The Secret Lives of Buildings: From the Ruins of the Parthenon to the Vegas Strip in Thirteen Stories

The Secret Lives of Buildings: From the Ruins of the Parthenon to the Vegas Strip in Thirteen Stories

Edward Hollis / Jul 16, 2019

The Secret Lives of Buildings From the Ruins of the Parthenon to the Vegas Strip in Thirteen Stories A strikingly original beautifully narrated history of Western architecture and the cultural transformations that it represents Concrete marble steel brick little else made by human hands seems as

  • Title: The Secret Lives of Buildings: From the Ruins of the Parthenon to the Vegas Strip in Thirteen Stories
  • Author: Edward Hollis
  • ISBN: 9780805087857
  • Page: 233
  • Format: Hardcover
  • A strikingly original, beautifully narrated history of Western architecture and the cultural transformations that it represents Concrete, marble, steel, brick little else made by human hands seems as stable, as immutable, as a building Yet the life of any structure is neither fixed nor timeless Outliving their original contexts and purposes, buildings are forced to adapA strikingly original, beautifully narrated history of Western architecture and the cultural transformations that it represents Concrete, marble, steel, brick little else made by human hands seems as stable, as immutable, as a building Yet the life of any structure is neither fixed nor timeless Outliving their original contexts and purposes, buildings are forced to adapt to each succeeding age To survive, they must become shape shifters In an inspired refashioning of architectural history, Edward Hollis recounts than a dozen stories of such metamorphosis, highlighting the way in which even the most familiar structures all change over time into something rich and strange The Parthenon, that epitome of a ruined temple, was for centuries a working church and then a mosque the cathedral of Notre Dame was restored to a design that none of its original makers would have recognized Remains of the Berlin Wall, meanwhile, which was once gleefully smashed and bulldozed, are now treated as precious relics Altered layer by layer with each generation, buildings become eloquent chroniclers of the civilizations they ve witnessed Their stories, as beguiling and captivating as folktales, span the gulf of history.

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      Published :2018-011-08T05:08:50+00:00

    About "Edward Hollis"

      • Edward Hollis

        Edward Hollis Is a well-known author, some of his books are a fascination for readers like in the The Secret Lives of Buildings: From the Ruins of the Parthenon to the Vegas Strip in Thirteen Stories book, this is one of the most wanted Edward Hollis author readers around the world.


    1. Centered around 13 different buildings and the history contained therein. The concert of the book is much better than the execution. The author uses a whimsical writing style that I suppose is attempting to pass for prose to indirectly tie together the buildings, cultural and historical stories into a somewhat common thread. I found myself much more interested in the actual story of the buildings (never told) than the meandering thoughts of Hollis about the historical significance and nature of [...]

    2. Fun. Hollis guides the reader on a number of journeys through the physical, historical, social, political, mythical and often, neurotic aspects of particular structures. All in all he does a great job of infusing life into these sundry built things. Taking such standbys as the Parthenon and Hagia Sofia (or Ayasofya) and less obvious choices such as a strip of the Berlin Wall, a Vegas Casino, and Mary’s floating granite childhood abode (or abodes as there are fifty iterations apparently), the a [...]

    3. very creative way to discuss architecture, author tells stories about them, starting with the parthenon and ending with the new wall in israel. fairly insightful, but to get the fullest out of this you need a good dictionary or knowledge of terms. some especially good chapters on the alhambra, the hulme crescents in manchester, the venetian in las vegas. well shoot, they are all good.

    4. Very interesting book. The author describes 13 buildings, when and why they were built, the people who used them, the changes they endured.

    5. This is an extremely cool book, especially for ancient history nerds and people looking to be inspired to travel. Edward Hollis covers thirteen famous buildings, starting with the Parthenon and ending in Vegas, offering a history of how they were used. The theme is the evolution of a building's purpose (and, secondarily, its physical architecture) across cultures, religions, empires, and centuries. The method is telling snippets of history, but just the really interesting parts. The story of the [...]

    6. The goal of the text, and overall execution, was fascinating, a study of the history of restoration and recreation of a buildings. However, the chapters dedicated to non-Western architecture and the Western Wall in Israel seemed to be written from such a Western perspective that is what as if no other model could be considered. This dedication to Western models and theories made some of Hollis' arguments frustrating and superficial.

