Book Review: The Architect Says

The Architect Says: Quotes, Quips, and Words of Wisdom compiled and edited by Laura S. Dushkes, published by Princeton Architectural Press, 2012. Hardcover, 160 pages. (Amazon)

Even though architecture is a spatial, tactile, and visual medium, and architects naturally convey their ideas primarily through visual means (drawings, models, renderings), they still have a need for writing. And some architects have a knack for creating catchy phrases, many of which have been handed down (more or less accurate to the original) for generations, such as Mies van der Rohe's "Less is more" or Robert Venturi's response, "Less is a bore."

Laura Dushkes, appropriately a librarian at NBBJ in Seattle, has compiled a number of gems both familiar and otherwise in this small book. Actually she has crafted less a book than a pocketbook of inspiration. Even the design (hardcover, rounded edges, ribbon marker, large type with various fonts) makes The Architect Says resemble what can best be described as a sketchbook/textbook hybrid. It's as if the "quotes, quips, and words of wisdom" were jotted down like in a sketchbook, and the architects are speaking to us as if they are our teachers.

Beyond the actual selection of quotes, the most intentional aspect of Dushkes' editing is their ordering. They work together to give a cover-to-cover read of the book a nice flow, with certain takes, topics, and themes grouped together. Contradictions and disagreements abound, most obviously with the above lines by Mies and Venturi facing each other on one spread. Another important element is the way the type design emphasizes certain parts of each quote; given their brevity I find the blue highlights unnecessary, but they do affect the reading of the various quotes.

Reading the whole book is fairly quick, but it's clearly meant to be a book to browse; a lack of an index and sources for the quotes (outside the architect who wrote it) means it doesn't really work as a reference. Coming across unexpected quotes or ones that hit a nerve makes a flip through the book great. A couple of my favorites includes Jan Kaplicky: "It's not a sign of creativity to have sixty-five ideas for one problem. It's just a waste of energy." and Frank Gehry: "I don't know why people hire architects and then tell them what to do." These and other quotes make the book a great gift, especially for that architect who'd rather read the good parts instead of a whole book.


  1. Mies van der Rohe's "Less is more" or Robert Venturi's response, "Less is a bore."
    .... less is the ultimate goal... said the planet earth

  2. This book is a great idea that was executed perfectly. Will make for a great Christmas present for any architect.

  3. When I saw the picture, the only thing that came to my mind was "true story".

  4. Just purchased this book on Amazon. I'm going to start reading it in a while. It seems like a nice book.

  5. This is a lovely book, a perfect size to carry about, containing interesting, relevant and thoughtful quotes. Well edited with attention given to the flow of quotes. A wonderful gift not just for architects, but for anyone interested in ideas about building and architecture through time.


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