Architecture Books - The Ultimate Guide


So, you are interested in architecture, but you’re not sure where to start? Well, look no further, this article offers a complete guide to the study of architecture, focusing on the best architecture books on the market.

The perfect mix of science and art, architecture is a field that appeals to many people. As architecture follows the trends of society, as well as the history of mankind, it is challenging not to become dazed with its ever-changing artistic diversity.

Architecture Books

Those who are intent on mastering this intricate area of study are offered a multitude of literature on this subject. Books on architecture prove to be an invaluable source of information, as well as inspiration, whether you are an expert on architecture, a student not yet versed in this field, or simply a fan.

This article will be divided into categories dealing with different types and phases of architecture. Some books might appear in different categories, depending on their content and intention.

Without further ado, here’s all you need to know about architecture books!

Five Architecture books everyone must read

Whether you are a seasoned architect, a beginner fresh out of college, or just someone with a passion for architecture, there are some books that are an absolute must. That’s why these five books should have a place on your bookshelf!

1 . World Architecture: The Masterworks by Will Pryce 

This illustrative book contains information on the most exceptional masterpieces of the architectural world.

2. Architecture: A World History (written by Daniel Borden, Jerzy Elzanowski, Joni Taylor, Stephanie Tuerk) 

This comprehensive piece covers different aspects of architecture, spanning from various movements to renowned architects.

3. The Architecture of the City (written by Aldo Rossi) 

Useful for both professionals and students, The Architecture of the City primarily focuses on urban theory.

4. The Language of Architecture: 26 Principles Every Architect Should Know ( written by Andrea Simitch and Val Warke)

5.  Understanding Architecture: Its Elements, History, and Meaning (written by Leland M. Roth and Amanda C. Roth Clark) 

The History of Architecture

Taking into consideration the vast history of architecture, which spans across different cultures and parts of the world, we will only focus on some of its most fascinating periods.

Architecture books about Ancient architecture

The first ancient civilizations were Egypt and Mesopotamia. What marks these two empires were the prominent elements of divinity and the supernatural, which can be noticed in every nook and cranny of their capitals.

The next epoch covers the intertwined civilizations of Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome. The architectural tendencies of these two classical civilizations were based on civic ideals. Thus, their cities differed to a great extent.

Their architectural style was formed on the basis of classical systems of society. The flourishing of the Greeks influenced the Roman empire, especially in terms of architecture. As a result, many Greek elements were incorporated into Roman constructions.

Some great books about Ancient architecture are the following: 

1. Ancient Architecture - History of World Architecture (written by Seton Lloyd and Hans Wolfgang Müller)

This book thoroughly looks into ancient Middle Eastern architectural history, concentrating on the highlights of ancient Egypt.

2. Ancient Greek Architects at Work: Problems of Structure and Design (written by J. J Coulton)


Architecture Books on Pre-Columbian architecture

Pre-Columbian traditions and communities, such as the Olmec, Maya and Aztec civilizations, formed distinct Mesoamerican architectural styles. These trends were best represented by constructions of urban and ceremonial use. What’s more, this era of architecture comprises differing, yet significantly interlocked, geographical and historical tendencies.

One element that Mesoamerican architecture is renowned for is their pyramids, which are the biggest edifices following those of Ancient Egypt. Another common feature of this architectural period are temple-shaped sculptures.

Here are some captivating books about Pre-Columbian architecture:

1. Pre-Columbian Architecture of Mesoamerica (written by Doris Heyden)

2.  Maya art and architecture (written by by Mary Miller)

European architecture

Architecture books on Medieval architecture

Medieval architecture is representative of the Middle Ages, its roots buried deep into Christianity. It’s symbolised by architecture created for the purposes of religion and the army. Therefore, the two most common symbols of medieval architecture are churches and castles. Castles and fortified walls seem to be the most distinguished remnants of medieval architecture that are not related to religion.

Here’s a thought-provoking book about this style of architecture:

Medieval Architecture (written by Nicola Coldstream)

Focusing on Central European and Spanish architecture, this book examines prominent forms of medieval architecture.

Byzantine architecture

This era of architecture was formed following the rise of the Byzantine Empire. Its effect on subsequent medieval architecture all across Europe and the Near East was vast. It’s notable that early Byzantine architecture was built as an extension of Roman architecture. Along with the widespread fashion of interior mosaics, the key feature of Byzantine architecture is a heightened dome, which was the upshot of the late 16th century engineering methods.

One intriguing book about this type of architecture is Byzantine Architecture, by Cyril Mango.

This comprehensive book illustratively describes the history and stylistic tendencies of Byzantine architecture, highlighting some of the most important buildings and constructions of this era.

