Books Sept/Oct

The latest architectural thinking in print…

The Nature of Design

M Scott Lockard, Oro Editions, PB 272p, £22

Author Scott Lockard loves drawing. He contends that ‘whoever draws, first designs’. But he doesn’t believe anyone understands design, not in any fundamental way. Where is the listening? How prepared are architects when they go into the process? Do they get that the client’s criteria are what it is all about? ‘A surprising number of designers just muddle through,’ says Lockard. If that’s you this book might help. It is the accumulated wisdom of many years in architecture and all the better for the questions it continues to raise about the design process. Sometimes it feels a little undirected and repetitive and the multitude of images alongside the text can seem like eye candy but they can also be illuminating; as when he points out the ‘lies’ in the context of a skyscraper’s CGI. EY

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Better Buildings: Learning from buildings in use

Richard Partington and Simon Bradbury eds, RIBA Publishing, PB 192p, £35

Given ‘Soft Landings’, ahem, ‘vocational’ nature, most architects are too busy chasing the next commission to follow up what exactly is going on operationally with the buildings that they have completed. But hopefully new thinking around this is finally starting to sink in; and the editors here are helping the rest of us along the road by providing a book that actually revisits 10 built projects in detail to tell us what the design aspirations were and then following it up with monitoring results and post-occupancy feedback. The case studies are preceded by a first half of seven essays from architects and engineers, who are all positioning their practices definitively in Stage 7 of the Plan of Work. It’s clear and well-illustrated throughout. CK

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Making Things Right

Ole Thorstensen, MacLehose Press, HB 256p £16.99

The builder/client relationship is often regarded as an antagonistic one.  This journal, in the Norwegian confessional tradition of Karl Ove Knusgaard, examines how a loft conversion affects a skilled craftsman and the family who have commissioned the work. Through the complexities of initially frosty discussions with the project’s architect and engineer to the minutiae of the building work itself, Thorstensen outlines both the universalities of the building process and its particularities in Norway. Despite the prevalence of drawings and technical descriptions this is much more a meditation on the place of a skilled craftsperson in an increasingly Ikea’d world than a manual. Critically he demonstrates how problem solving arises both out of client involvement and discussion and the tapping of deep personal experience. RK