Five Fave Books for Gifting this Year

General / People / Places / Products / December 7, 2020

2020 has been a year for the books – for all the wrong reasons, it turns out. But it was a year that welcomed in a spate of new tomes on architecture and design – many of which are outstanding. We’ve selected a few from A+A’s posts over the past 12 months – plus one perennial favorite – that should be a welcome addition to any design aficionado’s bookshelf.

First up is Houses: Robert A.M. Stern Architects. It’s a follow-up to 2014’s Designs for Living, with 17 projects from the past six years out of the studios of Stern partners Roger Seifter, Randy Correll, Gary Brewer and Grant Marani. Sure, the Shingle Style is well represented, but there are buildings in the Classical, Mediterranean, and Midcentury Modern styles as well. Included also are renovations to four apartments, coast to coast. Though it’s not due out until Jan. 19, gift-givers can order their books now here.

There’s Triangle Modern Architecture, by Victoria Ballard Bell, a graduate of the “A” School at the University of Virginia, now living in North Carolina. In the first half of her new book she chronicles the architects who not only taught at N.C. State’s School of Design during the 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s, but built about 800 modern residences in Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill too. In the second half are the architects who continued to explore the principles of Carolina Modernism – many of them still practicing today. Order books here.

Then: Randolph Langenbach’s Rome Was! The Eternal City from Piranesi to the Present, an inventive look at our favorite city on earth. In part, it’s a study of Giambattista Piranesi’s engravings of Roman ruins – but with an up-to-date twist: Langenbach uses modern digital photography to document the views that Piranesi captured over a quarter of a millennium ago. It’s small enough to carry around on a walking tour of Italy, and contains about 350 images – two to three on each of its 136 pages. Order it here.

And Anne-Catrin Schultz’s Real and Fake in Architecture: Close to the Original, Far from Authenticity. It’s a book of 18 chapters that flip back and forth between essays and photography. Schultz’s own chapter is titled “Is fake the new real?” The book covers the architectural waterfront, starting with the Parthenon in Athens, then moving on to its exact replica, built of poured concrete in 1897, in Nashville. Then there’s the 1983 Parthenon of Books by Argentinean artist Marta Minujín, who used thousands of prohibited books to construct a replica of the Parthenon on the site of a 1933 Nazi book-burning site in Kassel, Germany. Order books here.

That perennial favorite mentioned earlier? It’s by the editor of this website, and it’s called Drawing from Practice: Architecture and the Meaning of Freehand. Wendy Goodman at New York magazine called it “a book that every architecture student and lover should have.” It features drawings and photos from the late Stanley Tigerman, Michael Graves, and Phil Freelon, along with chapters on Jim Cutler, Peter Bohlin, Frank Harmon, Deborah Berke and Marlon Blackwell. Order the books here.


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Michael Welton
I write about architecture, art, and design for national and international publications. I am the author of "Drawing from Practice: Architects and the Meaning of Freehand" (Routledge, 2015), and the former architecture critic for the News & Observer in Raleigh, N.C.

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