For this post, I thought I would put together an exhaustive list of the the best architecture books. These are listed in no particular order.
UPDATED: March 13, 2019.
Whether you are an architectural professional or student you should find many of these resources a welcome addition to your home or office library.
If you prefer to listen instead, get two books for free when you Start Your Free Trial with Audible:
Here is my list of The 50 Best Architecture Books.
1. Architecture: Form, Space, and Order
For more than forty years, the beautifully illustrated Architecture: Form, Space, and Order has served as the classic introduction to the basic vocabulary of architectural design.
The updated and revised Fourth Edition features the fundamental elements of space and form and is designed to encourage critical thought in order to promote a more evocative understanding of architecture.
2. The Architecture Reference & Specification Book: Everything Architects Need to Know Every Day
Most architectural standards references contain thousands of pages of details—overwhelmingly more than architects need to know to know on any given day.
The Architecture Reference & Specification Book contains vital information that's essential to planning and executing architectural projects of all shapes and sizes, in a format that is small enough to carry anywhere. It distills the data provided in standard architectural volumes and is an easy-to-use reference for the most indispensable—and most requested—types of architectural information.
3. A Field Guide to American Houses: The Definitive Guide to Identifying and Understanding America's Domestic Architecture
For the house lover and the curious tourist, for the house buyer and the weekend stroller, for neighborhood preservation groups and for all who want to know more about their community -- here, at last, is a book that makes it both easy and pleasurable to identify the various styles and periods of American domestic architecture.
Bonus: The Architect's eGuide to Portfolios
A quick plug for my best selling ebook: The Architect's eGuide to Portfolios. This ultimate guide contains all of the obvious and not-so-obvious best practices of portfolio design. Included are 400+ pages of time saving guidance, portfolio examples and efficient methods to properly represent your work.
4. The Future of Architecture in 100 Buildings (TED Books)
The founder of Architizer.com and practicing architect draws on his unique position at the crossroads of architecture and social media to highlight 100 important buildings that embody the future of architecture.
We’re asking more of architecture than ever before; the response will define our future.
5. Architecture: A World History
Lavishly illustrated and super-condensed, Architecture: A World History is the perfect gift for any architecture buff. In this pocket-sized book bursting with 600 illustrations, page after page is dedicated to significant architectural movements, time lines that explore the evolution of the practice, and capsule biographies of great architects and examinations of their masterpieces.
6. The Ten Books On Architecture (Illustrated)
Marcus Vitruvius Pollio, a Roman architect and engineer flourishing in the first century B.C., was the author of the oldest and most influential work on architecture in existence. For hundreds of years, the specific instructions he gave in his "Ten Books on Architecture" were followed faithfully, and major buildings in all parts of the world reveal the widespread influence of his precepts. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, he was "the chief authority studied by architects, and in every point his precepts were accepted as final. Bramante, Michelangelo, Palladio, Vignola, and earlier were careful students of the work of Vitruvius." His book is thus one of those rare works that have been supremely important in the creation of the greatest art masterpieces.
7. Archidoodle: The Architect's Activity Book
This innovative book is the first to provide a fun, interactive way to learn about architecture. Filled with an array of beautiful and elegant drawings, it poses all manner of architectural challenges for the user: from designing your own skyscraper, to drawing an island house or creating a Constructivist monument, plus many others more.
8. Understanding Architecture: Its Elements, History, and Meaning
This widely acclaimed, beautifully illustrated survey of Western architecture is now fully revised throughout, including essays on non-Western traditions. The expanded book vividly examines the structure, function, history, and meaning of architecture in ways that are both accessible and engaging.
9. Brunelleschi's Dome: How a Renaissance Genius Reinvented Architecture
Brunelleschi's Dome is the story of how a Renaissance genius bent men, materials, and the very forces of nature to build an architectural wonder we continue to marvel at today. Denounced at first as a madman, Brunelleschi was celebrated at the end as a genius. He engineered the perfect placement of brick and stone, built ingenious hoists and cranes to carry an estimated 70 million pounds hundreds of feet into the air, and designed the workers' platforms and routines so carefully that only one man died during the decades of construction--all the while defying those who said the dome would surely collapse and his own personal obstacles that at times threatened to overwhelm him.
