‘Madonna of the Future’, 1967, 
made from a 
headless mannequin, 
electric cord, 
a Belling’s heater and the Henry James novel of the same name

Adhocism, by Charles Jencks - review

6 July 2013
Adhocism: The Case for Improvisation Charles Jencks and Nathan Silver

MIT, pp.256, £17.95, ISBN: 9780262518444

Here, for time travellers, is the whack-job spirit of ’68 in distillate form, paperbound and reissued in facsimile (with some exculpatory, older and wiser material fore and aft). Adhocism (re)captures… Read more

The Church of the Nativity of Our Lady on the Podmoklovo Estate, Serpukov, Moscow Region

Russia: A World Apart, by Simon Marsden - review

1 June 2013
Russia: A World Apart Simon Marsden and Duncan McLaren

Mudds and Stoke, pp.144, £25, ISBN: 9780957379503

Here are acres of desolate countryside, pockmarked by once great estates, ravaged by rot. Could it be much bleaker? Many aristocrats  fled Russia during the Revolution. Even Tolstoy’s family were… Read more

La Maison Blanche: the house Le Corbusier built as a present for his parents

Le Corbusier was ashamed of the house he built

1 June 2013

On the outskirts of La Chaux-de-Fonds, an industrial town in the Swiss Jura, stands one of the most beautiful houses I’ve seen. Elegant and understated, La Maison Blanche is the… Read more

The ultimate fashion accessory?
Left: the hermitage at Dale Abbey, Derbyshire and (right) the new hermitage, Painshill, Surrey

The Hermit in the Garden, by Gordon Campbell - review

11 May 2013
The Hermit in the Garden: From Imperial Rome to Ornamental Gnome Gordon Campbell

OUP, pp.257, £16.99, ISBN: 9780199696994

In his 1780 essay On Modern Gardening Horace Walpole declared that of the many ornamental features then fashionable, the one ‘whose merit soonest fades’ was the hermitage. Inspired by the… Read more

The symbolism of the cemetery: the draped urn, popular among the Victorians, is usually taken to mean that the soul has departed the shrouded body for its journey to heaven

How to Read a Graveyard, by Peter Stanford - review

4 May 2013
How to Read a Graveyard Peter Stanford

Bloomsbury, pp.263, £16.99, ISBN: 9781441174777

Peter Stanford likes cemeteries. Daily walks with his dog around a London graveyard acclimatised him, while the deaths of his parents set him wondering about customs of mourning and places… Read more


Defending the real Downton Abbeys

9 March 2013

From a horrific Victorian murder to its role as a royal refuge from Nazi invasion, Newby Hall has known enough genuine drama to make a primetime telly series. And in… Read more

East window of Holy Trinity Church,Templebreedy, Co. Cork, designed by William Burges

William Burges and the High Victorian Dream', by J. Mordaunt Crook - review

9 March 2013
William Burges and the High Victorian Dream J. Mordaunt Crook

Frances Lincoln, pp.432, £45, ISBN: 9780711233492

It is 32 years since the first edition of this hefty book appeared in 1981. The original was based on the research materials amassed by Charles Handley-Read, the pioneer scholar… Read more

‘On Glasgow and Edinburgh', by Robert Crawford - review

9 March 2013
On Glasgow and Edinburgh Robert Crawford

Belknap Press, Harvard University, pp.344, $35, ISBN: 9780674048881

Glasgow and Edinburgh are so nearby that even in the 18th-century Adam Smith could breakfast in one city and be in the other for early-afternoon dinner. For all that, these… Read more

At least Prince Charles should be happy with the roof of the new Design Museum in Holland Park

The new Design Museum: Prince Charles will prefer it. But should we?

2 March 2013

Twenty-five years ago I went to St James’s Palace to ask the Prince of Wales if he would open the new Design Museum. Before us was the model of the… Read more


The shape of things to come

31 December 2011
Futurescapes: Designers for Tomorrow’s Outdoor Spaces Tim Richardson

Thames & Hudson, pp.351, 24.95

Drawing for Landscape Architecture: Sketch to Screen to Site Edward Hutchison

Thames & Hudson, pp.240, 29.95

I opened Futurescapes with anticipation, knowing Tim Richardson to be a forceful commentator, and landscape architects to be in dire need of an articulate champion. The mixed marriage of ‘landscape’… Read more


