There are two things required for every architectural project: a site, and a program.
Architectural programming is part of the pre-design phase for buildings, which involves research and decision-making to help the architect and client establish criteria for the basis of a building’s design.
This is time-intensive process, but programming in architecture is extremely important to create a framework for the entire project. Sometimes, the client may hire an architect for the programming phase and service the rest of the design work to another architect entirely. Creating an architectural program is ultimately about creating a ‘playbook’ for an architectural design.
Every move considered at this stage has a potential to manifest within the final product. The architectural program will be the “playbook” for the design, and the designer must attempt to coalesce the technical aspects, as well as the experiential qualities of space to create a base point of reference for the entire project.
That being said, creating an architectural program can be a daunting task for a designer. It’s important for the designer to arm themselves with resources that can help not only bring inspiration, but build a list of references that are used throughout the profession.
Here are 7 architectural programming books that I highly recommend you add to your library.
Architecture Design Programming: 7 Essential Books
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1.) Introduction to Architectural Programming, by Edward T. White
White’s “Introduction the Architectural Programming” is a perfect starting place for you to learn about the fundamentals of architectural programming. Originally published in 1972, this book can be considered one of the founding publications on architectural programming.
Introduction to Architectural Programming
2.) Problem Seeking, by William Peña
Peña can be considered as one of the “founding fathers” of architectural programming, and his work with CRS has shaped the profession in so many ways… Seek, and you shall define!
These are two distinct processes, requiring different attitudes, even different capabilities. Problem solving is a valid approach to design when, indeed, the design solution responds to the client’s design problem. Only after a thorough search for pertinent information can the client’s design problem be stated.
Problem Seeking: An Architectural Programming Primer
3.) Architectural Programming and Predesign Manager, by Robert G. Hershberger
“Various programming methods have been developed and used over the years as clients, architects, and programmers have tried to arrive at appropriate definitions for particular architectural problems. These methods range from informal discussions between client and architect to carefully articulated research studies covering similar facilities and users leading to a comprehensive and detailed program. Most programming approaches fall between the two extremes.” — Robert G. Hershberger, (pg. 6)
Architectural Programming and Predesign Manager
4.) Methods of Architectural Programming, by Henry Sanoff
It is the responsibility of the architect to become to facilitator – the leader of accommodating people’s desires by thoughtfully crafting the built environment.
Sanoff covers methods for retrieving information for architectural programming, which will ultimately help set up the entire narrative for the project.
Methods of Architectural Programming
5.) Inquiry by Design, by John Zeisel
This book is broken into two parts:
Part 1 describes the collaboration between designers and researchers and the importance of applying theory to the design process.
Part 2 investigates methods of research that help one understand how buildings and spaces work, by questioning how human behavior is impacted by the physical environment.
Inquiry by Design – Environment/Behavior/ Neuroscience in Architecture, Interiors, Landscape and Planning
6.) Architectural Programming: Creative Techniques for Design Professionals, by Robert R. Kumlin
“This book bridges the gap between theory and reality by offering programming checklists, workbooks, and real-world perspectives that break down design myths in architectural practices.”Effective program even the most sophisticated facilities.”
“Here’s the easy to gather, organize, and assess any client’s building use data–so you can effectively design everything from office towers to health and educational facilities. Loaded with checklists, forms, and questionnaires that help you determine room size, use and function requirements, staff and employee projections, permit fees, and much more.”
Architectural Programming, by Robert R. Kumlin, will help you: select and organize the programming team; compile architectural data; choose and utilize common area measurement systems, including AIA, ANSI, and NRC; determine and communicate the priorities of the project in guiding and evaulating the design process; overcome conflicting interests and achieve a creative program consensus; much more.”
Architectural Programming: Creative Techniques for Design Professionals
7.) Programming for Design: From Theory to Practice, by Edith Cherry
This is one of the all-time best books on architectural programming. As one of the more recent publications on this list, you will find a comprehensive collection of topics on all things programming: theory, philosophy, client values, research-based information analysis, programmatic strategies, building and energy code integration, and much more…
This is a must-read for every architect, regardless of the scale of their work. The programming phase of architectural design is extremely important, and this will serve as your guiding light through the programming process.
Programming for Design: From Theory to Practice
Architectural programming is the backbone of all practical architectural design, so it’s absolutely critical to learn about for your own design process. If you have experience in architectural programming, I’d love to hear about it!
Also, if you think I’ve missed something on this list, be sure to reach out to me and let me know. I’d love to keep growing this list and discovering more resources that uncover the magic of architectural programming.