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The Architecture Handbook: A Student Guide to Understanding Buildings

by Jennifer Masengarb with Krisann Rehbein. 2007, Chicago Architecture Foundation, Chicago, Illinois. Paperback, 462 pages, $75.

Created to update and replace a drafting manual from the 1950s, this high-school textbook is an amazing achievement in the integration and presentation of nearly everything future architects need to know, with a sustainable design focus that is matter-of-fact but not heavy-handed. Through the lens of a single case study, the F10 House in Chicago, The Architecture Handbook explores the primary steps of the design process, including the development of site plans, floor plans, and elevation drawings. The small F10 House features passive design and environmentally friendly materials. It was designed by EHDD Architecture and was one of the winning designs in the Green Homes for Chicago competition in 2000, which was created to spur innovation in green affordable housing for the city.

Students learn the basics of architectural thinking and drawing, often by comparing the F10 house and its neighborhood to their own homes. The book also discusses other buildings, in Chicago and as far away as Australia, as examples of different approaches to architectural problems. Exercises in the book encourage students to adapt the strategies discussed to the conditions in their own locations. This book is graphically clean and sophisticated, with multiple layers of information throughout. It explains relevant concepts in simple terms but is comprehensive enough to be valuable at the college level. The only piece missing is any discussion of teamwork in the design and construction process, and the important role of the architect as a facilitator of that team.

Published February 3, 2008

Malin, N. (2008, February 3). The Architecture Handbook: A Student Guide to Understanding Buildings. Retrieved from

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