All the Books You Need to Read This Fall

A roundup of 37 interest-piquing titles, spanning all scales of architecture and design, to read this season.

All book covers courtesy the publishers

As summer comes to a close and extracurricular activities shift indoors, there’s no better time to pick up a good book. Metropolis compiled a preview of interest-piquing titles this fall. From post-revolutionary Cuban film posters to New York City’s forgotten waterfront, there’s something for everyone.




Leonardo Finotti: A Collection of Latin American Modern Architecture
Photography by Leonardo Finotti
Designed by Integral Lars Müller with Venessa Serrano,
Lars Müller, 160 pp., $53

Compiled from Leonardo Finotti’s vast collection of architectural portraits, excursions, and experiences, this book presents itself as a voyage throughout nine Latin American cities—Asunción, Montevideo, Belo Horizonte, Valparaiso, São Paulo, Bogotá, Lima, Mexico City, and Havana. In this overview, edited by curator Barry Bergdoll, the breadth of Finotti’s work proves extensive enough to act as a visual continuum through which to showcase the region’s multifaceted Modernism.

Torres de Agua (1980), Valparaiso, Chile

Sala de Conciertos de la Biblioteca Luis Ángel Arango (1966), Bogotá, Colombia

Modelling for the Camera: Photography of Architectural Models in Spain, 1925–1970
Edited by Iñaki Bergera
Designed by Grafica Futura
La Fabrica, 208 pp., $45

If the scale model is the architect’s lucid dream of structure, form, and dimension, then a model’s photograph freezes and flattens the materialized vision, abstracting the building further, liberating it from context, and letting it wander through real and imaginary spaces. This stylish exhibition catalogue explores the projective relationship between maquette and image with the consolidation of Modernist architecture in Spain as a fertile historical backdrop.

100 Years, 100 Buildings
Written by John Hill
Designed by Laura Lindgren Design
Prestel, 224 pp., $40

In this anthology, John Hill presents a century of buildings. Adhering to a single yearly entry starting in 1916, Hill is able to intersperse big names with lesser-known players and abstain from focusing on architecture’s most iconic and thus frequently referenced periods. While he admits the range betrays his own Western perspective, the unique format draws out lessons in style, shifting priorities, and the ways in which global events are reflected in man-made places.

​Centre Pompidou: Renzo Piano, Richard Rogers, and the Making of a Modern Monument
Written by Francesco Dal Co
Designed by Like Bulman—Office with Camille Sacha Salvador
Yale University Press, 168 pp., $30

Francesco Dal Co weaves together anecdotes, history, and a poignant analysis of the design and construction of one of Paris’s most iconic buildings, as well as its surrounding political and social conditions. Early blueprints and photographs are paired with news coverage and critiques to contextualize the Centre Pompidou as a truly influential Modernist undertaking.

The Generic Sublime
Edited by Ciro Najle
Designed by Ramon Prat
Actar and Harvard GSD, 400 pp., $45

The Generic Sublime investigates the potential for the singular and extraordinary hidden in generic large-scale typologies—skyscrapers, airport hubs, industrial parks, gated communities, and high-rises. In this tome, various contributors consider the model of the once exploratory skyscraper taken to fantastical proportions to reimagine its possibilities for a quasi-utopian, post-urban development.

Houses of Switzerland 
Written by Spillmann Echsle Architects and Ortreport
Designed by Ludovic Balland Typography
Park Books, 224 pp., $49

This book traces the design and configuration of a nomadic pavilion whose function is to represent Switzerland at major international events. Traveling as a strictly catalogued kit of parts, the House of Switzerland is a structure that builds quickly, ships globally, and manages to act as both a familiar home base for Swiss abroad and a proud symbol of technical ingenuity to foreigners.

MAD Works, MAD Architects
Written by Ma Yansong
Designed by Henrik Nygren Designs
Phaidon, 240 pp., $80

This anthology approaches the Beijing-based practice MAD Architects through its past projects and future aims. Founder Ma Yansong organizes 28 of the firm’s works in five chapters—each with one of his art pieces as a conceptual core. Bold renderings, photographs, and essays give testimony to MAD’s global reputation for truly adventurous structures while shedding light on Yansong’s own attitude toward design and architecture.

