by Jincy IypeApr 07, 2023
Architecture and books, while seemingly divergent disciplines, emerge with common threads when brought together, transcending temporal and spatial boundaries. The written word chronicling advancements and learnings gathered from the creative architectural realm provides a scattershot, expansive purview, of histories, innovations, varied perspectives, and evolution of theories—from monographs to autobiographies and technical records, there is something for everyone here, to learn from, to debate on, to ruminate on. Vessels of creativity and discourse, the allure and significance that books on architecture hold, as catalysts for knowledge gathering and dissemination, remain unparalleled even as we venture into a significant digital readership.
The inaugural Architecture Book of the Year Awards have been announced, with winners across seven curated categories and three special prizes. Books on architecture published in 2020, 2021 and 2022 were eligible for the architecture awards, leading to about 100 entries. The programme was launched this year by The Worshipful Company of Chartered Architects, the Temple Bar Trust, and the World Architecture Festival. “The overall winner will be announced in the autumn,” the organisers relay.
The awards' co-organiser Paul Finch, from the World Architecture Festival (WAF), commented, “We were very pleased with the volume and quality of entries to these inaugural awards, which we intend to become an annual programme. Thanks are due to our 20 judges who made awards in seven categories, with the organisers then choosing three special prizes for entries that did not fit easily into our categories. The results demonstrate the health of the architectural publishing sector in the UK and internationally—an important element in the architectural culture, which we believe deserves greater attention and celebration. We hope the awards will help to bring this about.”
Winner: Fabio Barry, Painting in Stone (Yale University Press)
Citation: This remarkable book provides a tour de force account of the different ways in which marble was used as a building material from the earliest urban civilisations up until the Italian Baroque. Exquisitely illustrated, the text’s insightful analysis and temporal sweep are deeply impressive. The author traces the contribution of marble not merely in terms of its intrinsic aesthetic qualities, but also how this stone is able to modulate light to create intangible and ephemeral architectural effects.
Highly commended: Lukasz Stanek, Architecture in Global Socialism (Princeton University Press)
Citation: In proposing that architects in the former Soviet Bloc were engaged during the Cold War era in constructing alternative models not merely at home but also abroad—which the author terms ‘socialist worldmaking’—this innovative examination of cities in Africa and the Middle East reveals the range and diversity of buildings created by protagonists from socialist countries for those living in the so-called 'Third World'.
Judges: Professor Murray Fraser; Simon Henley; Professor Elizabeth McKellar
2. Biography/ Autobiography
Winner: Justin Beal, Sandfuture (MIT Press)
Citation: Sandfuture is remarkable and original. What could have been another narcissistic account is a fascinating description of the tension between the formal assuredness and psychological fragility that illuminates the myriad difficulties of Minoru Yamasaki’s career. Justin Beal’s interweaving of vignettes from his own life as architect-artist-writer with Yamasaki’s, between the totemic catastrophes of Pruitt Igoe and the World Trade Center, is extraordinarily resonant, charting our disenchantment with Utopian Modernism. Something profound about our fallible lust to improve life is unveiled as Beal interpolates his own and his partner’s physical experiences, to good, if sometimes puzzling, effect. Recommended for anyone thinking about a life in architecture.
Citation: Making his name early at the AA, Nigel Coates set out to liberate architecture from its macho-techno stays, leaping theatrically beyond PoMo’s stilted puns. For which he remains unforgiven, despite the enthusiasm with which his accessible, emotive ‘narrative’ architecture was embraced, particularly in Tokyo. He presents himself in a scenography of shifting taste and style, pedagogic and professional, subtly undermined (no more than hinted at) by prejudice and naysaying. There is surely no other architect who could with such brio, drop so many names from the cultural demi-monde. Written in his house above Italy’s Val d’Orcia during the pandemic, the book’s mood of quiet reflection provides a gentle coda to a hitherto hectic life. Coates provides a vivid, perceptive account of a key period in which the orthodoxies had a run for their money. A thoughtful, generous, rebel-with-a-cause dedicated to the hedonistic challenging of mediocrity and conformity. Bravo.
Judges: Eric Parry; Lee Mallett; Gillian Darley
3. Monograph (building)
Winner: Stefi Orazi, Golden Lane Estate. An Urban Village (Batsford)
Citation: This book was judged to be refreshingly independent, being both celebratory but also critical at times of the estate’s design. It was particularly praised for bridging the gap between a general and specialist audience, as well as for the clarity of its design and success of its ‘collage-like’ structure, with four distinct sections—history/interviews with residents/photography/plans—working well together to provide a broad perspective on the scheme. The clear presentation of plans was particularly liked, underlining how, though this is a 60-year-old scheme, its design and planning still provide valuable lessons for today in how good housing can be an enabler of a good life for its residents.