    7. From the Parthenon to the Las Vegas strip, The Secret Lives of Buildings traces the histories of twelve buildings mostly through the lives of some of their inhabitants. Lyrical, and with a rolling sense of history, you're left with the sense that these are only a fraction of the stories that are out there to be told.

    8. The buildings mentioned in this book range in time, as did the commentaries. The main idea I came away with is that buildings are constantly changing as the needs of their users change. Even the act of restoration changes the building from what it evolved into. This is not necessarily good or bad, it just is.The chapter on the Cathedral of Notre Dame was probably the most interesting.

    9. Quite interesting about the buildings, not so interesting about what the author's personal opinions are. The stories are meant to be written in a way that links them together but it didn't seem to work, to me. Architecture is interesting but there wasn't enough about it in here but more about the people who occupied the buildings. I refer the reader to Truth in Advertising legislature

    10. This book was a load of fun - the narration creatively discussed architecture and brought the buildings to life and to discuss their stories, and even made me tear up at some parts

    11. I was astonished by how good this book was. It was recommended to me by my husband who read it a couple of years ago after I gave it to him for a Christmas gift thinking that it looked like something he would like. He then said I really would and should read it, so it has been my upstairs bathroom reading material for awhile now.This is not a book simply for architecture buffs, though if you are, you will enjoy it. It is also engaging for anyone who enjoys history, art, culture, or just a good s [...]

    12. This book is definitely interesting, but it is also uneven. A major theme throughout several--but not all--chapters is the idea of "restoration." I think if Hollis had made this an overarching theme, and left out chapters that do not reflect it, he would have had a much stronger book.Hollis' reflections on restoration focus on the question of how to restore something that has had many forms. Which one can be deemed "the right one"? Would it be the first one? Or the largest/most magnificent? Or s [...]

    13. Overall, I really enjoyed this book, although I had a couple qualms. Hollis looks at 13 different pieces of architecture and shows how they are not the static, idealized buildings we think of them as, but are dynamically changing throughout history. He makes some very interesting points, and the book is fairly entertaining throughtout. However, as I am not very familiar with architecture, I do think the book would have benefitted greatly from additional illustrations and pictures. Also, Hollis t [...]

    14. Any student knows that the best part of a history class is side tracking your professor by getting them to tell some random obscure little story about the place/time you're studying. This is a book of 13 of those random stories, each which tell the story of a particular place. I've taught Venice, the Parthenon, the Berlin Wall, and yet, this book told me stuff I never knew. As it is 13 separate stories, stopping and coming back to it is possible without losing a narrative thread (as is jumping a [...]

    15. I think I didn't *really* understand what the author was trying to get at until the last few chapters, and that kind of makes me want to go back and read some of the other chapters again - except I'm not quite compelled enough to spend the precious extra reading time. Suffice it to say that some of the stories were vivid and exciting in and of themselves, others less so. The author seems to be weaving tales from the "facts" of history and architecture and is only sometimes successful in making t [...]

    16. 110 pages in, this is on the short list of best things I've ever read. It's the closest thing to a non-fiction version of Invisible Cities that I've yet encountered. Updated 1/17 -- finished it on the Croatia trip. This is completely fucking brilliant. The title sounds misleadingly like educational television, but the book itself is a series of wonders. (Invisible Cities itself is even skillfully rerun with Sheldon Adelson in the role of Marco Polo). There are no weak chapters here (the Alhambra [...]

    17. Well this is a perfectly fine piece of non fiction. My biggest complaint was the vaulted language. The author's love of architecture and history comes through, but in the end I felt like this book was a little light on details. I wouldn't call it dense. Rather than feeling informed about a fascinating topic, I felt like I got enough of a taste to want to seek out a better book with more information now that I have a broad understanding of the changing role of the buildings in the book. The narra [...]

    18. I loved the stories of the (relatively) newer buildings, but the stories about the ancient ones felt too much like fairytales. The tale of Notre Dame is particularly well-written. In fact, I had to read it a few times before I saw how carefully structured and meaningful it was. The Berlin Wall, the Hulme Crescents are also brilliant stories. It's surprising to read a book about architecture that is so like a book of short stories. Ambitious project, fairly successful, all things considered. I on [...]

