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Thursday, September 30, 2010

Book Review: Two AVA Academia Titles by Lorraine Farrelly

Basics Architecture: construction + materiality by Lorraine Farrelly
AVA Academia, 2008
Paperback, 176 pages

The Fundamentals of Architecture by Lorraine Farrelly
AVA Academia, 2007
Paperback, 176 pages

AVA Academia -- "creative publishers for the applied visual arts" -- targets their books to students, with varying levels that range from Foundation and Introductory to Intermediate and Readers. Five titles are currently available for architecture, two falling into the Introductory category and the rest in Intermediate. Three of the architecture books are authored by Lorraine Farrelly, an architect in the UK who "co-ordinates degree courses in architecture and interior design at the University of Portsmouth."

The Fundamentals of Architecture obviously fits into the Introductory category. Across six chapters it gives students an understanding of how architects approach design, from site analysis and conceptual design to representation and realization. Along the way Farrelly briefly discusses architectural history and contemporary trends. Numerous considerations at each level of the design process are proffered, but abstractly enough that no single method prevails. In other words, the book tells the student what needs to be considered, not how to do everything; e.g. the history of a place can inform a design, but that doesn't mean it should or should be done a certain way. The last chapter follows a project from conception to completion, and while the example is specific, the presentation speaks generally about the process. Illustrations of numerous other projects throughout the book help explain the various concerns of architectural thinking and production. Ultimately the book pushes for understanding that fosters varied and personal responses from future architects.

Further along in their educational career, students may pick up Basics Architecture: construction + materiality, which "explores the origins, context and applications of building materials." Here specific materials structure the chapters: brick and stone, concrete, timber, glass and steel, composite materials, and a final chapter on innovation and sustainability pointing to future directions. Each chapter follows a structure of presenting a timeline of historical and contemporary buildings prevalently using the material, a background of the material in building and cultural contexts, discussions of how the material is applied in architecture, a feature on a "Grand Master" exploiting a material's potential (e.g. Tadao Ando in the chapter on concrete), and a couple recent case studies. Like Fundamentals the book features varying ranges of abstraction and specificity, enabling it to structure thinking about materials rather than directing exactly how to use them. It broadens potential applications by future designers by highlighting worthy case studies and by focusing on the various ways materials can be used in appropriate and innovative ways.

Each book is commended for intelligently and carefully presenting broad and complex topics in text and images to potential architects. Extra kudos should be given to the page layouts. Their consistent formats and colors help each book's readability for students, but they become good resources by enabling the information to be easy to find. The books may not replace primary texts on the subjects, but they certainly are worthwhile for structuring those and other pieces in architectural education.


  1. Hey nice article! I was wandering though what is the name of the building on the "Fundamentals of Architecture" Cover Page?

  2. Kwamz - I'll check when I get home. I can't remember off the top of my head.

  3. Kwanz - It's the Welsh Assembly Building in Cardiff by Richard Rogers. You can find the photo here.


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