Perhaps one explanation for why there’s so much mediocre architecture and planning in this country is that we were never taught anything about it as youngsters. In fact most kids don’t even have access to an art history class until they reach college; and don’t even try asking them who their favorite architect is. But a few new kids architecture books could help change that, or at least inspire younger people to start appreciating the built world around them.
Where Things Are From Near To Far (Planetizen Press), by Tim Halbur and Chris Steins (with illustrations by David Ryan) introduces very young kids to basic concepts of urban planning, giving them an appreciation for the changing, dynamic urban environment. The colorful book follows the path of a young boy, Hugo, as he makes his way with his mom through six different environments; from a dense urban core all the way to the countryside. The progression is based on the “urban-to-rural transect,” developed by New Urbanist Andrés Duany, which divides cities into six different zones, and at its end introduces kids to the person who decides how all of this will be created: a smiling urban planner.
Another, The Modern Architecture Pop Up Book (Rizzoli), by David Sokol and Anton Radevsky, includes pop-ups, fold-overs, and slide-outs (and short descriptions) of most of the best-known Modern architecture produced over the last 125 years or so. That includes London’s Crystal Palace; the Brooklyn Bridge; the Eiffel Tower; New York’s Flatiron Building; Frank Lloyd Wright’s Robie House, Chicago; Reitveld’s Schroeder House; Le Corbusier’s Villa Savoye; Saarinen’s TWA terminal; Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim Bilbao; Calatrava’s Milwaukee Art Museum; and Foster’s 30 St. Mary Axe, a.k.a. the “Gherkin.” A few of the moving parts don’t work completely right, but overall the book is an engaging way to explore not only modern architectural history, but also to get a feel for the dynamic shapes of today’s architecture.
Indeed with its moving parts and easily grasped visual concepts, the pop-up architecture book might be the most accessible way into the field for kids. Several more have been released recently. They include Frank Gehry in Pop-Up (Thunder Bay Press), Architectural Wonders: A Pop-Up Gallery of the World’s Most Amazing Marvels (Thunder Bay), Architecture Pop-Up Book (Universe), California Missions Pop-Up (Geomancy), and Frank Lloyd Wright in Pop-Up (Thunder Bay).