Allport, Gordon W., The Nature of Prejudice, 1954
Gordon Allport was a professor of psychology at Harvard University. In The Nature of Prejudice, he studies the phenomenon of prejudice: its roots in individual psychology, history, and social structure, as well as its impact on the individual and the community.
I was introduced to this book in the first anthropology course I took as a graduate student at Rice in 1971. It was the time of the Civil Rights movement and the beginning of the protests against the Viet Nam war. It helped me understand how prejudice works, whether directed at race or gender or other human factors. It helped me cope with many issues of the time: Architecture in the U.S. was a white man's profession. I wasn't a white man. At the same time, men were being drafted to fight in the Viet Nam war. My gender protected me from the difficult choices men my age had to make. What is fair?
Kuhn, Thomas, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, 1962
Thomas Kuhn began his career as a physicist and became a philosopher and historian of science. In this book, he examines how scientific ideas change. Kuhn coined the now familiar term, "paradigm shift" in this book.
Change is something we all try to cope with. This book, which I read after I moved to New Mexico to teach, helped me understand how ideas are set in our minds, and what is needed to make changes. Learning something changes one's ideas. How does that work?
McLuhan, Marshall, Understanding Media, 1964
McLuhan was a Canadian professor of communications when the field was first included in academia. This book coined the phrase, "the medium is the message." He also coined the phrase, "the global village."
While McLuhan is controversial, this book made me realize how content may be enhanced or corrupted by the media in which it is presented. With the dramatic changes in media since it was written, maybe we need a refresher course. Is his message relevant today, delivered by today's media?
Papanek, Victor, Design for the Real World, 1972
Papanek was a UNESCO International Design Expert and Dean of the School of Design at Cal Arts. He asked why, with so much of the world in poverty, do designers spend time on designing stupid things?
Papanek aimed his book at industrial designers, but his message applies to architects as well. I recommended it when I was teaching DPAC students, and it is still relevant for all of us today.
Persig, Robert M., Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, 1974
This book was a cult rage in the 70s and 80s and is still in print. Couched in the story of a trip across the country on a motorcycle, it is the story of a man's quest for truth.
I used readings from this book as an option for graduate students in my architectural programming class. I wanted them to become aware of how they think and how that impacts how they work with clients.
Rapoport, Amos, House Form and Culture, 1969
Rapoport has a Master of Architecture from Rice, and has taught and done research in several places around the world. This book was part of a cultural geography series by Prentice Hall.
I was introduced to Rapoport in some of the anthropology courses I took at UNM. His careful study of technical knowledge, climate, and available materials showed that, while important, these issues do not explain differences in house form without an understanding of the cultures that built them. This book helped me define the question that was behind many of the things that I pursued: "Why are things shaped the way they are?"