Architects are generally praised for their ability to design structures that are just as aesthetically-pleasing as they are functional. They turn the everyday into the unconventional. But where does all that creativity stem from? Toronto-based architect Roland Rom Colthoff says “inspiration is always a mystery,” but that browsing the pages of a good design book helps to stimulate the mind. We asked five well-known Toronto architects to list their favourite must reads, and describe why they’re so compelling.
Peter Clewes of architectsAlliance
DETAIL Magazine: “It offers both a glimpse of extraordinary architecture and how it has been constructed. It gives us the chance to dream and be inspired by work that significantly transcends the Canadian architectural context.”
AZURE Magazine: Clewes says the Canadian publication is bold enough to look beyond our country’s borders. “Too often our cultural outlook is parochial and inward facing,” he says.
Richard Witt of Quadrangle
El Croquis: “This book features many architecture masters of the day,” Witt says. He points to a page that showcases Beijing’s renowned CCTV Headquarters building and notes that it’s one of the most interesting projects of our time, in terms of how it interprets a skyscraper, or an “un-skyscraper”. If you were to unloop the structure, it would be the second tallest building in the world.
Mark magazine: The Netherlands-based publication is one of Witt’s go-to resources, since it’s always bursting with bold images and innovative projects. “It’s very well curated and edited. They’re almost like books,” he says.
Siteless: 1001 Building Forms by François Blanciak: Rip out a page from this paperback to interpret the initial concept of a building. Its first steps into the world, so to speak. “Showing people technical drawings of architecture doesn’t explain what architecture is about,” Witt says. “But if I show you a diagram and I explain the thought process behind it, people buy into the argument rather than just a simple yes or no to an image.”
Maryam Mansouri of Mansouri Living
Atmosphere by Peter Zumthor: This hardcover revolves around the energy of space, as the Swiss architect pens about how buildings are just as expressive as music and stories. “I love this book because it goes beyond surfaces, it taps into the depths of architecture, covering topics like how materials react with one another, how sound shapes a room and how light brings space to life,” she says.
Journey to The East by Le Corbusier: “If anyone wants to read something by Corbusier, this is it,” Mansouri says. Le Corbusier was a Swiss-French architect who is considered to be one of the most influential design figures of the 20th century. This book documents his travels throughout Eastern Europe. “Reading it is like going on a personal journey with the father of modern architecture.”
Roland Rom Colthoff of RAW Design
It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want to Be by Paul Arden: While this miniature read isn’t architecture-specific, Colthoff says it’s full of mind tweaks. “I originally bought it as a joke to read on an airplane, but it’s full of quotes that help inspire,” he says.
Pierre Chareau by Marc Vellay and Kenneth Frampton: Colthoff looks to the work of French architect Pierre Chareau for creative inspiration. He became well-known in the first half of the 20th century for his delicate craft and select use of materials. “He had a deft hand, and used an interesting blend between craft and industry,” he says. Chareau experimented with steel and glass materials when most architects were using stone and painted brick.
Automobile Architecture by Chris van Uffelen: Colthoff designed three modern car dealerships featured inside this rainbow-hued hardcover. His work is just as vibrant. The book also features many other architects’ notable designs, like a parking garage that’s modern enough to bunk in. “It doesn’t have to be a miserable place, just because it’s for vehicles,” he says.
Susan Ruptash of Quadrangle
A-frame by Chad Randl: This read focuses on the history of the A-frame in postwar America. With a sloping triangular roof and affordable design, the book offers a “detailed analysis of a simple iconic building form,” Ruptash says.
Planned Assaults by Lars Lerup: “It’s a deconstruction of the family house accompanied by gorgeous drawings,” she says. The book homes in on (pun intended) three housing designs. It’s just as poetic as it is educational.
Tilting by Robert Mellin: “It’s an engaging and beautiful essay on the architecture, history and people of a remote island community in eastern Canada.”