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  • Writer's pictureLeonardo Agrelo

My favorite from my growing library

Updated: Aug 25, 2021

Every time that I feel like quitting, because let's be honest, we all have those moments, I do a little research and end up buying a new book that I'm interested in. Life is never that simple for any of us, and there will be circumstances where you just feel like giving up. Sadly, this last year, it's all because some ridiculous things since I transferred to FIU. Topic for another day.

Back to what I was saying, books, specially those that explore topic in which you are interested in are a great tool to keep you on track and self-motivated. When you feel like that, think about those projects that inspire you the most, the architect, the materials, the new techniques, the challenges and whatever keeps you up at night just thinking and thinking and thinking.

Because I'm a student, I find myself in that position very often, I bet, after graduation, it won't change that much.

Not long ago a professor was talking about his library, he mentioned a personal collection of almost 1000 books. I was speechless. I quickly realized how far away I am from that.

As you can see I'm very far away from 1000 books. I would say half of them are Real Estate related books and a few others in different topics. I'm missing some, I always keep some in my night stand and in my backpack but you get the idea. 1000 books is a lot of books.

You have to know that many books will be books to go back to along the years. Some others you will never read again and THAT'S OK. So don't stress it too much, you don't have to memorize a good book, probably whatever book you read that causes you a shocking first impression will go with you to the end of this world. That kind of books that almost speak looking straight at your eyes: " Whatever you thought you knew, it's wrong" ( jaw drops ). THOSE BOOKS are gold. I personally love them.

I'm in my 4th year and so far I have around 15 of those. I can't say I've read all of them, but most of them, yes. Others I only read when doubt is killing me.

I believe some of the first books architecture students should read are (and they are all required since the very beginning for the initial courses but nobody really reads them):

1) Architecture: Form, Space and Order by Francis D.K. Ching

It is a warm up. The basics about space and many other terms that you will be exploring for a long time like scale, circulation and proportions.

2) Design Drawing by Francis D.K Ching with Steven P. Juroszek

This books goes more into the artistic part of the field. Like framing perspectives, diagraming and presentation. Very useful once you start to envision your work in a portfolio.

3) Image of the City by Kevin Lych

The kick off to start thinking about urbanism and planning. You go out of your project and you start to establish a relationship between it and its context in the city. Easy to understand and one of those that you will be consulting every now and then. I had two studios that required this book.

Finally, my favorite: Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture by Robert Venturi. Published by The Museum of Modern Art, New York in association with the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in Fine Arts, Chicago. This book was required in one of my first theory classes.

Even though it isn't the simplest book, sometimes difficult to understand and demanding, I found it to be motivational. If you aspire, like me, to have a better knowledge about Architecture it is great. It is mostly theoretical, which is the reason why I find it fascinating. The constant comparison and criticism is followed always by a detailed explanation with historical facts and precedents, and that makes it very very inspirational for me. Because sometimes you won't understand a thing and you will have to do research, then go a couple pages back and start again from there so you get the whole picture. You will do that several times, and THAT'S OK.

I was constantly taking notes, page by page, doing research, coming back to the book, then starting again, again and again. Somehow it has the power to drag you away from whatever you think you like so you really start analyzing every element, drawing and composition in the examples.

I have papers like this one everywhere in the book. Because you don't have to memorize the book. It's a tool, to awake you, to make your brain start looking at things differently and that happens from the "Wow I didn't know this!" moment. Take notes, do research so you can explain it in a simpler way, draw some sketches so you get the basic concept and then, and this is the most difficult part, try to make an argument against it and in favor, so you find yourself assuming certain position and oblige to defend it. This way you will start to discover what you like and what you don't like, as well as finding good arguments to support your position and idea.

It's like a game, you against you. IT'S FUN!

Now tell me, what's your favorite book? Are you waiting for any? I ordered Event Cities: Concepts and Forms by Tschumi, really excited to read it.

Let me know in the comments.

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