Landscapes of Modern Architecture
Written and designed by Marc Treib
Yale University Press, 272 pp., $65

Contrary to the critique that Modernist buildings disregard, or even impose on, their surroundings, the architects selected for this book were committed to the complete integration of human dwellings with their site of construction. The works of Frank Lloyd Wright, Mies van der Rohe, Richard Neutra, Alvar Aalto, and Luis Barragán are examined in essayistic fashion.

The New Space: Movement and Experience in Viennese Modern Architecture
Written by Christopher Long
Designed by Jena Sher
Yale University Press, 264 pp., $67

The argument for a building as visage versus a site for complex, lived-in experiences is long-standing in architectural debates. Fixating on a fraught moment in this discourse within Viennese architecture, Christopher Long puts into relief the work and writings of Adolf Loos, Josef Frank, and Oskar Strnad—all concerned with the relationship between the architectural and the subjective interior.

Starchitecture: Scenes, Actors, and Spectacles in Contemporary Cities
Written by Davide Ponzini and Michele Nastasi
Designed by Shawn Hazen
The Monacelli Press, 216 pp., $40

In its second edition, Starchitecture is a rich and mature critique of the global trend toward high-profile iconic buildings by architects-cum-brands. While this sort of “architectural spectacularization” is defended by neoliberal urban revivalists and just as impulsively derided by anti-globalization localists, author Ponzini and photographer Nastasi offer a more nuanced perspective.


​Hecho en Cuba: Cinema in the Cuban Graphics
Edited by Luigi Bardellotto
​Designed by Giacomo Meli
Silvana Editoriale, 256 pp., $40

Hecho en Cuba argues that Cuban art finds some of its most characteristic expression in cinema posters. Inspired by the often political commentary of their source materials, movie posters from the 1950s onward reflect the country’s most unique, prolific, and problematic artists as much as a collective search for a post-revolutionary aesthetic. Pairing essays and profiles with some of the most exemplary works of more than half a century, the result is a visual indulgence of typography and imagery of considerable authority.

Cuba’s Law on Cinema (1959) was passed to promote culture and raise the island’s level of education. Cubans soon became passionate moviegoers, and the “Cuban School” style of film posters flourished. Above: Artist Alfredo Rostgaard’s 1969 poster promoting the Instituto Cubano de Arte e Industria Cinemátograficos’s tenth anniversary.

A poster for Dodes’ka-den (1970), directed by Akira Kurosawa

Archigraphy: Lettering on Buildings
Written by Agnes Laube and Michael Widrig
Designed by Büro 146 with Tiziana Artemisio
Birkhauser, 168 pp., $60

Designers and architects tend to approach adding text to their work reluctantly, striving instead to let form and matter explicate their things and buildings. Archigraphy showcases 26 building projects where text is so intimately intertwined with architecture that the effect easily transcends mere signage. An excellent primer for those interested in the interaction of space and movement with typography.

Brutal Beauty: Violence and Contemporary Design
Edited by Marta Herford
Designed by Alexandra Klatt
Kerber, 176 pp., $25

Presented in a small format and with short essays, Brutal Beauty efficiently catalogues an exhibition on the theme of design and violence at Germany’s contemporary museum Marta Herford. Presented works range from surreal (Felipe Luchi’s concept for a prison in the shape of an iPhone) to blunt (George Nelson’s TV program How to Kill People) to chilling (Yael Mer & Shay Alkalay’s purse in the shape of a severed head).

Graphic Stamps
Edited by Tony Brook and Adrian Shaughnessy
Designed by Spin
Unit Editions, 328 pp., $47

As communication protocols go digital, postage stamps—at once tangible marks of place, culture, and currency—are becoming ever more potent historical artifacts. This generous collection of high-quality reproductions of several hundred stamps from two esteemed collectors showcases the often overlooked design features of stamps and helps put them into the context of graphic design history.

