Stewart Brand's "How Buildings Learn" is a well put together book on a
rarely addressed topic. By well put together I mean that it is not only well
written, but well illustrated. The photographs are excellent and help explain
the topic under discussion.
The book is about how buildings change over time. Brand shows numerous
examples of how different buildings have changed with use. More important he
explains what makes a building that can improve and adapt to new uses as it
ages. This is important for architecture since builds often last longer than the
people who design and build them. At some point they may be put to uses that
were never anticipated when they were built.
The author, who is an architect, is highly critical of how his colleges
design buildings. Most buildings are designed without any thought for the
occupants. Nor is any thought given to the uses the building will be put to in
the future. Few buildings are designed so they can adapt to unanticipated uses.
In brands opinion the more impressive the design of the building the less useful
it will be to it's occupants.
Brand offers advise and examples on how to make a building that will last
and be used and loved by its occupants for a long time. These rules are fairly
simple. Several good examples are included. This is the most important part of
I read this book about architecture even though I am not an architect and
have no particular interest in the subject. This book was worth while because of
the ideas for how to design something complex and long lived so that it will
remain useful. This can be applied to software engineering just as well as
architecture. I do not know of any better discussion of the subject.