5 Essential Reads for the Architecture Student

Best architecture books for college and university students

If you are in college or planning to study for a career in architecture, you'll want to build up your collection of essential reference books and important titles related to building and design. This page lists titles of some of the classics and categories that are often required in college classes and recommended by architects and professors of architecture.

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7 Early Classics of Western Architecture

Fresco detail from the 14th century Church of St Ursula in Veneto, Italy, shocked monks reading
Fresco detail from the 14th century Church of St Ursula in Veneto, Italy. Photo by De Agostini / G. Roli/De Agostini Picture Library Collection/Getty Images

What makes these very old books classic? Simply, the ideas presented are as relevant today as they were when written. These books are timeless.

1. De Architectura or the Ten Books on Architecture by Marcus Vitruvius, 30 BC
See Symmetry and Proportion in Design

2. De Divina Proportione or The Divine Proportion by Luca Pacioli, 1509 AD, illustrated by Leonardo da Vinci

3. Regola delli cinque ordini d'architettura or The Five Orders of Architecture by Giacomo da Vignola, 1563 AD

4. I Quattro Libri dell' Architettura or The Four Books of Architecture by Andrea Palladio, 1570 AD

5. Essai sur l'architecture or Essay on Architecture by Marc-Antoine Laugier, 1753, revised 1755 AD

6. The Seven Lamps of Architecture by John Ruskin, 1849

7. The Stones of Venice by John Ruskin, 1851

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Essential Architecture Reference Books

Two young women walking in a college campus
Photo by Red Chopsticks/Royalty-free/Getty Images

Have reference books gone out of style in the Age of the Internet? Maybe for some, but often it's faster to pull paper from your bookshelf than to trust a search engine! Encyclopedias, glossaries and other general reference materials related to architecture and design are still in vogue.

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Books on Urban Design

Pedestrian Circle in Shanghai, China is elevated encircling a large, busy motor intersection
Pedestrian Circle as seen from the Pearl Tower, Shanghai, China. Photo by Krysta Larson/Moment/Getty Images

As an architect, every structure you design and build will have a location and a context within a community. Some say that understanding and explaining relationships between buildings and people is one of the professional duties of an architect. Here are some of the best books about New Urbanism, city planning, and community design.

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Books About Frank Lloyd Wright

Hatted Frank Lloyd Wright in 1947
Frank Lloyd Wright in 1947. Photo by Joe Munroe/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Frank Lloyd Wright (1867-1959) is worthy of study for many reasons. Because he lived a long time, he experimented with many trends and styles before developing his own aesthetic. He was alive when Chicago was destroyed by a great fire, when tall buildings became skyscrapers, and when the growing middle class could afford their own homes. He brought Eastern ideas from Japan to American design, including an environmental sensibility. He was a prodigious writer and lecturer. Often called America's greatest architect, Wright is the subject of many books. Some are scholarly, some are intended for relaxed, easy reading. Here are some of the best.

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Books About School Design

Children in the temporary elementary school, paper tube framework visible, 2008
Hualien Temporary Elementary School, 2008, Chengdu, China. Photo by Li Jun, Shigeru Ban Architects courtesy Pritzkerprize.com

Pritzker Laureate Shigeru Ban is not known as a designer of schools, yet he used his paper tube design to build a temporary school after the 2008 Sichuan earthquake in China. Any school building is the center of a community's normalcy and stability. How does the architect create a safe, economical, functional space for learning and growth? Here are some recommended texts and guidelines for planning and designing school buildings.