Professor Simon Unwin BArch PhD Registered Architect

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Simon Unwin is a freelance writer and lecturer based in Cardiff, UK. He is a registered architect but concentrates on writing about architecture and teaching architectural analysis and design. His publications include six books: Analysing Architecture (Routledge, London, 1997, 2003, 2009, 2014 and 2021); An Architecture Notebook: Wall (Routledge, 2000); Doorway (Routledge, 2007); Twenty-Five Buildings Every Architect Should Understand (Routledge, 2010 and 2015); Exercises in Architecture (Routledge, 2012); and The Ten Most Influential Buildings in History: Architecture's Archetypes (Routledge, 2016). These books are used in schools of architecture around the world. Analysing Architecture has been translated into Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Persian, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish and Arabic.

In 2019, Simon Unwin instigated a new series of Analysing Architecture Notebooks (see right) which further explore the workings of architecture, offering ideas to those facing the challenges of doing it. So far, there are four volumes: Children as Place-Makers (2019); Metaphor (2019); Curve (2019); and Shadow (2020). Further volumes are in prospect.

Simon Unwin is Emeritus Professor of Architecture at the University of Dundee, Scotland, where he was Professor from 2004 to 2009. Previously he was Senior Lecturer at the Welsh School of Architecture in Cardiff University, Wales, where he continues to teach occasionally. He has lived in Australia as well as the UK and taught or lectured in Israel, the USA, China, Malaysia, India, Sweden, Turkey and at other schools of architecture in the UK and Europe.

Contact: info@simonunwin.com

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SeCRETS of ARCHITECTURE

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The SeCRETS of ARCHITECTURE series of eBooks explores the underlying architecture of significant buildings, gardens, urban compositions from around the world and all periods of history and prehistory. The aim of the series is to get inside the minds of architects, wherever and whenever they operated, by analyzing their work. Each eBook focuses on a particular example. The methodology for analysis is based on that illustrated in my books Analysing ARCHITECTURE (Routledge, 2009) and Twenty Buildings Every Architect Should Understand (Routledge, 2010).

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VILLA LE LAC

The second eBook in the SeCRETS of ARCHITECTURE Series analyzes Le Corbusier's Villa Le Lac, on the banks of Lac Léman in Switzerland.

SeCRETS of ARCHITECTURE eBooks are downloadable for your iPad from iBooks.

Villa Le Lac - Simon Unwin

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Skara Brae

The first eBook in the SeCRETS of ARCHITECTURE Series analyzes the Neolithic village of Skara Brae on the Orkney Islands.

SeCRETS of ARCHITECTURE eBooks are downloadable for your iPad from iBooks.

SKARA BRAE - Simon Unwin

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Analysing Architecture

Many people find it difficult learning to do architecture. Initially it can be like asking your brain to do something for which it has no frame of reference. Generally speaking, pre-university education does not prepare the creative mind for the peculiar challenges of architecture. I have known intelligent people – A-grade students in literary or science subjects, unused to academic difficulty – whose confidence has been knocked when faced with the challenges of architecture. Back in the 1990s, I wrote this book to help and, through subsequent editions, revised and expanded it to make it better. This is the fifth edition, complete with new chapters and a subtitle which is explained in the Introduction.

The theory of architecture the book presents remains the same. Even so, in response to comments gleaned from a survey of users conducted by my publisher, I continue to try to express it more clearly and thoroughly.

There are a few significant changes. The Case Studies at the end of previous editions have been omitted and much of the material contained in them redistributed amongst earlier chapters. Alternative and more thorough case studies can be found in the sister book Twenty-Five Buildings Every Architect Should Understand (2017). The Case Studies have been replaced by a completely rewritten chapter on ‘How Analysis Can Help Design’, moved from its position early in the book and placed at the end, where references can be made back to examples in earlier chapters. The chapter on ‘Temples and Cottages’ has been moved near the end too, for similar reasons.

In addition, four extra chapters have been added under the banner ‘Themes in Spatial Organisation’: on ‘Axis’, ‘Grid’, ‘Datum Place’ and ‘Hidden’. Other themes relating to Analysing Architecture can be found, treated at greater length, in the separate volumes of the Analysing Architecture Notebook series.

