“A fascinating and indefinable book … How Buildings Learn is a hymn to entropy, a witty, heterodox book dedicated to kicking the stuffing out of the proposition that architecture is permanent and that buildings cannot adapt.”
– Stephen Bayley
“Evolutionary design is healthier than visionary design.”
– Stewart Brand
How Buildings Learn is Stewart Brand’s remarkable and memorable book which proposes – convincingly – that “buildings work best when constantly refined and reshaped by their occupants”.
What, Brand asks, “makes some buildings keep getting better, and others not?” The approach he took was to “look at buildings after they’re built. That’s when the users take over and begin to reshape the building to suit their own, real needs. What kinds of buildings work well with that evolution, and why do so many buildings work so badly?”
“Magazine architecture” is the phrase Brand coins to describe the sort of famous, or would-be famous, buildings which are functional failures. “A major culprit is architectural photography. Clare Cooper Marcus said it most clearly: ‘You get work through getting awards, and the award system is based on photographs. Not use. Not context.’ Tales were told of ambitious architects specifically designing their buildings to photograph well at the expense of performing well.”
Do seek out the book – it is out of print, but secondhand copies are easy to find online; and the six-part TV series broadcast on BBC2 in 1997, can be found here.