Dear Prospective Downing Architects,
Here are a few pieces of advice on how to prepare for your studies at Cambridge:
1. It is always a good idea to read around your chosen course, to get a better idea of what you may be covering in your first year at Cambridge and to familiarise yourself with the breadth of the subjects, basic ideas and terms in architecture. There is a reading list accompanying this letter which you may find useful and most of the texts should be available to you through various libraries.
2. Brush up on your maths and physics if they are a little rusty. The course requirements are not difficult by any means, perhaps try to familiarise yourself with algebra, basic trigonometry and qualitative ideas of calculus (e.g. rate of change, limits and integration etc.) from your GCSE syllabus.
3. Studio forms the main component of your studies here at Cambridge. Students carry out a series of design projects throughout the three years which form the bulk of the marked work. Prepare yourself by learning from the masters! Use your summer holidays or the time you have before coming here to start looking at architecture around you (both buildings and larger-scale urban projects), and appraise them. Does it work well? If so, why? If not, why not? How could it be made better? Try to answer such questions from functional, technical and social points of view, as well as aesthetics.
Read up on high-profile buildings and architects and try to understand their underlying ideas. Whether these are considered good pieces of architecture are irrelevant, it is the critique you want to get involved in, to acquire a critical eye of your own and draw your own conclusions on their stated concepts.
I wish you well with your studies and explorations and I look forward to meeting you when you arrive in October.
Dr Aram Mooradian
Director of Studies in Architecture
Books recommended for reading by students coming to Cambridge to read Architecture
History and Theory
Banham, R. A Critic Writes: Selected Essays by Reyner Banham. University of California Press, 1999.
Berger, J. Ways of Seeing. Penguin, 1972.
Curtis, W. Modern Architecture Since 1900, Phaidon, 1982.
Evans, R. Translations from Drawing to Building and Other Essays. Architectural Association Publications, 1996.
Frampton, K. Modern Architecture, a Critical History. Thames and Hudson, 1981.
Giedion, S. Space, Time and Architecture. MIT Press, 1973.
Gombrich, E. The Story of Art, Phaidon, 1966.
Koolhaas, R., & Mau, B. S,M,L,XL. Monacelli Press, 2002.
Loos, A. Ornament and Crime: Selected Essays. Ariadne Press, 1998.
von Moos, S. Le Corbusier: Elements of a Synthesis. MIT, 1979.
Pevsner, N. An Outline of European Architecture. Thames & Hudson, 2009.
Rasmussen, S. E. Experiencing Architecture. MIT Press, 1964.
Rossi, A. The Architecture of the City. MIT Press, 1982.
Rudofsky, B. Architecture Without Architects: A Short Introduction to Non-Pedigreed Architecture. University of New Mexico Press, 1987.
Scott-Brown, D. Venturi, R. & Izenour, S. Learning from Las Vegas. MIT Press, 1972.
Summerson, J. The Classical Language of Architecture, MIT Press, 1966.
Trachtenburg & Hayman, Architecture from Pre-History to Post-Modernism, Academy, 1986.
Construction, Structures and Environmental Design
Burberry. Environment and Services. Mitchells, 1986.
Ford, E.R. The Details of Modern Architecture. MIT, 1996.
Gordon. Structures - or Why Things Don’t Fall Down. Penguin, 1978.
Heyman. The Stone Skeleton. The University of Cambridge Press, 1996.
Maclean & Scott. The Penguin Dictionary of Building. Penguin, 1993.
McMullan. Environment Science in Building. MacMillan, 1998 (or more recent edition).
Szokolay. Introduction to Architectural Science: the Basis of Sustainable Design. Architectural Press, 2004.
Zalewski & Allen. Shaping Structures: Statics. John Wiley & Sons, 1998.
Ballard, J.G. High-Rise. Penguin, 1985.
Calvino, I. Invisible Cities. Vintage Classics, 1997.
Perec, G. Species of Spaces and Other Pieces. Penguin Classics, 1998.
Sebald, W.G. Austerlitz. Penguin, 2011.
Spector, The Ethical Architect. Princeton Architectural Press (2001).
Wolfe, T. From Bauhaus to Our House. Farier Straus Giroux, 1981.