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An Architecture Notebook: Wall

An Architecture Notebook builds on the foundation of Simon Unwin's previous book Analysing Architecture (Routledge, 1997). Using numerous examples, illustrated with clear line drawings, this volume describes and illustrates the many powers attaching to one of the most basic architectural elements – the wall.

Exploring its primitive origins in relation to the natural walls of cliffs and caves, illustrating the effects and opportunities of its evolution into the artificial and then the naked cave, and examining the ways in which it is used to frame and organise the spaces of our lives, this book presents the wall as one of the most powerful inventions of the mind.

Like its predecessor, An Architecture Notebook is a stimulus to thinking about what one can do with architecture. It offers an example to student architects of how they might keep their own architecture notebooks, collecting ideas, sorting strategies, generally expanding their understanding of the potential of architecture to change the world.

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Doorway

Remember that frisson as you step through a doorway: into a crowded party or a silent church; for a job interview, or into your own home after a long journey. Though we take them for granted, doorways impinge on our lives in many ways. Their thresholds divide up the world, punctuating our movements from place to place and creating 'fault-lines' in our experience. Their mystery intrigues and challenges us. We measure ourselves against them and they set down the geometry of our relationships. Doorways affect our emotions and influence how we behave; sitting on a doorstep, we can find peace just watching the world go by. Framing the transient moment, doorways stand as reminders of the 'between' in which we live. It is no wonder that through human history and across all cultures, doorways have possessed great symbolic power and had ceremonies and rituals associated with them.

Doorway is a profound but accessible and entertaining exploration of the ways our built surroundings set out the spatial matrix of our existence. Using examples from archaeology to the present, and from all around the world, this book provides a fresh and revealing perspective on architecture and its poetry.

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Twenty-Five Buildings Every Architect Should Understand

Twenty-Five Buildings Every Architect Should Understand is an essential companion to Simon Unwin’s Analysing Architecture, and part of the trilogy which also includes his Exercises in Architecture: Learning to Think as an Architect. Together the three books offer an introduction to the workings of architecture providing for the three aspects of learning: theory, examples and practice. Twenty-Five Buildings focusses on analysing examples using the methodology offered by Analysing Architecture, which operates primarily through the medium of drawing.

In this second edition five further buildings have been added to the original twenty from an even wider geographical area, which now includes the USA, France, Italy, Mexico, Switzerland, Spain, Finland, Germany, Australia, Norway, Sweden, India and Japan.

The underlying theme of Twenty-Five Buildings Every Architect Should Understand is the relationship of architecture to the human being, how it frames our lives and orchestrates our experiences; how it can help us make sense of the world and contribute to our senses of identity and place. Exploring these dimensions through a wide range of case studies that illustrate the rich diversity of twentieth- and twenty-first-century architecture, this book is essential reading for every architect.

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Exercises in Architecture

Architecture is a doing word. You can learn a great deal about the workings of architecture through analysing examples but a fuller understanding of its powers and potential comes through practice, by trying to do it. As you learn a language you need to practise using it; and as you practise you learn more about what you can do with the language. It is the same with architecture… This book offers student architects a series of twelve exercises that will develop their capacity for doing architecture. Each exercise is divided into a short series of tasks aimed at developing a particular theme or area of architectural capacity, providing prompts for practice. The exercises deal with themes such as place-making, learning through drawing, framing, light, uses of geometry, stage-setting, the genetics of detail and many more.

Exercises in Architecture builds on and supplements the methodology for architectural analysis presented in the author's previous book Analysing Architecture (third edition, Routledge, 2009) and demonstrated in his Twenty Buildings Every Architect Should Understand (Routledge, 2010). Together, the three books deal with the three aspects of acquiring any creative discipline: Analysing Architecture provides a methodology for analysis that develops an understanding of the way architecture works; Twenty Buildings explores and extends that methodology through analysis of examples as case studies; and Exercises in developing capability in architecture by following rudimentary exercises.

