Book (general reading) Recommendation Question


Are these good books for Very Interested Non-Professionals?
Green Building and REmodeling for Dummies     (( (Amazon.com product link shortened)- Garden/dp/0470175591/ref=sr_1_7?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid17952331&sr=1-7 ))
Get Your House Right: Architectural Elements to Use & Avoid     (( (Amazon.com product link shortened)- Architectural/dp/1402736282/ref=sr_1_26?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid17952624&sr1-26 ))
Green Building A to Z: Understanding the Language of Green Building     (( (Amazon.com product link shortened)- Language/dp/0865715726/ref=sr_1_39?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid17952851&sr=1-39 ))
Thinking Architecture     (( (Amazon.com product link shortened)- Zumthor/dp/3764374977/ref=sr_1_32?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid17952624&sr=1-32 ))
I'd like to learn more about Green techniques, as well as good smaller- spaces design, . I'm also intrested in what, for lack of a better/more technical phrase, I'll call "the epistimology of architecture" - the "mind" of it, so to speak. Someone had, a while ago, recommended "A Pattern Language", so that's already on my short list.
ANy additional recommnedations?
THanks in Advance!
- Kris
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Technically I can't comment on any of these, not having even skimmed them at the book store...
So, it's me, I will anyway!
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Probably a fine intro. The Dummies books I have used have been solid. (Though they aren't all by the same author, so...) Write up and comments make me wonder if they are taking the idea of Green and running a little far with it. The comment about improved respiratory health in particular. Does the book go on about that? IMO that's peripheral, not necessarily unrelated but no, not really part of "green." It may well be good info and you may well be happy to have it.
Looking at the ToC, you aren't going to complete a lot of projects with just this book. But it may be what you need to get you researching: "Ooo, I hadn't thought of pond based geothermal. Neat. Sounds like it might be just right for us. Now I go do real research." There's a good long section on material life cycles which, imo, is one of the more interesting and relevant sub-topics.
Hmm... I wonder if it might be a little too hands off for you. "Here's the stuff to make your contractor do." Where I can see you being more keen on "here's what to do." Enh, guess that would fall back under the "pointers to ideas" thing again, no?
"The majority of modern-day buildings waste energy, water, and resources beyond comprehension." GAG. I'd put it down and walk away right there.
"You are losing money on every green feature you don't include." Prove it. Next couple pages are lots of handwaving green booster pamphleteering. Doesn't show me numbers. Too much hyperbole. Lack of trust ensues. One of the "costs" of not going green is the effort of changing a lightbulb. Seen the wacky inept cost/benefit analysis thing in other places. Continuing lack of trust.
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Only know the author Krier and the forworder Mr. Windsor. But right there is a big flashing warning that the "right" elements might well be heavily biased. That bias might fit nicely with your future purchase of the Christopher. And if you read all your books you may be the genius who figures how to meld building green with building quaint. The write up makes it sound just too prescriptive, too much Marianne's specific historicist anti-contemporary (not that there's nothing to hate about what's passing for building today) rant. I think I'd have to see it to really decide. Lots of drawings is nice. Give you the chance to say "ooo, I wish I could aford lots of nice walnut dentils on my entry portico." Marco Antonio Abarco who sounds even worse a preachy twit than I do comments that "'Get Your House Right' is a comprehensive guide to the architectural language of classicism." Let's assume he's right. Then I've got to ask "Would you want one of those?"
reviewer: "One thing that attracts me to traditional architecture is that it comes from times where buildings were much more monumental accomplishments than they are today." No, most buildings were little piles of crap that got skipped notice in the history books and it's the Parthenons and Pantheons we see today or everyday architecture appears as a pawn in an urban scheme. "But what about, say, Pompeii?" Rich people's houses and the odd quick mention of a street front vendor. Not that the book is bad, but that the people who think it's good are clueless. Comparing massive government funded temples to a burgher's hovel.
Try to get a look at it before you buy.

