98 books like Understanding Architecture

By Robert McCarter, Juhani Pallasmaa,

Here are 98 books that Understanding Architecture fans have personally recommended if you like Understanding 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 Architecture of Happiness

Laura Dushkes Author Of The Architect Says: Quotes, Quips, and Words of Wisdom

From my list on architecture for non-experts.

Why am I passionate about this?

When I was young, my parents gave me a book of quotations. I was hooked. Now I’m the solo librarian for NBBJ, a design firm with 12 offices worldwide and I select and buy books for all 12 offices. I search for the best books to inspire the designers I work with. But I’m aware that not everyone who works for an architectural firm is an architect. We have people in accounting, facilities, tech services, and more. I try to have a selection of books for these people, too – people who are interested in architecture, but aren’t experts. I have a Master’s in medieval history and a Master's in Library and Information Science.

Laura's book list on architecture for non-experts

Laura Dushkes Why did Laura love this book?

This brief 280-page book illustrates the connection between us and our built environment – something that affects us all, but we don’t always appreciate. With illustrations that match the text, de Botton takes us around the world to show us how buildings and objects influence us – can make us happy or sad. A very accessible way to understand the philosophy of architecture. It will make you see your home and office in a new light.

By Alain De Botton,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

What makes a house beautiful? Is it serious to spend your time thinking about home decoration? Why do people disagree about taste? Can buildings make us happy? In The Architecture of Happiness Alain de Botton tackles a relationship central to our lives. Our buildings - and the objects we fill them with - affect us more profoundly than we might think. To take architecture seriously is to accept that we are, for better and for worse, different people in different places. De Botton suggests that it is architecture's task to render vivid to us who we might ideally be. Turning…


Book cover of Architecture of the Absurd: How "Genius" Disfigured a Practical Art

Laura Dushkes Author Of The Architect Says: Quotes, Quips, and Words of Wisdom

From my list on architecture for non-experts.

Why am I passionate about this?

When I was young, my parents gave me a book of quotations. I was hooked. Now I’m the solo librarian for NBBJ, a design firm with 12 offices worldwide and I select and buy books for all 12 offices. I search for the best books to inspire the designers I work with. But I’m aware that not everyone who works for an architectural firm is an architect. We have people in accounting, facilities, tech services, and more. I try to have a selection of books for these people, too – people who are interested in architecture, but aren’t experts. I have a Master’s in medieval history and a Master's in Library and Information Science.

Laura's book list on architecture for non-experts

Laura Dushkes Why did Laura love this book?

Although not an architect or critic, Silber takes on the “Starchitect” who designs, not for the user, but for ego. Offering examples such as Liebeskind’s Royal Ontario Museum and Gehry’s Stata Center at MIT, Silber offers a bold argument that many of our leading lights too enmeshed in Archi-speak and have convinced clients to approve projects that don’t work. You may disagree with the author, but this slim volume will get you to think.

By John Silber,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Have you ever wondered why the Guggenheim is always covered in scaffolding? Why the slashes on the exterior of Libeskind's Jewish Museum, supposed to represent Jewish life in prewar Berlin, reappear, for no reason, on his Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto? Or why Gehry's design for an MIT lab for sensitive research has glass walls? Not to mention why, for $44.2 per square foot, it doesn't keep out the rain? You're not alone.
In Architecture of the Absurd, John Silber dares to peek behind the curtain of "genius" architects and expose their willful disdain for their clients, their budgets, and…


Book cover of Cubed: The Secret History of the Workplace

Laura Dushkes Author Of The Architect Says: Quotes, Quips, and Words of Wisdom

From my list on architecture for non-experts.

Why am I passionate about this?

When I was young, my parents gave me a book of quotations. I was hooked. Now I’m the solo librarian for NBBJ, a design firm with 12 offices worldwide and I select and buy books for all 12 offices. I search for the best books to inspire the designers I work with. But I’m aware that not everyone who works for an architectural firm is an architect. We have people in accounting, facilities, tech services, and more. I try to have a selection of books for these people, too – people who are interested in architecture, but aren’t experts. I have a Master’s in medieval history and a Master's in Library and Information Science.

Laura's book list on architecture for non-experts

Laura Dushkes Why did Laura love this book?

