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The Great Builders

Kenneth Powell


A unique survey of forty architect-engineers who have been pioneers in both aesthetic design and technological innovation


Whether imposing or inspiring, spectacular or subtle, the structures that surround us influence the way we interact with the world and lead our lives.

The Great Builders celebrates the motivations, innovations and achievements of forty pioneering designers from the 14th century to the present day. Here we meet Brunelleschi, who built the ‘unbuildable’ dome of Florence Cathedral, and Sinan, the Christian engineer who became chief architect to the Ottoman court. Here, too, we find ourselves looking up at the world’s first skyscrapers by William Le Baron Jenney and Louis Sullivan.

Later, we explore how rapid advances in industrial production found expression in the reinforced-concrete buildings of Le Corbusier and the steel-and-glass structures of Mies van der Rohe. The innovative use of materials has been combined with computer-aided design in the work of today’s architects, represented here by Norman Foster, Frank Gehry and Santiago Calatrava, allowing them – just as their predecessors had done – to test the boundaries of the possible.

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'The story that these 40 anecdotes tell is captivating ... [this] is a rare book that treats architecture as an expression of structural science in the hands of artists'
New York Journal of Books

'[An] excellent study of architecture’s most outstanding exponents '
Burlington Magazine

Product Information

Book Details

Format: Paperback

Size: 19.8 x 12.9 cm

Extent: 256 pp

Illustrations: 26

Publication date: 13 May 2021

ISBN: 9780500294789

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 NewVisions: 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.