10. Architecture: Residential Drafting and Design
Architecture: Residential Drafting and Design provides comprehensive instruction on traditional and computer-based methods of preparing architectural working drawings in addition to coverage of design and construction principles and methods. It is organized around the design-building process, a logical way for students to easily learn. New content on green building technology/sustainable design complements foundational learning. Chapter-end activities challenge students to use residential design principles and problem-solving skills.
11. Sustainable Design: A Critical Guide
Written for students and practitioners in the fields of architecture and interior design, our new Architecture Brief Sustainable Design provides a concise overview of all the techniques available for reducing the energy footprint of structures and spaces. With clear, simple language and a practical "can do" approach, author David Bergman covers everything from the profession's ethical responsibility, to design structures and spaces that sustain our natural resources, to specific considerations such as rainwater harvesting, graywater recycling, passive heating techniques, solar orientation, green roofs, wind energy, daylighting, indoor air quality, material evaluation and specification, and how to work with green building certification programs.
12. World Architecture: The Masterworks
Will Pryce unveils a world of beauty and genius in this unparalleled, specially photographed survey of the world’s architectural master- pieces. More than 350 color photographs celebrate the finest buildings from over two thousand years of civilization: Hagia Sophia, the Gothic cathedrals of Europe, Islamic masterworks at Isfahan, the Taj Mahal, the Palace of Westminster, Gehry’s iconic Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, and much more.
13. Modern Architecture Since 1900
Since its first publication in 1982, Modern Architecture Since 1900 has become established as a contemporary classic. Worldwide in scope, it combines a clear historical outline with masterly analysis and interpretation. Technical, economic, social and intellectual developments are brought together in a comprehensive narrative which provides a setting for the detailed examination of buildings. Throughout the book the author's focus is on the individual architect, and on the qualities that give outstanding buildings their lasting value.
14. A Global History of Architecture
Unabashedly huge in its proportions, this book differs from the standard architecture survey in that it doesn't approach the topic from a Western perspective, but rather, as the title indicates, through a global lens. This bodes well for its success as a textbook, but will also please the casual reader. Chronologically organized, the work spans the globe within each time period, occasionally taking time to discuss certain styles and major historical periods, but devoting most of its space to specific architectural works. T
15. Sketching for Architecture + Interior Design
The debate surrounding hand drawing versus computer-generated imagery has become a hot topic. Having grown up with computers, today's interior design and architecture students are extremely adept at creating computer imagery, but often lack confidence in their freehand sketching skills, or do not know how to sketch at all. Sketching, and the careful observation that it entails, is essential for the successful development of the next generation of designers.
16. The Architecture Of Light
This vivid, image packed text of lighting concepts and techniques serves as the perfect companion for lighting design students and professionals alike. Built around a successful teaching curriculum, this text provides a logical step by step progression through the phases of conceptualizing, refining, drafting and presenting lighting design.
17. A Visual Dictionary of Architecture
An essential one-volume reference of architectural topics using Francis D.K. Ching's signature presentation. It is the only dictionary that provides concise, accurate definitions illustrated with finely detailed, hand-rendered drawings. From Arch to Wood, every concept, technology, material and detail important to architects and designers are presented in Ching's unique style.
18. Architecture's Odd Couple: Frank Lloyd Wright and Philip Johnson
In architectural terms, the twentieth century can be largely summed up with two names: Frank Lloyd Wright and Philip Johnson. Wright (1867–1959) began it with his romantic prairie style; Johnson (1906–2005) brought down the curtain with his spare postmodernist experiments. Between them, they built some of the most admired and discussed buildings in American history.
19. Architecture: From Prehistory to Postmodernity
Moving back and forth between the long view of historical trends and close-ups on major works and crucial architectural themes, this lavishly-illustrated survey explains specific qualities of periods in depth and the complex illuminating differences between them in social, intellectual, and aesthetic terms.