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The Ten Most Influential Buildings in History: Architecture's Archetypes

Even the most inventive and revolutionary architects of today owe debts to the past, often to the distant past when architecture really was being invented for the first time. Architects depend on their own imaginations for personal insights and originality but their ideas may be stimulated (consciously or subliminally) by particularly powerful buildings from history. The Ten Most Influential Buildings in History: Architecture’s Archetypes identifies ten architectural archetypes that have been sources of inspiration for architects through the centuries. Each archetype is analysed through distinctive examples, following the methodology established by the author in his previous books. The variety of ‘lines of enquiry’ each archetype has provoked in latter-day architects is then explored by analysing their work to reveal ideas inspired by those earlier buildings. Archetypes have a timeless relevance. In adopting this approach, The Ten Most Influential Buildings in History is as pertinent to contemporary practice as it is to understanding buildings from antiquity, and offers insights into the bridges of influence that can operate between the two.

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The 'Person' Notebook

The Person Notebook - Simon Unwin

The 'Person' Notebook

I began this notebook in 2004 alongside some of the other notebooks in this series. I had the idea that I could devote separate notebooks to specific themes, and for a while carried around five or six notebooks. Needless to say this discipline eventually failed. The present notebook began as a record of investigations of the relationships between architecture and the person. This theme, because it is so general, does prevail throughout the notebook, but its pages also contain material prepared for the book Doorway (Routledge, 2007), and drawings related to various trips abroad.

The 'Time' Notebook

The Time Notebook - Simon Unwin

The 'Time' Notebook

This notebook started as exploration of the theme 'time in architecture' but gradually other themes pushed their way in. Like the other notebooks in this series it has not been edited. This iBookstore edition contains a brief Introduction but otherwise is a facsimile of the original notebook.

The 'Entrance' Notebook

The Entrance Notebook - Simon Unwin

The 'Entrance' Notebook

This notebook contains some of the research for the book Doorway. It was not compiled with publication in mind and has not been edited.

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You may also download this notebook for your iPad from the iBookstore. The iPad edition has:

  • an Introduction explaining the context of the Notebook
  • easier navigation through a scrollable bar
  • a detailed and fully hyperlinked Index
The 'Place' Notebook

The 'Place' Notebook

This notebook started with a focus on the issue of 'place' but this gradually widened. It too was not compiled with publication in mind and has not been edited.

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The 'Heart' Notebook

The 'Heart' Notebook

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Metaphor

Metaphor is the most powerful component of the poetry of architecture. It has been a significant factor in architecture since the earliest periods of human history, when people were finding ways to give order and meaning to the world in which we live. It is arguable that architecture began with the realisation of metaphor in physical form, and that subsequent movements – from Greek to Gothic, Renaissance to Modern, Victorian to Vernacular… – have all been driven by the emergence or rediscovery of different metaphors by which architecture might be generated.

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Curve

Curve is a divisive issue in architecture. Some see curves as expensive and decadent; others as an expression of transcendence – a way that the human mind can express its freedom from quotidian constraints. Yet others use curves to emulate some of the most beautiful forms in nature. This Notebook considers the various authorities to which architects look for the generation of their curves. It also considers the aspirations curves manifest in architectural form.

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Children as Place-Makers

As children we make places spontaneously: on the beach, in woodland, around our homes… Those places are evidence of a natural language of architecture we all share. Beginning with the child as seed and agent of the places it makes, initial sections of Children as Place-makers illustrate the key ‘verbs’ that drive that natural language of architecture. Later sections look at the core importance of the circle of place, how as children we are drawn to inhabit boxes, and the narrative possibilities that arise when place is linked with imagination. The principal messages of this Notebook are that it is by place-making we make sense of the space of the world in which we live, and that the first step in becoming a professional architect is to re-awaken the innate architect inside each of us.

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Shadow

Shadows may be insubstantial but they are, nevertheless, an important element in architecture. In prehistoric times we sought shade as a refuge from the hot sun and chilling rain. Through history architects have used shadows to draw, to mould form, to paint pictures, to orchestrate atmosphere, to indicate the passing of time… as well as to identify place. Sometimes shadow can be the substance of architecture.

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