At BQE, we consistently stress the importance of staying up to date with the latest developments in the field of architecture and design. With 2020 in the rear-view mirror and most of 2021 still ahead of us, we paused to take a look at some of the books that will undoubtedly define architectural trends over the months and years to come.
We sought the insights of prevalent thought leaders and experts in the industry to compile the following list of seven books that you can glean insight from if you’re looking for some inspiration. Although some undertake meaningful examinations of architecture’s past, all of the entries on this list of architecture books for 2021 have pointed relevance within the dramatic context of the present architectural environment.
- The 99% Invisible City: A Field Guide to the Hidden World of Everyday Design by Roman Mars and Kurt Kohlstedt
Released by the creators of the popular 99% Invisible podcast in late 2020, this elegantly designed book sheds a unique light on common elements of cities and their buildings that generally go unnoticed. Want an in-depth look at the lack of metal fire escapes on the exterior surfaces of new high-rise buildings? The 99% Invisible City uncovers the big ideas within things that seem small upon first glance. Perfect for anyone interested in modern design and urban environments, this book includes well-researched guidebook entries that are as intricate as their associated beautiful line drawings.
- Sophie Taeuber-Arp: Living Abstraction by Anne Umland, Walburga Krupp, by Charlotte Healy
Topping the list of the best art books of early 2021 by the arts and culture publication authority Artbook, Sophie Tauebaur-Arp: Living Abstraction draws upon the talents of a diverse team of researchers and authors to tell the story of Sophie Taeuber-Arp, a Swiss architect, interior designer, furniture/textile designer, and fine artist. As a pioneering abstractionist and member of the Zurich Dada movement, she famously blurred the line between art and craft. Her wide-ranging talents, emphasis on practicality, and proclivity for vibrant design gives Taeuber-Arp’s work lasting relevancy. This richly illustrated book contains detailed and thoughtful explorations of roughly 400 of her works.
- Reconstructions: Architecture and Blackness in America by Sean Anderson and Mabel O. Wilson
Another book that benefits from a large team of collaborating writers, Reconstructions examines ways in which architecture can help to address racism in the United States. Contributors to the book were presented with a unique and daunting challenge: to reimagine the legacies of race-based dispossession in one of ten different American cities. Reconstructions examines and reimagines buildings, infrastructure, and urban plans that have personified and sustained systemic racism for generations in cities ranging from Atlanta to Oakland. It benefits from the insightful analysis of leading scholars from diverse fields in both architecture and city planning.
Want a truly forward-looking examination of the architecture and construction industries? This is the first book dedicated exclusively to composite building materials like carbon fiber and other fiber-reinforced polymers (FBR’s). Stronger, lighter, more durable, and more insulating than traditional building materials, composite materials give architects the ability to explore new structural formations and stylistic expressions. Composite Architecture covers the history of these composite materials, the incredible promise that they hold, and the technology that makes them function.
- On the Road Architectural Guides: Hamburg by Laura Andreini
The number-one recommendation of the independent literature resource BookAuthority, this guidebook takes a deep dive into the fascinating architecture of Germany's second largest city. By examining a number of Hamburg’s most compelling buildings, On the Road Architectural Guides: Hamburg offers unique insights into their structural, functional, and typological features. To drive home her collected analysis, editor Laura Andreini includes a host of technical drawings and captivating images to accentuate each entry and bring them to life.
- Atlas of Brutalist Architecture by Phaidon Editors
The brutalist aesthetic has served as a source of inspiration for forward-thinking architects since the birth of the style in the 1950s, and the highly controversial movement is currently experiencing a dramatic resurgence. If you’re a reader of illustrated books on culture and the arts, you know that there is no better publisher than Phaidon. In Atlas of Brutalist Architecture, the Phaidon editors have turned their focus to brutalism, and released a definitive survey of the movement that spans 102 countries and examines more than 850 buildings. The book showcases well-recognized brutalist masterpieces in the United Kingdom and the United States, as well as lesser-known architectural gems in Asia, Australia, and beyond.
- Women in Architecture: From History to Future by Ursula Schwitalla
There is no better way to look into the future of architecture than by examining the key works of today’s leading female architects. Although female architects still face innumerable challenges when it comes to garnering the amount of recognition that they deserve, Women in Architecture showcases the work of pioneering leaders who are dismantling systematic discrimination in the architectural field and employing unique creative philosophies to design highly influential structures. Architects featured in this book include Mona Bayr, Siv Helene Stangeland, Odile Decq, Julie Eizenberg, Lu Wenyu, Helena Weber, and Natalie de Vries.
What’s on your list of books to read this year? Have we missed anything here? If so, leave a comment below to share what books you’re most looking forward to reading for architectural inspiration!