traditional Japanese carpentry, compact housing, and traditional sustainable practices are recognized as having brought these fields to the awareness of Western designers and the general public. His creative work spans many media and has been widely exhibited internationally. In 2003 he founded the KIT Future Design Institute in Tokyo, focussing on cognitive and cultural issues surrounding the human hand and its use in the creative process, conducting collaborative research with neuroscientists and perceptual psychologists. A native of New Orleans, he has lived in Japan since 1985 and is currently on the sculpture faculty of Musashino Art University in Tokyo. 

Azby's book list on Japanese carpentry and construction

Azby Brown Why did Azby love this book?

This book is a classic and is a beautifully informative excerpt from the author’s longer and more extensive The Japanese House: A Tradition for Contemporary Architecture which is long out of print. The drawings and plans are wonderful, and illuminate the Japanese House layout, modularity, proportions, and many structural and ornamental details. I particularly love the white-on-black visual treatment used for many of the plans. 

By Heino Engel,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Measure and Construction of the Japanese House as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A remarkable classic work on traditional Japanese architecture and its general integrative quality, the order of space and form, the flexibility of partitions and room functions and other important or unique qualities. The author describes in detail, and with numerous architectural plans and drawings, the influence of the anatomy of the Japanese human body on traditional units of measurement and on house construction. This work is not simply a description of the features of the Japanese house, but "an invitation to probe the possibilities of utilizing this architectural achievement of the Japanese ...in modern living and building," according to the…


Book cover of Building the Japanese House Today

Azby Brown Author Of The Genius of Japanese Carpentry: Secrets of an Ancient Woodworking Craft

From my list on Japanese carpentry and construction.

Why am I passionate about this?

Azby Brown is a widely published author and authority on Japanese architecture, design, and environment, whose groundbreaking writings on traditional Japanese carpentry, compact housing, and traditional sustainable practices are recognized as having brought these fields to the awareness of Western designers and the general public. His creative work spans many media and has been widely exhibited internationally. In 2003 he founded the KIT Future Design Institute in Tokyo, focussing on cognitive and cultural issues surrounding the human hand and its use in the creative process, conducting collaborative research with neuroscientists and perceptual psychologists. A native of New Orleans, he has lived in Japan since 1985 and is currently on the sculpture faculty of Musashino Art University in Tokyo. 

Azby's book list on Japanese carpentry and construction

Azby Brown Why did Azby love this book?

Len Brackett trained with superb carpenters in Japan and returned to the US West Coast to create exquisite Japanese-stye houses and other buildings. His work is in extremely high demand. This book shows how high-quality Japanese-style design and construction can be adapted to our current lifestyles without sacrificing either aesthetically or functionally. Brackett’s descriptions of his design and construction process, as well as of the wood material he uses, are enticing and provide a lot of technical and philosophical insight.

By Len Brackett, Peggy Landers Rao, Aya Brackett (photographer)

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Building the Japanese House Today as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Built like a piece of fine furniture, the traditional Japanese house is universally admired for its clean lines, intricate joinery, and unparalleled woodworking. Focusing primarily on a new guesthouse in California, this elegant volume shows how a classic Japanese house can be built to offer the warmth and comfort that modern homemakers require.Len Brackett, rigorously trained as a temple carpenter in Kyoto, has spent decades adapting the ancient Japanese design aesthetic to Western needs. Here he demonstrates step-by-step how both the traditional live-on-the-floor house, as well as models that accommodate furniture, can be constructed to provide such modern essentials as…


Book cover of Home: A Short History of an Idea

Sally Stone Author Of Inside Information: The Defining Concepts of Interior Design

From my list on the future of the interior.

Why am I passionate about this?

For more than thirty years I have been discussing, formulating ideas, and writing about Architecture, Building Reuse, and Interiors. I lead the MA Architecture and Adaptive Reuse programme and direct graduate atelier Continuity in Architecture at the Manchester School of Architecture. I am currently the Visiting Professor at the University IUAV of Venice where I am conducting research on the sustainable adaptation of existing buildings with particular emphasis on the environmental concerns within the inherently fragile city of Venice.

Sally's book list on the future of the interior

Sally Stone Why did Sally love this book?

Home discusses the complex series of factors that have generated the house as we understand it today. The chapters can be read independently as discussions on, for example, the evolution of comfort or the organisation of the different spaces. However, the book also builds into a fascinating argument for revisiting some of the pre-modern ideas of communal living, shared spaces, and live-work relationships. 

By Witold Rybczynski,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Walk through five centuries of homes both great and small from the smoke-filled manor halls of the Middle Ages to today's Ralph Lauren-designed environments on a house tour like no other, one that delightfully explicates the very idea of "home."

You'll see how social and cultural changes influenced styles of decoration and furnishing, learn the connection between wall-hung religious tapestries and wall-to-wall carpeting, discover how some of our most welcome luxuries were born of architectural necessity, and much more. Most of all, Home opens a rare window into our private lives and how we really want to live.


Book cover of Shelter

Jeanie and David Stiles Author Of Cabins: A Guide to Building Your Own Nature Retreat

From my list on that will inspire you to build your own cabin or nature home.

Why are we passionate about this?

We have written 27 “how-to” books on building outdoor projects, including cabins, sheds, and treehouses. David does the illustrations and I do the descriptive writing. Our goal is to make the instructions clear to both right and left brain readers – and to make the two elements complement each other. Our readers often tell us that a computer drawing does not have the same appeal and clarity as hand drawing. We are able to ‘talk’ a reader through the process of building something with our drawings. People often send us photographs of their completed projects – it’s a big part of the satisfaction we get from writing our books.

Jeanie's book list on that will inspire you to build your own cabin or nature home

Jeanie and David Stiles Why did Jeanie love this book?

Lloyd Kahn has long been a leading light in DIY home building, and wrote for The Whole Earth Catalog in its counter-culture heyday. Shelter still inspires the reader with photographs and descriptions of home-built cabins and alternative dwellings from around the world; the range of techniques and materials covered is impressively wide.

By Lloyd Kahn (editor), Bob Easton (editor),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Shelter is many things — a visually dynamic, oversized compendium of organic architecture past and present; a how-to book that includes over 1,250 illustrations; and a Whole Earth Catalog-type sourcebook for living in harmony with the earth by using every conceivable material. First published in 1973, Shelter remains a source of inspiration and invention. Including the nuts-and-bolts aspects of building, the book covers such topics as dwellings from Iron Age huts to Bedouin tents to Togo's tin-and-thatch houses; nomadic shelters from tipis to "housecars"; and domes, dome cities, sod iglus, and even treehouses.
The authors recount personal stories about alternative…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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