"and shows how you can influence the spread of green buildings"
gag
"Jerry Yudelson is a professional engineer with an MBA. He has trained three thousand people in the LEED and has chaired Greenbuild, the world's largest green building conference, for the past four years."
so the book is "how you can make Jerry more money"?
"I've always respected Jerry Yudelson. He is a fixture at USGBC and an active proponent of intelligent green building. Jerry has done the industry a service by writing his book."
done _the_industry_ a service, not the people, not architects, not buildings, not even "the planet <swoon>". Just the (presumably) green industry.
Sounds like a dictionary of LEED specific jargon. Go with the Dummies book, it's at least trying to be about green and not about LEED.
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I like how the cover makes no distinction between the author and the title. Page 8 he says nice things about Joseph Beuys; that ought to be adequate warning right there. Let's move ahead anyway. Grossly inaccurate, disturbingly outa left fieldy nice things about Joseph Beuys. Still, he's saying nice things about materials so let's keep on. Materials are cool.
I think I may get a copy.
"It's a great pleasure to find out what kind of music (Mozart's piano concertos) zumthor listens; what kind of artists (Beuys and Merz) he likes; what kind of film he watches (Ettore Scola's film Le Bal); what kind of books (Calvino) he reads;" In other words, the standards. Of course, there's a reason they are standards. Of course, maybe he MADE them the standards (nah, looks too young).
His bathhouse recently caused a bit of a stir in some corners. Don't be put off by your first glance.
http://www.galinsky.com/buildings/baths/vals01.jpg
http://www.nickkane.co.uk/images/photos_C/vals_web.jpg
http://www.greenroofs.com/images/chic-zumthor1.jpg
I think you might find it an interesting "get inside the head of" book. The pages on Amazon were a bit rambly, but I can relate to that. Have to stop and check his references sometimes. And sometimes not. That's why we keep reading. P.D.Q.Bach, "This Is Your Brain On Music," "Rollerball" (ok, watching), among others helped me not have to look up "what's he on about about Bach." Archie school helped me not have to look up Calvino. But now I'm all over the web "Mertz? What's a Mertz? Ethel?" Hella guessing here... if you haven't had much introduction to design/parti/Big Idea/meaning you might find the book eye opening (or a steaming pile of academic twaddle ;-). From the Amazon excerpt, I'm most curious where he's going with meaning and material. He's saying things I know about and seems to be taking them one step beyond. Possibly somewhere interesting, and a quick skim of his buildings hint that that might be the case. And possibly someplace self indulgent and delusional. Interestingly, those two aren't mutually exclusive. "What the fuck is that moron on about? God that's a load of puffed up drivel. And yet... damn those buildings are fine." That can happen.

Keep your mind open and your intellect sharp when you read. There's good stuff and there's a lot of Kool-Aid.

Well, Don's not around so we can mention Ms. Susanka ;-).
A question you might think about when looking for material is what good design for smaller spaces means to you. I had one book which was all about how you can store beans in the staircase and brooms in the ends of walls. Nothing really about the space other than "how to cram more stuff into it in cute ways." "Broom goes behind door" wasn't really on their list. Susanka has ideas about diagonal views and seeing from one space to another to maximize the feeling of size. I don't remember if she considers interpenetration of spaces as use efficient. What criteria mean good for you? "Good design" is an appropriate solution to a specific problem. The problem is rarely as simple as "needs to be small." So often it is "needs to be small for this specific client." I bet you'll find more books that forget how different clients' needs and therefore the actual problem and therefore the specifics of a "good design" really are. Of course, you can graze them all. Best book in the world ever? Dan Inosanto's "Absorb What Is Useful." Never read it. The title.