Amazing grace

3 December 2011
Downside Abbey: An Architectural History edited by Dom Aidan Bellenger

Merrell, pp.224, 45

It was in 1814 that the Benedictine monks arrived in Stratton-on-the-Fosse in Somerset from Douai in Flanders where, in 1606, they had established an exiled, but English, monastic house. They… Read more


Rather in the lurch

9 April 2011
The Irish Country House the Knight of Glin and James Peill, with photographs by James Fennell

Thames & Hudson, pp.192, 24.95

The Country House Revealed: A Secret History of the British Ancestral Home Dan Cruickshank

BBC Books, pp.288, 25

Will it ever end? The romantic interest in the architecture, history and life lived in the country house is as alive today as it was in 1978, when Mark Girouard… Read more


Vertically challenged

27 November 2010

St Paul’s Cathedral is quite rightly something of a national obsession. No other building has protected ‘view corridors’ as a result of legislation in 1935, when new building regulations allowed… Read more


Murder in Madison Square Garden

13 November 2010
Triumvirate Mosette Broderick

Alfred A. Knopf, pp.$40, 640

In Victorian and Edwardian England architects did not get themselves murdered. They weren’t playboys, they didn’t have it off with their clients’ wives, they were in no way fashionable even… Read more

Oh Brother, where art thou?

25 September 2010
The Buildings of England: Hampshire (Winchester and the North) Michael Bullen, John Crook, Rodney Hubbock and Nikolaus Pevsner

Yale, pp.807, 35

Benjamin Franklin had this ambition for his body: that after his death it should be reissued ‘in a new and more beautiful edition, corrected and amended by the author’. Benjamin… Read more


In and out of favour in Iraq

25 September 2010
Late for Tea at the Deer Palace Tamara Chalabi

Harper Press, pp.414, 25

Nowadays the TV cameras make Baghdad look like a suburban car park, and for Tamara Chalabi, raised in England and Beirut on memories of pre-Saddam Iraq, the first encounter in… Read more


Built for eternity

14 August 2010
The Escorial: Art and Power in the Renaissance Henry Kamen

Yale, pp.291, 25

The Escorial, as a monastery and a royal palace, was the brain child of Philip II of Spain. Built in the latter half of the 16th century, about 30 miles… Read more


Secrets and silences

30 June 2010
Hancox: A House and A Family Charlotte Moore

Viking, pp.484, 20

Charlotte Moore’s family have lived at Hancox on the Sussex Weald for well over a century. Charlotte Moore’s family have lived at Hancox on the Sussex Weald for well over… Read more


The pride of the Sackvilles

23 June 2010
Inheritance Robert Sackville-West

Bloomsbury, pp.293, 20

Knole is a country house the size of a small village in the Kent countryside. For the past 400 years it has been inhabited by 13 generations of a single… Read more


Flights of futuristic fantasy

16 June 2010
Norman Foster: A Life in Architecture Deyan Sudjic

Weidenfeld, pp.308, 20

The Great Court of the British Museum is a good place to start. Norman Foster brought light into the wonderfully elegant and inspiring glazed space at the heart of the… Read more


Array of luminaries

27 January 2010
Seeing Further: The Story of Science and the Royal Society Bill Bryson (editor)

Harper Press, pp.490, 25

In November 1660, on a damp night at Gresham College in London, a young shaver named Christopher Wren gave a lecture on astronomy. In the clearly appreciative audience were 12… Read more


A dream made concrete

6 January 2010
Sydney Opera House: A Tribute to J Katarina Stübe and Jan Utzon

Reveal Books, pp.183, 45

You are celebrated as the architect of one of the most famous buildings in the world, now in your late eighties and living quietly in your home outside Copenhagen. One… Read more

Repeat that, repeat

9 December 2009
The Infinity of Lists Umberto Eco

Maclehose Press, pp.408, 35

When the Louvre invited me to organise for the whole of November 2009 a series of conferences, exhibitions, public readings, concerts, film projections and the like on the subject of… Read more

Not so serene

9 September 2009
Venice, Pure City Peter Ackroyd

Chatto & Windus, pp.387, 25

Is there anything original left to say about Venice? Probably not, but that doesn’t stop the books from coming, tied in, as they mostly now are, with a television series.… Read more

Shrine of a connoisseur

7 April 2009
Sir John Soane’s Museum, London Tim Knox

Merrell, pp.160, 24.95

Sir John Soane’s Museum, London, by Tim Knox, photographs by Derry Moore Sir John Soane’s Museum is very nearly a folly — a mad grotto in the midst of Georgian… Read more