Looking at Buildings

Buildings are among the largest structures made by human beings, and the most ubiquitous. Apart from agriculture, no human activity has changed the face of the Earth more than architecture. All around the world there are buildings from across the ages, some dating back thousands of years. Fascinatingly diverse, they range from simple wooden churches to magnificent Gothic cathedrals, and from grandiose palaces to minimalist modernist villas.

The astonishing variety of buildings stems in part from the different cultural traditions that have developed around the world. Western architecture, with its succession of styles from classical to Gothic, is one of the most prominent traditions, and its influence has spread far and wide, but the buildings of other civilizations those of China, Japan, or Islam, for example are equally fascinating. Great Buildings takes an in-depth look at some of the most distinctive buildings produced by these different traditions. It also explores innovative buildings of the 20th and 21st centuries, designed by architects who have broken with tradition and work internationally.

Looking at architecture is a personal experience, but one that is enriched by broader knowledge the more you know about buildings, the closer you look, and the more you notice and enjoy. Like a helpful guide standing next to you, this book takes you on a visual tour of 53 of the world’s great buildings outstanding examples of architecture that are typical of their period or style. The book suggests a way to look at every building taking it in as a whole, then looking slowly around the outside before going inside to explore the interior and take a close look at details.

This approach highlights how one room leads to another in a carefully managed, almost theatrical country house, or how one space merges seamlessly into the next in the organic architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright. It helps you to understand how the spaces in a Buddhist temple embody the essence of the faith, and how contemporary architects have planned the interior of an art gallery or an office block. By understanding the parts of buildings, you can appreciate them as a whole their history and purpose, their use of space and form, and the fascinating details that make them unique. To do so makes you marvel at the skill of the architects, builders, and craftsmen who created these great buildings.

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