Tag Archives: Architecture

Days of Reading – Marcel Proust

Books!In these inspiring essays about why we read, Proust explores all the pleasures and trials that we take from books, as well as explaining the beauty of Ruskin and his work, and the joys of losing yourself in literature as a child.

Part of the challenge with Proust is finding plenty of time in which to become intimately involved with his approach to writing.  This is my first reading experience of P. and his style is impressively immersive and made me feel nostalgic for places  and a time I have never experienced.

Plenty of essays ramble on but P. prefers clear concise language whilst being able to digress at will, yet each meandering discovery the reader makes always – eventually – comes back to the original point but makes one feel richer for the detour.

It’s a joy to read, although it is understandable that Proust splits readers due to his technique.  This reader had to change his mindset and learn to soak up the ambience of the prose, rather than feeling I was getting somewhere with plot or idea like I usually would.  In that regard the first few pages were a grind but realising that the author was going to take his time puts the reader either resigns the reader to a long haul or to the appreciation of a slow meditation of life.

The book opens with an essay on John Ruskin’s contribution to the understanding and appreciation of art and architecture, especially inspired by Christianity.  How art in general echoes its greatness (when it is) through the centuries and reaches to us emotionally, each example studied is a communing with antiquity.  It’s a study of us as well as a celebration of what we can achieve through our own creativity.

The essays on childhood memories and in particular of reading books when the mind is still open to the most innocent wonder and imagination is gloriously evocative writing.  Proust appreciates how rereading books brings forth a tangible memory of his formative years, he mirrors the echoing of art down the ages with thoughts, of ideas from our past that define modern life; not to mention timeless characters, books and the universal joy for all seasons and people. Read the rest of this entry »


Posted by on 30/07/2016 in Architecture, Art, Autobiography, Essays, History, Life


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Boston Public Library

After the last post which featured lots of exterior architecture photos, it would be remiss of me not to give you a glimpse inside one of the buildings at the very least and I was saving this particular one for just this occasion.

SAM_2837Standing opposite Trinity Church and the John Hancock Tower, there is always an air of excitement but that is probably me just projecting,  although the street market (which had plenty of foods from around the world) that popped up on one of the many trips past may have helped.  There was also a man serenading the library with opera on at least two instances rather bizarrely.

SAM_2686Just outside the entrance is an inspiring list of artists that whet the appetite for the creative endeavours that await in the library.  A vast collection that impressed me with the size and scope of its book choice (23 million items including maps, manuscripts and musical, including various first folios of Shakespeare as well as original scores from Prokofiev amongst others), I felt like I was being spoilt wandering the corridors and fully appreciating the air conditioning.

SAM_2689Passing through the main entrance and up a grand marble stairway, with its lions, columns and wonderful art work really sets the tone for the experience, the ideas and scholarship brought together is intoxicating as well as cementing the ‘knowledge is power’ quote firmly in mind.  I spent a good fifteen minutes just appreciating this approach to the main reading hall. Read the rest of this entry »


Posted by on 13/07/2016 in Architecture, Boston, Travel


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Boston Architecture

The below photo was taken in true tourist style, with head and camera out of window and plenty of waving to bemused locals who had no idea why I would be happy to be stuck in traffic.  Inadvertently the photo captures the wonderful spread of architecture seen throughout the city, the mixture on offer is a fascinating plethora of styles from new, old and ancient worlds.


Taken in order of when I photographed them, there was quite a spread in the fairly small circle of walking that we did.

It only took a few minutes of walking to discover the John Ruskin inspired Gothic Revival example of architecture shown in Old South Church, completed in 1873.  Admittedly this is not the best shot of its impressive facade but there are plenty more searchable and impressive photos out there.

SAM_2679I was somewhat distracted as diagonally opposite I came across two examples of design stood side by side that epitomise the changes in architecture through the ages in the most jarring of ways…

SAM_2835Named one of the Ten Most Significant Buildings in the United States by the American Institute of architects (and is the only building still retained  from the original 1885 list), Trinity Church was designed by Henry Hobson Richardson and it is the archetype for the style later known as Richardson Romanesque Revival. Read the rest of this entry »


Posted by on 08/07/2016 in Architecture, Boston, Travel


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The Pillars of the Earth – Ken Follett

LongBookThe Pillars of the Earth tells the story of Philip, prior of Kingsbridge, a devout and resourceful monk driven to build the greatest Gothic cathedral the world has known . . . of Tom, the mason who becomes his architect – a man divided in his soul . . . of the beautiful, elusive Lady Aliena, haunted by a secret shame . . . and of a struggle between good and evil that will turn church against state, and brother against brother.

Beginning with a grim scene of a hanging and a curse, the book is off to a flyer.  Set in the 12th century this medieval saga will probably appeal to anybody who enjoys Game of Thrones. (based on the War of the Roses in the 15th century) with plenty of violence, sex, treachery, religion and politics as well as somebody saying ‘winter’s coming’ and a bit of soap opera thrown in for good measure.

