The Best Architecture Books for All Grade Levels

 “Architecture is art you can’t escape.” My husband said those words to me the other day, and they really stuck with me.

I started thinking, “Architecture is everywhere, but I really don’t spend very much time diving into the world of architecture in my classroom.” That was going to change! As art teachers, we find ourselves in a great position to educate our students about architecture through many different creative avenues. However, sometimes it’s nice to go back-to-basics with a great book. I combed through a stack of architecture books to bring you the best of the best for each grade level. I’ll go through the good (read it) and the bad (shelve it) so you can decide which to choose for your classroom. Happy reading!


best architecture books


Elementary Level Books


Architecture According to Pigeons

by Speck Lee Tailfeather


Read it: This book is written by a Pigeon. I am not kidding. That alone should make you want to read it.

Shelve it: What kind of a teacher shelves a book written by a Pigeon? This book is ingenious for younger students.


Eyewitness Visual Dictionary: The Visual Dictionary of Buildings

a Dorling Kindersley Book

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Read it: This book would be great for any grade level. It provides enlarged pictures that are labeled with every architectural element and definition you could possibly want to know.

Shelve it: Be prepared to know how to pronounce several of the architectural elements.


Crazy Buildings

by Michael J. Rosen and Ben Kassoy

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Read it: This fun book showcases some of the oddest building structures ever designed. I can foresee many great conversations about what is considered architecture when reading through this book.

Shelve it: Come on, any book with Dog Bark Park Inn is worth a view.


Middle School Level Books


Architecture Explained

by Neil Stevenson

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Read it: This awesome book helps diagram and pinpoint features from your favorite architectural structures. It’s like having a tour guide with you while you’re reading the book.

Shelve it: Tiny font in some sections…eyes beware!


There Goes the Neighborhood: Ten Buildings People Loved to Hate

by Susan Goldman Rubin

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Read it: The title alone made me want to pick this book up. From the Eiffel Tower to McDonalds, the stories behind these architectural “wonders” will certainly make you question what you thought you knew.

Shelve it: Don’t shelve it…you’ll dazzle your students with these once-considered architectural doozies.


Architecture for Dummies

by Deborah K. Dietsch

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Read it: This book has awesome sections about how to “Know and Appreciate Architecture” as well as some “Top 10” lists that will make you the hit of any architectural book club.

Shelve it: 98% of it has black and white photographs.


High School Level Books


Eyewitness Companions: Architecture

by Jonathan Glancey

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Read it: This book is like the travelers guide to architecture. Perfect handheld guide with lots of great detail pictures, facts, and timelines.

Shelve it: You’re going to want to travel when you pick this book up and that’s going to cost you a lot of money.


The Story of Architecture

by Jonathan Glancey

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Read it: This is the perfect reference book for your high school student to look up information because it highlights each architectural period with a brief synopsis and gives bonus architect spotlights.

Shelve it: 240 pages makes for a long read…I’d browse this book instead.


Art Teacher Book


The Annotated Arch: A Crash Course in the History of Architecture

by Carol Stickland, Ph.D.

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Read it: This is the best architecture history book I have ever read. It takes you through all the major architectural achievements throughout history with additional side facts, charts, and lots of color pictures.

Shelve it: This book helped me pass my teaching exams. I have nothing but love and gratitude for this book.


There you go! Some great choices to get you started no matter what grade level you teach!


What are your favorite architecture books to use with students?

Are there any fiction titles you would add to this list?


Magazine articles and podcasts are opinions of professional education contributors and do not necessarily represent the position of the Art of Education University (AOEU) or its academic offerings. Contributors use terms in the way they are most often talked about in the scope of their educational experiences.


Jennifer Borel

Jennifer Borel is one of AOEU’s Adjunct Instructors and Academic Advisors and a former AOEU Writer and elementary art educator. She runs her own photography business and is passionate about students exploring the medium.

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