    19. This book was awful and I honestly did not finish it.If it is well done, I like historical fiction - like Louis L'Amour. This is something else entirely. It is a creative work that tries too hard in that aspect and that mixes it's "history" right in with it's "art" so you have no way of discerning truth from fiction. It attempts to pass off things as history that are incorrect and and while there are some end notes, they aren't actually noted in text. Marrying history and creativity can be done [...]

    20. I enjoyed this book, but it wasn't what I was expecting. I have to say this up front, I am so glad somebody FINALLY decided to write about a place instead of their life at the place. Hollis' approach using Thomas Cole's The Architect's Dream throughout his book is brilliant. Also, he has introductory pieces before each building, which was nice. The actual history of the buildings is so-so. I realize that you could write volumes on the history of each building, but sometimes the narrative jumped [...]

    21. "The scene was what architecture was, and is, and should be. but just before he awoke, the architect realized that he was dreaming, and he recalled the words of Prospero renouncing his conjured dominion at the end of The Tempest. 'The cloud-capp'd towers, the gorgeous palaces, The solemn temples, the great globe itself, Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve, And, like this insubstantial pageant faded, Leave not a rack behind: We are such stuff As dreams are made on, and our little lifeIs rou [...]

    22. Secret Lives reminds me of Cod, by Kurlansky, or Omnivoure's Dilemma, by Pollan. It has changed my world view by picking out a detail with care and diligent research and much thought of something that I had taken for granted, meaning not given any thought of my own on. I had to go to the internet several times to find out more because it just piqued my curiosity so much. I have to say I have a new appreciation of history, religion, sociology, politics because of this book. And often that appreci [...]

    23. Some chapters were interesting and well written (the Parthenon, Norte Dame, the mass housing complex in Manchester), but in others the author got too "artsy" or poetic for my taste. For example, there's two chapters where the other is flipping back and forth between time periods, describing how certain real or imaginary characters felt about a building. I was looking for something a little more straightforward.

    24. I loved the idea of this book, but I struggled greatly with the thick writing. It was like wading through molasses. I ultimately gave up on the book before getting very far into it. The author also seemed to have anti-Christian tendencies expressed through belittling or disrespectful comments about religious leaders and buildings. :-(

    25. This is an interesting book on the history of selected structures, from the Parthenon of Ancient Greece to a modern casino. Edward Hollis details the original purpose of the buildings and then describes how the buildings were altered over time, both in structure and in useage. I felt the most interesting buildings he wrote about were the Parthenon, the Berlin Wall, and the Western Wall.

    26. Grandes monumentos como El Partenón, Santa Sofía o La Alhambra no han estado siempre ahí, inmutables. La historia también pasa por ellos y eso incluye los cambios arquitectónicos pero, sobre todo, las batallas y guerras que se han librado en sus territorios. Un libro entretenido si eres amante de la historia del arte o la arquitectura. Ayuda a entender y valorar nuestros monumentos.

    27. Following the varied lives and uses of iconic buildings in vivid anecdotes, from the Parthenon (temple, church, armory, palace, tourist trap), the Alhambra, Sans Souci (Potsdam), the Venetian (Las Vegas) to the Berlin Wall (the Anti-Fascist Protection Rampart, officially, from construction to souvenir rubble).

    28. Finally giving up on finishing this one. Got through Notre Dame. Stories of buildings, or rather of people's ideas of what buildings should be, or are, or aren't. Wish there were more pictures, though obviously not always possible. Still the brief sketches at the beginning of the chapters is not enough, even though the author paints the buildings for us with words.

    29. Very interesting analysis of famous buildings. most stories really live up to the promise of the book, giving you amazing insight into the stories and evolutions of the buildings. I like how each chapter/building is separate so you can pick it up after a while and still enjoy it as if it were new, while at the same time it's interesting so you want to read more chapters at once

    30. Splendid! A collection of biographies of place: the histories of the Parthenon, the Western Wall, the Holy House, the Berlin Wall, and more are all told in lyrical prose just brimming with energy and excitement. And they all cohere into a larger, more complex narrative of place and person: that our places, the things we build, can tell us about who we are as a species. Highly recommended.

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