Pillars is a beast of a book in terms of size and being from a thriller writer you can expect it to be pacy which it is for the most part, with pivotal events turning up regularly and plenty of struggles of various kinds along the way.  It’s also a love letter to architecture and an interesting glimpse into the building of such majestic edifices which provide a great backdrop to which the storylines orbit around,

The reader is introduced to a world where security is a rare thing and mortality is a very real concern.  Life is hard with so little freedom, being at the mercy of the powerful landowners, an odious bunch manoeuvring for their own gains.  Everybody is vulnerable to the whims of these few for which loyalty is just the rumour of a concept.  It’s for this reason that the book felt a little gruelling to begin with and not the read itself which is bestseller fare and isn’t a challenge to read but initially I cared for the characters wanted the best for them which of course didn’t happen.

After reading through several hundred pages, aspects of the plot were becoming predictable and in some parts a bit too repetitious.  It was all a bit predictable, I found myself gauging the long-term rather than being concerned for the characters in the immediate pages and it wasn’t particularly challenging to guess correctly where the character arcs were going.  I found I could appreciate the character’s journey better if I treated it as inevitable rather than waiting for something spectacular ro happen.

It felt vaguely cyclical at times for some characters – then again that is true through family generations in real life – but also events which were more jarring as it’s unoriginal to repeat the same things in the same book.  The protagonists were a bit uninteresting as well, there wasn’t much to them, two-dimensional for the most part and once they were established they adhered rigidly to their values which was a shame, we needs a Gollum type figure to mix things up and keep things dramatic. Read the rest of this entry »


Posted by on 09/06/2016 in Architecture, Fiction


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Outdoor Pursuits

Yesterday was a glorious day so it was an opportune time to take a test drive of the new reading place which I’ve had my eye on for a while but the cold months had always driven me into the warmth of tavern and bookshop.

WP_20160216_037I always approach from a certain entrance as it has a more dramatic feel to it, like a gateway to a new world or time, like Tom’s midnight garden but without having to wait for night time, especially as I’d have to climb over the fence as this one shuts its gates before 7pm.


WP_20160416_003After a brief pottering around the water feature and fancy bits of garden, it was high time to sit down and mooch my choice of books for the day.  Read the rest of this entry »


Posted by on 10/05/2016 in Travel


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Austerlitz – W. G. Sebald

Litz GreatIn 1939, five-year-old Jacques Austerlitz is sent to England on a Kindertransport and placed with foster parents. This childless couple promptly erase from the boy all knowledge of his identity and he grows up ignorant of his past. Later in life, after a career as an architectural historian, Austerlitz – having avoided all clues that might point to his origin – finds the past returning to haunt him and he is forced to explore what happened fifty years before

somewhere I came across a list of translated books that ‘should’ be read so seeing this in Oxfam,  it was worth a £2 punt for an author I’ve never read before; literature in exchange for a bit of cash to be towards ending poverty sounds like the noblest form of deal to me.

For such a small sum, what was handed over was a sensitively handled tale of melancholy, an exploration of the fragility of life and the horrors of history.  It’s also a book of secrets – in a personal and wider sense of history – of eliminated past and the memories of another time.  In short this was a bargain at the price and well worth a read for anybody passing by (or going out of their way for) a copy.

The name Austerlitz can be recognised both as a town near the battle of the same name (Napoleon beating combined armies of Russia and Austria) and also a railway station in Paris.  It’s this latter that is more immediately symbolic, it’s an intersection, a point in the lives of many people, where they go meet, move on and a place one suspects holds many memories.  It is surely not a coincidence that we first meet Austerlitz in a railway station.

Austerlitz as character is a methodical and observant architectural historian, one who lives intensely in his own world, lost to wider history but taken with the form of buildings.  The telling of his story is both articulate and detached, shaped by loss of people and deprived of his earliest memories, it’s a poignant position with which the reader connects and is the perfect platform for the piecing together of a personal history of another time.

Told with an experienced world wary voice, the book is a mixture of many different genres, travel book, memoir, guide to architecture, history book and part detective story, it’s a blend that is to be savoured as the story is peeled back one layer at a time.  For those of you who like a story that meanders sometimes, there are digressions aplenty which did – the odd time – make me impatient to progress but I’m glad it was written this way as each digression is fascinating. Read the rest of this entry »


Posted by on 07/05/2016 in Architecture, Fiction


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Starting to Look Up

Wrapped up in daily life, we usually head about our business or leisure looking to where we are going or being distracted by shop windows, that is when not avoiding those people with clipboards who seem to home in on those who seem most in a rush.  How often though, do you take the time to look up and see what delights are towering above eye level?

WP_20160419_001There is so much wonderful architecture around that’s just a glance away, which is often neglected, far from being a sad thing though it once again makes it a pleasure to wander around our cities and cities (Nottingham in this case), especially on a lovely day when full up on a hearty breakfast, plenty of coffee and the promise of bookshops on the horizon.

WP_20160419_002I do love the various styles that have been envisioned and created, with all of their intricate little details and strong lines.  It’s a shame that these builders will be unknown without turning to research but at least their buildings not only stand the test of time but are a celebration of spacial awareness and imagination. Read the rest of this entry »


Posted by on 04/05/2016 in Architecture, Travel


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