Stewart Brand’s thinking about architecture seems to have two basic elements: a strong influence from the design patterns approach of Christopher Alexander, and Brand’s own interest in the time dimension. Much of the book is infused with deep contempt for the practice of architecture as it has become in the past century. He reserves special scorn for Frank Lloyd Wright and for contemporary ‘magazine architects’. Brand’s view, hardly controversial, is that architects should focus on designing buildings that work instead of buildings that merely photograph well. Part of making a building that works is designing it in such a way that it can evolve over time as the occupants’ needs change, or the occupants themselves are replaced.

Don’t get me wrong: this is not a ‘negative’ book. It is filled with insight, ideas, and suggestions. And many of the photographs are fascinating, showing buildings at various times in their history, evolving, always growing, sprouting new facades, new floors, new rooflines.

I wish that I had read this book when I was much younger. It might have saved me from a couple major real-estate mistakes. Now that the housing market is in such disarray, reading and understanding this book at a deep level might be very beneficial for those young enough to benefit from buildings that will last a lifetime or more.



Book cover

Metadata Info

  • Title: How Buildings Learn: What Happens After They’re Built
  • Author: Stewart Brand
  • Published: 1994
  • ISBN: 0140139966
  • Buy: Amazon search
  • Check out: Seattle library
  • Rating: 5.0 stars