Research and design lab SPACE10 asked CAFx to curate a selection of 10 books for their new library of essential readings for creating a better everyday life for people and the planet. Their motivation is palpable:
“As the concepts of workplaces and third places continue to evolve, we recognise the need for more shared, communal spaces in our cities. Places where people can carve out solo creative time, places where people and ideas can collide, where networks and relationships can grow, and which aren’t dependent on monetary exchange.
In addition to advocating for public spaces that encourage noneconomic exchanges and foster relationality, here at CAFx we are fond of the idea of creating a diverse collection of seminal, critical texts that form the foundations and pathways for our collective practice as architects, designers, planners and scholars. To have bespoke woolen pockets hugging our heroes in the urban pocket of the Meatpacking District is such a fitting gesture.
Here goes our randomly-ordered, non-extensive yet current contribution of 10 essential books that you can find in the CAFx section at SPACE10 Library.
1. The Architecture of Disability: Buildings, Cities, and Landscapes Beyond Access by David Gissen (2023)
You should read this book because: It demonstrates why taking the experience of disabled individuals into account is not only a moral responsibility but also a means to create a better architecture for all. Accessibility should not be the goal, but the starting point, and David Gissen’s ‘The Architecture of Disability’ shows us how to go beyond it.
For fans, David Gissen will be visiting Copenhagen in June for the upcoming edition of Copenhagen Architecture Festival.
2. Visionary Architecture: Blueprints of the Modern Imagination by Neil Spiller (2008)
You should read this book because: It offers an abundance of examples of paper-architecture-pioneers, from Boullée to Buckminster Fuller, from Libeskind to Lebbeus Woods. The book is a key reference for visionary architecture, both providing a thematic overview and going into depth with radical projects, destabilizing foundational concepts within the field of architectural design.
3. Crossbenching: Towards a Proactive Mode of Participation by Markus Miessen (2016)
You should read this book because: it exposes the inherently unstable and contradictory nature of the practice of architecture, highlighting the constant negotiation and contestation between various stakeholders and forces. Deconstructing notions of "user participation", "local democracy" and "co- creation", it reveals the inherent ambiguities and frictions that reside within these consensual buzzwords.
4. Urban Warfare: Housing under the Empire of Finance by Raquel Rolnik (2019)
You should read this book because: It discusses the dilemmas and dystopias of the housing sector in a period where real estate and global finance define the destiny of cities and citizens. Rolnik, a former UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Adequate Housing, provides a rich and nuanced perspective view on the current housing situation.
5. Architecture Culture 1943-1968, A Documentary Anthology edited by Joan Ockman (1993)
You should read this book because: It provides an excellent collection of critical and programmatic texts written by some of the key protagonists of the post-war era. The eclectic selection illustrates how language, performed in utopian manifestos and texts of political indignation, is part and parcel of the culture of architecture.
6. Living Complex: From Zombie City to the New Communal by Niklas Maak (2015)
You should read this book because: It invites you to fundamentally rethink concepts of dwelling, and to consider the multiplicity of ways to articulate the idea of homeliness in our present moment. In its examination of the diversity of familial structures and forms of community, it serves as a means to expand one's understanding of the myriad of possibilities of domesticity in an era where even Danish Statistics are counting 37 family structures.
7. Architecture and the Welfare State edited by Tom Avermaete, Mark Swenarton and Dirk van der Heuvel (2014)
You should read this book because: It examines the role played by architecture in the development of the welfare state, from the dream of collective happiness of the citizen from cradle to grave, to today’s ambivalent relationship to this widespread building heritage, with its social challenges and potentials. The book explores themes like the colonial export of welfare architecture to Africa and Asia, the welfare state’s influence on consumption habits and economic growth, as well as the 1968-countercultural critique of the top-down welfare city with its one-size-fits-all social engineering.
8. From What Is to What If: Unleashing the Power of Imagination to Create the Future We Want by Rob Hopkins (2019)
You should read this book because: It unveils the way in which the current planetary predicaments are inextricably linked to a global crisis of imagination. The horizon of a just and sustainable architecture is not circumscribed by the boundaries of constructability, but by the construction of new infrastructures for collective imagination, speculation, and play.
9. The Practice of Everyday Life by Michel de Certeau (1980)
You should read this book because: It presents a methodology for navigating and intervening in the built environment through the adoption of "bricoleuristic" tactics, emphasizing counter-hegemonic practices in the face of societal and environmental control. Acknowledging the citizen’s power in relation to structures of control, it argues for the cultivation of human agency through the practices of everyday life.
10. Arcades Project by Walter Benjamin (1982)
You should read this book because: It is a wonderful and idiosyncratic exploration of the fragmentary, chaotic, and anecdotal. Flaneuring the streets of Baudelaire’s Paris with Benjamin is a both sensuous and subversive experience.
Opening hours: Monday-Thursday from 9-17.