December’s Bookshelf

December’s Bookshelf

On the bookshelf this month:

Oxford by Matthew Rice, £30

Oxford is one of the jewels of European architecture, much loved and much visited. The city offers an unparalleled collection of the best of English building through the centuries. Matthew Rice’s Oxford is a feast of delightful watercolour illustrations and an informed and witty text explaining how the city came into being and what to look out for today.

While the focus is on architectural detail, Rice also describes how the city has been shaped by its history, most of all by generations of patrons who had the education and the resources to commission work from the greatest architects and builders of their day, an astonishing range of which still stands. Matthew Rice is a painter and designer who has written six books on architecture, throughout this book are Rice’s illustrations of Oxford.

New Nordic Homesby Dominic Bradbury, £38

In a climate that ranges from cold, dark and unforgiving to endless sun and crystalline skies, the homes of the Nordic countries are lifted by ever-changing and dramatic natural light balanced by an intrinsic sense of warmth. Nordic architects today are as much informed by vernacular traditions and natural materials as their forebears, but the most recent generation of practitioners reflects a new appetite for spatial exploration and changing lifestyles.

Divided into four chapters, rural cabins, coastal retreats, town houses and country homes, this survey of over forty of Scandinavia’s finest and most innovative houses features work by a broad spectrum of leading architects, such as Jon Danielsen Aarhus, Tham & Videgård, Snorre Stinessen, Reiulf Ramstad and Todd Saunders.

Dominic Bradbury is a journalist and writer specializing in architecture and design. He is the author of many books on the subject, including Mountain Modern, New Brazilian House, Vertical Living, Mid-Century Modern Complete, The Iconic Interior, Mediterranean Modern, New Natural Home and The Iconic House, all published by Thames & Hudson.

Speaking of Buildings: Oral History in Architectural Research edited by Naomi Stead, Janina Gosseye and Deborah van der Plaat (Princeton Architectural Press), £35

Buildings are mute: they will not speak for themselves, they do not speak to us. Historically, the architect has had a privileged role speaking of and for buildings, an interlocutor translating their messages and stories for a broader audience. But what of the other people who can speak for, and about, and within buildings? What stories might they tell, and about what as yet unspoken aspects of architecture? More importantly, what might it mean for architecture, as a practice and a discipline, if these diverse voices were more included?

Editors Naomi Stead, Janina Gosseye and Deborah van der Plaat have compiled 12 essays by an international group of scholars that look at a variety of topics, from the role of gossip in undermining masculine narratives in architecture to workers’ accounts of building with cement in mid-20thCentury London to a sound art piece created by oral testimonies from Los Angeles public housing residents. 

User Friendly by Cliff Kuang and Robert Fabricant, £14.99

In USER FRIENDLY, Cliff Kuang, a design strategist at Google and veteran technology journalist at Fast Company and Wired, working with Robert Fabricant, a well-known product designer, reveals the hidden ways in which design is reshaping our lives. It seems like magic when some new gadget seems to know what we want before we know ourselves. But why does some design feel intrinsically good and why do some designs last forever, while others disappear? User Friendly guides readers through the hidden rules governing how design shapes our behaviour, told through fascinating stories such as what the nuclear accident at Three Mile Island reveals about the logic of the smartphone.

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