This Year, Give the Gift of Architecture, Art, and Prose

General / People / Places / Products / December 17, 2021

Sweaters, socks, and shirts might make fine holiday gifts for the proles on your shopping list, but the well-heeled sophisticates you know probably are looking for something a little more visually and verbally stimulating. So this year, A+A has compiled a list of must-read books on architecture, art, and design – each of which should make the holidays more than a little enjoyable. Give them all to your favorite architecture aficionados, and chances are they won’t get anything done for a week:

Alejandro Merizalde’s new book, “100 Churches of Venice and the Lagoon” fortuitously arrived on my doorstep this morning. It’s brand new, the result of six years of research into the churches and houses of worship in Venice. Merizalde’s photographic plates of the churches are stunning, including Palladio’s San Giorgio Maggiore and Il Redentore. And Marina Gasparini Lagrange’s introduction is eloquent: “His churches are frozen moments, framed in a rituality that sees, from a distance, the space where sacred and mundane intersect.” For more, go here.

The intrepid New York architect Tom Kligerman, a founding member of the celebrated Whisky Watercolor Club, has a new book out called “As I See It: A Life in Detours.” It’s a record of his travels around the world, and features images taken with his iPhone, from India to New Mexico and from Beaux Arts monuments to Shingle-Style Hamptons homes. His images have been curated into dynamic pairs meant to spark conversation about the world and different ways of seeing it. For more, go here.

For the mid-century modernists, there’s “The Stahl House: Case Study House #22, The Making of a Modernist Icon.” It’s the official autobiography of this world-renowned architectural gem by the family that made it their home. Considered one of the most iconic and recognizable examples of mid-century modern homes in the world, the residence was first envisioned by owners Buck and Carlotta Stahl, designed by architect Pierre Koenig, and immortalized by photographer Julius Shulman. This book’s by two of the Stahls’ children, Bruce Stahl and Shari Stahl Gronwald, with journalist Kim Cross. For more, go here.

A perennial favorite is “Dream of Venice Architecture,” by JoAnn Locktov. In it, a cadre of architects and architectural writers – this one included – explore the elements that make Venice a dreamy, one-of-a-kind, drop-dead-gorgeous place in this world. The introduction by Richard Goy – a brief history and description of just how this breathtaking city came to be – is worth the price of admission. For more, go here.

Then there’s “Native Places,” by North Carolina-based architect, artist and author Frank Harmon. A well-respected modernist who designed the nation’s first and only from-the-ground-up state AIA headquarters building, Harmon is as equally gifted with a pen as he is designing a building. That means both drawing and writing. His latest effort, with 64 sketches and essays, has sold 20,000 copies and is in its third printing. For more, go here.

Finally, there’s “Drawing from Practice: Architects and the Meaning of Freehand,” a book I penned in 2015. In it, 26 architects describe their process for taking a project from parti to finished building, with sketches, plans, sections, and photographs guiding the reader along the way. Included are projects by Suchi Reddy, Jim Cutler, Tom Kundig, and the late Michael Graves and Phil Freelon. For more, go 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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