HomeGroupsTalkZeitgeist
Hide this

Results from Google Books

Click on a thumbnail to go to Google Books.

The Secret Lives of Buildings: From the…
Loading...

The Secret Lives of Buildings: From the Ruins of the Parthenon to the…

by Edward Hollis

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
145582,607 (3.23)10
None
Loading...

Sign up for LibraryThing to find out whether you'll like this book.

No current Talk conversations about this book.

» See also 10 mentions

Showing 5 of 5
easy read history about the architecture and culture around some of the the world's most famous structures ( )
  lindap69 | Apr 5, 2013 |
This could be interesting. Some reviews suggest that it's a little touchy-feely, not enough actual history - maybe flip through it to check it out.
  AlCracka | Apr 2, 2013 |
This book recounts the histories of 13 well known, in many cases iconic, buildings from across Europe, America and the Middle East. The buildings discussed are as diverse as the Parthenon, the Alhambra, the Vegas Strip, Gloucester Cathedral, Notre Dame, the Ayasofya (Hagia Sofia) and the Berlin and Wailing Walls among others.

The recurring theme of the opposition of Islam and Christianity throughout the ages is central to the evolution of the design, function and detailing of a number of the buildings discussed. It is this usurping of buildings by different religions (or groups) over time that has resulted in some of the most architecturally interesting buildings.

Hollis manages to weave together a series of vignettes on each building covering mythology, religion, politics and architectural history to create biographies of the buildings that are accessible and full of interesting details, not only regarding the buildings but also the men and women from history who played a role in their creation.

The only real issue I had with this book was the lack of images. Each chapter starts with one, half page, black and white image. Many of the architectural details are wonderfully described in expressive and vivid language, but these passages also cry out for an accompanying image to fully illustrate these features – particularly for readers who are not familiar with every building covered by the book. I also had a small quibble with inconsistant timelines within a couple of the biographies, which while still fun to read, made the connections between the vignettes harder to discern and made the overall history a bit harder to fully understand. ( )
  SouthernKiwi | Jan 5, 2011 |
Loved it! Possibly one of the most intriguing books I've read in recent years. I thought I was picking up a book on architecture, but what it was instead was a fascinating read in history through 13 buildings/ structures throughout the ages. Starting with a discussion on Thomas Cole's painting, The Architect's Dream and then going into a history of the Parthenon as told in the form of stories, The Secret Lives of Buildings had me completely drawn into the flow and cadence of the narrative. The painting and the Parthenon were used to connect the 13 structures including: the Parthenon, the Hagia Sophia (Ayasofia), the Berlin Wall, the Crescents in Hulme, England, the Alhambra, Gloucester Cathedral, Notre Dame. the Vegas strip, La Serenissa (Venice), the Holy House (Santa Casa di Loreto), the Western (Wailing) Wall and the temple at Rimini. Fantastic. ( )
  phoenixcomet | Sep 9, 2010 |
"I do not know what actually happened, and to answer such a question would be as useful as identifying the real Little Red Riding Hood. It is not the purpose of this book to deconstruct the stories (or the buildings) we have inherited from our forebears, but to narrate them, so that others can do the same in the future. Stories are like gifts; they must be accepted without scepticism and shared with others."

So Hollis says in his introduction and then proceeds to narrate 13 buildings from the historical idealisation of the Parthenon to the disastrous futurism of concrete tower blocks, weaving myth and history to bring our relationships with buildings to life. This is not a dry historical account but a poetic, highly stylistic telling. Hollis is passionate about change, not for him the architectural dream of preservation, buildings should be more than snapshots, they need to mean something and to be lived in.

He is playful in his technique: in the chapter about follies (in this case Frederick the Great's Sanssouci) myth is retold, then updated and then both replaced by hard fact, all framed by the harsh reality of future world wars. Yet with the (UK's) Gloucester cathedral the steady march of history is echoed in a wonderful rhythmic repetition as Abbott replaces Abbott and the cathedral sprouts in complexity.

Such a forceful novel may not be to everyone's taste, you may find it overdone or forced and I admit I found it uneven as some of the stories just did not work as well (take the changing meaning of the Berlin Wall). Luckily Hollis writes in an engaging, wryly humorous fashion so I was never bored but sometimes restless for the dizzy heights of better tales.

