The first thing to note are the beautiful, water colour style illustrations, all of which show the various parts of a building, labelled with it’s correct name.
Each chapter begins with an introduction to the period so as to give context to the drawings that follow.
As my work centers around old buildings and traditional architecture, this book was a pleasure for me to read. Every section provides just enough information about the architectural design that was typical of a particular period from Medieval to Modern Day.
Quite often, books on this subject can be quite expansive, with paragraphs of information, which is fine if you are writing a dissertation but can be a bit of bore if you are just looking for a light read. The creators of Rice’s Language of Buildings are clearly aware that as humans, we find it easier to digest small chunks of writing, peppered with images. Did I mention how beautiful the pictures are?!…
Two chapters that were of particular interest to me: Materials & Where They Came From – a section that talks about bricks, tiles, timber and stone describing what materials were used in different parts of the country and how and where they were used within each building.
The other being the section on the Grammar of Architecture. As a Remedial Surveyor part of my work is writing up reports subsequent to making a site visit. I didn’t study architecture at university so over the years I have had to educate myself as to the vocabulary used to describe the components used in the buildings that we see around us. This single book would’ve saved me hours of searching the internet for the correct word used to describe a certain part of a house that I had visited. Building reports don’t often make for an exciting read, so naming the architectural elements (Think ‘Sonian Arch’, a component that features in our iconic red phone boxes) can at least add some colour and artistic flare to an otherwise formal document.
As the author states: “You can leave a cathedral with as much to talk about as after seeing a film. This book gives you the vocabulary to do so.”
Available in hardback format, Rice’s Language of Buildings is charmingly packaged and at £14.99 it’s ideal as a gift and inspires curiosity if sitting on your coffee table. There are definitely more in depth studies on period architecture out there but if you are looking for a text that is easy to digest then this is a good place to start.