The lack of a better phrase is throwing me off. I see epistemology and I think "the study of how we know" and it's its own narrow little field. People like to bring it to literary criticism, I guess. And people do like to bring literary criticism to building... but I'm not making the connection.
There's Architectural Theory. "If you don't design multicultural accessible green fair trade coffee houses you suck." "Be honest to the materials." "Every room should be at an elevation related to its specific use." And just this minute it struck me that Design Theory is a different topic though perhaps generally talked about under that same umbrella. How To Design isn't really the same as What To Design. Though an awful lot of design education may well not be aware of that. Perhaps because "How To Design" allows that you might find yourself designing The Wrong Thing. And if you design the Wrong Thing then you suck and we can't have that.
I'll repeat my usual props for Ching's "Architecture: Form Space and Order." I just like to flip through it and remember techtonics and real world organizing schemes. In A1 we put black dots on paper to express "rotate". Ching puts holes in walls to illustrate "makes people walk through the middle of the room" or "solid becomes planes." And doesn't say whether you do or don't want the form to be perceived as thing planes or not. Just "if you do, then this will say that. If you'd rather the form be a giant chunk of lard with tiny fox holes peeping out then treat your corners that other way."
If you get a history it seems to me like "people used to just build things and this is how they worked." And only starting in the 19th C did people really start thinking about thinking about Architecture in earnest. So a history of Modernism (or, perhaps betterly Modernity) might be of use in terms of people thinking about building. But that can be pretty darned dry and tedious at times.
I was flipping through (now I gotta find it...)
(Amazon.com product link shortened)18147929&sr=8-1
I've only started (like two years ago) "The Origins of Architectural Pleasure" and recall only the refuge/prospect section, but that struck a chord with me. And I used it to good effect in Studio last semester. http://www.hwb.com/gruhn/studio/b1/SchindlerHouse/XFormSwapRefuge/01-dd.html .
(Amazon.com product link shortened)18148852&sr=1-1
If you feel like geeking out, there's Salvadori on structures. "Why Buildings Stand Up" and "Why Buildings Fall Down." My sister liked them too.
(Amazon.com product link shortened)18148986&sr=1-2
Oh, and Rybczynski. He's written a lot. Some resonate more and less with me. One of his is about building his own house. I can see where that would appeal to you and I think the book was ok to good. I'm biggest fan of "Home." Sort of a history of what a home is and where comfort came from. Developments in 17th C Holland and 19th C USA amongst others.

Nice stuff. IIRC there was a "larger philosophy" claim that I didn't pick up. I've also seen the book used to justify all sorts of unrelated garbage. "But my paper has the word 'pattern' in it!" Yeah, so? Maybe that's my failure to see the big picture. Nice stuff, hard time getting a client to pay for much of it or a zoning board to approve. It's nice for not being jackboot prescriptive. Christopher will never come 'round your place and say "You don't have window seats! You didn't read my book and you SUCK!" I've seen other books that make me feel that if I don't design their exact house I've done a vile wrong.

(Amazon.com product link shortened)18138040&sr=8-1 I wonder if you'd like/use "In Praise of Shadows." It's maybe oblique to your needs, but then again, maybe not. Modernscop's review is of interest. So too Steven Reynolds's. I think I find its value as a viewpoint twister. I keep reading it (I recently started again) and never remember anything other than his discussion of toilets. In parts it's wrong/overly historicist/nostalgiac/nationalistic/self loathing... and yet it's useful. I think any mindset/aesthetic should be able to use it, just that some might find the use harder. "But I like my travertine lined McMansion of light" needs to find a way of seeing, an evaluation of personal aesthetics suitable to him/herself that may best be done through contrast. Some people will be able to read Tanizaki and say "dude, I want to tinkle there." They may learn less.
You know, I take it back. The analysis in a history can be rather illuminating. Some are about "this building is pretty and has these things." Physical descriptive. Maybe Kostof (a classic text) to look at. Can't remember the one we had here for History A. Wasn't that taken with it. They all have a slant or vision of how to look at things. History can be viewed through so many of those little plastic bug eye toys (http://www.orientaltrading.com/ui/browse / processRequest.do? demandPrefix&sku5/746&mode=Searching&erec=8&D=kaleidoscope&Ntt=kaleidoscope&Ntk=all&Dx=mode %2bmatchallpartial&Ntx=mode %2bmatchallpartial&N=0&requestURI=processProductsCatalog&sd=Mini +Patriotic+Prism+Kaleidoscopes) that a text will tend to pick only one or two of them. Kostof's is right in his title "Settings and Rituals". Oo, just remembered, Ching (yay Ching!) has a history out recently. I have a copy and haven't sat down with it yet. (Amazon.com product link shortened) IIRC he's (and a co-author) trying to hit the whole world as a chronological unity rather than "This is the history of Architecture (and a chapter on two on that weird stuff in China oh yeah, and Ise)". Inside of that, I don't know his bent. ... Hard to tell from the Amazon reviews. They mostly focus on "yay, westerners needed a kick in the head multiculturalism wins" and the path of influence and stylistic relations. That is "less of what a given building is for or about." I'll try to find my copy and see if they do get more into the individual analysis of buildings and how they work.
nuff said.
- g
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Interesting. Thanks for the link. T
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[snip]

OK, thank you!
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