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The Great Builders

Kenneth Powell

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A unique survey of 40 architect-engineers who have been pioneers in both aesthetic design and technological innovation, written by leading architectural historians and practising architects


The buildings around us have always been designed to influence the way we see, think and move.

The Great Builders celebrates the careers of 40 great figures whose engineering skills have been crucial to their success. Illustrated with over 200 photographs, plans and drawings, the book brings these remarkable characters and their work to life, revealing the technical ingenuity and aesthetic flair that define some of the world’s most iconic structures.

Here is Brunelleschi, who built the ‘unbuildable’ dome of Florence Cathedral; Sinan, a Christian engineer who became chief architect to the Ottoman court; Joseph Paxton, scribbling down a design for the Crystal Palace, London, on a piece of blotting paper; and James Bogardus, an early American evangelist of the opportunities offered by cast-iron architecture.

Rapid advances in industrial production inspired experiments with new materials and techniques, gradually allowing a whole new architecture to emerge: reinforced concrete, plate glass and steel were central to the creations of Le Corbusier, Auguste Perret and Mies van der Rohe, for instance; and, in the High-Tech architecture of the present day – represented by Norman Foster, Frank Gehry and Santiago Calatrava, among others – computer-aided design has seemingly tested the boundaries of the possible.

Winner: Longman – History Today Awards 2013, Historical Picture Researcher of the Year: Pauline Hubner

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'Beautifully decorated with maps, plans and photographs, all presented on a fine matte surface, and illustrating the simple assertion that developments in engineering push the frontiers of architecture. This is a point that cannot be overstated, and underpins every page of this excellent study of architecture’s most outstanding exponents'
Burlington Magazine

Product Information

Book Details

Format: Hardback

Size: 24.6 x 18.6 cm

Extent: 304 pp

Publication date: 3 October 2011

ISBN: 9780500251799

Contents List

Pioneers of Structure: Filippo Brunelleschi; Qavam al-Din Shirazi; Giuliano da Sangallo; Sinan; Shah Jahan; Christopher Wren; Sebastien Vauban The Age of Iron: Thomas Telford; Karl Friedrich Schinkel; James Bogardus; Joseph Paxton; Victor Baltard; Isambard Kingdom Brunel; A. W. N. Pugin; Eugène-Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc; John Fowler Concrete and Steel: Giuseppe Mengoni; William Le Baron Jenney; Gustave Eiffel; François Hennebique; Antoni Gaudí; Louis H. Sullivan; Frank Lloyd Wright; Auguste Perret; Mies van der Rohe; Le Corbusier; Konstantin Melnikov; Pier Luigi Nervi New Visions: R. Buckminster Fuller; Ove Arup; Louis I. Kahn; Jean Prouvé; Oscar Niemeyer; Eero Saarinen; Frei Otto; Frank Gehry; Kenzo Tange; Norman Foster; Santiago Calatrava; Kengo Kuma.

About the Author

Kenneth Powell is an architectural historian, critic and consultant. He has written extensively on 20th-century and contemporary British architecture, and is the author of books on the work of Norman Foster, Richard Rogers and other major British architects. He is an honorary fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects and has served on the Council of the Architectural Association.

List of Contributors

Kenneth Powell