The Design Books I’m Adding to My Collection This Summer

Memphis-inspired interiors, subterranean homes, and new design solutions for pressing global issues are all featured in these recently released architecture and design hardcovers.
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I always feel an urge to update my design book collection when summer comes around. I’d like to think it’s a rush of inspiration from spending more time outside or occasional traveling, but maybe it’s just my inner humidity-hating New Yorker reminding that the next few months will surely bring (many) days that are too hot and sticky to do anything but hole up next to the portable air-conditioner in my apartment, and that flipping through design books filled with photos of objects I’d like to own and homes I’d love to live in is, well, one way to pass time. 

It’s not just about longing; these might not be the books I’d bring to the beach to catch up on summer reading, but even with (usually) fewer words, I still almost always feel like I learn something. Here are a few architecture and design books released this spring and summer that I’d proudly display on my bookshelves or coffee table.

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Hidden Architecture by Alyn Griffiths (Lannoo, May 2022) 

I probably don’t have to make much of a case for this book to the large portion of Dwell’s audience that loves green roofs and subterranean homes. But for the outliers, here I go. This 192-page book by journalist Alan Griffiths focuses on "buildings that are designed to disappear into their surroundings or hide in plain sight"—some are buried underground or submerged in the ocean; others are covered with greenery or clad in mirrors that reflect the scenery. Hidden Architecture highlights 50 projects around the world with this "designed to hide" modus operandi. Members of the aforementioned portion of Dwell’s audience might recognize a few buildings we’ve previously featured, such as this subterranean wine cellar in Texas Hill Country and this slim, three-story beach house by Olson Kundig that rises above the treetops in Santa Teresa, Costa Rica.

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Soft Electronics by Jaro Gielens (gestalten, May 2022) 

Retro home appliances designed between the ’60s and ’80s take center stage in Soft Electronics, a collaboration between gestalten and Dutch collector Jaro Gielens that explores Gielens’s 1,200-gadget-strong trove of vintage consumer electronics. Toward the start of the book, a helpful timeline breaks down groundbreaking moments in product design over those three decades. (I’m going to act like I’m not alone in thinking, "Did you know Dutch brand Philips created the first compact cassette audio player in 1963, signaling the start of the home entertainment revolution?," is a fun fact to bring to a dinner party.) The rest of the book focuses on specific stylish household products from that era. Think: coffee grinders, fondue sets, hairdryers, and even an automatic egg boiler. You know, the necessities. 

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Imagine Buildings Floating Like Clouds by Vladimir Belogolovsky (Images Publishing, May 2022) 

In a 2016 interview, Portuguese architect Eduardo Souto de Moura said to curator and critic Vladimir Belogolovsky: "When I teach, I give all my students one site, one program, one problem, and I want to see 100 solutions, 100 attitudes." Those words resonated with Belogolovsky and influenced the framework of this book, as he writes in the introduction. 

Imagine Buildings Floating Like Clouds gathers 101 interviews conducted by Belogolovsky over nearly two decades with the likes of Zaha Hadid, Renzo Piano, Moshe Safdie, David Adjaye, Bjarke Ingels, Kengo Kuma, and Richard Meier, and narrows each down to a single question and answer. Its 264 pages include personal anecdotes from a total of 72 architects (including 18 Pritzker Prize winners), 12 artists, eight photographers, two designers, two historians, two critics, one curator, one urbanist, and one engineer, as well as portraits and photos of their work.

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Design Emergency by Alice Rawsthorn and Paola Antonelli (Phaidon, May 2022) 

Design critic Alice Rawsthorn and Paola Antonelli, senior curator of architecture and design at MoMA, cofounded the Design Emergency Instagram account in spring 2020 to explore design’s reaction to and impact on the pandemic and its aftermath. The duo’s focus eventually expanded to examining how designers, architects, engineers, artists, scientists, and activists are developing new solutions to address the most pressing global issues of our time, from drone warfare to artificial intelligence and the refugee crisis. Design Emergency tells these stories through three essays and 25 interviews focused on four themes: technology, society, communication, and ecology.

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Modern Forms by Nicolas Grospierre (Prestel, June 2022) 

The revised edition of photographer Nicolas Grospierre’s survey of modernist architecture (originally published in 2016) has been expanded beyond Europe and North America to include large-format photos of almost 250 buildings across Southeast Asia, Australia, Africa, and South America, all arranged by their geometric forms. The new and revised texts ask complicated questions, like: How modern is modernist architecture? And what has happened to the style’s foundational utopian ideals? This is one of those books you might flip through for the photos, but will surprise you with a lesson on the history of modernist design, the origins of architectural photography, and the reasons why architectural forms sometimes repeat in countries that seem otherwise dissimilar. 

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Brick by Brick (gestalten, June 2022) 

Each of the buildings in this book are constructed from "one of the oldest and most sustainable building materials in the world": brick. The 288-page hardcover showcases buildings and interiors—primarily residential—that revitalize traditional brick applications and forms. There’s an Edwardian extension with curved brick masonry in Melbourne, Australia; a 5,920-square-foot brick residence grounded by a foyer with a roof cutout that allows a tree to grow through it in central Mexico; and a brutalist-inspired multifamily residence with two brick-and-concrete pavilions near Madrid.

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House of Joy (gestalten, June 2022) 

Some of my favorite design books are more visual than informational; a brief foreword and captions provide necessary context for whatever you’re looking at, but the photographs do most of the talking on each page. House of Joy showcases a collection of exuberant, colorful interiors with historical influences like the zany, geometric designs of Ettore Sottsass’s Memphis Group or the over-the-top oddities of ​’90s decor. 

Chapters titled things like "Graphic Colors, Patterns, and Prints That Pack a Punch" and "Break Away with Squiggly Shapes and Wiggly Lines" include homes that I—as someone whose tastes could be described as maximalist-leaning (not to be confused with other design fads like "cluttercore")—have elements that I fantasize about someday recreating for my own home. This book also includes a number of projects Dwell has previously featured, including some of my personal favorites: an Edwardian house with a glass-box addition inspired by Disneyland’s Matterhorn Bobsleds rollercoaster and a Memphis-meets-Miami overhaul of the lower ground floor of a Victorian terrace, both in London.

Related Reading:

A New Book Brings to Light the Profound Impact of Women Designers

This Book Covers Everything You Need to Know About Retrofitting a Campervan


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