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The Secret Lives Of Buildings

The Secret Lives Of Buildings [Kindle Edition]

Edward Hollis
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)

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Product Description


'Hollis is magical on the layers of myth and history in the classical world - this is an engaging, erudite and readable book.' Financial Times 'A beautifully wrought book: a kind of illuminated manuscript with words taking the place of pictures - Here are wondrous stories writ in stone, and Edward Hollis has written about them very well indeed.' Guardian '[A] tremendous book - Hollis recounts the stories of 13 structures with passion and panache - His book [is] a rare thing: non-fiction you can reread.' Scotland on Sunday 'Accessible and ambitious - Hollis has the gift of making these buildings seem real and alive.' The Times

Product Description

The plans are drawn up, a site is chosen, foundations are dug: a building comes into being with the expectation that it will stay put and stay for ever. But a building is a capricious thing: it is inhabited and changed, and its existence is a tale of constant and curious transformation. In this radical reimagining of architectural history, Edward Hollis tells the stories of thirteen buildings, beginning with the 'once upon a time' when they first appeared, through the years of appropriation, ruin and renovation, and ending with a temporary 'ever after'. In spell-binding prose, Hollis follows his buildings through time and space to reveal the hidden histories of the Parthenon and the Alhambra, Gloucester Cathedral and Haghia Sofia, Sans Souci and Notre Dame de Paris, Malatesta’s Tempio and Loreto, and explores landmarks of our own time, from Hulme’s legendary crescents to the Berlin Wall and the fibre-glass theme parks of Las Vegas.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 1369 KB
  • Print Length: 404 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1846271282
  • Publisher: Portobello Books (4 Aug 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S. r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B005IOKOX6
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #106,336 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
A wonderful and compelling read.

This book takes us on a series of short journies through time and place to show how even the greatest of buildings, ones which feature so strongly in the public conscious, are not works of pure architectural form but have been shaped and reworked over decades, centuries and even millenia.

With each chapter acting as a personal biography of an individual building we gain an understanding of its personal life story - how the building has been used and abused through time. Only by looking at architecture as an ongoing process in this manner can we truly understand why the buildings featured in this book have achieved such iconic status.

A beautiful and very readable book which I would highly recommend.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Extraordinary, sumptuous, fascinating 23 Sep 2009
This is an extraordinary book - not, in some ways, an easy read, because each of Hollis' architecture-based faery tales, myths or legends is as intricate, layered and complex as the building it describes, his language is sumptuous and dense and the narratives themselves rich and labyrinthine, but so fascinating and rewarding - with a range of tone and content which reflects the variety of the building being examined.

I found myself entirely taken up by the drama of each tale, yearning to visit sites I have not seen, and look again with educated eyes on those I have. I know Manchester well, so the section on Hulme was interesting in the sense that I had a direct knowledge of the buildings being described, but I also found myself transported to and gaining an understanding of places I have never been to and some I can never see. I am dying to see the Alhambra now!

Actually, I was in Paris just after finishing the book, and went deliberately to Notre Dame to try to trace there some of Hollis' tale of that buildings invention and re-invention. It was like seeing it for the first time again. Though I think the magical flying shrine remains my favorite!

I've never really read a book on architecture before - never thought I would really, but I relished this one. I even found myself genuinely moved, especially by the last few chapters.

If you want something which engages your whole brain, which requires your concentration, which rewards your efforts by the truckload....if X-factor and Britains Got Talent and When Police CCTV Cameras Go Bad brings you out in hives, this book is the perfect antidote to our disposable culture.

Beautiful, intelligent, complex, revealing, fascinating.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very special 22 April 2013
This is how history should be written! The chapter on the Hagia Sofia is easily one of the most delightful, charming histories I've ever read and I enjoyed my trip to Istanbul so much more for having read it. The prose is unusually eloquent and poetic and these are quirky, grand, rich, romantic histories. The stories convey the wonder, awe and fascination the author clearly feels for these buildings. They are full of lovely historical details and rich with speculation and folklore, which are allowed to blend in, play together, and be happy. It makes for a wonderful read and I would recommend it-- a very unique and beautiful book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This book traces various famous buildings - the Parthenon, Hagia Sophia, the Alhambra, Notre Dame -through time, showing them becoming archetypes and stories, points of reference, stage sets for new ideas and for reverting to old ways: so much more than stones. Absolutely fascinating, heartily recommended to anyone interested in architecture and history.
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38 of 47 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A Huge Disappointment 23 Oct 2009
By Simon Tavener VINE VOICE
I so wanted to love this book. I was eager to be taken on a journey round the world of buildings and architecture. This is what the book seems to promise.

However what you get is a series of repetitious chapters - building is created, building is modified, buidling is abused, building changes. It becomes very tiring to be constantly faced with a lack of invention in the telling of the tales.

Surprisingly for a book about buildings, there are no illustrations. We have to imagine the architecture from the text - and whilst the author may be an expert in his field, he lacks the descriptive power to evoke a real sense of the structures and spaces he is seeking to describe.

He is also not a narrative writer. He tries to stitch together a series of anecdotes but fails to deliver any real drive to his stories.

This is being over-hyped.

It does not advance our understanding of the built environment. It fails as history, it fails as a philosophical examination of the human relationship to the buildings in our lives, it fails as a series of stories.

I was hoping for so much more - and got nothing but frustration. A real shame.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Riveting 22 Dec 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
An amazingly original history of the trials and tribulations of well-known classical buildings and sites by a brilliant, thought-provoking author.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Into architecture ? Yes. Well read this book. 24 Jan 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Well structured and well written book for everyone - but especially for people such as me who have spent their lives secretly wishing they had studied architecture.
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2.0 out of 5 stars Great idea but not a great read. 17 Jan 2013
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
You know, on paper this sounds great. In fact, it's a bit tedious and filled with the sort of assumptions that 'everybody agrees with. My opinion is that it wasn't worth the twenty pee.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Where are the pictures?
I enjoyed the stories about the buildings and the writing style is OK.

As mentioned by another reviewer though, this book is in need of many more illustrations - it is... Read more
Published 15 months ago by S. Donald
5.0 out of 5 stars There's no secret
I watched the series on television and as an architecture student I wanted to know more. So like many students I googled it and this book came up. Read more
Published on 18 April 2012 by Richard
4.0 out of 5 stars Buildings live
This is an excellent book for anyone interested in buildings. I came to it because of my interest in the Parthenon, while trying to understand how it came to be in the state it was... Read more
Published on 21 Nov 2011 by RR Waller
5.0 out of 5 stars An accessible yet well-written read.
I loved this book. I found it very enjoyable to be whisked away to the various places discussed, some of which I knew or had visited, others which I hadn't. Read more
Published on 9 Aug 2010 by Mr. H
5.0 out of 5 stars A highly original perspective on history through architecture
Structured as poetic short stories, this book is not your usual architectural history book. In fact it's less a history of thirteen buildings, but rather thirteen tales about the... Read more
Published on 9 May 2010 by Edward Leigh
5.0 out of 5 stars The Secret Lives of Buildings
This is a fascinating book which I much enjoyed. The text is lucid, well-written and entertaining. Edward Hollis writes about some of my most favourite buildings in the world... Read more
Published on 6 Oct 2009 by Bumble
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book!
Every chapter is an individual gem. Will make superb Christmas present for wide range of friends and family and will surely make them look at their surroundings with new eyes.
Published on 28 Sep 2009 by Andrew Dean
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