Those of us who toil in an office might not be aware of the history of this workplace. But it has a fascinating background, and Saval beautifully shows the reader how our current office evolved from the 19th century through Frederick Taylor, who sought to transform workers into automatons and on to the dreaded cubicle. Eminently readable, you’ll never look at your office desk in the same way.

By Nikil Saval,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

You mean this place we go to five days a week has a history? Cubed reveals the unexplored yet surprising story of the places where most of the world's work—our work—gets done. From "Bartleby the Scrivener" to The Office, from the steno pool to the open-plan cubicle farm, Cubed is a fascinating, often funny, and sometimes disturbing anatomy of the white-collar world and how it came to be the way it is—and what it might become.

In the mid-nineteenth century clerks worked in small, dank spaces called “counting-houses.” These were all-male enclaves, where work was just paperwork. Most Americans considered…


Book cover of The Women Who Changed Architecture

Laura Dushkes Author Of The Architect Says: Quotes, Quips, and Words of Wisdom

From my list on architecture for non-experts.

Why am I passionate about this?

When I was young, my parents gave me a book of quotations. I was hooked. Now I’m the solo librarian for NBBJ, a design firm with 12 offices worldwide and I select and buy books for all 12 offices. I search for the best books to inspire the designers I work with. But I’m aware that not everyone who works for an architectural firm is an architect. We have people in accounting, facilities, tech services, and more. I try to have a selection of books for these people, too – people who are interested in architecture, but aren’t experts. I have a Master’s in medieval history and a Master's in Library and Information Science.

Laura's book list on architecture for non-experts

Laura Dushkes Why did Laura love this book?

All of the architects mentioned in my other recommendations are men. Yet many women broke barriers to become noteworthy architects. This recently-published book aims to bring to readers the profiles of dozens of women architects. Organized by the birthdate of the architect, this book also has short essays throughout that bring context to the profiles. Some of the names will likely be new to you (Marion Mahony Griffin) and some well-known (Julia Morgan, Jeanne Gang). This is an excellent corrective to the history of architecture.

By Jan Cigliano Hartman (editor),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Women Who Changed Architecture as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A visual and global chronicle of the triumphs, challenges, and impact of over 100 women in architecture, from early practitioners to contemporary leaders.

Marion Mahony Griffin passed the architectural licensure exam in 1898 and created exquisite drawings that buoyed the reputation of Frank Lloyd Wright. Her story is one of the many told in The Women Who Changed Architecture, which sets the record straight on the transformative impact women have made on architecture. With in-depth profiles and stunning images, this is the most comprehensive look at women in architecture around the world, from the nineteenth century to today. Discover contemporary…


Book cover of Frank Lloyd Wright: Architecture and Nature

Linda O'Keeffe Author Of Inside Outside: A Sourcebook of Inspired Garden Rooms

From my list on the principles behind landscaping and interior design.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve spent several decades immersed in the world of interior design. As a writer and creative director, I’ve worked alongside many, many talented decorators and architects and seen how they’ve enhanced people’s lives by creating beautiful, practical living spaces. To my mind, if one truly feels inspired and at ease in one’s home environment the chance of living an authentic, fulfilling life increases significantly. All the books I’ve written emphasize the importance I place on thoughtful design. A partial list includes Shoes: A Celebration of Pumps, Sandals, Slippers & More; Brilliant: White in Design, Stripes: Design Between The Lines; Heart and Home: Rooms That Tell Stories, and Inside Outside: A Sourcebook of Inspired Garden Rooms. I live in Upstate New York where my house is surrounded by a fledgling fragrance garden.

Linda's book list on the principles behind landscaping and interior design

Linda O'Keeffe Why did Linda love this book?

Frank Lloyd Wright (1867-1959) was arguably the first architect to become a household name and therefore the first ‘starchitect’. To his way of conceptualizing, nature, with a capital N, came first and last in the sense that it would outlive and eventually envelop any edifice he happened to place upon it. This book uses black and white photography to succinctly illustrate his chief philosophical points and helps explain why his houses co-exist so seamlessly with their natural environment or, in his words, why they are in love with the ground. Inspired by the patterning of rock strata, the texture of birch bark, the spines of tree limbs, the blush of summer blossoms, in his projects it’s often hard to discern where nature and the man-made begin or end. ”Buildings, too,” he often said, “are children of earth and sun.”

By Donald Hoffmann,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Profusely illustrated study of nature — especially the prairie — on Wright's designs for Fallingwater, Robie House, Guggenheim Museum, other masterpieces.


