Classical Architecture is a set of lectures by Demitri Porphyrios, originally delivered as the University of Virginia and Yale University in 1987 and 1989. The book is beautifully illustrated. To the lectures are appended extracts from Plato, Aristotle, Kant and Hegel, Vitruvius, Alberti and Viollet-le-Duc among others. The argument is polemical. Porphyrios is writing against modernism and deconstruction and in favour of classicism, particularly in the context of urban reconstruction.

Porphyrios follows Aristotelian ideas in defining the difference between building and architecture.

‘Significance lies not in the utility or beauty that may accompany the artefact but in the recognition of ourselves as makers of that artefact. This recognition is essentially a contemplative experience and when viewed like this the building – though it may be useful – refuses to be used in any way. Architecture begins precisely here; it speaks of the usefulness which produced it in the first place, from which it detaches itself as art and to which it always alludes’.


Stewart Brand’s How Buildings Learn is one of my favourite books, maybe one of the half dozen non-fiction works I would take to a desert island. It’s a book about buildings, and specifically how buildings are modified and adapted over time, but the theoretical ideas on which it’s grounded can be applied to any type of system.

The argument is illustrated by sequences of photographs, and these are the greatest asset of the book. Brand has trawled the archives for sequences of photographs of the same building or street scene taken at different times. The cover features two Greek Revival townhouses on St. Charles Street in New Orleans; identical in a auctioneers drawing made in 1857, quite different in a 1993 photograph after various modifications to add storeys, extensions, balconies, windows and entrances.