Reading List

List Creator

Kenneth Schwartz

Tulane University

Architecture and Jazz

This reading list was developed in response to a request from a friend. Irvin Mayfield is a Grammy Award-winning musician and engaged citizen of New Orleans. He and I first met at a small dinner party shortly after I arrived in the city in 2008. We followed that encounter with conversations about architecture and jazz. He was interested in learning more — and that’s when I asked him to join our Tulane School of Architecture Board of Advisors. We may be the only school of architecture with a Grammy Award-winning musician on an advisory board! Irvin asked for ten books to help him in learning more about our discipline and profession. In turn, he offered to recommend ten jazz CDs to help me in my education as well.

Irvin’s civic engagement in New Orleans overlaps in some ways with our efforts at Tulane to make a positive difference. Architecture is a social art and it should serve society in ways that do not simply replicate the status quo. Respect for tradition and the larger context of a given culture is always important, but as in great music, this should not turn into a default of rote repetition. With these ideas in mind, the list that I prepared for Irvin introduces some of the issues of importance in the field of architecture and our related disciplines.

  • A History of Architecture: Settings and Rituals

    Oxford University Press

    While there are literally hundreds of survey books on the history of architecture, this is my favorite. Kostof taught at Berkeley and took an unusual approach to writing history at the time — he focused on themes and human/social dimensions as opposed to more abstract approaches involving patronage, typology and precedent, or purely stylistic analysis. He was a prolific writer, and a very influential teacher in his time, thus leading to a whole generation of other history teachers and writers who followed him.

  • Expanding Architecture: Design as Activism

    Metropolis Books

    Bryan is a friend and native New Orleanian. Design as activism is his thing, and he does it very well. He runs an organization called DESIGN CORPS, which is a bit like AMERICORPS for architecture graduates, and has done a lot of work for migrant workers and homeless people. The book is a collection of positions by various players in this realm of “public interest design” in the United States.

  • The Death and Life of Great American Cities

    Random House

    For many people (myself included) this is the single most important planning and community activism text of the second half of the 20th-century, at least in the U.S. Jacobs was a force of nature, taking on the architectural establishment and the whole planning strategy of “urban renewal” in the ’50’s and ’60’s in New York and beyond. She was not an architect or planner; she was a journalist and an amazingly effective agitator through her writing and public meetings. I think the powerbrokers of NYC, including Robert Moses, probably wanted to kill her, but she won the arguments there, and influenced planning approaches forevermore across the rest of the country. She was awarded the highest honor at the University of Virginia, the “Thomas Jefferson Medal in Architecture,” for her life's work.

  • Good Neighbors: Affordable Family Housing


    This is a very good early book on the topic, from 1995. Michael Pyatok is an architect in Oakland, a former professor at the University of Washington in Seattle, and an old friend. He is a ’60s liberal firebrand kind of guy, and he has been very successful in mobilizing community groups, helping to empower them with political power and economic opportunity. He brings architectural practice to bear on real issues of community: a positive force for social change.

  • The Business of Affordable Housing: Ten Developers’ Perspectives

    Urban Land Institute

    I have to confess that I have not seen this book, but it looked interesting so I’m taking a chance and flagging it for your consideration.

  • Design Quality in New Housing: Learning from the Netherlands

    Taylor & Francis

    This is a good overview of a country that “gets it” with respect to innovative housing policies and solutions. It includes some very good design work in a very progressive country.

  • Geographies of New Orleans: Urban Fabrics Before the Storm

    Center for Louisiana Studies

    An excellent book. Campanella has a faculty appointment at the Tulane School of Architecture (and formerly with the Tulane/Xavier Center for Bioenvironmental Research). This is an important book for anyone working on the reconstruction of the city, and it is great for people outside New Orleans as well, because it helps to explain the unique situation we have as part of our history and geography.

  • Modern Architecture Since 1900


    There are many excellent histories of the modern movement. This is one.

  • Design with Nature

    Natural History Press

    A classic of early ecological concerns. He was a major figure in the field of landscape architecture and environmental activism as both a practitioner and educator at the University of Pennsylvania for many years. He left an extraordinarily impactful legacy through his academic progeny and by his individual example. This book is one of many examples from his life’s work.

  • 10 × 10 / 3: 100 Architects and 10 Critics


    This book, from Phaidon Press, highlights contemporary architecture and is mostly about images — many amazing projects and beautiful images at that.

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