The day I met Dan Cruickshank

Posted on: September 12th, 2017

Earlier in the summer I had the privilege of meeting Dan Cruickshank. I was asked to host him on his visit to South Shields and go to Customs House, South Shields to listen to his talk about his book ‘A history of Architecture in 100 buildings’. I have long admired his books and television programmes. As expected, I was a little apprehensive about meeting him, as with most personalities, I did wonder what he was like in real life. I didn’t need to be apprehensive. He was such an enthusiastic person. We collected him from the train station and as we drove gave a mini tour of the area, which he appreciated greatly as it was his first visit. His passion for Architecture was very infectious and his thought processes to connecting different realms a real inspiration.

History of Architecture in 100 Buildings

Dan began his talk discussing Architecture and how it defines who we are, our culture, our identity, our local pride. Buildings are for us.

For him the book was an opportunity to go back and revisit stories of the past. One hundred buildings were difficult to choose as there are so many which define history in space and time.

His selection of buildings includes many of the world’s best-known places that represent key or pioneering moments in architectural history, such as the Pantheon in Rome, Hagia Sophia in Turkey, the Taj Mahal in India and the Forbidden City in China. The book also covers less obvious and more surprising structures, the generally unsung heroes of an endlessly fascinating story. Buildings like Oriel Chambers in Liverpool and the Narkomfin Apartment Building in Moscow.

Dan Cruickshank discussed history as being so vulnerable, here today and gone tomorrow. He cited places such as Syria and Afghanistan which have been ravaged by war. Dan then compared this present situation with the past and the destruction after World War 2.  He spoke about the city of Warsaw and how it was consciously and symbolically destroyed by 95% in 1944. It has been rebuilt as a social republic with old materials reused. The city would not let the Nazis have the last word. It was rebuilt from old photographs and there is now a 1950’s version of the previous city.

Signed copy History of Architecture in 100 Buildings

I felt he issued his audience with a challenge, a call to arms if you like. Ethically, do we have a responsibility to help recreate spaces and Architecture which have gone due to war? Should we have a responsibility to recreate the buildings of the past for future generations? He said the pedigree of the past gives meaning to the present.

He concludes the introduction to his book by saying: “Architecture is an all embracing adventure without end. It is a story that can never be completed as long as mankind continues to build, to invent, to discover; it is the story told by this book.”

I commend the book to you “A History of Architecture in 100 Buildings” Hardcover – 8 Oct 2015 by Dan Cruickshank .

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