The debut book by Tom Wilkinson (the architectural historian, rather than the actor) is a stunning assembly of ideas, thoughts and perspectives. While it ostensibly covers the history of 10 eclectic buildings, including everything from the Tower of Babel to the Ford Highland Park car factory in Detroit, Wilkinson takes the reader on wild and unexpected tangents that include everything from the often strained relationship between TE Lawrence and Gertrude Bell to the tale of Pyramus and Thisbe.
His overarching theme is that the study of architecture is more than just looking at individual buildings, but instead the expression of a society in all its forms – whether it’s power, progress, health or even sex.
It’s rare to encounter an accessible book of this intellectual density, and Wilkinson must be given credit for marshalling his thoughts into a relatively brief volume, at just over 300 pages. Perhaps it could have done with slightly more room to let his arguments breathe – some of the juxtapositions and leaps are so sudden that they can disconcert as much as they inspire – but it’s a brilliantly accomplished series of often provocative and controversial ideas, leaping between the past and present with ease, and its well-paced narrative is kept beautifully readable by Wilkinson’s witty and authoritative style.
Source: The Guardian