The Secret Lives of Buildings: From the Ruins of the Parthenon to the Vegas Strip in Thirteen Stories

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Henry Holt and Company, Nov 10, 2009 - Architecture - 352 pages

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.

With The Secret Lives of Buildings, Edward Hollis recounts the most enthralling of these metamorphoses and shows how buildings have come to embody the history of Western culture.


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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - Dreesie - LibraryThing

This book is definitely interesting, but it is also uneven. A major theme throughout several--but not all--chapters is the idea of "restoration." I think if Hollis had made this an overarching theme ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - phoenixcomet - LibraryThing

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 ... Read full review


The Basilica of San Marco Venice
Ayasofya Istanbul
The Santa Casa of Loreto
Gloucester Cathedral
The Alhambra Granada
The Tempio Malatestiano Rimini
Sans Souci Potsdam
Notre Dame de Paris
The Hulme Crescents Manchester
The Berlin Wall
The Venetian Las Vegas
The Western Wall Jerusalem

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About the author (2009)

Edward Hollis is an architect and designer who teaches at the Edinburgh College of Art. Trained at Cambridge and Edinburgh universities, he worked for five years in the United Kingdom as a practicing architect, specializing in alterations to historic buildings. The Secret Lives of Buildings is his first book.

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