Children's Books for Future Landscape Architects (or architects or urban designers or planners)


I have two kids, ages almost 6 and 3, and while they love reading books, I enjoy reading their books as much if not more than they do.  I love the nostalgia and silliness of Dr. Seuss and Roald Dahl and the clever stories and terms that Mo Willems churns. The way my kids respond to books has shown me the power within their pages. One book can spark a new interest that lasts days, months – even years. One book can lead to the insistence that we read tens more on the same topic.

So naturally, I try to select books on topics that are also interesting to me (after all, I’m equally invested in reading these). This prompted an unofficial research project on children’s books about the built environment. With the exception of the immense stock of books about construction, trucks, trains and planes, there are relatively few stories about the professions and interests of the designers and planners or about the shape and functions of cities, buildings, communities, neighborhoods and parks themselves.

However disappointed I was by the brevity of my list, books like Iggy Peck, Architectby Andrea Beaty and The Little House by Virginia Burton have been inducted into our nightly favorites. (You can find my assuredly incomplete list of children’s books on landscape, architecture, planning and otherwise urban-related topics at the end of this post.)

What is curious about this short list is that designers and planners love to publish books – but often these books are more effective as marketing tools for their services than as revenue generators from their royalties. Michael Crosbie, FAIA, who is currently the associate dean, architecture department chair, and associate professor at the University of Hartford and also edits Faith & Form magazine, has written more than 20 books on architecture. Five of these are specifically for children. Michael wrote a series of children’s book published by Wiley in 1993: Architecture Counts, Architecture Colors, Architecture Shapes, and Architecture Animals; in 2000 he wrote Arches to Zigzags which was published by Abrams. “The Wiley books have sold more than 120,000 copies, and continue to sell well nearly 20 years after publication, so they have by far been the most popular books I've ever written,” Michael says.

Watching my kids get excited by their books reminds me that I “discovered” the design and planning professions well after I established my career. Perhaps if I had read The Curious Garden by Peter Brown when I was five years old, I may have studied landscape architecture instead. From loosely polling my landscape, architecture, planner, urban designer friends, I’ve noticed that most of them chose their profession because they had a parent, uncle, aunt or family friend that was in a related profession. If this is how young people are still being recruited into studying design and planning, it’s no wonder why these fields suffer from a lack of diversity.

This is a missed opportunity! A children’s book that can be found in a public library can transcend races, genders, economic classes and cultures. What’s the literary legacy you’d prefer, a silly picture book about a personal learning experience that inspired a little girl to pursue your vocation or the coffee table monograph that you’ll give to your clients?

Children’s Books Relating to Design or Planning of the Built Environment

(Did I leave one of your favorites off? Please comment with title and author and I’ll add it.)

 

This blog was previously posted on Metropolismag.com and Waltercomms.wordpress.com.

Views: 4481

Comment

You need to be a member of Land8 to add comments!

Join Land8

Comment by Mark Hieber on December 14, 2012 at 7:17am

I suggest adding "The Salamander Room" by Ann Mazer.  An engaging story of a boy who brings a salamander home.  In trying to make the salamander comfortable, he ends up making his room like the forest.  Beautifully illustrated.  A good lesson for us to adapt to nature rather than the opposite.

Comment by Nina Pulver on December 12, 2012 at 8:21am

I love that you included Barbara Cooney's Island Boy ... but Miss Rumphius (also by Cooney) still inspires me to this day!

Comment by Andrew Spiering on December 11, 2012 at 2:15pm

Excellent post...thanks for contributing such an extensive list!  

New Jobs!

Members

Forum

Tree for inside/ outside 16 Replies

I'm designing a home in Temecula, CA, Zone 10, where i'd like to have a tree growing inside and the same kind of tree outside.  Both indoor and outdoor spaces receive partial to full sun depending on the time of day.I have 2 questions:- The height…Continue

Started by Paul Minotto in DETAILS & MATERIALS. Last reply by Paul Minotto 11 hours ago.

HOUSTON, TEXAS - Flooding & Drainage Design - August 28, 2017 15 Replies

HOUSTON, TEXAS...Flooding & Drainage Design - Hurricane HarveyI would like to read thoughts and opinions of any LAs here on LAND 8 about the FLOODING and DRAINAGE design issues in the Houston, Texas area.I realize that for CITIES......have…Continue

Started by J. Robert Wainner in STORY BOARD. Last reply by Tara Klein Sep 13.

What is the best way to improve design skills? 21 Replies

I have a passion for public green open space design but don't have much experience in this type of project. What would you recommend for someone like me to improve on this? Continue

Started by Benjamin Loh in GENERAL DISCUSSION. Last reply by Tom Turner Aug 31.

Canada-How to become a registered landscape architect in Canada 2 Replies

Hi,I am a landscape architecture graduate from China with eight years experiences in landscape architecture in China and two years experiences as a landscape designer in Canada. I am wondering if I am able to take the L.A.R.E. without taking…Continue

Started by Julie Zhuge in GENERAL DISCUSSION. Last reply by Julie Zhuge Aug 28.

Latest Activity

© 2017   Created by Matt Alcide.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service