Friday, October 23, 2009

--Books to Read: How Buildings Learn, Architecture Without Architects, The Old Way of Seeing

Three books were mentioned in a recent Ask MetaFilter post related to architecture. The person asking the question wanted to know why older buildings appeal to him more than newer buildings. A lot of really thoughtful answers were received (one is even one of the most popular answers ever on the site!), but the argument essentially boiled down to the realities of post-war consumer culture: people want cheap houses fast, and they would rather see them flying by at 55mph out of the window of a car than studied in-depth from the sidewalk.

Three books were recommended that I have perused and find useful. I recommend them to you as well:

How Buildings Learn
An examination of the role that societal and commercial pressures play on architecture. Many older buildings have a similar look because of similar constraints on raw materials, climate control, and lighting. Because we use electricity to accomplish these ends now, we can modify designs accordingly. The increasing pressure to move businesses into the hot new shopping destinations adds to urban decline.

Architecture Without Architects
This book is unassuming but remarkable. An examination of various vernacular building techniques from around the world, the book shows how humans have made their environments liveable over the planet (and without reliance on energy intensive Western means!)

The Old Way of Seeing
A beautiful book, the text is concerned with ideas that prodominated when buildings were constructed primarily to survive rather than make a statement. Some great insights.
And an update: I was happy to read how irritated the editors of TreeHugger were that no eco-box won the competition in Greenville, Kansas, but rather a largely-liveable home that the average homebuyer won't hate. A triumph for the masses and for capitalism over the inflated ideals of purists.

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