The architect’s bookshelf – Part 1

What is an architect but an interpreter of culture? While the architect might not call herself an artist there is no doubt the arts are as influential to design as the moon is to the tides. A good architect and a good artist will seek inspiration in every moment, every movement and every medium. Books have always been the vessel into which thinkers will pour and draw their thoughts and anyone who has visited the Blakstad Design Consultant’s office will know books play an important role within the team. It’s hard to say exactly how many books line the shelves of the office library but here are five titles that the team return to again and again. After all, as Canadian man of letters, Robertson Davies once said “A truly great book should be read in youth, again in maturity and once more in old age, as a fine building should be seen by morning light, at noon and by moonlight.”

The House of Ibiza: The Key to a Millennial Tradition
Rolph Blakstad

Blakstad Design Consultant founder Rolph Blakstad wrote this book after more than a decade of research into the origins of Ibiza’s vernacular architecture. It was originally published published in Catalan and was recently released in English with a sleek new design. This gorgeous hardback comes in a sleeve and is packed with fascinating information and theories about every aspect of local architecture. Our team consistently refer to its pages for inspiration and confirmation of their design direction.

Invisible Cities
Italo Calvino

The eminent Italian writer takes the reader on a fantastical journey via a fictionalised conversation between Marco Polo and a distracted, elderly Kublai Khan. It’s one of those books that reveals something new in each reading. Calvino’s sentences are densely packed and despite the slimness of the volume, it takes some concentration to reach the treasure within. The 55 fictional cities visited in this dreamlike travelogue are all named after women, each contemplating themes of culture, language, time, memory, death and the nature of human experience. The unusual structure of the book allows the reader the utmost flexibility to dip in and out to follow the string of one theme, forgoing any concept of chronological process. While this book is not an architectural text and not exactly a novel, it is an exploration of the city as an idea delighting ‘not in a city’s seven or 70 wonders but in the answer it gives to a question of yours.’ The ultimate question is, how should we live?

Thinking Architecture
Peter Zumthor

Swiss architect and Pritzker prize winner Peter Zumthor believes the built environment should contain a sensuous connection to life. This text explores his philosophy and design motivations while contemplating the relationship between structure and its surroundings, including the integration of contemporary and traditional architectures, buildings that connect emotionally and buildings that possess powerful personalities. Sentimentality runs through a lot of Zumthor’s work, both in architecture and on the page. His personal history and memories inform much of this treatise and offers a rare glimpse into the mind of a master craftsman. A classic text that should be read by all architectural and designs students plus anyone who wants to further deepen their knowledge.

The Architecture of Happiness
Alain de Botton

Alain de Botton sets out to demystify complicated topics and make them accessible to ordinary people. His interests are expansive and his style is warm, colloquial and sometimes overly romantic yet he succeeds in showing readers the emotions they have felt through architecture but never been able to verbalise. In The Architecture of Happiness, de Botton argues that our environments are the cause of both happiness and misery and therefore architecture and design are essential elements for a whole and fulfilling life. In asking, ‘how does architecture influences emotion?’ de Botton challenges the way we interact with the built environment, urging us to see beyond the bricks and find the essential stories and accidental pleasures hidden in our homes, streets and ourselves.

Interventions
Ignasi Solà Morales

Architect, historian and philosopher Ignasi Solà Morales was a native of Barcelona and taught at the Barcelona School of Architecture in addition to Princeton, Columbia, Turin and Cambridge universities. This book collects his principal musings on architecture, exploring the notion of heritage, the tension between originality and reproduction and the framework of contemporary culture in architecture as well as writings on his own architectural projects. Reflecting on the Duchampian concept of ready-made architecture, Solà Morales asks the reader to understand construction as an intervention. Touching on his reproduction of the German Pavilion by Mies van de Rohe as well as his work on the Gran Teatre del Liceu in Barcelona, readers are exposed to the inner workings of this respected architect and philosopher.