Books & Essays

Books & Essays


Released: April 20, 2017

The Age of Spectacle: adventures in architecture and the 21st century city

Tom’s first book - a history of contemporary architecture and cities - will be published on April 20, by Random House.

“In Dubai, a luxury apartment block is built in the shape of a giant iPod. In China, President Xi Jinping denounces the trend of ‘bizarre’ new buildings, after a proliferation of skyscrapers constructed in wacky forms and colours. In Cincinnati, celebrity architect Zaha Hadid is paid millions to design a single ‘iconic’ structure – with the hope of single-handedly transforming the region’s ailing fortunes. These incidents are all part of the same story: the rise of the age of spectacle.

Over the last fifty years there has been a revolution in how our cities work. Concrete tower-blocks have given way to brash corporate skyscrapers; decaying warehouses have been transformed into plush designer flats; and cities that were once designed by dour, public-spirited planners are now dominated by world-famous ‘starchitects’.

The Age of Spectacle is a chronicle of how architecture has become obsessed with the flashy, the monumental and the ostentatious – and how we all have to live with the consequences.

Tom Dyckhoff shows that we are not just witnessing a new kind of building, but are rather living through a fundamental transformation in how our urban spaces operate. He traces how the corporate explosion of the last few decades has fundamentally shifted the relationship between architects, politicians and cities’ inhabitants, fostering many innovative new engineering and design ideas, but also facilitating ill-conceived vanity projects and commercial power-grabs.

Exploring cityscapes from New York to Beijing, and from Bilbao to Portsmouth, The Age of Spectacle is both an examination of how twenty-first century cities work, and a manifesto for a radically new kind of urbanism. Our cities, Dyckhoff shows, can thrive in the age of spectacle – but only if they engage us not just with dazzling structures, but by responding to the needs of the people who inhabit them.”


Sir Banister Fletcher’s Global History of Architecture

From 2013 to 2015 Tom was the editorial consultant for the 21st edition of Sir Banister Fletcher’s Global History of Architecture (Bloomsbury), rethinking the content, tone, structure, purpose and digital future of this monumental, classic text - first published in the late 19th century - which surveys the history of architecture around the world from its origins to the present day.

‘Higher and higher: how London bought the loft’, in London: From Punk to Blair
Edited by Joe Kerr and Andrew Gibson
(Reaktion Books, 2003; second edition, 2013)

An essay on the rise and fall of warehouse and loft-living in London, from the 1970s to the present day, within a book of essays on the culture of modern-day London.

The Architecture of London 2012: Vision, Design, Legacy (Wiley, 2012), with Claire Barrett

The official guidebook to the architecture of the London 2012 Olympic Games.

The Authentic Landscape: architecture and citizenship in British architecture 1945-1951
Edited by Vittorio Lampugnani, Jöran Lindvall and Vladimir Slapeta
(DVA, 2000)

An essay on the post-WW2 reconstruction of British cities, within a book of essays examining local identity in architecture.