The MIT Press has launched MIT Press Open Architecture and Urban Studies, a robust digital collection of classic and previously out-of-print architecture and urban studies books, on their digital book platform MIT Press Direct. The collection was funded by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation as part of the Humanities Open Book Program, which they co-sponsored with the National Endowment for the Humanities.

For years, the MIT Press has fielded requests for e-book editions of classic, out-of-print works, like the two volumes of “The Staircase,” by John Templer; “On Leon Battista Alberti: His Literary and Aesthetic Theories,” by Mark Jarzombek; “Possible Palladian Villas: (Plus a Few Instructively Impossible Ones),” by George L. Hersey and Richard Freedman, and “Making a Middle Landscape,” by Peter Rowe. Many of these foundational texts were published before the advent of e-books and remained undigitized because of complex design requirements and the prohibitive cost of image permissions.

Now, with funding from the Mellon Foundation and the efforts of an open-access-savvy digitization team, the MIT Press was able to not only secure image permissions, but also to solicit fresh forewords that bring new insights to bear on many of these classic texts. Many of the titles will also be made available on the open access platform PubPub, where readers will be able to interact with and annotate the works with contemporary context and related readings.

Representing the breadth and depth of the MIT Press’s architecture and urban studies publishing program, the collection is a quintessential blend of theory, practice, history, and technology. 

“The books in this collection are drawn from an absolutely formative period in the discourse of architectural and urban history and theory,” explains Timothy Hyde, associate professor in the MIT Department of Architecture. “These are essential publications to have available again, as they represent to some degree the founding of an independent discipline.”

Explicitly global and timeless, the collection features texts such as Constantinos Doxiadis’s “Architectural Space in Ancient Greece,” Jean Gottman’s “Megalopolis: The Urbanized Northeastern Seaboard of the United States,” and four volumes of the “Survey of the Architectural History of Cambridge” series. And the major figures and movements that have shaped the modern built world are well represented by books like Donald Leslie Johnson’s “Frank Lloyd Wright vs. America: The 1930s;” Gilbert Herbert’s “The Dream of the Factory-Made House,” by Walter Gropius and Konrad Wachsmann; and Moshe Safdie’s “Beyond Habitat.”

This initiative combines two of the MIT Press’s core strengths — its legacy of publishing titles of the greatest importance and highest quality in architecture and urban studies and its longstanding support for open access publishing — according to MIT Press Director Amy Brand.

“The MIT Press is committed to reimagining daily what academic publishing can be,” says Brand. “This partnership with the Humanities Open Book Program not only gives these important works a second life and introduces them to new generations of scholars and readers, it also reaffirms our commitment to making scholarship available as widely and openly as possible.”

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