Biesty’s precisely drawn, finely detailed architectural views supply the highlights for this unfocused survey of homes and prominent buildings through the ages.
Dillon (The Story of Britain, 2011) opens with our ancestors in caves and closes with the eco-friendly Straw Bale House built in London. In between, he offers a chronological overview of architectural styles as represented by an apparently indiscriminate mix of homes, public buildings and, in the single case of St. Petersburg, a planned city. He mentions about three dozen specific examples and devotes particular attention to 16—from the Pyramid of Djoser to the Pompidou Center. Biesty provides for each of this latter group a labeled, exploded portrait often large enough to require a single or double gatefold and so intricately exact that, for instance, the very ticket booths in the Crystal Palace are visible. Though the author sometimes goes into similarly specific detail about architectural features or building methods, he also shows a weakness for grand generalizations (“Skyscrapers were the first truly American buildings”) and for repeating the notion that buildings are a kind of machine. With a few exceptions, his main choices reflect a distinctly Eurocentric outlook, and he neglects even to mention Frank Gehry or more than a spare handful of living architects. There is no bibliography or further reading.
Broad of historical (if not international) scope and with illustrations that richly reward poring over—but unfocused. (index, timeline) (Nonfiction. 12-14)