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June 05, 2017

Design-Inspired Books for Summer 2017

KieranTimberlake is home to a curious bunch that finds inspiration in unlikely places. In anticipation of the fast-approaching summer season, we asked our designers to tell us about their architectural must-reads. Whether you're reading on the beach or in a crowded train car, these staff suggestions are sure to stir up your summer:

House, Tracy Kidder

Tracy Kidder's House, a non-fiction tale set in western Massachusetts in the early 1980s, animates the human drama of what it takes to build a home: hard-earned money, arguments, sweat, and complicated relationships (among other things!). With a compelling cast of characters including a rookie architect, idealistic carpenters, and an attractive young family, the book weaves multiple narratives into a cohesive story. I love how this book brings to life the difficult, frustrating, and ultimately fulfilling process of building one's own home. 

–Evan, Intern 

Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad

While not a book about architecture, Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness explores the power of symbolism in a way that I find relevant to my work as a designer. The story takes you on a journey along the Congo River into the uncharted heart of the jungle, and on a parallel course through Conrad's view of humanity. With every confrontation we see the crew encounter, Conrad gives us a deeper look at his notions of who we are as a civilization. Each plot point is part of a larger symbolic framework, forming a diagram of thought with a sense of clarity and purpose that architects often aspire to. 

–Anthony, Architect

Gendered Spaces, Daphne Spain

In Gendered Spaces, Daphne Spain writes about how the 20th century women's movement has changed our interactions with our built environments. Reading this book made me realize the pivotal nature of the early feminist movement in terms of what types of spaces exist and how women interact with those spaces (for example, the women's movement indirectly resulted in an increase in daycares, one-bedroom apartments, and fast food restaurants). Gendered Spaces also made me lament the glaring omission of the women's movement and its influence from many seminal 20th century texts on spatial theory. I recommend this book for anyone interested in gender, design, and their intersections. 

–Lana, Knowledge Management Assistant

Annihilation, Jeff VanderMeer

On the surface, Jeff VanderMeer's novel Annihilation is the story of a team of researchers sent on an expedition to a mysterious zone in the American South where technology doesn't work and nothing quite makes sense. On a deeper level, however, the book traces the tension between humans' psychological need to experience the natural world and our technology and built environment's existence as a protection from this same world. In lyrical, dreamlike prose, VanderMeer leads us through a world where negative space and positive space exist in balance, nature builds an environment to protect itself from humans, and the limits of human endeavor and consciousness in the face of nature's implacability take center stage. Read this thought-provoking story before it is completely butchered as a feature film – this book is unfilmable.  

–Jon, Visualization Specialist

Studies in Tectonic Culture, Kenneth Frampton

One of the last chapters in Kenneth Frampton's Studies in Tectonic Culture is “Carlo Scarpa and the Adoration of the Joint,” an informative analysis of Scarpa's famous projects including Fondazione Querini Stampalia, Brion Cemetery, and the Olivetti Museum. This essay is a great introduction into the mind of a master architect working in the second half of the 20th century. Frampton takes particular care to analyze the conceptual framework of Scarpa's thinking and how this framework is executed through intense tectonic detailing.  

–Elliot, Design Staff

Future Shock, Alvin Toffler

Future Shock by Alvin Toffler presents a series of cautionary visions on how our society should transform as the world becomes even more complex. Published in 1970, it remains relevant today as we continue to question how we should evolve in an increasingly divided world. Toffler's insightful correlations between all aspects of post-modern life made me ponder real, instead of utopian, connections between architecture and society.  

–Christian, Design Staff

On Writing, Stephen King

Stephen King's On Writing is a great read for anyone interested in honing their craft, whatever that may be, but is especially relevant for those who want to improve their writing. Reading this book is like sitting around a campfire with one of the greatest fiction writers of our time and seeing wisdom sparks popping out of the flames one after another. Find out what motivated King to become a writer in the first place (not money), why “the road to hell is paved with adverbs” (they're like dandelions), and who inspired the characters in the horror-movie Carrie

–Carin, Communications Director