Isamu Noguchi: Playscapes
Written by María García, Shaina Larrivee, et al
Designed by Estudio Herrera
RM/Museo Tamayo Arte Contemporaneo, 224 pp., $45

Forever skeptical of barriers, Isamu Noguchi was a self-proclaimed internationalist who roamed unapologetically from art to architecture to sculpture and design. In Playscapes, various authors explore how his work in public parks consistently challenged categorization, just as Noguchi overtly disregarded a presumed dissonance between art and utility.

Marfa Modern: Artistic Interiors of the West Texas High Desert
Written by Helen Thompson
Designed by Cody Haltom
The Monacelli Press, 240 pp., $50

In the 1970s Donald Judd moved his art practice to Marfa, Texas, and inaugurated a coexistence of luxury and rugged desert. In this beautifully illustrated and narrated overview, Helen Thompson highlights Marfa’s features and recounts the owners’ intentions, capturing the idea of bringing high-end art and design into the roughly treated spaces of the desert.

Scandinavia Dreaming: Nordic Homes, Interiors, and Design
Edited by Angel Trinidad
Gestalten, 288 pp., $60

This collection of spaces and products shows the surprising range of one of the most iconic schools of design. From Danish design firms (Hay, Ferm Living, and Frama) to Finnish textiles (Klaus Haapeniemi and Kustaa Saksi), this book recounts lessons in design and craftsmanship through testimonies, case studies, and profiles that affirm the reputation of Nordic spaces as classic, open, skillfully restrained, warm, and inviting.

Fashion 150: 150 Years, 150 Designers
Edited by Arianna Piazza
Designed by Nick Knight
Laurence King, 536 pp., $65

This fashion encyclopedia includes not only haute couture and bespoke fashions but counterculture styles and mass-market names. Piazza authoritatively covers the 1860s to the present, illustrating key moments in international fashion with more than 700 images. Each entry incorporates cultural context, aesthetic analysis, and even material information, making the tome a quintessential historical reference and a veritable font of inspiration.

Automobile Design Graphics
Edited by Jim Heimann
Designed by Jess Sappenfield
Taschen, 368 pp., $60

This collection of historical car ads will be a welcome addition for hard-core auto-history enthusiasts or graphic designers with a soft spot for vintage layouts. Introductory essays fulfill the obligatory alert to the duplicitous nature of advertising. But from there, the compendium is essentially a celebration of the auto told through cheery, particularly American fantasies of masculinity and power.


Never Built New York
Written by Greg Goldin and Sam Lubell
Designed by Eric Heiman
Metropolis Books, 408 pp., $55

An extensive compilation of architectural drawings for projects that never materialized tells the story of a city in a constant identity crisis. In this collection of architectural fantasies, New York—a city ultimately driven by wealth and perpetual space shortages—appears as a tumultuous construction site where radical creative enclaves, quixotic engineering proposals in the name of efficiency, and proud civic-engagement movements compete for disparate visions of a city that always could (or could never) have been.

Unrealized New York projects include Venturi, Scott Brown and Associates’s 1994 Times Square hotel/retail complex and Philip Johnson’s 1966 Ellis Island National Immigration Museum, Park, and Monument (below).

60 Feet Road
Photography by Robert Polidori
Designed by Robert Polidori, Duncan Whyte, and Gerhard Steidl
Steidl, 232 pp., $125

A city block in Mumbai is the focus of this tome. Using large-format photography, the accordion-style flip book offers the street as a landscape in its totality. Vivid images depict the same scene at varying scales and heights—from extreme close-ups to medium context shots—as Robert Polidori dissects the street into the individual interventions that create Mumbai’s urban panorama.

Fred Mortagne: Attraper Au Vol (Catch in the Air)
Foreword by Anton Corbijn; Photography by Fred Mortagne
Designed by T. Campbell and Tosh Woods
Um Yeah Arts, 132 pp., $45

In Attraper au Vol, skateboarding ties urban culture into its architectural site as the two become the protagonists in Fred Mortagne’s street photography. As a skateboarder, photographer, and filmmaker, Mortagne gives equal valence to the beauty of the buildings and urban landscapes and to the raw talent of his peers.

