Cat burglars. Presidential cabbage growers. Urban park philosophers. Scandal-prone proto-starchitects. A gentleman who pretended to be a goat.
Really, what more could one ask for in a summer reading list?
How about tiny houses and micro-architecture?
No problem. You’ll find books devoted to those topics as well in my annual top-of-summer roundup of forthcoming and freshly released titles dedicated to sustainable design, architecture, urbanism and gardening.
"150 Best Tiny Home Ideas" by Manel Gutiérrez Couto (Harper Design) (6/21/16)
The newest and most small-minded addition to the "150 Best" series from Harper Design (see also: "Minimalist House Ideas," "Cottage and Cabin Ideas," "Sustainable House Ideas," et cetera), this hefty 480-page volume is a globe-trotting celebration of efficient and smartly designed abodes that fall snugly between the 500- and 800-square-foot-range. Ideal bedside reading for those with downsizing on the brain, "this ultimate compendium brings together the diversity of current trends in tiny home design and is an invaluable source of ideas for designers, architects, and homeowners."
"All the President's Gardens" by Marta McDowell (Timber Press)
The very thought of Trumpified White House gardens may be too distressing for some to even contemplate. (Topiary dollar signs? Gold-plated water slides? How about a 55-foot-tall garden wall financed by Mexico?) All the better then to read up on the fascinating and oft-surprising history of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue’s fabled grounds. Sure to appeal to horticulture and presidential history buffs alike, this illustration-packed tome by New Jersey-based garden historian Marta McDowell covers it all, from “Madison’s cabbages to Kennedy’s roses.” And don't forget Herbert Hoover’s cow, Pauline Wayne.
"A Burglar's Guide to the City" by Geoff Manaugh (FSG)
While probably not the most reassuring summer read for apartment-dwelling urbanites who happen to be vacationing hundreds of miles from home and aren’t entirely sure if they remembered to lock the balcony doors or not, this impeccably executed tome from BLDGBLOG’s Geoff Manaugh offers an in-depth look at the all-too-cozy relationship between architecture and breaking-and-entering. Blurbs Danish it-architect Bjarke Ingels: "Murphy’s Law ― anything that can go wrong will go wrong ― is especially true for architecture. Manaugh’s liaisons with burglars and bank robbers reveal unexplored niches and loopholes in our cities, and through the eyes of urban hackers we find new possibilities for reinterpreting the built environment."
"GoatMan: How I Took a Holiday from Being a Human Being" by Thomas Thwaites (Princeton Architectural Press)
So, remember the time that a London designer decided to drop out of modern society and live amongst goats (yes, goats) in the Swiss Alps? That guy who used a research grant to construct an elaborate goat costume ― excuse, "goat exoskeleton" ― complete with a prosthetic four-chambered stomach? The guy who, for all intents and purposes, was a goat for a while? The bloke who bleated? No? Well, this weird, thoughtful and beautifully produced tome documenting a "hilarious and surreal journey through engineering, design, and psychology" should jog your memory.
"Green Metropolis: The Extraordinary Landscapes of New York City as Nature, History, and Design" by Elizabeth Barlow Rogers (Knopf)
You could say that Elizabeth Barlow Rogers, the noted landscape designer and writer whose tireless preservation efforts lead to the establishment of the nonprofit Central Park Conservancy in 1980, is somewhat of an authority on Central Park. After all, Rogers served as New York City's inaugural Central Park Administrator. And while Central Park (specifically, the Central Park Ramble) plays a key role in Rogers' latest work, other singular Big Apple green spaces are also lovingly profiled including Inwood Hill Park in upper Manhattan; Jamaica Bay in Queens; Freshkills Park and High Rock Park, both on Staten Island; Roosevelt Island and Four Freedoms Park; and the High Line.
"Architecture's Odd Couple: Frank Lloyd Wright and Philip Johnson" by Hugh Howard (Bloomsbury Press)
Author Hugh Howard's latest, a colorful but not-too-salacious dual portrait of the two undisputed titans of 20th century architecture, is something of a departure from his previous works which largely concern the private residences of great American statesmen, founding fathers and assorted icons of American history. It's true that the professional output ― not to mention personal lives ― of Frank Lloyd Wright and Philip Johnson ― rivals, rabble-rousers and sons of the American Midwest ― seemingly couldn't be more different. One's most famous work is a private home that melds seamlessly into the surrounding natural landscape; the other is noted for erecting elegant glass and steel skyscrapers. But together, no two men have had the same lasting impacting on modern architecture as Wright and Johnson.
"Nanotecture: Tiny Built Things" by Rebecca Roke (Phaidon)
Described as the "most wide-ranging, comprehensive and inclusive book on small-scale architecture ever published," this delightful volume from London-based architecture writer Rebecca Roke is a study in design that can best be described as compact, wee, diminutive, shoebox-sized, impossibly cramped, and big on imagination. Going way beyond the once-fringe/now-trendy tiny house movement, Roke examines hundreds of tiny works of architecture including sheds, cabins, habitable pods, tree houses pop-up pavilions and, of course, deluxe canine residences.