Yet as a whole it was for me a truly stunning book, something so different from the norm, grabbing and melding literary styles and genres to make an engaging, interesting and often wryly funny story. However the best thing for me was his compelling and erudite arguments which made me think about architecture in a much different light. ( )
1 vote clfisha | Mar 3, 2010 |
Showing 5 of 5
Edward Hollis's "Secret Lives of Buildings" starts from the paradox that all architecture, no matter how monumental or "timeless," is shape-shifting and impermanent. Every building is literally made and remade by its users, in a never-ending process of change in which "each alteration is a 'retelling' of the building as it exists at a particular time." Hollis knows what he is talking about: He has been in professional practice for years retrofitting older buildings for newer clients. He brings together an iconoclastic attitude and a lively writing style to create a kind of counter-history of architecture, one that starts where the original designers left off and narrates the subsequent biography of the "wonderful and chimeric monsters" that buildings are.
added by bongiovi | editWashington Post, Kirk Savage (Jan 10, 2010)
 
The cases he presents are a refreshing fillip to the ideologies of contemporary preservation. Too bad he doesn't explain what they mean; if he had, that fillip could have been a knockout punch.
added by Shortride | editBookforum, Clay Risen (Dec 1, 2009)
 
You must log in to edit Common Knowledge data.
For more help see the Common Knowledge help page.
Series (with order)
Canonical title
Original title
Alternative titles
Original publication date
People/Characters
Important places
Important events
Related movies
Awards and honors
Epigraph
Dedication
First words
Quotations
Last words
Disambiguation notice
Publisher's editors
Blurbers
Publisher series
Original language

References to this work on external resources.

Wikipedia in English

None

Book description
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0805087850, Hardcover)

A strikingly original, beautifully narrated history of Western architecture and the cultural transformations that it represents
 
Concrete, marble, steel, brick: little else made by human hands seems as stable, as immutable, as a building. Yet the life of any structure is neither fixed nor timeless. Outliving their original contexts and purposes, buildings are forced to adapt to each succeeding age. To survive, they must become shape-shifters.
 
In an inspired refashioning of architectural history, Edward Hollis recounts more than a dozen stories of such metamorphosis, highlighting the way in which even the most familiar structures all change over time into “something rich and strange.” The Parthenon, that epitome of a ruined temple, was for centuries a working church and then a mosque; the cathedral of Notre Dame was “restored” to a design that none of its original makers would have recognized. Remains of the Berlin Wall, meanwhile, which was once gleefully smashed and bulldozed, are now treated as precious relics.
 
Altered layer by layer with each generation, buildings become eloquent chroniclers of the civilizations they’ve witnessed. Their stories, as beguiling and captivating as folktales, span the gulf of history.
 

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:22:05 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

A highly original history of Western architecture and the cultural transformations that it represents. Little else made by human hands seems as stable as a building--yet the life of any structure is neither fixed nor timeless. Outliving their original contexts and purposes, buildings are forced to adapt to each succeeding age. To survive, they must become shape-shifters. In a refashioning of architectural history, Edward Hollis recounts more than a dozen stories of such metamorphosis, highlighting the way in which even the most familiar structures all change over time into "something rich and strange." The Parthenon, that epitome of a ruined temple, was for centuries a working church and then a mosque; the cathedral of Notre Dame was "restored" to a design that none of its original makers would have recognized. Altered layer by layer, buildings become eloquent chroniclers of the civilizations they've witnessed. Their stories span the gulf of history--From publisher description.… (more)

» see all 3 descriptions

Quick Links

Swap Ebooks Audio
29 wanted3 pay

Popular covers

Rating

Average: (3.23)
0.5 1
1
1.5 1
2 5
2.5 2
3 7
3.5
4 2
4.5 4
5 4

Is this you?

Become a LibraryThing Author.

 

Help/FAQs | About | Privacy/Terms | Blog | Contact | LibraryThing.com | APIs | WikiThing | Common Knowledge | Legacy Libraries | Early Reviewers | 91,512,137 books! | Top bar: Always visible