Common Frameworks: Rethinking the Developmental City in China
Edited by Christoper C. M. Lee
Designed by Sam de Groot
Harvard GSD, 350 pp., $25

An oft-rehearsed low-level theme in discussions of China’s urban development is largeness of scale. But beyond this, few Western observers are able to make much sense of such colossal urbanization. Common Frameworks, with the help of accompanying scholarly essays, presents an exciting and expert grasp of the situation in the form of speculative urban development projects that are deeply embedded in local culture, politics, and history.

Developing Expertise: Architecture and Real Estate in Metropolitan America
Written by Sara Stevens
Designed by Luke Bulman–Office with Camille Sacha Salvador
Yale University Press, 288 pp., $50

A deep and scholarly study, Sara Stevens’s book identifies the real estate developer as the central protagonist responsible for shaping modern American cities. Sharply focused on the stories of three major developers, the book dispels the cliché of the self-obsessed, maniacal blowhard. Instead it presents an oft-maligned actor whose ability to maneuver between capital, design, and policy deserves to be recognized as a significant force of urban transformation.d

Local Code
Written by Nicholas de Monchaux
Designed by Catalogtree
Princeton Architectural Press, 176 pp., $40

As our ability to quantify and track the urban experience grows, data increasingly asserts itself as the lingua franca of planning and municipal administration. Local Code brings the point home with a volume of beautifully designed and densely packed data visualizations revealing the complexity of urban dynamics. References to Jane Jacobs as well as works by Gordon Matta-Clark figure prominently in the accompanying essays.

​Mid-Century Modern Architecture Travel Guide: West Coast USA
Written by Sam Lubell
​Designed by Bibliotheque
Phaidon, 384 pp., $35

Architecture enthusiasts know that to fully comprehend a building one must go to it and engage it in person. This book featuring landmarks on the West Coast promises to be a thorough guide for just this kind of thrill seeker. Expertly annotated by Sam Lubell, the Travel Guide doubles as a comprehensive catalogue of the movement’s Pacific iteration, responding as it did to the local particulars of terrain, climate, and culture.

Mortal Cities and Forgotten Monuments
Written by Arna Mackic and Rose Te Velde
​Designed by Bas Koopmans, Nuno Beijinho, and Oliver Modosch
Park Books, 160 pp., $50

Architect Arna Mackic studies the relationship between monuments, cities, and time in postwar Yugoslavia in this beautifully designed book. Fixating on the role ruins and destruction have played in shaping citizens’ perceptions and memories of place, stark monochrome illustrations and photographs, along with several essays, attempt to locate an architectural potency

Silent Beaches, Untold Stories: New York City’s Forgotten Waterfront 
Written by Elizabeth Albert
​Designed by Amy Wilkins
Damiani, 128 pp., $40

It’s easy for residents of New York City to forget that much of it is surrounded by water. But it is in fact water that over centuries has shaped this metropolis. From canals as industrial veins to bays as horse graveyards, Silent Beaches traces the history of New York through its waterways. The book features historical photographs and contemporary art, while essays and short fiction pieces give context to ten lesser-known waterfront spaces.


Pierre Paulin: Life and Work
Written by Nadine Descendre; Photography by Benjamin Chelly
Designed by Caroline Dauvois
The Vendome Press, 240 pp., $65

Tasked with rendering an account of the life and work of elusive French designer Pierre Paulin, author Nadine Descendre forgoes a rigorous chronology, offering instead glimpses into the mind and character behind such classics as the Orange Slice chair. The effect is a slow-forming portrait of a conflicted and often controversial designer, colored with occasional bursts of detail from personal accounts, beautifully interspersed with radiant unpublished sketches, vivid models, and family photographs.

