An entire wall of Amata Luphaiboon’s office at his design firm Department of Architecture consists of floor-to-ceiling bookshelves that stretch from one end of the room to the other. “The books in my office can be divided into three categories: magazines, research and project books. We used to subscribe to many magazines, but now we’ve reduced to three: Mark, Frame and a+u,” he says.
However, in the digital age where architectural news is readily available through websites, books and magazines remain important. “Websites don’t provide the depth that books can. With the printed product, you can compare plans and look at the actual built project on the page. I don’t think web readers can develop their analytical skills in architecture as well as those who read actual books. So they are still crucial in keeping up to date with architectural news. The second category is books for research. Research leads to the concept and design direction. The third category is the compilations of each architect’s work. These are useful because we are able to see how a certain architect’s work has changed throughout the years. There are also books on different building types, eg libraries or concert halls,” explains Amata.
“While architecture manifestos are quite commonly recommended to be read by young designers, I personally enjoy reading interviews with architects. I think they’re more fun to read because often the books are conversations between two architects, so you get a dichotomy between the opinions of the interviewer and interviewee.”
When it comes to novels and movie adaptations, many read the book first before seeing the movie. The order, however, is reversed for Amata. “For example, I first came across EM Forster at university through the film adaptation of Maurice, which introduced me to his other novels: A Room With A View, Howard’s End and A Passage To India. Another favourite novel of mine is The Talented Mr Ripley series by Patricia Highsmith. Another book that recently left a deep impression is Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go. It’s such a beautiful book—the drama is very subtle but incredibly heart wrenching. Usually, I barely have time to read, but if I find a book that’s really impactful I will stop everything to read it. With Never Let Me Go, I took a trip to Samui for a few days just to spend time with the book.”
With limited time for reading in recent years because of a busy schedule, Amata has started to stockpile books. “I have a stack that’s waiting to be read. Some of them are in the office and some at home. These include novels that have been adapted into movies, general interest books and books on Thai artists. I know that I will read them eventually, perhaps when I retire,” he laughs.