When becoming an architect, there tends to be an overload of jargon and complicated advice that makes it difficult to understand the elements of design. Before beginning your first project, it’s crucial to have an in-depth understanding of the fundamentals of architecture. That’s why we’ve found the best architecture books so you can learn from the experts.

Best Architecture Books

If you aren’t an architect, there’s no denying that architecture impacts our daily lives, whether you’re re-designing a guest room or driving down a new street. To better understand architecture and design, check out the top 11 architecture books below. 

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

Architecture- Form, Space, and Order by Francis D. K. Ching

Architecture: Form, Space, and Order is a superb visual reference to the principles of architecture. Since it was first published, this beautifully illustrated book has been the classic introduction to architectural design. By reading this, you’ll learn about circulation, light, site context, and much more. 

Perfect for both students and practicing architects, this book examines how form and space are ordered in a built environment. Professor Ching shows the relationship between fundamental elements of architecture through the ages and across cultural boundaries.

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2. Modern Architecture Since 1900 by William J. R. Curtis 

Modern Architecture Since 1900 by William J. R. Curtis

This contemporary classic is worldwide in scope, and combines a clear historical outline with mastery analysis and interpretation. In this, technical, social, and intellectual developments are brought together to provide the perfect setting for the detailed examination of buildings. Through the lens of the individual architect, this book explains the qualities that give outstanding buildings their exceptional value. 

This book presents a compelling analysis of modern tradition and its origins, tracing the creative interaction between the old and new. By reading this, you’ll better understand architectural forms across the world and throughout the centuries. 

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3. 101 Things I Learned in Architecture School by Matthew Frederick

101 Things I Learned in Architecture School by Matthew Frederick

Perfect for students of architecture to keep in their backpacks, 101 Things I Learned in Architecture School simplifies the architectural language that processors tend to over-complicate. In this, you’ll find 101 concise lessons on design, the creative process, and presentation, from how to draw a line to the complexities of color theory.

This much needed-primer for architectural literacy leaves nothing open ended. In its unique two-page format, each explanation accompanies a helpful illustration, allowing the reader to visually learn and apply each architectural concept. 

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4. A Field Guide to American Houses by Virginia McAlester 

A Field Guide to American Houses by Virginia McAlester

A Field Guide to American Houses is the definitive guide to identifying and understanding America’s domestic architecture. From the house lover to the curious stroller, this book makes it both easy and pleasurable to identify the various styles and periods of American domestic architecture. 

Concentrating on typical dwellings in ordinary neighborhoods, this book provides you with the facts and frame of reference that will enable you to see the houses around you in a new light. With more than 1,200 illustrations, this book has all you need to be able to recognize distinct architectural styles and understand their historical significance. 

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5. A Pattern Language by Christopher Alexander, Murray Silverstein, and Sara Ishikawa

A Pattern Language by Christopher Alexander, Murray Silverstein, and Sara Ishikawa

Whether you’re looking to design a house for your family, improve your home office, or construct a public building, this book will help you in the process. This book lays the basis for an entirely new approach to architecture, building, and planning. The fundamental concepts in this book will replace existing practices entirely.

According to the authors, people should design their own streets, houses, and communities. Most wonderful places in the world were not made by professional architects, but normal people. 

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6. The Architecture Reference & Specification Book by Julia McMorrough

 The Architecture Reference & Specification Book by Julia McMorrough

Most architectural books contain much more information that architects need to know on a daily basis. On the other hand, The Architecture Reference & Specification Book contains only vital information that you’ll need when it comes to planning and executing architectural projects of any kind.

In a format small enough to carry anywhere, this book distills the data that can be found in standard architectural volumes, containing only the most-requested architectural information. 

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7. The Poetics of Space by Gaston Bachelard

 The Poetics of Space by Gaston Bachelard

Since it was first published in 1958, The Poetics of Space has been a muse to architects, philosophers, and many more. This rare work contains mysterious imagery and compelling philosophy to explain the poetic images within the intimate spaces of our homes. Guiding us through meditations about poetry, art, and consciousness, Gaston Bachelard examines the domestic places that shape our dreams and memories. 

Drawers, chests, nooks, and more, no space is too small to be filled by our thoughts. In these enchanting spaces, particular architectural designs evoke emotions that turn us into poets. If you’re looking to better understand how architecture impacts our feelings, this is the book for you. 

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8. The Architecture of Happiness by Alain de Bottom 

The Architecture of Happiness by Alain de Bottom

In The Architecture of Happiness, best-selling author Alain de Bottom hypothesizes about how public buildings and our private homes influence our feelings. Can the way that we build give us a better chance at happiness? In this witty look at how we shape and design, Alain de Bottom applies the philosophy “beauty is the promise of happiness” to the spaces that we inhabit daily.

Why should we pay attention to what architecture has to tell us? According to Bottom, human needs and desires have been served by architectural styles throughout history. In fact, the stylistic choices of a society can represent its cherished ideals and the qualities that it desperately lacks. 

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9. The Language of Architecture by Andrea Simitch and Val Warke 

The Language of Architecture by Andrea Simitch and Val Warke

The Language of Architecture contains 26 principles that every architecture should know. This book will help both beginning architecture students and the most seasoned architectures looking to deepen their knowledge. To master the foundation of architecture, you must have a great understanding of the building blocks.

Luckily, this book is here to explain all you need to know. With 26 comprehensive chapters and a visual reference, you’ll be able to understand each architectural design, its historical significance, and how these elements can be used across multiple design disciplines. 

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10. World Architecture: The Masterworks by Will Pryce 

World Architecture by Will Pryce

Praised by The Wall Street Journal, World Architecture covers many remarkable buildings of the century, many shown in exquisite full-page photographs. In this, Will Pryce unveils the world of beauty and genius within architecture. With more than 350 photographs, this book celebrates the finest buildings of our civilization.

In this, you’ll learn about the Taj Mahal, the Palace of Westminster, Gehry’s iconic Guggenheim Museum, and much more. With the in-depth analysis and detailed attention found in the photo essays, this book shows the evolution of architecture throughout history. 

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11. Architects’ Data by Ernst Neufert 

Architects’ Data by Ernst Neufert

Architects’ Data is an essential reference for the initial stages of planning a building project. In this concise volume, you’ll find the core information needed to form the framework of your design. Organized by building type, this covers information on preliminary considerations, spatial requirements, and much more. 

With over 6,200 diagrams that include plans, site sections, and layout details, this is one of the most useful aids in design today. 

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Final Thoughts: Learning About Architecture

Whether you’re in the architectural field or just a student of design, architecture impacts us everywhere we go. From the residential homes in our neighborhood to the highways in the next town over, architects are responsible for various designs that we use and admire everyday. 

The books above are valuable guides to help you plan out your next project, appreciate the design of traditional homes, or learn about the impact of architecture on human emotion. 

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