Highly commended: The City Works: Eric Parry Architects, edited by Ian Latham and Chris Foges (Right Angle Publishing)
Citation: This book was commended for its beautiful design. It was liked for its thorough analysis of a series of schemes while also being a book that could be ‘dipped into’, offering useful insights on many aspects of the planning and design process: ranging from the differences between working in Westminster vs. City, to commissioning and working with artists. Judged as being an exemplar of an architects’ own monograph that is ‘more than just a PR job’, it provides a rich perspective on a body of work, that is usefully greater than the sum of its parts.
Judges: Rob Wilson; Glen Howells; Catherine Croft
4. Monograph (typology)
Winner: John Brennan, Scotland’s Rural Home. Nine stories about contemporary architecture (Lund Humphries)
Citation: One of remarkably few entries to try to define a typology, this book explores a selection of recently completed homes in the Scottish countryside. A few are additions to existing structures, some of them ruinous and in enviable settings. All are well illustrated with specially drawn plans and occasional sections which makes some architectural analysis possible. The texts are well written and clear, fulfilling the promise of the subtitle. Given the topicality of Scottish identity, the book opens a discussion about the extent to which contemporary rural architecture, working alongside its wonderful landscape, might help to define it.
Judges: Jeremy Melvin; Cindy Walters; Niall McLaughlin
5. Monograph (practice)
Winner: Being Ted Cullinan, edited by Alan Berman and Ian Latham (Right Angle Publishing)
Citation: Produced as a tribute to the late Ted Cullinan, one of the leading architects of his generation, this slim but dense collection of essays by peers, friends and historians offers a rare depth of insight into its subject. Taken together, the mix of anecdote and analysis provides a detailed overview of Cullinan's life, work, and influence, but it's equally rewarding to open any page and start reading.
Highly commended: Evans + Shalev, with an introduction by Joseph Rykwert (Circa Press)
Citation: This carefully assembled and beautifully designed survey of built and unbuilt works by Evans + Shalev has a rigorous order and elegance that match its subject. With an emphasis on visual information—particularly drawings—it stood out for the judicious selection of material and consistency of presentation.
Judges: Jo Bacon; Chris Foges
Winner: Daniel A Barber, Modern Architecture and Climate (Princeton University Press)
Citation: A meticulously researched and beautifully written account of 60 years of clever design by modernist architects whose buildings were ‘environmental filters’. It alters perspective on twentieth-century architecture—revealing fundamental principles and false trials—to stimulate and inspire as a consequence. This is a very well-researched book about façade design as an integrated climate moderating system; its references to mid-20th century architecture provide a worthwhile technical reference for architects designing for today’s climate emergency.
Judges: John Lyall; John Robertson; Lynne Sullivan
7. City/ Country guide
Winner: Adam Nathaniel Furman and Joshua Mardell, Queer Spaces: An Atlas of LGBTQIA+ Places and Stories (RIBA Publishing)
Citation: Charting new territory for our discipline and in a guidebook layout/format, it is clearly a passion project. Its purpose is very clear, expressed in the introduction, offering a deeper reading of the way countries adopt and carve out safe spaces in cities. We liked its international scope and range of visual representation and voices—definitely a book for and of our time.
Judges: Victoria Thornton; Roger Zogolovitch; Samantha Hardingham
1. Sir Banister Fletcher’s Global History of Architecture, General Editor Murray Fraser; Managing Editor Catherine Gregg (Bloomsbury/RIBA/University of London)
Citation: The 21st edition of this classic work, in two impressive volumes, is a testament to the ongoing commitment to the continuity of architectural publishing and to the history of an increasingly complex subject.
2. Peter Cook, Speculations (Circa Press)
Citation: Beautifully produced, this visual treat is a reminder of the power of architectural drawing and painting to inform the process of design, and to investigate conditions and contexts beyond conventional methods of analysis.
3. A posthumous award to Elain Harwood, for her contribution to architectural history, scholarship, and publishing.
Citation: Elain was one of our judges for this year’s awards, and her premature and unexpected death was a shock to her fellow judges and to the world of architecture as a whole. Two of her books were eligible for this year’s awards, but we decided it would be more appropriate to award a special prize, in the hope that this may be a precedent for future awards, with her name attached, related to 20th century British architecture.
About the organisers: WAF is considered the largest global live awards architectural and design event. WAF’s next edition will take place from November 29–December 1, 2023, at the Marina Bay Sands in Singapore. The Architects’ Company (formally known as The Worshipful Company of Chartered Architects) is a modern livery company that celebrates the global architectural profession and promotes quality architecture in the city of London, achieving its aims through education, mentoring, awards, and philanthropy. The Temple Bar, located on Paternoster Square next to St. Paul’s Cathedral, was designed by Sir Christopher Wren and completed in 1672. It was originally situated at the west end of Fleet Street and was re-erected in its present location in 2004. It is now the home of the Worshipful Company of Chartered Architects and an education centre, funded by the Corporation of London, for schools, visitors, and the city community. It is managed by Temple Bar Trust whose aim is to promote architecture in London to a wider public audience through a regular programme of talks and tours, with a focus on supporting greater diversity in the profession.