For the advocate of alternative building systems, consider Houses of Steel (Images Publishing, $50), a collection of the finalist and winning concepts created over the past three years for the global Living Steel International Architecture Competition. With components in India, Poland, Brazil, China, the United Kingdom, and Russia, the competition is designed to stimulate the use of steel in sustainable housing and encourages architects to address the urgent need for sustainable urban housing around the world. Houses of Steel details the competition finalists' entries with images and drawings of each project, giving a unique insight into the diverse ways architects approached the same challenge.

For proponents of affordable housing and density, Growing Urban Habitats: Seeking a New Housing Development Model (William Stout, $40) guides readers through 16 design opportunities for affordable, dense, compact, and sustainable housing. The book draws from the goals of "Urban Habitats," a 2005 design competition by Habitat for Humanity of Greater Charlottesville and the Charlottesville Community Design Center for the redevelopment of a trailer park. The authors—William R. Morrish, dean of the School of Constructed Environments at Parsons The New School for Design; designer and architecture writer Susanne Schindler; and Katie Swenson, senior director of the Enterprise Rose Fellowship in Community Architecture—use case studies of proposals selected from the "Urban Habitats" competition as well as the contemporary work of designers such as Anderson Anderson, Koning Eizenberg, Onion Flats, and Zoka Zola.

History and architecture enthusiasts might appreciate The Architecture Pop Up Book (Rizzoli New York, $45), by Anton Radevsky, a three-dimensional exploration of great architectural accomplishments, both ancient and modern. Artwork, photographs, and 3-D replicas of Egypt's pyramids, Greek and Roman buildings, Asia's architectural wonders, Gothic and Neoclassical masterpieces, and the work of modern architects such as Gaudi, Frank Lloyd Wright, and Frank Gehry all are featured.

Also consider From Autos to Architecture: Fordism and Architectural Aesthetics in the Twentieth Century (Princeton Architectural Press, $60), by sociologist David Gartman, for a critical social history of modern architecture's origins. Addressing the question of why modern architecture emerged from war-ravaged central Europe rather than the highly industrialized United States, Gartman shows how Fordist mass production and industrial architecture in America influenced European designers far more than has been previously understood. The book illustrates the different class structures and class struggles of America and Europe, examining architecture in the context of social conflicts to offer an alternative to standard architectural histories that are focused only on aesthetics.

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