New books, British Architectural Library, RIBA, 2013

New books, British Architectural Library, RIBA, 2013

Image: centre, then clockwise from top left

  • The Globalisation of Modern Architecture – Robert Adam
  • Louis Kahn: The Power of Architecture – Mateo Kries , Jochen Eisenbrand and Stanislaus von Moos (editors)
  • Survey of London, volume 48, Woolwich – Andrew Saint and Peter Guillery
  • Maisons closes parisiennes : architectures immorales des annees 1930 – Paul Teyssier
  • Of its time and of its place: The Work of Richard Murphy Architects
  • The Making of the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park – John Hopkins and Peter Neal
  • Architecture in the 20th Century – Peter Gössel and Gabriele Leuthäuser
  • Translucent: Building Skins – Scott Murray
  • Carscapes – Kathryn A. Morrison and John Minnis


The holidays are truly over, the British Architectural Library and the rest of the RIBA are open and have returned to their normal opening hours. To greet 2013, the shelves of the Library have been filled with new books. These recent acquisitions cover history, globalisation and the spaces created by international celebration and human vice. There is no single theme to the books featured in this post; they do though display the rich scope of architecture available to the public at the RIBA.

While much of Paris is famously captured in black and white photographs of its vibrant outdoor life and streets, the Maisons closes parisiennes by Paul Teyssier is a study of architecture that could only be seen from the inside to a select group. The brothels of 1930s Paris are studied in terms of spatial planning and their intimate and varied rooms. Whilst investigating their history, the book is a reminder that such secretive spaces were designed and that their layouts and interiors were not casual creations. There are illustrations and they do indeed include plans.

The nature of glass makes the case studies in Translucent: Building Skins by Scott Murray the antitheses of Parisian brothels. Murray begins with the work of Pierre Chareau and Bernard Bijvoet in the same city, through a building completed in 1934 that was to show the world a way to live more publicly. Liberated from the limitations of masonry architecture, the walls of the Maison de Verre were made of translucent glass tiles, suggesting rather than revealing the domestic and medical activities inside, allowing some degree of privacy for their occupants. Comparisons are made between early and recent uses of this enigmatic material; the glass ‘icons’ of today are paired with their sometimes forgotten predecessors. Through these examples, the ability of architects to manipulate light from inside and out is explored.

Two books cover London, looking east to the scene of the world’s attention last year. John Hopkins and Peter Neal’s book record the process of creating the Olympic Park and its significance to London and the world. There is still more work to do in the future to turn the park and former site of the Olympics into a functioning neighbourhood of the capital. No doubt, there will be a book on it soon. The Survey of London series has been updated with a volume on Woolwich, a place with a rich military history and pivotal role in supporting British efforts during two world wars – just a few of the reasons to justify a comprehensive 500-page book on the architecture of an ignored area of London.

Monographs: Louis Kahn and Richard Murphy
Then there are new books dealing with the body of work created by a single architect or team. Louis Kahn, over 40 years after his death, is treated to detailed scrutiny and praise by some of the leading architects and writers of our era, such as Frank Gehry and Peter Zumthor, in Louis Kahn: The Power of Architecture.

Celebrating the firm’s 21st anniversary, Of its time and of its place: The Work of Richard Murphy Architects was published to coincide with an exhibition at the RIBA last year. Surveying the firm’s work which spans the last decade of the 20th century and the first decade of the 21st, the book shows how a single practice can work skilfully at different scales and the influence of contemporary British architects abroad.

Carscapes takes a non-partisan view of the built environment as shaped by cars. It revels in the early, slightly more innocent years when the use of cars were mainly for pleasure and continues onto the modern architecture generated by our need to park, service and sell these machines.

Architecture on a global stage
The remaining books look internationally. Architecture in the 20th Century, as can be expected in a publication from Taschen, is a generously illustrated manual that has cherry-picked photogenic architectural gems from across the world. These global links, which British architects play such a large part, have implications on how we live and the culture we will leave behind to future generations. Attempts to tackle pertinent questions arise from Robert Adams’s book about the forces shaping globalisation in architecture now and since the 1990s: do they bring a unity (or the same blandness) or are they able to foster cultural differences and what are the events influencing this process? In his review of this book in this month’s RIBA Journal, Murray Fraser has said globalisation is often mentioned but not scrutinised in much detail in architectural discourse. So, The Globalisation of Modern Architecture is a loud and passionate addition to what has been a sotto voce discussion.


About Wilson Yau
I work for the British Architectural Library at the RIBA as part of a team to share news, images and information online about the activities of the Library and the fascinating items we have in our architectural collections – it contains over four million items, so there's plenty to see! If you’re curious about what we do at the Library and with the collections, or want to discover the latest about our education programmes, public events and exhibitions at the RIBA, please visit

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