The architect’s bookshelf – Part 2

There’s no end to the list of books that inspire the team of designers at Blakstad Design Consultants, and it’s no surprise that the tomes featured in this new series of blog (read part one here) are as eclectic and varied as the people who read them. Their inspiration is drawn from utopian fiction and the future of design to the classic texts of the architectural canon.

Ringing Cedars of Russia
Vladimir Megre

Ringing Cedars of Russia is a series of books (sometimes referred to as Anastasia after the title of the first volume) that hinge on the author’s experience of voyaging down the river Ob on a fleet of steamer ships in the mid-90s. During this journey, he met ‘Anastasia’ and experienced a spiritual awakening of sorts. Spurred by Anastasia’s ideas around child-rearing, healing, nature, sexuality and religion, Megre created the concept of the Kin Domain. Often confused with the millennial idea of an eco-settlement, Megre’s Kin Domain pontificates on the correct approach to planning, conceiving and raising children which – according to his philosophy – should all occur on a self-sufficient family homestead that is passed down through the generations. The series has spawned a back-to-the-land movement in Russia and across the world. Based on permanent sustainability, self-reliance, self-sufficiency and traditional family units, the Kin Domains combine the philosophy of deep ecology with the worship of God through nature thereby building a unique architecture and way of life.

The Garden in Movement
Gilles Clément

Eschewing the term landscape, architect Gilles Clément refers to himself as a humble gardener despite being one of the most respected designers in the world. In this book, Clément solidifies his philosophy of ‘do as much as possible with as little as possible’. The term movement signifies the natural cycle in the appearance and structure of the garden. Instead of confining plants to an organised order, he lets the plants design the garden via their natural life cycles. The design is brought forward through the dynamism of change. Clément’s affection for nature encourages readers to reconsider the distinction between nature and culture, asking for respect towards biodiversity and the movement of plants. As the chief designer of the garden at the Musée du Quai Branly, André Citröen Park and Henri Matisse Park – not to mention his own delightful garden – this book is a must-read for all burgeoning landscape designers and gardeners, and of course, those who just like to look at pretty things.

An Organic Architecture
Frank Lloyd Wright

If Pritzker gave out sainthoods instead of gold medallions, Saint Frank would definitely be a bobblehead on the dashboard of all wannabe architects. The Godfather of 20th century architecture still influences every aspect of commercial and domestic design. This seminal book is actually a collection of lectures Wright gave to the Royal Institute of British Architects in 1939. The four lectures became the stuff of legend and four months later this book was published to wide acclaim. The master speaks extensively of his Usonian houses, his concept of natural and organic architecture, his visions for the built future and the imminent World War that was on Britain’s doorstep at the time. The pages shine brightly with Wright’s incandescent intelligence and flashy personality, making this an easy read for all tastes. A classic text that should be on all design lover’s shelves.

Earthship
Michael Reynolds

His story is a saga of loss and redemption, litigation and a late-in-the-day victory. Michael Reynolds graduated as an architect in 1969 – the summer of love. His thesis was published in Architectural Record two years later, a feat seldom achieved by someone so young. Ahead of his time, Reynolds created the Earthship, a house built entirely from everyday recycled materials. Soda bottles, tires, beer cans and rammed earth. He was an early proponent of off-grid living and dedicated his life to realising the tenets of his thesis. The reality often led to court where disgruntled homeowners would complain of leaky roofs and malfunctioning systems. After 17 long years of battling his enemies, his architectural license was finally revoked but Reynolds had the last laugh. With the rise of global heating and environmental concerns, he’s now being hailed as a prophet and his license reissued. His ideas have since become so ingrained in design across the world that one could draw a direct line from the Earthship to the luxury off-grid, passive homes being built today.

In Praise of Shadows
Jun’ichirō Tanizaki

The beauty of architecture is the way that its philosophies cross cultures, mediums and time. Jun’ichirō Tanizaki was a prominent figure in Japanese literature in the 20th century. His fiction was often shocking to Japanese high society and dealt with explicit sexuality and a search for cultural identity through the contrasts between Western and Japanese tradition. Taking the ideas he first explored in his novel Some Prefer Nettles, Tanizaki delves deeper into his conception of Japanese aesthetics in this short, 59-page essay. It’s a distinctly Japanese book, elegant and whimsical while also dealing with big themes. Separated into 16 sections, Tanizaki ruminates on diverse topics from the use of light and darkness, the glow of lacquerware in candlelight to toilet design and the best recipe for broth. Sometimes poets make the best designers.