20. Architecture in Wood: A World History
Many of the world’s greatest buildings are made of wood, yet it is undervalued or ignored in histories of architecture. However, leading designers around the world are increasingly drawn to it to satisfy social and environmental needs.
Will Pryce is an award-winning photographer who trained as an architect and photojournalist. Intensely dramatic but not overdramatized, technically flawless but not merely documentary, his internationally acclaimed photographs convey all the excitement of encountering these amazing structures firsthand.
21. The Language of Architecture: 26 Principles Every Architect Should Know
In order to master the foundation of architecture, you must first master the basic building blocks of its language; the definitions, function, and usage. The Language of Architecture provides students and professional architects with the basic elements of architectural design, divided into twenty-six easy-to-comprehend chapters. This visual reference includes an introduction to architecture design, historical view of the elements, as well as an overview of how these elements can and have been used across multiple design disciplines. Whether you're new to the field or have been an architect for years, you'll want to flip through the pages of this book and use it as your go-to reference for inspiration and ideas. This comprehensive learning tool is the one book you'll want as a staple in your library.
22. Craftsman Homes (Dover Architecture)
296 architectural drawings, floor plans, and photographs illustrate 40 different kinds of "Mission-style" homes from The Craftsman (1901-16), voice of American style of simplicity and organic harmony. Thorough coverage of Craftsman idea in text and picture, now collector's item.
23. Seeking New York: The Stories Behind the Historic Architecture of Manhattan--One Building at a Time
Beautifully illustrated with line drawings and photographs, engagingly presented, and richly detailed, this charming guide traces the architectural and social history of Manhattan one building at a time. The island of Manhattan has been through remarkable architectural and social change throughout its history. Organized roughly by neighborhoods, this book explores the seemingly never-ending depths of architectural, personal, and social history of Manhattan, building by building.
24. Introduction to Architecture
Introduction to Architecture presents the essential texts and drawings of Francis D. K. Ching for those new to architecture and design. With his typical highly graphic approach, this is the first introductory text from Ching that surveys the design of spaces, buildings, and cities. In an easy to understand format, readers will explore the histories and theories of architecture, design elements and process, and the technical aspects of the contemporary profession of architecture.
25. Archi-Graphic: An Infographic Look at Architecture
This informative and engaging book uses a variety of inventive infographics to take an unusual look at architecture in a way that would not be possible with words and images alone. Through a variety of different infographics it compares, for example, the range of materials and colours used by different architects, the relative locations of their buildings, who influenced who, and which architects are the most discussed. It also approaches architecture from more unconventional angles with spreads that show the kinds of architecture favoured by dictators, the networks of love affairs that architects got entangled in; the defining facial features of famous architects and so on. Irreverent and entertaining, this book will appeal to all those with an interest in architecture or infographics.
26. The New Old House: Historic & Modern Architecture Combined
The New Old House presents 18 private historic homes, from North America to Europe, and traces the ingenious ways architects have revitalized and refreshed them for a new generation.
27. Architecture After Modernism (World of Art)
An examination of the architectural world and its theories since the late 1960s in the context of social and political issues. It looks at a broad survey of buildings, but focuses on specific "megaprojects" as examples for discussion: the Disney empire and its amusement parks in the context of public space and the IBA in Berlin in the context of domestic space.
28. The Story of Architecture
Jonathan Glancey guides readers through a staggering 5,000 years of world architecture with his eminently knowledgeable, authoritative, and always fascinating insights. This stylish, lavishly illustrated book features influential and innovative architects of every age, along with their masterpieces, from the ziggurat at Ur to the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao.
29. St. Petersburg: Architecture of the Tsars
Dmitri Shvidkovsky, chronicles the history of the city's planning and construction from Peter the Great's time to the reign of the last tsar, Nicholas II. Anyone who has ever visited--or dreamed of visiting--the city of "white nights" will find St. Petersburg irresistible.
