Curated Reading List: Tamsie Thomson

Director of the London Festival of Architecture, Tamsie Thomson, selects her six recommended books on architecture to get us through these homebound times of lockdown

Tamsie Thomson is director of the London Festival of Architecture(LFA) — the capital’s month-long,annual celebration of architecture. She previously worked at the Civic Trust, Shelter, and the RIBA where she was director of RIBA London, having also headed the influential CABE-and RIBA-funded think tank Building Futures.

This year’s theme for the London Festival of Architecture is ‘power’. The festival’s programme of physical events across the capital — originally due to take place in June — has been postponed to later in the year due to the coronavirus pandemic. However, the festival has now launched LFA Digital 2020, which will be an online programme of curated content and events taking place throughout June.

For Blueprint, Tamsie has selected her six recommended books on architecture to get us through these homebound times of lockdown.

Ghost Trees (2018)
Bob Gilbert

I started reading this meditative tribute to the hidden landscapes within London before the coronavirus lockdown. What was a beautiful meander through the resilience of nature in urban areas has become my escape route where I can wander freely through the streets of east London re-inhabiting the familiar streetscape with a wondrously new perspective.(Published by Saraband)

Restoration Stories (2019)
Philippa Stockley

If lockdown has highlighted your home’s imperfections then you can get an extreme case of house envy from this book. The stories of sixteen period houses, mainly in London, are expressed in beautiful photography and fascinating prose which draws you into the stories behind the imagery. (Published by Pimpernel Press)

Festival Architecture (2007)
Christine Macy and Sarah Bonnemaison (eds)

If you thought installation and pavilion building for festivals was a new phenomenon, then this book provides the historical context. Festival architecture has allowed architects since antiquity to explore and experiment with new ideas, techniques and materials. Essays from multiple authors map the history of festival architecture from Roman urban processions to Paris in the 1970s. (Published by Routledge)

Cabin Porn (2016)
Zach Klein (ed)

If, like me, you’ve always dreamt of inhabiting your own small piece of wilderness, then Cabin Porn is go-to bedside reading. Tagged as ‘inspiration for your quiet place somewhere’, there is nothing more transformational on my mood than mentally escaping to imagine my cabin. From tips on how to build a yurt to how to craft an off-grid bunkhouse, there is plenty of practical advice as well as beautiful photography to keep those outdoor dreams alive.(Published by Penguin)

Living Archive 7: Ant Farm (2008)
Felicity D Scott

I have a weakness for the propositional and political in architecture and architectural discourse generally, and the counterculture atheistic of the 1960s and 1970s specifically. This volume investigates Ant Farm’searly tactical aesthetic operationsand its attempts to forge alternatives to mass media and prevailing social structures. From self-described ‘super-radical activist environmentalists’, there is much to learn for our own current debates on the role of architecture, and the potential of the architect to offer tangible solutions at a time of multiple crises.(Published by Actar Publishers)

Political Theory and Architecture (2020)
Bernardo Zacka and Duncan Bell (eds)

This new book isa very interesting exploration of the interconnectivity of architecture, politics and power — and questions whether architecture can be a force in building more democratic and inclusive societies. As someone who has always believed in architecture’s power to change lives, and as the London Festival of Architecture explores the theme of power in 2020, this book could not be more timely. (Published by Bloomsbury)

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