Romanesque architecture 

Following Byzantine architecture, Romanesque traditions likewise prevailed in medieval Europe. Symbols of this acclaimed phase of architecture are semi-circular arches. This architectural style flourished somewhere between the 6th and the 11th century.


Following ancient architecture of the Roman Empire, Romanesque style became the second pan-European architectural trend. Instances of this type of architecture are visible all over Europe. Distinctive elements that point to Romanesque are round or slightly pointed arches, barrel vaults and ornamental arcading.

One really fascinating book about this topic is Romanesque Architecture: The First Style of the European Age, written by Eric Fernie.

This book deals with Romanesque architecture, to be more precise, the political systems that lead to the development of that particular style. 


Gothic architecture

Yet another architectural style that spread across the entire continent, Gothic architecture succeeded Romanesque somewhere in the 12th century. Examples of this architectural style can usually be found in cathedrals and churches. One of the key characteristics of Gothic style is a pointed arch.


One book you should read about Gothic architecture is Arquitectura Gotica / Gothic Architecture, by Paul Frankl.

This book captures the transition from Romanesque to Gothic style, as well as the development of Gothic architecture.

Renaissance architecture


The appearance and the prosperity of Renaissance date between the early 14th and early 16th century. It is characterized by the reintroduction and expansion of Ancient Greek and Roman features.

Significant components of Renaissance are symmetry and geometry. This can be traced back to classical antiquity of the Roman Empire. Similarly, elements that signify this period of history are columns, semicircular arches, as well as hemispherical domes.


To dig deeper for information on this period of architecture, we recommend Renaissance Architecture by Christy Anderson, which explores the beginnings, development and main themes of this style.


Architecture books according to the reader

It can be challenging to find the right book when you’re not sure who it’s meant for. That’s why we offer different categories tailored for the audience. So, don’t waste your time, and pick the one that is suitable for you!

Architecture books for architects

Every architect needs to be equipped with some basic literature that can be handy in their profession. That’s why the following books are what you might need.

1. The Architecture Reference and Specification Book: Everything Architects Need to Know Every Day (written by Julia McMorrough)

This professional guide covers the basics of architectural project planning, taking the reader through the entire process in depth.


2. Dictionary of Architecture and Construction (written by Cyril M. Harris)

An excellent choice for all architects alike, this dictionary describes both useful terminology and various architectural styles, and it offers information on various products and materials. 


3.  Experiencing Architecture - 2nd Edition (written by Steen Eiler Rasmussen) 

Another essential read for any architect, this book studies the history and basis of design, accompanied by illustrations and sketches.

4. Complexity and Contradiction at Fifty (written by Robert Venturi)

This three-book set marks the 50 year anniversary of this book’s first publication. In addition to various essays written by renowned architects and professors of architecture, this document is known as the basis for postmodernism and architectural theory. 

5. S,M,L,XL (written by Rem Koolhas)

A combination of architectural projects, drawings and pictures, this book contains various essays and commentaries. It’s a great choice for any architect.

6. The Death and Life of Great American Cities (written by Jane Jacobs)

With its main focus on the critique of the urban planning policy in the 1950s, this book will definitely give you food for thought.

Architecture books for students

If you’re a student about to begin your great adventure in architecture, or if you’re in the course of your studies, these books can help you become a better architect.

1.  101 Things I Learned in Architecture School (written by Matthew Frederick)

Written in simple terms and covering almost the whole process of design, this guide is a must have for any student of architecture.


2. The Interior Design Reference & Specification Book: Everything Interior Designers Need to Know Every Day (written by Chris Grimley and Mimi Love)

This book focuses on the intricacies of interior design and it prepares you for this field of architecture.

3. The Language of Architecture: 26 Principles Every Architect Should Know ( written by Andrea Simitch and Val Warke) 

Another book you’ll definitely want to read is The Language of Architecture – in addition to the introduction to basic architectural design, its theme also revolves around definitions and theory.

Architecture books for kids 

If your kids are interested in architecture, or if you simply want them to read content that is both informative and stimulating, look no further. These are some books that every curious child should read.

1. Look at That Building!: A First Book of Structures (written by Scot Ritchie)

Especially intended for youngsters, this special book helps them understand how a house is built from the ground up.

2. Cool Architecture (written by Simon Armstrong)

A definite favorite among kids, this book is full of fascinating facts about everything from famous buildings to the history of architecture.

3. Skyscrapers!: Super Structures to Design & Build (written by Carol A. Johmann)

Architecture books for architecture lovers

If you find architecture quite fascinating, and you enjoy looking at the most marvelous buildings and monuments in this world, but don’t quite understand the complicated definitions and terms, don’t worry! There is plenty to choose from.