Book cover of Frank Lloyd Wright and Japan: The Role of Traditional Japanese Art and Architecture in the Work of Frank Lloyd Wright

Simon Unwin Author Of Analysing Architecture: the Universal Language of Place-Making

From my list on traditional architecture and its contemporary practice.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a student fifty years ago I struggled with architecture. I have spent my whole career as an architect and teacher trying to understand how it works. All my books are intended to convey that understanding to others as clearly as I can. I believe that architecture is a universal language of place-making, simply and directly expressed in the traditional architectures of different cultures around the world, and lifted into the realms of poetry by some gifted individuals. For many years I taught at the Welsh School of Architecture in Cardiff, Wales. I am currently Professor Emeritus at The University of Dundee in Scotland. 

Simon's book list on traditional architecture and its contemporary practice

Simon Unwin Why did Simon love this book?

All of my recommendations are about the ways modern architects have learnt from traditional architecture. The first appeared when I began working on the first edition of Analysing Architecture back in the 1990s. It is Kevin Nute’s exploration of the ideas that Frank Lloyd Wright gleaned from encounters with traditional Japanese architecture in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Nute’s book influenced my perception of architectural creativity as not fitting neatly into separate historical/stylistic categories, but as a realm of possible cross-fertilisation across cultures.

By Kevin Nute,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Frank Lloyd Wright and Japan as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This book is the first thorough account of Frank Lloyd Wright's relationship with Japan and its arts. It presents significant new information on the nature and extent of Wright's formal and philosophical debt to Japanese art and architecture.

Eight primary channels of influence are examined in detail, from Japanese prints to specific individuals and publications, and the evidence of their impact on Wright is illustrated through a mixture of textual and drawn analyses.


Book cover of No Place Like Utopia: Modern Architecture and the Company We Kept

Stephanie Travis Author Of Sketching for Architecture + Interior Design: A Practical Guide on Sketching for Architecture and Interior Design Students

From my list on introducing architecture and interior design to everyone.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a design-obsessed George Washington University (Washington, DC) professor, author, architect, interior designer, sketcher, modernist, city lover, traveler, and University of Michigan alumni who writes about topics on architecture and interior design for people of all ages and backgrounds. Everyone lives in the built environment, but not everyone understands it. For example, sketching is one of the best ways to understand a piece of furniture, interior, or building. You will never see the object the same way after you draw it! All of the books on this list are approachable, interesting, fun, and most importantly inspiring. Enjoy!

Stephanie's book list on introducing architecture and interior design to everyone

Stephanie Travis Why did Stephanie love this book?

Hands down, the best book on modern architecture from someone who lived it. Peter Blake was an architect and renowned critic who ran in serious architectural circles during the modern movement. As editor-in-chief of Architectural Forum, he was an expert on the topic and knew everyone involved. His engaging and approachable writing style makes this a must-read for every budding modernist. I re-read this book every year…it’s that good.

By Peter Blake,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked No Place Like Utopia as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Brings to life the masters of twentieth-century architecture and art, sharing anecdotes and memories of Frank Lloyd Wright, Buckminster Fuller, Le Corbusier, Jackson Pollock, and others


Book cover of Death in a Prairie House: Frank Lloyd Wright and the Taliesin Murders

Charles Oldham Author Of Ship of Blood: Mutiny and Slaughter Aboard the Harry A. Berwind, and the Quest for Justice

From my list on fascinating but not so well known true crimes.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m both a history buff and a criminal defense attorney. I grew up in a small North Carolina town, as the son of two educators who encouraged me to read anything I could get my hands on. My favorite stories were adventures and mysteries, especially courtroom dramas. Clarence Darrow was my historical hero, so I guess it wasn’t surprising that I would attend law school and try my hand at legal practice. I practiced criminal law for about 15 years, long enough to get a feel for how investigations and trials really work. That experience had a major impact on my own writing, and how to pick out a really fascinating true story.

Charles' book list on fascinating but not so well known true crimes

Charles Oldham Why did Charles love this book?

