Through all the book’s various suggested concepts and connected interpretations, the historical, philosophical, and interdisciplinary connections that the author brings along to support her readings manifest her wide knowledge of the built environment’s complexities and history—as well as her interests in fields outside the architectural world. The latter characteristic admittedly becomes a richness of the book, emerging from the author’s diverse collaborative work on edited collections regarding architecture and food (Eating Architecture, 2004) or fashion (Architecture in Fashion, 1996).
How to Read Architecture should not be confused with guides like How to Read Buildings (Carol Davidson Cragoe, 2008) that focus on buildings’ tectonic elements without looking at the historical, sociopolitical, and contextual parameters that impact architecture. Singley’s work deepens substantially the conversation on that front.
While the book’s journey through different architectural examples (and relevant principles regarding their reading) is definitely vast and impressive, the selection of these examples is not necessarily the most characteristic one. A reader more initiated into architecture than perhaps a student would be wonders why specific architectural examples have been prioritized over other possible ones in relation to specific notions and ideas. A clear explanation regarding these choices could strengthen the understanding of their reading. On that same front, some atemporal historical connections (Baroque architecture as a proto-parametric model or Palladio’s buildings as a parametric “shape grammar”), although acknowledged by the author in the text, would benefit from further elaboration and more meticulous justifications. The fact that the book is intended as an introduction makes it understandable that these areas are not addressed in a more thorough manner.