As architects, most of our experience and understanding is gathered in our way of designing things, building procedures, as well as communication with different parties, such as citizens, government officials, academic experts, etc. Even though an architect may perhaps achieve fame and greatness without doing much reading, but rather achieveing mastery of the study through practical and communicative experience, books are nevertheless generally an essential part of the architectural practice. They have long been the media that has spread new ideas as well as a critical look towards the existing built environment. Personally, I believe architectural litterature to be an essential part of the practice and have decided to add this subject as a seperate category in the blog. It will serve not as a "review" of books in a sense of one that features a grading system of the literature, but rather one that summarizes the contents of my readings.
I have chosen Rowan Moore's Why We Build as the first book to write about simply due to the fact that it is the most recent piece of architectural litterature I've read. The author, Rowan Moore, was formerly director of the Architecture Foundation in Britain, and has since 2008 worked with architectural journalism. He is currently an architecture critic for the Observer. Moore's book Why We Build - as the titel implies - explores the relationships between architects and different actors in their work, such as patrons and contractors, organizations and citizens, as well as more complex factors, such as economical power, political forces and even attempts at civil control.
Each chapter within the book explores a different theme through architectural examples. Here, some of the examples illustrate both a success within a certain theme, and also the failures. These examples are shown and explained in a linear and fluent manner, and as the reader recieves explanation to the different projects and their contrasts, the chapters end with a summary that is a sort of open conclusion. Even though this may seem more like a dry reading of building and city analysis, the narrative and the language chosen to tell the stories is very fluent and readable, often feeling more like story-telling rather than being a book of an academic nature.
In my personal oppinion, the examples are well chosen and although I don't always agree with mr. Moore's oppinions, the book has surely given me a different perspective on a lot of architectural subjects - both in general and within the different examples in the book. I can highly recommend this book for its exploration of architecture's hidden and/or unknown agendas as well as its exploration of the complex systems that drive the different actors in the world of building. It doesn't offer answers or solutions, but it definitely opens towards new perspectives on subjects that one might either not have noticed or not thought about, but nevertheless subjects that can actually be so vital to a building project, that they might ultimately decide its faith.
- Andy Minchev