From Treat to Treatise

Summer is for sand castles, which are decent enough structures. But some folks go for something a bit more permanent - for pages as well as porches to rock on; for earth-berming books (underground-shelter studies) as well as sunny beaches.

Alas, the publishers don't always exactly provide this fare. Clearly, the hefty but appropriate seasonal selection, Camps of the Adirondacks, by Harvey H. Kaiser (David Godine, $60), is not a portable feast.

If this won't fit into beachbound knapsacks, reading about Kamp Kill Kare and looking at photos is a delight. The tale of everything from tar-paper shacks to 40-room lodges with hot and cold running servants will serve the stay-at-homes.

Pre-vacation readers can prep themselves for the tackydom of 20th-century motels by looking at the harmony of these silvery gray shapes against the landscape or musing on log cabins with octagonal dining rooms. This is a lucid volume on a vanished style of summer living and, more sadly, a vanishing architectural species.

Likewise, those who long for elegant interiors will have to stay by the coffee table to read the weighty Wallpaper, (Abrams, $75), a splendid, virtual encyclopedia on the wall coverings in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.

Seventy-five color drawings complement the neatly organized black-and-white views of everything from ships to Chinese landscapes. Starting with the 16th century, the book ends with the up-to-the-minute ''Taliesin Line'' designs by Frank Lloyd Wright.

Gardens for Small Country Houses won't give the fresh-air architectural aficionado a text to take to the great outdoors, either. Reissued by the Antique Collectors Club for $44.50, this collection of excerpts from the influential English Country Life magazine is an engaging work nonetheless. The turn-of-the-century work of Sir Edwin Lutyens and his peers has become a kind of cottage industry, and this sampler shows why elegantly.

Authors Gertrude Jekyll (the landscape aspects) and Lawrence Weaver (architecture) began their work in 1897, and, not surprisingly, the study of ''order and beauty of the woodland garden'' meets a responsive chord in this season.

Inspired by such texts, the housebound can move off the hammock now. Carry the more portable Decks and Patios (Creative Homeowner Press, $6.95) to the woods or the glade, and contemplate creating a pocket of civilization there.

This book may well daunt the amateur. (''Once you have laid fourteen complete courses,'' it declares, ''set weatherproof carriage bolts into the mortar and cover with the remaining two courses. Attach brackets and side shelves to bolts after tuckpointing. Wait approximately one week before your first cookout'').

Notwithstanding, the book provides a starting point for considering the aesthetic and practical consequences of bringing the outdoors in, or the indoors out.

Smaller still, and far more scholarly, The Pocket Guide to Architecture (Simon & Schuster, $5.95) is a hand-size, plastic-covered compendium of ''everything you wanted to know about architecture but couldn't fit in your backpack.''

Pages 5 and 6 on landmarks, for instance, begin with Babylon's first settlement (4000 BC) and end the list with the Centre Pompidou in Paris (1972-77 ).

Complete with thumbnail sketches and views of non-Western civilizations, this is remarkably light without being lightweight.

Moving from the comprehensive to the singular, The City Observed, Boston, A Guide to the Architecture of the Hub, by Donlyn Lyndon (Random House hard cover, with lively detail of the specific city and elegant philosophizing on architecture as a whole:

''Windows are the decisive elements in architecture, the principal points of exchange,'' Lyndon writes. ''They let in light and air and their placement determines the quality of the light in a room as well as the nature of the views from the room to the outside.

''On the face of a building the windows establish a pattern of solid and void that is one of the architect's basic compositional tools; placed effectively, they also indicate much about the disposition and type of rooms located behind the wall. Windows are actors on the street's communal stage.'' Well put and a treat on many levels.

Less treat than treatise, many books are either wordy exegeses or blown-up, costly monographs that might have fitted in a magazine as successfully as between hard covers.

Charles Jencks's ongoing updates do, in fact, emerge in the journal pages of Architectural Design, and the summer's Free Style Classicism presents the latest brush at profiling his polemic.

By ''Free Style,'' Jencks means the freewheeling translation of the classical tradition by postmodern architects. The international products, if not always the prose, of these architects are suitable for sand-gazers.

Other profiles blown into books range from the ''architecture of illusion'' of muralist Richard Haas to the architecture of substance of more conventional architects.

Haas, who paints re-creations of architecture on the blank walls of buildings , transforms such urban oases into fantasies that are less illusory than the buildings they represent. He recounts all this clearly in his autobiography, Richard Haas (Rizzoli).

In this era of paper architecture, books can sometimes go beyond buildings. Rob Krier's drawings (Rizzoli), called Rob Krier: Urban Projects, are often most elegant when the architecture is invisible and the figures float fancifully across the page.

Sometimes, though, the books skimp on the subject. Robert Stern's work, for example, amounts to sufficient samples to have appeared as more than the handful of drawings in his new monograph, Robert Stern (St. Martin's Press, $14.95).

Text and treatment don't always match. The work of Canadian architect Arthur Erickson in Seven Stones, by Edith Iglauer (University of Washington Press, $29. 95), is overblown beyond the designs; while that in The Architecture of Arata Isosaki deserved a less abstruse philosophizing than Philip Drew's (Harper & Row , $35).

Frank Lloyd Wright, whose biographies could probably be stacked into a small house, has received the portable coffee-table treatment of the season. The slim volume in the ''Architecture Now'' series (St. Martin's Press, $19.95) is a well-designed, rich, and rewarding collection of photographs that are both beautiful and a good buy.

A still better buy, another Wright work called Wingspread - the Building, probably fulfills the prime need of sandbound selectors.

The attractive catalog published by the Johnson Foundation (P.O. Box 547, Racine, Wis. 53401) displays the striking building to good advantage, and - beachcombers who want to lighten up on their homeward luggage please note - is free for the writing.

of 5 stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read 5 of 5 free stories

Only $1 for your first month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.