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Each, Hollis seems to suggest, has something like its own One Thousand and One Nights tale to tell, beginning, as Hollis does, over and again, "once upon a time". The temple swims in snow domes, adorns tea towels, and crowns countless paperweights and ashtrays. Yet, as the author points out, "Nearly all the other buildings whose secret lives have been recounted in this book have suffered the same fate.

The Berlin wall was once the edge of the world, but since the 'end of history' it has become a quarry of souvenir chips and scraps.

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All this is true, and yet, thank Vitruvius or Le Corbusier, there remain thousands of buildings around the world that are indeed all but secret: temples, churches, palaces, grottoes and Alpine hermitages off the main tourist beats, and not even written much about in standard architectural guides and histories.

This gives me, as I imagine it must Hollis, hope.


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Hollis wants us, I think, to come away from these tales of the lives of famous buildings with the idea that, however solid they might appear, such monuments and structures are almost febrile things, and as such we try to pin them down, and conserve them, at any one single point in their aesthetic history, at the peril of our collective imagination. Here are wondrous stories writ in stone, and Edward Hollis has written about them very well indeed.

So I can't be cross with him after all, and will be on my way to Cecima soon enough.


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    The Secret Lives of Buildings

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    The Secret Lives of Buildings: John Faldetta

    Toggle navigation MENU. Email Address. A strong, satisfying exploration of the history, beauty and wonder of Western architecture. Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept.