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The results of our readers’ vote for Britain’s best building are in. Did your favourite win?

And the winner is...Durham Cathedral is the readers' choice for Britain's best building

And the winner is...Durham Cathedral is the readers' choice for Britain's best building


When we asked which British building you thought deserved to take the final place in our Britain’s best building series, we got a wonderful response and a vast range of suggestions from the very old Stonehenge to the not even finished Shard. But there was one building that was nominated time and time again. Napoleon471 said it is ‘the most beautiful building in the UK’ . gabbyannie commented that it’s “quite wonderful in the daytime, but transformed into a breathtaking sight after dark” and Rosiebriar declared that “the magnificence of its setting high on the peninsula, the grandeur of its architecture dating from 1093, World Heritage status and the endorsement by Dr Bill Bryson all commend this greatest of British buildings.” After three days of voting, the readers’ choice for Britain’s best building is Durham Cathedral. You picked wisely: there are few finer buildings of any period in Europe.

With its commanding setting on a headland high above the River Wear, Durham Cathedral is unmissable, and magnificent. Its architecture is at once powerful and poetic, a monument to the Norman invaders who created it from 1093. But, although clearly designed to dominate the region, the muscular cathedral is most beautiful when you step through its west front and face the length of the incomparable nave. Such beauty and such tragedy, too; here, 1,700 of the 3,000 Scottish soldiers imprisoned by Cromwell within these unbreachable walls died from wounds, disease and starvation; and here, meddling Georgian architects came to mess about with the venerable fabric. And yet, Durham Cathedral has survived and, today, is probably in better shape than it has been in hundreds of years.

The Best Tours in British History
HisTOURies UK

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No comprehensive guide to our islands’ buildings should exclude Hadrian’s Wall or Stonehenge
Stonehenge

Jonathan Glancey’s introduction to the Guardian’s Guide to British Architecture encourages a reading of architecture and an immersion in its language (Architecture: an autobiography, 10 September). The buildings “tell tales of people who have lived, loved and worked inside them”. The stories of buildings’ birth, life and death, their design and fabrication, use and abuse, rebirths and ruin, are indeed the narrative that describes a society and its architecture.

Yet the guide as a whole surely misses the deep and longer story of British architecture. Joseph Rykwert’s seminal work The Idea of the Town views the myths and rituals of many previous civilisations; Glancey only allows a brief view of “eight millennia” of architecture with a mention of “the cities and ziggurats (towers) of ancient Sumeria, now hidden from the world in the deserts of southern Iraq”.

Surely Britain is allowed its ancients: does the history of architecture only start with the arrival of Christianity, the dominant force in architecture? Surely it should include places deep in our psyche and defining the last six millennia. Where are the precise fabrications of Stonehenge, and the domestic and environmental connectivity exhibited at Skara Brae? Where are the Romans’ technical marvels, Hadrian’s Wall, and their integrated plumbing and heating?

Are we witnessing an editing moment similar to the TV series Civilisation; or perhaps these Unesco world heritage sites are seen as just buildings, like Nikolaus Pevsner’s bicycle shed – and therefore written out of the story? They were important enough for John Wood, the designer of the Circus in Bath, to survey Stonehenge; and earlier Christopher Wren, a great baroque master, allegedly visited and marked the stones. Peter Ackroyd, in his Hawksmoor novel, develops a narrative that connects Wren at Stonehenge to the death of Wren’s son at the Pyramids of Giza.

Glancey compares the reading of literary greats to the reading of buildings, yet he misses the sensory duet between body and buildings, exemplified by Georges Perec, who combined mathematical and literary puzzles across the life of a Parisian apartment block in Life: a Users Manual. My own favourite from Dickens is a body landscape duet from Great Expectations as Magwitch turns Pip in Cooling churchyard, creating a large-scale metaphoric Thames rotation, moving London west to east.

For me as an architect and tutor, the longer view of British architecture, with civilisations waxing and waning in the face of creative and destructive environmental change, wields salutary lessons.

We can take fictional futures that use the deep and modern past such as those of China Miéville, JG Ballard and Italo Calvino. Digging beyond Calvino’s Invisible Cities, one arrives at the architecture of Cosmicomics, and a fascination in new and rare materials, scientific concepts that become mythical in the Italian’s hand – they are hinted at in your guide’s article on new materials.

Guided tours of Stonehenge
HisTOURies UK – Mystical Landscape, Magical Tours

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