30. The Architecture of Community
Leon Krier is one of the best-known—and most provocative—architects and urban theoreticians in the world. Until now, however, his ideas have circulated mostly among a professional audience of architects, city planners, and academics. In The Architecture of Community, Krier has reconsidered and expanded writing from his 1998 book Architecture: Choice or Fate. Here he refines and updates his thinking on the making of sustainable, humane, and attractive villages, towns, and cities. The book includes drawings, diagrams, and photographs of his built works, which have not been widely seen until now.
31. The Architecture Student's Handbook of Professional Practice
Written by The American Institute of Architects, this is the definitive textbook on practice issues written specifically for architecture students. Specifically written for emerging architects, this is the first unabbreviated guide specifically for architecture students about to begin their careers. It is required reading in a professional practice course that architecture students must take within their final two years of school.
32. Detail in Contemporary Timber Architecture
Architectural detailing is what makes a design unique, and an architect outstanding. Detail in Contemporary Timber Architecture provides analysis of both the technical and the aesthetic importance of details in modern timber architecture.
33. How to Read Churches: A Crash Course in Ecclesiastical Architecture
Small enough to fit in a pocket yet serious enough to provide real answers, this primer is a must-have for architecture and history buffs, tourists, and churchgoers interested in decoding the styles and symbols of religious buildings. Every building contains clues embedded in its design that identify not only its architectural style but also who designed it, what kind of congregation it was built for, and why.
34. Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture
First published in 1966, and since translated into 16 languages, this remarkable book has become an essential document of architectural literature. A "gentle manifesto for a nonstraightforward architecture," Venturi’s Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture expresses in the most compelling and original terms the postmodern rebellion against the purism of modernism.
35. The Four Books of Architecture
Illustrated by over 200 magnificently engraved plates, showing edifices, either of Palladio's own design or reconstructed (in these drawings) by him from classical ruins and contemporary accounts. All the original plates are reproduced in this new single-volume edition in full size and in clear, sharp detail.
36. Architecture in Italy, 1400-1500
It was in fifteenth-century Florence that Brunelleschi's buildings and Alberti's treatise first established the principles of Italian Renaissance architecture in practice and theory. This classic survey of Italian Renaissance architecture ranges from the erection of Brunelleschi's dome for the Florence Cathedral to the works of Bramante and Leonardo.
37. The Architecture of the Italian Renaissance
A classic guide to one of the most pivotal periods in art and architectural history, The Architecture of the Italian Renaissance remains the most lucid and comprehensive volume available. From Leonardo, Raphael, Michelangelo, Palladio, and Brunelleschi to St. Peter's in Rome, the palaces of Venice, and the Medici Chapel in Florence, Peter Murray's lavishly illustrated book tells readers everything they need to know about the architectural life of Italy from the thirteenth through the sixteenth centuries.
38. The Architecture of Madness: Insane Asylums in the United States
Elaborately conceived, grandly constructed insane asylums—ranging in appearance from classical temples to Gothic castles—were once a common sight looming on the outskirts of American towns and cities. Many of these buildings were razed long ago, and those that remain stand as grim reminders of an often cruel system. For much of the nineteenth century, however, these asylums epitomized the widely held belief among doctors and social reformers that insanity was a curable disease and that environment—architecture in particular—was the most effective means of treatment.
39. Architecture of the Sun: Los Angeles Modernism
An authoritative survey of the masters of twentieth-century modernist architecture in Los Angeles. This revisionist study explores the history of modernist architecture in Greater Los Angeles from the early twentieth century to the 1970s, focusing on both its regional and international contexts.
40. Art and Architecture in Mexico
This new interpretive history of Mexican art from the Spanish Conquest to the early decades of the twenty-first century is the most comprehensive introduction to the subject in fifty years. James Oles ranges widely across media and genres, offering new readings of painting, sculpture, architecture, prints, and photographs. He interprets major works by such famous artists as Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo, but also discusses less familiar figures in history and landscape painting, muralism, and conceptual art.
41. Baroque and Rococo Art and Architecture
Baroque and Rococo Art and Architecture reviews traditional and recent strategies for interpreting artworks. It also traces the dissemination of visual ideas through prints and drawings–the forerunners of today’s art reproductions and digital media. In special sections the text raises questions regarding the nature of perception and how artists transfer optical data to the canvas.
