Every year, the organisers of the Frankfurt Book Fair and the Deutsches Architekturmuseum (DAM) in Frankfurt draw up a list. A list of the best literature on architecture and building design that the past year has seen. The ten titles that make it to the list are awarded the DAM Architectural Book Award – the world’s only architecture-specific book prize. While the list churns up truly remarkable mentions, many an exceptional work doesn’t make it on the list. We decided to put together our own list, full of hand picked favorites, and in no particular order, of the ten best books on architecture that 2016 saw.
2016 saw a breakthrough in literature on architecture, with unique and radical perspectives on structure, chaos, destruction, and the human relation to the structures we inhabit. We’ve attempted to make an inclusive list, which immortalizes some astounding perspectives.
1. African Modernism – Architecture of Independence by Manuel Herz, Ingrid Schröder, Hans Focketyn and Julia Jamrozik
Manuel Herz along with his students at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology present a tale of reconstruction. Exploring five sub-Saharan cities, it is an absorbing narrative of how South Africa built itself after independence from years of Colonialism.
2. The Battle for Home: The Vision of a Young Architect in Syria by Marwa al-Sabouni
If Herz’s book was about building, al-Sabouni writes about destruction. The destruction of her homeland, Syria, from the ironical perspective of a student of architecture. Al-Sabouni offers deep insights into the traditional organization of the city, and how it contributed to diversity and peace.
3. Mortal Cities, Forgotten Monuments, by Arna Mačkić
Bosnian born architect Arna Mačkić returns to Mostar (now in Yugoslavia), to re-examine the shifting meanings of peace memorials in the war torn area. From 1960 until 1980, Tito commissioned more than 100 monuments commemorating the victims of fascism. In not referencing WW II, but standing as abstract symbols that represent a future of hope, these monuments were to teach the people a new language. Ironically, or appropriately, most of them are forgotten today, like the conflicted past that modern Yugoslavians want to leave behind.
4. Raw Concrete: The Beauty of Brutalism by Barnabas Calder
Raw concrete explores the overlooked aesthetic wave of New Brutalism that revolutionised architecture in the 1960s. Deriving its name from the French word for raw (brut), Brutalism has often been dismissed by critics as a merely functional and regressive style of building, ugly and economic. Calder makes a strong, aesthetic case for the beauty of raw concrete ‘brutal’ construction, the unapologetically intimidating structures that were the result of the most productive boom that the architectural world has ever seen.
5. Manual of Selection
Until now, there has been no official framework exploring the section, which along with plan and elevation, is the third essential component of architectural representation. In Manual of Section, Paul Lewis, Marc Tsurumaki, and David J. Lewis address this aporia, with seven categories, addressing the simplest one story buildings to monuments of international architecture.
6. Vertical: The City from Satellites to Bunkers by Stephen Graham
Stephen Graham presents his radical reimagination of the world on a vertical strata. From hierarchies of geographical and physical space, to the geography of culture, inequality and identity, Graham stretches out the world on the y-axis. He starts high in the heavens, literally from the edge of the earth’s atmosphere, from the perspective of an aerial bomber, to descend slowly, right down to life in underground bunkers. An intriguing premise, philosophical and far-reaching in its scope, and a narrative to match.
7. Cedric Price Works 1952-2003: A Forward Minded Retrospective, written and edited by Samantha Hardingham
This is a collection of projects, articles and talks by radical British architect Cedric Price. Price is responsible for many architectural breakthroughs of the 20th century, notably, the Snowden Aviary in London. Incredibly rich and passionately researched, the series explores Price as the thinker, teacher and architect.
8. This is Frank Lloyd Wright, by Ian Volner
Countless books have been written on the genius of architect Frank Lloyd Wright, but this one takes the prize for being the freshest, most absorbing account. Disguised as an educational book, with Michael Kirkman’s illustrations, this refreshing narrative by architectural journalist Ian Volner is profound, while remaining deliciously digestible.
9. Tham ma da: The Adventurous Interiors of Paola Navone
“Thammada”, is Thai for everyday, and this book is a tribute to Italian architect and interior designer Paola Navone’s extraordinary power to transform the mundane and everyday into something magical. The lively coffee table book is replete with sumptuous pictures of Navone’s conceptual approach to design, inspired by her world-wide travels.
10. Christopher Benninger: Architecture for Modern India
This book is an inclusive monograph on architect Christopher Benninger. As the founder of the Centre for Development Studies and Activities (CDSA), and distinguished professor at the Centre for Environmental Planning and Technology University, Ahmedabad (CEPT), Benninger brings the perspective of someone who’s studied the changing landscape the country. There is a certain tact in the exploration of open spaces, roof top gardens, and green connections, all too important for the country today.
By Faustina Johnson
A nomad at heart, Faustina lives many lives through the spaces that she visits, and finds a temporary home in. Whether it’s the pages of a book or the tourist infested streets of Kodaikanal, or the swanky new Japanese restaurant in Delhi, or the frontlines of the queer movement, she finds compulsive pleasure in writing about what inspires her everyday.