Paulin demonstrates ergonomic features of his Declive lounger

A 1987 commission by the Délégation aux Arts Plastiques Ministry of Culture

Cedric Price Works 1952–2003: A Forward-Minded Retrospective
Written by Samantha Hardingham
Designed by AA Print Studio
Architectural Association Publications and the Canadian Centre for Architecture, 1,440 pp., $200

This exhaustive anthology traces the development and thought of the British architect Cedric Price. Spanning the postwar period, when social, cultural, and political forces forged Price’s attitude toward building, through the ensuing decades that showed his prescient concerns with adaptive reuse of deindustrialized infrastructure and codeenabled “smart” buildings, the volume set is a trove for architects seeking inspiration.

The Incidents: Abstract from the Concrete
Lecture by David Harvey​
Designed by Abake
Harvard GSD and Sternberg Press, 176 pp., $14

Among contemporary Marxists, the geographer David Harvey is perhaps most relevant to architecture for his continued grounding of abstract theories in closely observed material productions of space and territory. This concise softcover volume begins with the staggering volume of cement used in China between 2011 and 2013 and opens up to a globalized system that thrives on crisis and deprivation.

Neo Prehistory: 100 Verbs
Written by Andrea Branzi and Kenya Hara
Designed by Kenya Hara
Lars Müller Publishers, 290 pp., $47

The curators of this book and its parallel exhibition selected 100 actions and paired each with a single object, in one case dating as far back as 2500 BC, to frame “the history of human desire into a kind of fixed verse poetry.” Neo Prehistory is arguably a chronology of design, as it meditates on how humans came to manipulate the world as the complexity of our actions evolved in tandem with our tools.

Vital Little Plans: The Short Works of Jane Jacobs
Edited by Samuel Zipp and Nathan Storring
Designed by Rodrigo Corral
Random House, 464 pp., $28

Activist Jane Jacobs is most remembered as the visionary who wrote The Death and Life of Great American Cities (1961) and for a well-publicized dispute with New York City’s master builder, Robert Moses. This collection of Jacobs’s lesser-known writings comes to the foreground for her centennial, and in a time when more of Jacobs’s prescient wisdom is needed.

Tham Ma Da: The Adventurous Interiors of Paola Navone
Written by Spencer Bailey
Designed by Studio Lin
Pointed Leaf Press, 396 pp., $85

Tham Ma Da explores the practice of Italian architect and designer Paola Navone. Inspired by the Thai expression for the “everyday,” Spencer Bailey expertly narrates and showcases Navone’s work as a unique conceptualization of ordinary spaces into imaginative and inspiring projects. The prolific designer’s breadth of work truly calls attention to the extraordinariness of the everyday.

Treacherous Transparencies: Thoughts and Observations Triggered by a Visit to Farnsworth House
Written by Jacques Herzog and Pierre de Meuron
Designed by Edwin van Gelder
Actar, 96 pp., $25

Architects Herzog & de Meuron respond to Mies van der Rohe’s Farnsworth House while meditating on the power granted and wielded by material transparency. Putting the elevated glass box into conversation with works by other architects and artists, they find that despite his paeans to the unity of man and nature the house reduces nature to decor in service of the Modernist’s own artistic ambitions.

Developing: My Life
Written by William Zeckendorf Jr. with Joan Duncan Oliver
Designed by Yve Ludwig
Andrea Monfried Editions, 304 pp., $35

Real estate development is suddenly a profession Americans are curious about. Developing offers a refreshingly sober and detailed picture of how a major urban building project is realized for those interested in a more nuanced account of “the thrill of developing [and] putting together the deal.” William Zeckendorf Jr.’s description of his life’s work is of interest to architects, architectural historians, and budding developers alike.

​I Don’t Have a Favourite Colour
Written by Hella Jongerius
Designed by Anja Lutz/Book Design
Gestalten, 544 pp., $45

Designer Hella Jongerius narrates her decade-long journey to create the Vitra Colour and Material Library. Jongerius’s work (profiled here) is dedicated to demonstrating the effects of daylight on colors, how shadows on a single piece can disrupt a hue, or the possibilities of mixing seemingly incommensurable tints in fabric. The Vitra library is seminal for designers, as Jongerius is today’s authority on color theory.

Recent Viewpoints