42. The Architecture of Happiness
The Achitecture of Happiness is a dazzling and generously illustrated journey through the philosophy and psychology of architecture and the indelible connection between our identities and our locations.One of the great but often unmentioned causes of both happiness and misery is the quality of our environment: the kinds of walls, chairs, buildings, and streets that surround us. And yet a concern for architecture is too often described as frivolous, even self-indulgent. Alain de Botton starts from the idea that where we are heavily influences who we can be, and argues that it is architecture's task to stand as an eloquent reminder of our full potential.
43. Why Architecture Matters
Based on decades of looking at buildings and thinking about how we experience them, the distinguished critic raises our awareness of fundamental things like proportion, scale, space, texture, materials, shapes, light, and memory. Upon completing this remarkable architectural journey, readers will enjoy a wonderfully rewarding new way of seeing and experiencing every aspect of the built world.
44. The Urban Sketching Handbook: Architecture and Cityscapes: Tips and Techniques for Drawing on Location
In The Urban Sketching Handbook: Architecture and Cityscapes, Gabriel lays out keys to help make the experience of drawing architecture and cityscapes fun and rewarding. Using composition, depth, scale, contrast, line and creativity, sketching out buildings and structure has never been more inspirational. This guide will help you to develop your own creative approach, no matter what your skill level may be today. As much as The Urban Sketching Handbook: Architecture and Cityscapes may inspire you to draw more urban spaces, it can also help to increase your appreciation of the built environment. Drawing the places where we live, work and play, is a great way to show appreciation and creativity.
45. Architecture and Violence
This is a compelling compilation of essays by international architectural theorists on the relationship of violence to space. With the events of September 11th, the London bombings, the Madrid train explosions, and the daily blasts in Baghdad, the question of violence and terrorism is imposing architectural ramifications with renewed urgency.
A new sense of architectural awareness has been forged as violence is forcing its place as an architectural datum. Wide-ranging contributions approach design issues related to violence through multiple angles and intersections.
46. Architecture of First Societies: A Global Perspective
Starting with the dawn of human society, through early civilizations, to the pre-Columbian American tribes, Architecture of First Societies: A Global Perspective traces the different cultural formations that developed in various places throughout the world to form the built environment. Looking through the lens of both time and geography, the history of early architecture is brought to life with full-color photographs, maps, and drawings. Drawing on the latest research in archaeological and anthropological knowledge, this landmark book also looks at how indigenous societies build today in order to help inform the past.
47. The Splendor of Cuba: 450 Years of Architecture and Interiors
An unprecedented tour of stunning and architecturally significant Cuban palacios, mansions, and private homes that have been meticulously preserved, previously un-photographed, and inaccessible to visitors. At a time when more travelers are rediscovering Cuba, this lavishly illustrated volume offers a different view of the island’s cultural achievements.
48. Dictionary of Architecture and Construction
Updated and expanded, this Fourth Edition of the most trusted reference in architecture offers the most comprehensive coverage of architectural and construction terms available. This classic dictionary now features nearly 25,000 definitions (including 2,800 new terms), 2,500 illustrations (including 200 new illustrations), and maintains its extraordinary visual appeal and easy-to-read page design.
49. Drawings and Plans of Frank Lloyd Wright: The Early Period
The republication of this rare work gives access again to what has been called "the single most important collection of work published by Frank Lloyd Wright."
50. Cape Cod Modern: Midcentury Architecture and Community on the Outer Cape
Initially, these designers had no clients; they built for themselves and their families, or for friends sympathetic to their ideals. Their homes were laboratories, places to work through ideas without spending much money. The result of this ferment is a body of work unlike any other, a regional modernism fusing the building traditions of Cape Cod fishing towns with Bauhaus concepts and postwar experimentation.
I hope this list of the best architecture books has been helpful. If I left one out that you think is important, let me know in the comments below.
Thanks for reading.
Brandon Hubbard, AIA, NCARB, LEED AP BD+C