Reading Architecture

By Sriram Ramakrishnan

Architecture as a profession requires a constant rediscovery of knowledge, exposure to global disciplinary thinking and continuous learning. In the previous blog “Learning from Architectural Travel”, we discussed learning that happens from traveling and visiting architectural masterpieces. In this piece, let me elaborate on another powerful tool of continued learning – Reading! At a global level, top architects are continued readers and are often writers themselves. And young architects find these architectural writing as a shadowing tool to evolve their own ideology in the long run. The writing of each generation along with its architecture becomes the defining identity of architecture across geographies and time. But how does reading help a firm? Architecture Reading is critical to design-based architecture firm such as FHD Group in the following ways:

  • Reading relates one’s own design work to the global spectrum of architecture work, setting a higher standard for architectural design.
  • Reading exposes architects to new thinking and diverse projects in architecture.
  • It provides an opportunity to continue learning.

We at FHD felt a need for reading some critical works in the discipline of architecture. We pick an interesting critical book and read it over a period of about 3-4 weeks. At the end of the reading period, we re-group over a Saturday evening and discuss the ideas on the book. The discussion session gives us an opportunity to do further research on the topic and buildings referred to. Last month we read De Architectura /10 books on architecture by Vitruvius. It is one of the architectural classics, a must-read for every young architect. It has a take on architecture as a techno-cultural discipline and summarizes the scope and capability of the discipline back then in 16 BC, many of which still holds true. It sees Greek and Roman architecture as much as an innovation as it is a cultural reference, which at times we miss today when architects use history as a source to replicate and venerate. Above all, it sets a platform for young readers to read further works of higher complexity.

 “Book reading has always been an exhilarating experience like this one, providing me with new ways to find solutions to current problems. In addition to reading, discussions with the rest of the team have a profound experience of its own, providing insights and fresh perspectives on a given logic.”  

                                                                                                   – Jayanth (Architect, FHD Group Hyderabad)

“… exploring the concepts of architecture through  interactive sessions enhanced my thought process of analyzing architectural theory which in turn enhances my efficiency in architectural design”

                                                                                                   – Lakshmi Prasanna (Architect, FHD Group Hyderabad)

“Reading changed my overall perception of architecture that I had developed in the last 4 years and opened me to a new world of possibilities. Architectural masterpieces also inspire me to do good work”       

                                                                                                   -Ajeeth (Intern, FHD Group Hyderabad)

If you have read this far, probably you are a reader yourself. I can suggest the following 6 classics to begin your architecture reading:

  1. De Architectura/10books on architecture by Vitruvius
  2. 7 Lamps of architecture by John Ruskin
  3. Towards a New Architecture by Le Corbusier
  4. Complexity and Contradiction by Robert Venturi
  5. A Pattern language by Christopher Alexander
  6. S, M, L, XL by Rem Koolhaas