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The Story of Buildings: From the Pyramids to the Sydney Opera House and Beyond Hardcover – March 11, 2014

4.8 out of 5 stars 36 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Gr 5 Up—"Every building has a story to tell." Beginning with the Egyptian pyramid of Djoser and progressing through the Greeks and Romans, the Renaissance, and on to modern skyscrapers and Paris's Pompidou Center, Dillon ties advances in architecture and building to specific cultural and economic conditions. In some cases, he credits the genius of individuals, such as Palladio. Each chapter begins with a historical overview and is followed by a description and illustration of a representative building. Clear explanations of basic building concepts (cantilevers, arches and domes, reinforced concrete) are balanced with discussions of more abstract principles such as symmetry, geometry, and pattern. But the volume is truly set apart by Biesty's elaborate, meticulously detailed, and clearly labeled drawings (some stretching across two large-format pages plus two half-page fold-outs). Widely known for his 1992 Incredible Cross Sections, Biesty here adds a kaleidoscopic yet tightly integrated visual dimension that will transfix readers. The section on London's Crystal Palace, designed by gardener Joseph Paxton and built for the Great Exhibition of 1851, is fascinating, outlining the modular design and rapid construction from 300,000 sheets of glass and 1,000 iron columns. Sections detailing Beijing's Forbidden City, Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, the Taj Mahal, and other buildings from outside the European tradition are worked deftly into the narrative.—Bob Hassett, Luther Jackson Middle School, Falls Church, VA

From Booklist

This large, handsome volume combines broad discussions of architectural history with exceptional drawings of significant buildings from ancient to modern times. Though most of the 16 featured buildings were constructed in Europe, the Pyramid of Djoser, the Forbidden City, the Taj Mahal, the Chrysler Building, and the Sydney Opera House are included as well. A typical entry fills several large pages, including a beautifully drawn double-page illustration with a gatefold page highlighting related facts. An English architect, Dillon clearly knows his subject and presents it in a readable way. However, the time frame of historical events is sometimes vague, and occasionally a scene imagining the past is tinged with fiction. (No sources are appended.) Intricate and precise, Biesty’s colored-pencil drawings offer viewers a good sense of the scale as well as the form and presence of each building. Through his signature cross sections, details of interiors and construction can be seen as well. While the text, illustrations, and captions all provide information, it’s the drawings of buildings that make this a valuable resource. Grades 5-7. --Carolyn Phelan
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Product Details

  • Age Range: 9 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 4 - 7
  • Lexile Measure: 1060L (What's this?)
  • Hardcover: 96 pages
  • Publisher: Candlewick (March 11, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0763669903
  • ISBN-13: 978-0763669904
  • Product Dimensions: 10.2 x 0.6 x 11.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #18,568 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
"Buildings are far more than piles of brick or frames of steel, because every one, no matter how large or small, carries the dreams of the people who made it." I loved this book because it told the story of many beautiful buildings, and brought to life the dreams of those who created these buildings. These stories are written in a simple and engaging manner meant for the junior reader, but which also charmed this grownup. The illustrations are extremely beautiful and meticulous, and explain the features of buildings that contributed to their builders' dreams. I learned how buildings can be both aesthetic and purposeful. A wonderful book for kids and grownups alike!
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Format: Hardcover
The Story of Buildings is a gorgeous hardcover book that measures approximately 12" x 10". Picking it up for the first time, it looked a bit like a coffee table book for kids, which I guess it could be used as such. The book begins with a chapter on building a house. The author, Patrick Dillon, describes how people used to live in caves because it was the most logical shelter choice available, but eventually developed tools and learned how to make homes. According to him, this is the story of buildings. He then goes on to show how dwelling places have changed both over the years and depending on where one lived. After this other types of structures came into being, like barns, factories, places of worship, etc. He stresses that "Every building has a story to tell." We then dive into the heart of the book.

The remaining chapters focus on a particular building, starting with the Pyramid of Djoser and ending with the Straw Bale House in London, England. Each chapter tells background information on the place the building is located, the culture/people, and the building itself. A large foldout 2 page illustration is then provided to show finer details of the building itself. The book has a nice flow to it, because it's like reading a linear evolution of buildings. He starts with Egypt, moves to Greece, then Rome, etc. and manages to paint a beautiful picture with words to accompany the many beautiful illustrations by Stephen Biesty. This is a great book for children and adults alike and reminds me of David Macaulay's books. This is a great book for getting kids interested in architecture and engineering.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book has beautiful illustrations and wonderful anecdotes about all the buildings it highlights. My husband and I have enjoyed it as much as the grandchildren it was given to (6 and 8 years old).
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Good book about buildings - nice, but limited and elementary, history of the buildings featured. This was a gift for 12-year old interested in "building things" and architecture, so he loved it. As an adult and architect myself I found it interesting and well done for 4th thru 8th grades. Maybe applicable for older young adults and even adults, but pretty basic stuff if you know anything about buildings.
The drawings are all isometrics and axonometrics - all pretty much cut from the same cloth. The consistency is nice for beginners, but loses its punch on about the fourth or fifth building. Again, great for elementary, a little too basic for older young adults. Nonetheless, great for our intentions.
purchased July 2015
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
As a lifelong fan of Stephen Biesty whose bought every book he's illustrated since "Incredible Cross-Sections," I was somewhat disappointed by this book. It provides a decent, although Western-biased, introduction to architecture, starting with the Pyramid of Djoser, and ending with the Pompidou Center in Paris. Patrick Dillon's writing is frequently engaging and does a fine job describing the history of each of the buildings shown within. Unfortunately, Stephen Biesty's artwork is easily the weakest of his career. The building cut-aways, while presented as large fold-outs, are often very sparsely detailed, rather drab looking, and lacking the human detail that makes Biesty's artwork so fascinating.

I'm sure smart kids will love this book, but as an adult who still loves Stephen Biesty, I was a little let down.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I teach preschool children, so the grade level was a lot higher than their ability level, yet I absolutely loved learning how complex structures were created throughout civilization. This book would be great for school age children, and teachers who love to read and learn about an eclectic array of subjects.
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Format: Hardcover
You won't find a better book than this for young readers on buildings and how they are constructed. The illustrations are wonderful and the content is very, very informative. This book is so good I'm saving it for my own library and will share it with any youngster who indicates he or she wants to learn more about the ins and outs of building construction. Patrick Dillon does a very thorough job and the narrative is very readable. BRAVO!

Book supplied by publisher.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a beautiful and interesting book. I bought it for my 10-year old grandson who has spoken of wanting to be an archetect. He is a very good reader, but I can see him using this book more for research projects, rather than sitting down and reading it. It will be interesting how he likes it.
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