Last week’s beautiful weather was nearly enough to persuade an English complexion that London was in fact part of southern Europe. How many of you were too proud and/or stupid to wear suncream and are returning after the bank holiday slightly sunburned… I know I certainly am. If the return to true British summer weather (dull and overcast, with a small chance of watery sunshine mid-afternoon, guaranteed to have disappeared by the time you reach one of those sacred London rooftops after work) has left you feeling blue, then fear not… you need only visit Fora – Central Street’s Reading Room to be transported back to sunnier climes. The Grand Tour, by Harry Seidler, is the perfect book to take you on a whistle stop tour of the world’s greatest architecture, and remind you of past sightseeing trips.
Whenever I travel to foreign cities one of my favourite ways to sightsee is to rent a bike, and spend an afternoon taking in the local architecture from two wheels. There is always such variety and intrigue that a bike is necessary to cover enough ground (literally). A man who is surely familiar with this desire to take in as much as possible of the buildings created by different communities around the world is Harry Seidler, who spent over 50 years photographing architecture for this book. You would expect a book on the global history of architecture to include the mighty Pyramids, Taj Mahal and Eiffel Tower… you might not expect to find Sailsbury Catherdral (p.147), Brighton Pier (p.163) or Stansted Airport (p.165) on the pages in between. But all these structures have important features that display part of our architectural heritage and deserve recognition, although they are maybe not all quite such monumental buildings.
Living in the age of #nofilter, where Instagram, Snapchat and the likes can make the most ordinary object look like a work of art, some of the photographs in this book appear slightly gloomy and dated, but this is possibly just my millennial eyes being overly critical. The photos are more factual than artistic though, and some of the compositions could be better balanced. One thing I never expected to praise a book for is having an excellent selection of ceilings; some of the upward facing images are truly remarkable. Christ Church Cathedral (p.154), Westminster Abbey (p.149) and Beijing’s Temple of Heaven (p.502) are some beautifully symmetric and complex examples of this.
Have a flick through and count how many of these buildings you have visited. I was pleasantly surprised at how many I recognised from my own travels. If I could choose one of these wonderful buildings to be at right now it would have to be on a lounger next to the blue waters at Udaipor’s Lake Palace (p.524), enjoying the Indian sunshine… someone pass me a Palatino Spritz!
The Grand Tour by Harry Seidler, was published by Taschen in 2013 and is just one of the many Taschen books you can enjoy in the Reading Room at Fora Central Street.
Review by Budelia – Resident Host and Reading Room Curator at Fora Central Street