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COMPUTERS CAN MAKE ARCHITECTS INNOVATE IN IRRATIONAL AND SELF-INDULGENT WAYS

TECHNICAL & PRACTICE

1. Building Structures: From Concepts to Design (Second edition) By Malcolm Millais.2004. 423pp. £29

Everything in the 1997 edition is retained here, with additional structural information and new chapters which illuminate Millais' strong views on building design and architecture, writes Derek Sugden. All of this makes this new edition a must for architects and engineers.

Millais has added a preface, a new introduction and some descriptions of torsional behaviour and curved elements.

Chapter 11 is a philosophical and analytical review of the relationship between structure, construction and architecture.

The writing is based on Millais' years of experience working with distinguished, and not so distinguished, architects and includes careful analysis of some of the great architectural icons of the past and the work of a few of today's big names.

The 'Guggenheim' section in 11.8 is not so much critique as a polemical observation on how the structural engineer today, with his powerful computer programmes, can make practically anything work, encouraging architects to 'innovate' in the most irrational and self-indulgent ways. Once again the argument is presented through Millais' clear sketches and straightforward prose style.

How I wish that, when I was introduced to the 'theory of structures' and 'strength of materials', Millais' book had been available to replace the dense and boring tomes that I was presented with. The last two chapters - 'A Simple Approach to Calculations' and 'The Mathematical Basis' - form a wonderful coda to the work.

If there is a single point implicit in Millais book, it is that the analysis of structures is a straightforward, rational process and that architects should not have delegated this so completely to the engineer.

It is the separation of the professions that has led to an architecture which would make Wittgenstein - who believed in the synthesis of aesthetics, logic and ethics - turn in his grave.

Derek Sugden is an engineer and acoustician

2. Assessing Building Performance Edited by Wolfgang Preiser and Jacqueline Vischer.Elsevier, 2005. 243pp.

A thorough overview and then a detailed examination of most things necessary to assess the out-turn performance of your schemes. However, the work is so densely worded, presentationally, that this is definitely a 'dip into' or a study manual.

From Economic and Sustainability indices, lifecycle modelling and the skills and mechanisms for a successful design review, all the way through to post-occupancy evaluation toolkits and benchmarking sustainability - this book is useful for referencing, showing to clients to get more fees for additional services, and to keep Part 3 students on their toes.

3. The Architect in Practice, 9th edition, David Chappell & Andrew Willis.Blackwell Publishing, 2005. 384pp.

If you didn't read this book as a student, how did you ever manage to pass? This is the classic work that lays out the duties of an architect in a straightforward, readable, and easy-to-dip-into format.

It follows the logical progression of various aspects of an architect's engagement: from initial enquiry to completion; from architectural education to insurance at retirement and from setting up a practice to dissolving a partnership.

Buy this book, read it and sail through exams.

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