Monumental works

15th December 2000 at 00:00
THE STORY OF ARCHITECTURE. By Jonathan Glancey. Dorling Kindersley. pound;20.

3-DIMENSIONAL EARTH. By Sean Connolly. Marshall Publishing .pound;9.99.

I had always thought of Barcelona's Sagrada Familia cathedral as among the world's most extraordinary buildings. This was until I saw the mountain palace at Neuschwanstein, which Jonathan Glancey describes as "the most romantic castle ever built" and an inspiration for Disneyland itself.

With the publication of this book we can easily access and argue about other competitors, such as Bentley's Westminster Cathedral and the massive Banff Springs Hotel in Alberta which, built like a castle, was designed to make Scottish visitors feel at home. This is a monumental undertaking, covering 5,000 years of history and including the architecture of the great Eastern civilisations and Africa.

This is a history of architecture, not just buildings. The Great Wall of China is included as one of the ancient world's great architectural projects. The author is right to emphasise the effects that buildings have on appearance; think of Paris with its classical ranges of arcaded apartments and shops which, from the air, give it an impressive and pleasurable unity.

Throughout this large book runs the theme of the architect as artist and, in addition to the historical and regional chapters, are those which draw together the legacy of the great stylistic movements: the High Renaissance, neo-classical, arts and crafts, the post-modern.

The chapter on the Bauhaus, closed down by Hitler because it was seen as a hotbed of socialism, reminds us that design is as important for factories and flats as for temples and tombs.

This informative and sensually illustrated book will prooke those who feel that Bath has been treated scantily and that Ely Cathedral and Chatsworth deserve as much attention as Boston's public library.

In the best traditions of the subject itself, this book should get us talking about what we like and what we value.

People have been trying to map the Earth for 2,500 years, but it is only during the past 30 years that we have been able to see it as a whole. The problem that remains is how to represent a sphere on a flat surface.

The unique contribution of 3-Dimensional Earth is that by using 3-D maps, it can simulate a contoured surface and come as close as possible, without using a computer, to presenting the Earth as it is.

The result is a set of large-format, fold-out panoramic maps of each continent, which show the relief as one would see it from space. Mountain ranges, gorges and river basins are given greater definition than is the case with relief maps using conventional projections. This approach is particularly successful in presenting the scale of the frozen sea water of the Arctic and the ridges and trenches of the ocean floor.

The use of different angles, which appear to distort the familiar shapes of countries such as Australia and India, actually helps to reinforce our understanding of their location and physical character.

Each map is accompanied by explanatory text and an interesting data file with key information on highest and lowest points; highest and lowest temperature and population.

At under pound;10, this atlas represents good value and it can be strongly recommended for primary and secondary readers.

Mark Williamson Mark Williamson is general adviser for humanities and RE for the London Borough of Hounslow


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