this is part 2 of series of essential books for architects. If you saw the first post you will have noticed that I am not talking about books that feature buildings by architects. Those are valuable resources for knowledge and inspiration, and some even equally essential, like Between Silence and Light on Kahn. The works I am listing here are primarily about architectural theory and history, things some architects take too far and most not at all. For my part, I think this stuff is important and I can't imagine practicing architecture without a thorough grounding in the questions of why we do what we do beyond mere formalism. Part 2 starts with three essential texts on the nature of cities.
Urbanism's Essential pre-requisites
Jane Jacobs The Death and Life of Great American Cities
The romantic view of the city. Jacobs is our finest observer of what constitutes a city.
Manfredo Tafuri Architecture and Utopia
The marxist view of the city. This is a bit pedantic, but still worth slogging through as a companion to the above.
Italo Calvino Invisible Cities
The poetic view of the city. This is really not about urbanism at all, but is a beautiful, enthralling narrative of the imagination with the city as a character.
and now two other companion pieces, this time on the nature of meaning in architecture:
the meaning of architecture
Christian Norberg-Schulz Intentions in Architecture
Like Tafuri's work, this can be also be tough going but it is the standard Modernist take on architecture and its embodied meaning. All of Norberg-Schulz's works are excellent and if only architects could stay focused on these issues instead of being overwhelmed by budgets, schedules and frankly trivial questions of style and language then our built environment would be one we could be justly proud of.
Robert Venturi Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture
In all ways the opposite of the above, especially in tone and writing style, Venturi writes largely in response to the cold clarity of Modernism worst reductivist tendencies. It is not as opposed to Norberg-Sculz as you might at first suspect, for each author's obvious passion for architecture and its meanings is thrillingly evident.