Favorite Books of 2023

For the fifteenth and last time on this blog, I'm highlighting my favorite books of the year, selected from the many books I reviewed or featured as "Book Briefs" on this blog, and the few titles that I reviewed at World-Architects. From the 86 books I featured in 2023, 15 (or 16) books made my list of favorites, organized into three categories: history, monographs, and exhibitions (the books are alphabetical by title within each category). As in previous years, not all of these books were published this year, given how slow I can be at digesting books and my departure from the annual spring/fall cycle of publishers. This last aspect, the timing of the books I draw attention to, will change next year, as I shutter this blog and transition it into something else — details on that will be announced next month. Until then, warm holiday wishes! 

  • Chicago Skyscrapers, 1934-1986: How Technology, Politics, Finance, and Race Reshaped the City (2023) by Thomas Leslie, published by University of Illinois Press — Thomas Leslie's followup to his 1871-1934 history of Chicago skyscrapers is even better than its predecessor, not only because the buildings covered are by Mies and other modern architects, but because the research is meticulous and the stories are really interesting. 
  • The Japanese House Since 1945 (2023) by Naomi Pollock, published by Thames & Hudson — The latest by Naomi Pollock, who has written numerous books on Japanese houses, benefits from a wide-ranging chronological presentation of nearly one hundred such houses but also the input of the architects and, most valuably, the people who lived in them.
  • Lost in America: Photographing the Last Days of our Architectural Treasures (2023) by Richard Cahan and Michael Williams, published by CityFiles Press — In the right hands, archives can yield insights, themes, and presentations that are educational and unexpected, as in photo historians Richard Cahan and Michael Williams digging through the 90-year-old HABS archive at the Library of Congress to show Americans the wonders they have lost over that time.
  • Mies van der Rohe: The Collective Housing Collection (2022) by Fernando Casqueiro, published by a+t architecture publishers — As I pointed out in my review at World-Architects, this book has some flaws in its graphics and text, but they don't detract from the comprehensive presentation of the apartment buildings designed by Mies van der Rohe in the middle of last century.
  • Resisting Postmodern Architecture: Critical Regionalism before Globalisation (2022) by Stylianos Giamarelos, published by UCL Press — Architects who appreciate Kenneth Frampton's theorizing of critical regionalism starting in the 1980s should read Stylianos Giamarelos's scholarly book that explores and recenters the formulation of critical regionalism by Alexander Tzonis and Liane Lefaivre ahead of Frampton.
  • Urban Design in the 20th Century: A History (2021) by Tom Avermaete and Janina Gosseye, published by gta Verlag — This carefully organized, beautifully presented, abundantly illustrated, and thoroughly cited history of urban design in the 20th century came out of a course taught by the authors at ETH Zurich, but it really should be a standard textbook for other schools, too.

  • A Book on Making a Petite École (2023) edited by Michael Meredith, Hilary Sample and MOS, published by Actar Publishers — There are very few practicing architects who produce books as an extension of their practice, and even fewer who do that extremely well. MOS is one of them and this is their latest. (Curiously, I saw an even larger, atlas-sized version of this book on display at Harvard GSD's Frances Loeb Library as part of The Book in the Age of ... exhibition in September.)
  • Caruso St John Collected Works: Volume 1 1990–2005 (2022) and Caruso St John Collected Works: Volume 2 2000–2012 (2023), published by MACK — Released a year apart (will volume three follow a year from now?) but reviewed on my blog in February and December of this year, this monograph series on Caruso St John is stunning: beautifully made but also expressive of the words and images that inspire Adam Caruso and Peter St John in their quiet, poetic creations.
  • Living in Monnikenheide: Care, Inclusion and Architecture (2023) edited by Gideon Boie, published by Flanders Architecture Institute — This book is about Monnikenheide, a residential care center for people with mental disabilities in Zoersel, Belgium, and the numerous buildings that have been designed there since the early 1970s. The book is beautifully produced and reflective of the place's myriad qualities.
  • M³: modeled works [archive] 1972-2022 (2023) by Thom Mayne and Morphosis, published by Rizzoli — Fifty years of Thom Mayne and Morphosis are presented in more than 1,000 pages: a brick of a book centered on the models that the studio is known for, from the early models in wood and resin to the 3D-printed models they still produce.
  • Speculative Coolness: Architecture, Media, the Real, and the Virtual (2023) by Bryan Cantley, edited by Peter J. Baldwin, published by Routledge — Architects my age will have flashbacks to Neil Denari, Peter Pfau, Wes Jones, and other machine-minded architects from the nineties when perusing Bryan Cantley's image-saturated monograph. The name says it all: page after page of speculative coolness, vague projects impeccably delineated.

  • Another Breach in the Wall: The City as a Common Good (2022) by Davide Tommaso Ferrando and Daniel Tudor Munteanu, published by Solitude Project — This two-volume book serves as the catalog to Another Breach in the Wall, the main exhibition of the Beta 2022 Timișoara Architecture Biennial in Romania, which focused on projects and actions in cities that subvert the norm. The book does that to some degree, too, with a foldout map serving as a wrapper for the two paperbacks and an elastic band holding the whole together.
  • An Atlas of Es Devlin (2023) by Es Devlin, edited by Andrea Lipps, published by Thames & Hudson — It's hard to believe it, but the first monographic exhibition and monographic book on Es Devlin, the artist/designer behind sets for Adele, Beyoncé, and Cyrus (comma Miley) arrived this year, nearly thirty years after she launched her career in London. This big, expensive book is more artist book that exhibition catalog, and a highly revealing look at her creative process.
  • Bernd & Hilla Becher (2022) by Jeff L. Rosenheim, published by the Metropolitan Museum of Art — A "captivating tribute to the renowned German photographic duo known for their systematic documentation of industrial architecture," according to ChatGPT, but in my words it is simply a "beautifully produced catalog" of the 2022 exhibition at The Met. For a duo who treated books as an integral extension of their photography, this catalog of their work is equally valuable.
  • Yasmeen Lari: Architecture for the Future (2023) edited by Angelika Fitz, Elke Krasny, Marvi Mazhar and Architekturzentrum Wien, published by MIT Press — In early March, an exhibition on architect Yasmeen Lari, usually described as Pakistan's first woman architect, opened at Az W, and the following month the Oxford-trained architect won the Royal Gold Medal, RIBA's highest honor. Needless to say, the major exhibition and honor were justified for an architect who pivoted from commercial buildings for companies with money to houses and other zero-carbon buildings for the poor. The book is thorough, with essays and interviews accompany the numerous projects.