Why write about buildings? Buildings are chunks of the material of the natural world, refashioned by humans and set down into place to stand as silent as the rocks and trees from which they were made. How can we describe that mute actuality? A building’s only complete description is itself. Writing often intensifies the cloud that obscures buildings rather than dissipates it. So why do it? Two generations ago, architects had a real job to do, rebuilding cities shattered by war. It turned out to be more difficult than it looked. Now the grandchildren of those utopians have a different role, which is to rescue a world that is being turned by the media, the money men and the machines into a replica of itself. In this book Paul Shepheard takes a sideways look at this elusive task and finds himself writing an ode to buildings, which asks: What are they? When do they happen? And how are they used?
Paul Shepheard is an architect living in London. He is the author of four previous books: What is Architecture? An Essay on Landscapes, Buildings, and Machines (1994); The Cultivated Wilderness: Or, What is Landscape? (1997); Artificial Love: A Story of Machines and Architecture (2003) and How to Like Everything: A Utopia (2013).
This is one of the most extraordinary books on architecture you will ever read. Paul Shepheard's writing is hard to categorise: it’s not exactly fiction, or criticism, or memoir, although it involves aspects of all three. This book contains a cast of characters that include people, places and architecture and his definition of buildings runs to birds' nests, totem poles and the Large Hadron Collider. Shepheard doesn’t attempt to corral these things into an a-priori theory – the usual mode of architectural writing – but describes them as he finds them, in all their endless and dizzying complexity.
— Charles Holland
Architecture is his subject, but Paul Shepheard finds it everywhere – from the bowels of the Earth to the depths of outer space.
— Douglas Murphy