1. The Future of Architecture in 100 Buildings (written by Marc Kushner) 

Emphasizing contemporary architecture, this book offers some captivating examples of modern buildings, predicting the future of architecture.

2. Architecture: A World History (written by Daniel Borden, Jerzy Elzanowski, Joni Taylor, Stephanie Tuerk)

This comprehensive piece covers different aspects of architecture, spanning from various movements to renowned architects.

3. World Architecture: The Masterworks by Will Pryce 

This illustrative book contains information on the most exceptional masterpieces of the architectural world. 

4. BIG - Hot to Cold: An Odyssey of Architectural Adaptation

This comprehensive book, published by BIG (Bjarke Ingels Group), includes 60 case studies about extreme weather conditions and environments, with the aim of researching how far architectural adaptation has come. 

Architectural styles

The distinction between different architectural styles is made by the manner in which the building or construction was created. Apart from this element, the final form of the building is also a crucial part, as well as materials used. Here are some of the most notable architectural styles.

Classical architecture 

This particular style of architecture stems from the era of classical antiquity, especially that of Ancient Greek and Ancient Roman architecture. No matter the varying classical styles over these ages, what symbolizes them all are decorative and constructive elements. 

If this architectural style is something you want to know more about, then “Classical Architecture: A Complete Handbook,” by Robert Adam, is for you. It covers the complete history of classical architecture, in addition to various illustrations. 

Neoclassical architecture

The term Neoclassicism indicates the reintroduction of classic art and architecture. Neoclassical architecture has its roots in the mid-18th century and it was the result of the Neoclassical movement that started in Europe. 

This architectural style can be described as a union between the classical style and innovations of that era. The two defining elements of Neoclassical architecture are proportion and geometry. 

If this branch of architecture lies in your interests, then the book for you is Historical Dictionary of Neoclassical Art and Architecture” by Allison Lee Palmer. 

This comprehensive book outlines the most important features of Neoclassicism, including its history, some famous architects as well as the greatest examples of this style. 

Industrial architecture

This modern style of architecture was developed with the purpose of serving the industry, and it can be traced back to the Industrial revolution. Some of these buildings were known as the pioneering structures of modern architecture.

There are a lot of books on this subject, but one particularly worth your time is “The Architecture of the City” by Aldo Rossi. 

Useful for both professionals and students, The Architecture of the City primarily focuses on urban theory.  

Baroque architecture

This style of architecture is well known for its decorative and theatrical elements. It stems from 17th century Italy, after which it started to spread all over the continent. Baroque is a union of Renaissance elements, like domes and colonnades and ornamental tradition. This trend was first introduced to the Catholic Church, from where it spread to other areas of community.

“Baroque Architecture” by Christian Norberg-Schulz should definitely be a part of your collection. 

This enchanting volume offers picturesque instances of Baroque architecture, all the while going into further details regarding its history. 

Bauhaus architecture 

Bauhaus architecture stems from an art school project in Germany. It can be defined as a mixture of crafts and fine arts. To be more precise, the aim was to present a union of aesthetics and functionality. Afterwards, this movement expanded all over the continent. 

A book that really encapsulates the essence of this architectural style is “Bauhaus Architecture 1919-1933” by Axel Tilch.

Brutalist architecture

This captivating trend appeared in the UK in the 1950s, as a part of a reconstruction project that followed the post-war era. This type of architectural style is marked by minimalism and the display of bare construction materials. Other common elements are the use of concrete or brick, as well as monochrome shades.

If this type of architecture is something you want to look into, then try reading “Raw Concrete: The Beauty of Brutalism” by Barnabas Calder. It contains insight into the tendencies of Brutalist architecture, in addition to some of the most invaluable moments of its history. 

Modern architecture

Modern architecture is characterized by state-of-the-art technology, as well as the utilization of glass, steel and reinforced concrete. It can also be defined as the dismissal of ornamental style and the acceptance of minimalism. 

A great book on this subject is “A New History of Modern Architecture” by Colin Davies, written for both architects and fans of architecture. 

Modern Architecture Since 1900 (written by William J. R. Curtis)

This book has been acknowledged as one of the most vivid representations of modern architecture. Along with its detailed history, it also covers critique and interpretation of this period of architecture.

Postmodern architecture

As a response against the lack of variety of Modern architecture, Postmodern architecture appeared in the 1960s. Later on, it developed into a variety of new styles, such as high-tech architecture, neo-futurism and deconstructivism. It is mainly symbolized by complexity and contradiction, as well as color and fragmentation. 

