Five Books That Changed My Life: Marshall Brown

The architect’s picks include Foucault, an essay on bullsh*t

By Thomas Connors

Five Books That Changed My Life: Marshall Brown
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16 August 2017

Many of us take the architecture that surrounds us — and its impact on our daily lives — for granted.

But never Marshall Brown, the Bronzeville architect and Illinois Institute of Technology professor who can wax for hours on art, design and the future of cities, Chicago included.

The man operates Marshall Brown Projects, an urban design and architecture and studio that’s connected to New Projects, an exhibition space and research center he co-founded. He’s fearlessly imagined driverless cities. “The Architectural Imagination,” an exhibition on Brown’s speculative projects for the city of Detroit, debuted at the 2016 Venice Biennale before traveling to Detroit then L.A., where it’s now on view at the A+D Museum.

And honestly, that’s just scratching the surface.

Brown will be among the field of international participants at this year’s Chicago Architecture Biennial, the season-long exposition celebrating all things edificial, kicking off next month.

In anticipation, we asked him to name the five books that helped shape his career, from the heady prose of Michel Foucault to a must-read essay on calling out bullsh*t.

The Archaeology of Knowledge: And the Discourse on Language by Michel Foucault
“I have long been interested in architecture’s status as a discourse. Among other things, Foucault argues that creation begins with the repetition of previous events. For an architect, this suggests that newness or novelty must somehow always begin with a consciousness of one’s predecessors." BUY IT HERE

The New Vision, from Material to Architecture by Laszlo Moholy-Nagy
“This book outlines the foundation curriculum from the Bauhaus. It not only educated me about the roots of my own training, but also helped me understand the intimate relation between media, technique and design thinking.” MORE INFO HERE

Writings on Cities by Henri Lefebvre
“Lefebvre clarifies the difference between modern urbanization and the historical cities we once knew.  He also theorizes the role of architects and planners, reminding us that architects cannot produce social relations, but that “under certain favorable conditions they help trends to be formulated (to take shape).” BUY IT HERE

The Art of the Long View by Peter Schwartz
“This book introduced me to the world of futures studies and scenario planning.  It’s all about how we not only cope with, but embrace uncertainty and use it as fuel for the imagination.” BUY IT HERE

On Bullshit by Harry Frankfurt
“Frankfurt outlines a brief theory of bullshit and explains how it is in a separate rhetorical category from either lying or truth-telling.  The book explains much about the current state of public discourse, while also providing much inspiration for rethinking the role of narrative and storytelling in our lives.” BUY IT HERE

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