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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read for all who love architecture, history and beautiful prose
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...
Published on 22 Sep 2009 by Mr. C. Torrance

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
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 difficult to understand the references to changes in building configurations without drawings or photographs. A glossary would have been a useful addition too.

I bought this for...
Published 18 months ago by S. Donald


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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read for all who love architecture, history and beautiful prose, 22 Sep 2009
By 
Mr. C. Torrance (UK) - See all my reviews
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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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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Extraordinary, sumptuous, fascinating, 23 Sep 2009
By 
Leon Unczur (UK) - See all my reviews
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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
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating exploration of how the roles humans find for buildings change faster than the buildings, 19 Mar 2013
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This review is from: The Secret Lives Of Buildings (Kindle Edition)
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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Where are the pictures?, 13 Jan 2013
By 
S. Donald (Manchester, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Secret Lives Of Buildings (Kindle Edition)
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 difficult to understand the references to changes in building configurations without drawings or photographs. A glossary would have been a useful addition too.

I bought this for Kindle at a reduced rate - so perhaps I shouldn't complain too much!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars There's no secret, 18 April 2012
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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. It's interesting, revealing and lets me look at architecture in a different way. Thought provocative.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Buildings live, 21 Nov 2011
By 
RR Waller "ISeneca" (United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
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 in when I first saw it. I wanted a book which looked at buildings as evolving, with "lives of their own", not just as a brick/stone/glass creation from drawing to building.

In this fascinating book which is simple to read and clearly organised, he looks at a wide range of very different buildings from this unusual viewpoint. Buildings rarely reach completion in a direct way and often undergo changes, changes he charts in this book.

My initial interest in the Parthenon has lead me to other buildings and this enjoyable 450-page book. Recommended
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An accessible yet well-written read., 9 Aug 2010
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. It is well-written and well-researched enough to appeal to those who know a good deal about architecture, and yet the language used is still accessible to those whose knowledge is perhaps more rudimentary. A thoroughly recommended unexpected pleasure!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A highly original perspective on history through architecture, 9 May 2010
By 
Edward Leigh (Cambridge, UK) - See all my reviews
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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 people who shaped, or whose lives were shaped by, those buildings. If it can be classified at all, this is a social history.

The buildings that serve as historical stage sets are: the Parthenon (Athens, Greece), the Basilica of San Marco (Venice, Italy), Ayasofya or Hagia Sofia (Istanbul, Turkey), the Santa Casa of Loreto (Italy), Gloucester Cathedral (England), the Alhambra (Granada, Spain), the Tempio Malatestiano (Rimini, Italy), Sans Souci (Potsdam, Germany), Notre Dame de Paris (France), the Hulme Crescents (Manchester, England), the Berlin Wall (Germany), the Venetian (Las Vegas, USA), the Western Wall (Jerusalem, Israel).

Never drily academic, this book is well-researched and filled with illuminating and intriguing details, such as the origin of the phrase, "The Moor's last sigh"; the price paid for the Elgin Marbles; and the probable true resting place of King Edward II. Expect to be surprised, informed and entertained by this unconventional book.
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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 - See all my reviews
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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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