One book that stands out on this subject is “Postmodern Architecture: Less is a Bore” by Owen Hopkins. It colorfully describes this new form of architecture from a fresh perspective.

Contemporary architecture 

Contemporary architecture is the newest and freshest form of architecture. It comprises different styles, but what they all have in common is the employment of advanced technology and modern building materials. In the beginning, the majority of the instances of Contemporary architecture could be found in the USA and Europe, today it is visible all over the globe.

One good book about this topic is “The Future of Architecture in 100 Buildings” by Marc Kushner. 

Emphasizing contemporary architecture, this book offers some captivating examples of modern buildings, predicting the future of architecture. 

If you want to read up on contemporary architecture, then consider Detail in Contemporary Residential Architecture written by Virginia McLeod. It includes over 50 representatives of the contemporary movement, as well as photos and details concerning construction. 

Types of architecture books

Novels

If you are looking for something a little bit different from the usual theoretical content, then you might want to consider reading one of the following novels.

1. Invisible Cities ( written by Italo Calvino) 

This novel portrays a discussion between Marco Polo and Kublai Khan about his various, uniquely devised cities. 

2. The Pillars of the Earth: A Novel (written by Ken Follett) 

The next book is sure to spark your curiosity - it’s a historical novel that tells the story about the construction of a cathedral in England.

3. The Fountainhead (written by Ayn Rand)

This fascinating book tells the tale of an ambitious architect who aspires to design modern buildings, despite being told to construct something out-dated.

Graphic books 

These types of materials are always sure to capture your attention, while teaching you something new. There is an abundance of graphic books about architecture, and some of the best examples are:

1. Robert Moses: The Master Builder of New York City (written by Pierre Christine & Olivier Balez) 

This bestseller takes us into the world of Robert Moses, the man in charge of designing the buildings all over New York city. 

2. BIG. Yes is More. An Archicomic on Architectural Evolution (written by Taschen) 

This graphic book depicts the architectural practice of the BIG company (Bjarke Ingels Group), which designs contemporary buildings.

Encyclopedias

There isn’t a type of book that contains more information and content on something than encyclopedias. In addition to the abundant number of facts, there are plenty of illustrative pictures too. Some great encyclopedias about architecture are:

1. Encyclopedia Of Architecture: The Complete Guide to Architecture, from Antiquity to the Nineteenth Century

Definitely a classic, this encyclopedia contains knowledge on everything you need to know about architecture. You can be sure to find everything you are looking for.

2. The Elements of Style: A Practical Encyclopedia of Interior Architectural Details from 1485 to the Present

With the main focus on the construction of houses and buildings, this encyclopedia deals with main styles that are representative of British and American architecture. 

Guides/Handbooks

Once again, if you’re looking for something a little more different and informative, then perhaps one of the following guides might pique your interest.

1. Architectural Acoustics (written by David Egan) 

A little bit different from what we have suggested so far, this guide goes into detail about isolation and the sounds in correlation with design and architecture.

2. Architecture: Form, Space and Order (written by Francis D. K. Ching)

Helpful for both architects and students, this handbook studies architectural design to a great extent. 

3. AAD Algorithms - Aided Design, by Arturo Tedeschi and Stefano Andreani

If you want to get ahead on the future of architectural design and technology, then AAD Algorithms - Aided Design might be right for you. It focuses on contemporary design methods, 3D modeling software and much more.

4. Neufert

Otherwise called Architects' Data, is known as one of the most comprehensive handbooks, intended for both students and professionals. This popular reference book entails detailed information and facts about spatial requirements, and it has been translated into 17 languages so far.

Textbooks

If you are a student and if you are looking for some food for thought, perhaps some of these textbooks are just what you need.

1. Interiors: Introduction (written by Karla J. Nielson) 

This book is all about interior design: how to design the perfect home, how to set a project into motion and how to realize it flawlessly. 

2. World Architecture (written by Ingersoll) 

This comprehensive survey encompasses various architectural trends and cultures, in addition to the most significant moments of the history of architecture. 

Through all its different phases and categories, architecture will always be a fascinating and ever-changing form of art.

Such a vast area of study, no wonder there are so many books to go through!

We hope that you were able to find something that sparks your interest. Whether you are new to architecture, or you have been around for a long time, you won’t make a mistake by opting for one of these books.

Comment below which book you plan on reading next!

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About the Author

Dušan Cvetković is a professional architect from Serbia with international experience in the industry. Collaborated with numerous clients all around the world in the field of architecture design, 3D modeling and software education. He's been teaching Rhinoceros3D to thousands of architects through How to Rhino community and various social media channels.