Top 10 Books to Hook Tweens on Architecture

Great Books About Architecture for Children Ages 7-12

Children who are old enough to read and to complete simple crafts are ready for these fun and educational books about buildings and home design. For a total experience, combine quiet reading time with activities that let the child put ideas into action. These books are a great starting point for examining "the built environment" in which we all live.

Author Barbara Beck is a real, live architect who wrote this book because it's what she needed when she was 8 years old. It tells the story of design and construction, the different "plans" that architects devise, and how concepts are turned into reality. This book, along with the well-known video by "Bill Nye the Science Guy," and you have a great set to inform and inspire.


Princeton Architectural Press published a couple of winning "informational picture books" in 2014 by French writer, designer, and illustrator Didier Cornille. The more enticing book may be Who Built That? Modern Houses. Subtitled An Introduction to Modern Houses and Their Architects, this book may not illustrate the house you live in, but the Cornille's choices should evoke lively conversation. I especially appreciate the inclusion of Pritzker Laureate Shigeru Ban's Cardboard House.

The companion book is about skyscrapers, and who doesn't like skyscrapers? It's an easy sell.

  • Who Built That? Skyscrapers: An Introduction to Skyscrapers and Their Architects
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Designed to awe and inspire, this jewel of a book by Philip M. Isaacson combines lyrical language with lush, detailed photographs. Young readers will gain appreciation for the unique features that give famous buildings their beauty and character.

Subtitled A Kids' Style and Field Guide to the Architecture of American Houses, this 112 page book published by Wiley has 170 color drawings and descriptions of more than thirty different house styles. Author Patricia Brown Glenn explains why houses take on particular features, and also provides information for historic houses kids can visit.

A lively mix of activities, crafts, and biographical information, this fun book lets children experience the life and work of America's most famous architect, Frank Lloyd Wright. Illustrations of Wright's buildings appear throughout the book.

From the Kids' Career Library (Rosen Publishing), a 24-page picture book that describes what architects do during a typical day. Do your children think architecture is for boys? This slim little volume by Mary Bowman-Kruhm puts a woman architect in the spotlight. One can only wonder why it's not been updated since 1999....

These 6-inch wide notepads were made for smaller hands to sketch big geometric forms. Each of the 3 pads has 150 blank sheets of graph paper, so all you need is one package for three kids to have an afternoon of creative fun—yourself included. Princeton Architectural Press, 2015

Lucy Dalzell's 2014 book tells a long tale about architecture. Subtitled A Wallbook of Architecture through the Ages,twenty pages flip out like a concertina timeline of history to pin to a wall. You can finger swipe and pinch the pages of your digital device, but a tablet can never be an accordion book. The good folks at have provided instructions on how you can make your own Accordion Books, or Concertina Books (PDF).

Subtitled From the Pyramids to the Sydney Opera House and Beyond, this book is David Macaulay-like in its approach. With text by Patrick Dillon and meticulous illustrations by Stephen Biesty, this 96-page book is a whirlwind global tour of the kinds of things humankind has built on the planet. Published by Candlewick, 2014

This book by photographer Todd McLellan is not technically about architecture, but it is what architects and engineers think about—how can we put pieces together to build something bigger than its individual parts? McLellan displays each component of a familiar design—a camera, a clock, a bicycle—all apart, before being assembled. It's as if all the materials to build a house had just arrived in your town by rail—like Bungalows by Mail in the early 1900s.

The Built Environment Matters

Architects often speak about "the built environment," because that is what they do -- build the environments in which we live. A child's early understanding of this will help throughout life, no matter what profession entered. "You cannot love architecture," writes critic Paul Goldberger, "without caring about how buildings look, and taking pleasure in that."

Source: Why Architecture Matters by Paul Goldberger, Yale University Press, 2009 pp. 67-68 Buy on Amazon)