Thom Penney used to know a bookstore in Charleston, South Carolina, where he lives, that would keep an eye out for novels featuring architects, and let him know whenever a new one came in. That store, like so many other independents, is out of business now, but Penney, who is the First Vice President of the AIA, and its President-Elect, continues to indulge his passion for collecting, stopping into bookstores whenever he's in a new town, and asking his wife to look for him whenever she's in a bookstore. In the short essay that follows, Penney tells of how his hobby began and touches on a few of his favorites. View reader's comments here.

Kevin Lerner

The Architect in Fiction

As a wide-eyed freshman in college, I was introduced to the wonderful world of Architecture. I soon discovered a parallel world that began a lifelong passion—the Architect in Fiction. In my studies, I grew to love and understand the power of Architecture. Through my reading, I became fascinated with the persona of Architects that novels portray.

The Fountainhead, my first venture into the fictional world of Architects, unveiled to me the strength of conviction of Architects and the impact that fiction can have on the public's perception of Architects. I began to re-read it periodically, unaware that many other examples existed.
After graduation, I read an article in AIA Journal announcing the publication of Monticello Fault (1979), a novel about an Architect written by former AIA President, Archibald Rogers. As I awaited its publication, I began a search for more works of fiction that featured Architects. This search developed into a hobby.

One of my favorites is A Laodicean by Thomas Hardy. This 1881 story includes a design competition, plagiarism, and inadequate fees. Sound familiar? Another favorite is one of the newest in my collection—The Cloud Sketcher by Richard Rayner (2000). This is an epic story of love and war about an architect from Finland who discovers the possibilities unleashed by the invention of the elevator.

My collection includes over 40 books discovered over a period of thirty years. Adding to the collection takes patience, but the occasional "find" is worth the wait.


Thompson E. Penney, FAIA

The List

 Martin Chuzzlewit Charles Dickens 1844
A Laodicean: Or the Castle of the De Stancys Thomas Hardy 1881
Unleavened Bread Robert Grant 1900
The Man of Property John Galsworthy 1906
The Gray Cloth Paul Scheerbart 1914
The Roll Call Arnold Bennett 1918
So Big Edna Ferber 1924
The Honeywood File: An Adventure in Building H.B. Creswell 1929
The Honeywood Settlement H.B. Creswell 1930
Jago v. Swillerton and Toomer H.B. Creswell 1931
The Fountainhead Ayn Rand 1943
Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House Eric Hodgins 1947
A Burnt-Out Case Graham Greene 1960
Les Choses de la Vie (Intersection) Paul Guimard 1967
Ragtime E.L. Doctorow 1975
The Architect B.M. Boyce 1977
The City Builder George Konrad 1977
Monticello Fault Archibald Rogers 1979
The Architect Meyer Levin 1981
Once More the Sun Vivian Lord 1982
Tempest Paul Mazursky 1982
Hawksmoor Peter Ackroyd 1986
Paradise Donald Barthelme 1987
Building Dreams Justine Valenti 1988
The Belly of an Architect (screenplay) Peter Greenaway 1988
Another Present Era Elaine Perry 1990
Debt of Dishonor (originally published as Take No Farewell) Robert Goddard 1991
Outer Banks Anne Rivers Siddons 1991
City of the Mind Penelope Lively 1992
Underworld Peter Conrad 1992
Outside the Dog Museum Jonathan Carroll 1992
Arcadia Jim Crace 1992
Fearless Rafael Yglesias 1993
Decider Dick Francis 1993
Goldmine: London W.I. Philip Daniels 1993
The Big Score Michael Killian 1993
The Horses of the Night Michael Cadnum 1993
Commitment Julie Ellis 1994
As Max Saw It Louis Begley 1994
Karma Mitchell Smith 1994
The Seventh Sacrament James Bradberry 1994
Salt Dancers Ursula Hegi 1995
The Architect's Other Hat Bernice Speight 1995
Second Shadow Amee and David Thurlo 1995
The Inhabited Woman Gioconda Belli 1995
Summer Edith Wharton 1995
Tidings of Great Joy Sandra Brown 1997
Secrecy Belva Plain 1997
Murder In Perspective Keith Miles 1997
One Fine Day (Novelization) H.B. Gilmour 1997
Ice on the Bridge Erich Wolfgang Skwara 1997
Delirium Douglas Cooper 1998
Saint's Rest Keith Miles 1999
Trial By Fire Frank Simon 1999
The Witch Finder Loren D. Estleman 1999
Love's Design Jillian Dagg 2000
A Bullet in an Architect's Head Uta-Maria Heim 2000
The Cloud Sketcher Richard Rayner 2000
Before I Say Good-Bye Mary Higgins Clark 2000
Ampersand Limited Vince Grnua 2000
A Finer End Deborah Crombie 2001
Idee Fize Mark Jacoby 2001
The Color of Midnight John H. Brasher 2001
The Annex Russel James 2002
Dead Woman's Voice Laurence Hutner 2002
Bermuda Grass Keith Miles 2002
Island of Dreams Katherine Stone 2002
Innocent Cities Jack Hodges 2002
The Gold Swan James Thayer 2002