Our Quarantine Reading List

What to Read in Self-Isolation

By AIA Pittsburgh Posted on March 17, 2020

X-ray Architecture.  Book by Beatriz Colomina.  Imprint: Lars Müller Publishers

There’s plenty of good reads out there to get us through these trying times. Still, if you don’t have the energy right now to try and decide what to read we’ve rounded up a few of our current favorites.  We hope these will inspire, distract, and maybe even give a new perspective on the current state of affairs.

Breaking Ground: Architecture by Women.  Book by Jane Hall.  Imprint: Phaidon Press
Publisher’s Description: A ground-breaking visual survey of architecture designed by women from the early twentieth century to the present day. “Would they still call me a diva if I were a man?’ asked Zaha Hadid, challenging as she did so more than a century of stereotypes about female architects. In the same spirited approach, Breaking Ground is a pioneering visual manifesto of more than 200 incredible buildings designed by women all over the world. Featuring twentieth-century icons such as Julia Morgan, Eileen Gray and Lina Bo Bardi, and the best contemporary talent, from Kazuyo Sejima to Elizabeth Diller and Grafton Architects, this book is, above all else, a ground-breaking celebration of extraordinary architecture.

X-ray Architecture.  Book by Beatriz Colomina.  Imprint: Lars Müller Publishers
Publisher’s Description:
 How our medical obsessions and the image of the body influence modern architecture. This book explores the impact of medical discourse and diagnostic technologies on the formation, representation and reception of modern architecture. It challenges the normal understanding of modern architecture by proposing that the architecture of the early 20th century was shaped by the dominant medical obsession of its time: tuberculosis and its primary diagnostic tool, the X-ray. If architectural discourse has from its beginning associated building and body, the body that it describes is the medical body, reconstructed by each new theory of health. Modern architects presented their architecture as a kind of medical instrument for protecting and enhancing the body. X-ray technology and modern architecture were born around the same time and evolved in parallel. While the X-ray exposed the inside of the body to the public eye, the modern building unveiled its interior, inverting the relationship between private and public. Colomina suggests that if we want to talk about the state of the art in buildings, we should look to the dominant obsessions about illness and the latest techniques of imaging the body―and ask what effects they may have on the way we conceive architecture.

Yes is More. An Archicomic on Architectural Evolution.  Book by Bjarke Ingels/BIG.  Imprint: TASCHEN
Publisher’s Description: Yes is More is the easily accessible but unremittingly radical manifesto of Copenhagen-based architectural practice Bjarke Ingels Group, or BIG.  Unlike a typical architectural monograph, this book uses the comic book format to express its groundbreaking agenda for contemporary architecture. It is also the first comprehensive documentation of BIG’s trailblazing practice―where method, process, instruments, and concepts are constantly questioned and redefined. Or, as the group itself says:“Historically, architecture has been dominated by two opposing extremes: an avant-garde full of crazy ideas, originating from philosophy or mysticism; and the well organized corporate consultants that build predictable and boring boxes of high standard. Architecture seems entrenched: naively utopian or petrifyingly pragmatic. We believe there is a third way between these diametric opposites: a pragmatic utopian architecture that creates socially, economically, and environmentally perfect places as a practical objective. At BIG we are devoted to investing in the overlap between radical and reality. In all our actions we try to move the focus from the little details to the BIG picture.”

Ezra Stoller: A Photographic History of Modern American Architecture.  Book by PierluigiSerraino.  Imprint: Phaidon Press
Publisher’s description: A captivating history of 20th-century Modern American architecture, as seen through the eyes of a legendary photographer.  It is impossible to overstate the importance of photography’s role in shaping the world’s perception of architecture. and towering above the ever-growing crowd of image-makers is Ezra Stoller, an architectural photographer of immeasurable consequence in documenting the history of modern architecture – both known and unknown – in the United States and beyond.  This book is one of the first to present the breadth of Stoller’s largely unseen archive of images, brought to life through exquisite color and duotone black-and-white reproductions.


The Architecture of the Cocktail.  Book by Amy Zavatto.  Imprint: HarperCollins
Publisher’s description: The perfect home begins with a blueprint and a dream and your perfect cocktail should start the same way. The architecture of the cocktail will reveal the answers to all your cocktail queries and more. Focusing on the precise measurements to make the perfect drink as well as the recommended garnish and embellishments, you’ll no longer have to guess what a cocktail should taste like. Laying out the exact measurements from the bottom of your glass to the top, you’ll discover the order in which you should layer your liquor, the precise measurements needed and even recommended brands. Not sure which stemware is appropriate? consult the mini guide on identifying the correct stemware in the back of the book. Featuring 75 different cocktails and recipes (including specifications, notes and embellishments), this is the perfect gift for the cocktail lover in your life. Don’t waste another minute on watered-down cocktails, become a cocktail master with this beautifully illustrated guide.

Looking for more?  Check out our holiday round-up of architecture books from 2019.

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