Frank Lloyd Wright is undoubtedly America’s most famous architect. Everyone knows his name, and those who study the field know how his distinctive styles changed the face of architecture in the early 1900s. But few realize the impact that a brutal mass murder had upon Wright’s life and work. It happened at his Taliesin estate in rural Wisconsin in 1914. One of Wright’s house servants, Julian Carlton, went on a rampage with an axe, hacking to death Wright’s lover Mamah Borthwick Cheney and her two children. Four others also were killed when Carlton set the house on fire. Of course the tragedy was personally devastating for Wright, and it also changed the creative course of his life. After Taliesin was destroyed, he moved away from the Prairie House style of organic architecture, for which he had originally become famous.

By William R. Drennan,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Death in a Prairie House as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The most pivotal and yet least understood event of Frank Lloyd Wright's celebrated life involves the brutal murders in 1914 of seven adults and children dear to the architect and the destruction by fire of Taliesin, his landmark residence, near Spring Green, Wisconsin. Supplying both a gripping mystery story and a portrait of the artist in his prime, William Drennan wades through the myths surrounding Wright and the massacre, casting fresh light on the formulation of Wright's architectural ideology and the cataclysmic effects that the Taliesin murders exerted on the fabled architect and on his subsequent designs.


Book cover of Googie: Fifties Coffee Shop Architecture

Chris Lukather Author Of Homes by Byrd: The Art & Architecture of Robert Byrd and His Son, Gary

From my list on Southern California architecture history.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’ve always been interested in art and architecture. I studied Fine Arts at CalArts. I’ve written three books on Mid-century home builders and designers, William Mellenthin, Jean Vandruff, and Robert Byrd, whose life and work in Southern California had gone mostly unnoticed during their lifetimes—with very little information written about them in the press. I spent three years on each book working with the families to uncover their lives and place in local history. This is information that would have otherwise been lost. When you research the life of one person in this profession, you inevitably learn about the life and work of others—some famous, some not. 

Chris' book list on Southern California architecture history

Chris Lukather Why did Chris love this book?

Alan Hess is the authority on Googie Architecture. He’s written several excellent books on the subject.

His writing style and unique perspective (he’s also an architect) bring insight and authority to everything he writes, which also includes books on Frank Lloyd Wright and John Lautner. The original Googies Coffee Shop, located at the corner of Sunset Blvd. and Crescent Heights in West Hollywood, was designed by John Lautner.

If you do some research online, you can find some great old photos of the structure.

By Alan Hess,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

The euphoria about the future that followed World War II permeated the outlooks of architects, who, influenced by Frank Lloyd Wright and with ready access to remarkable new construction material and building techniques spawned by the war technologies, faced the intriguing prospect of redesigning the post war world. Initially the futuristic designs were outrageous, and detractors labeled these structures the Googie School of Architecture after a particularly outlandish coffee shop in Los Angeles. Googie would seem far from outlandish today as those once controversial design elements have become commonplace in both commercial and residential architecture. Author Alan Hess traces the…


Book cover of A Place of My Own: The Architecture of Daydreams

Kenneth R. Rosen Author Of Troubled: The Failed Promise of America's Behavioral Treatment Programs

From my list on to get you through troubling times.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a journalist and author and a young father, I’ve come to seek more vigorously things that make me smile, things I can cherish and appreciate. My most recent book is dedicated to “the troubled, in trouble, and once troubled.” In promoting the book, I’ve often said I still feel fairly troubled—which is true. Demons never die, we just live to learn with them. So while reading the below books I’ve discovered hallowed moments which fill a person to the brim. After each of these reads I felt that I could surmount most anything.

Kenneth's book list on to get you through troubling times

Kenneth R. Rosen Why did Kenneth love this book?

I’ve owned a number of homes. Most were small, one or two were fairly large. When I set about building my own writing shed I had a clue where to begin, but most frequently—when bashing a nail, jigsawing a piece of wood—I knew very little about why I was making one decision over another much beyond practical considerations. A window could only fit here, and the door must swing this way, lest it hit that support beam. Having a companion to that process, letting not my hammer but the Earth fine-tune my space gave that writing shed life far beyond its function.

By Michael Pollan,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Place of My Own as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A captivating personal inquiry into the art of architecture, the craft of building, and the meaning of modern work

“A room of one’s own: Is there anybody who hasn’t at one time or another wished for such a place, hasn’t turned those soft words over until they’d assumed a habitable shape?”

When Michael Pollan decided to plant a garden, the result was the acclaimed bestseller Second Nature. In A Place of My Own, he turns his sharp insight to the craft of building, as he recounts the process of designing and constructing a small one-room structure on his rural Connecticut…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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