For the last few decades, China has been in the midst of a building boom. Since the socio-political changes brought about by Chinese economic reforms since 1978, urbanization and, hence, architecture have accelerated. The country’s rapid growth has been accompanied by unprecedented change in the built landscape. At the same time, the possibility of building at unprecedented scales has been accompanied by a freedom to experience with architectural forms.
Most book milestones are measured in time—six months to deadline!—or word count. For Nicholas Kitto, author of Trading Places: A Photographic Journey through China’s Former Treaty Ports, the pertinent metric was step count: in the process of searching out the subjects for his photographs, Kitto walked 2,784,010 steps in the course of fifty-one different journeys from his home in Hong Kong—which must have amounted well over a thousand miles on foot.
Visitors around the world have traveled to Europe to see the tall spires and stained glass windows of the continent’s Gothic cathedrals: in Cologne, Chartres, Milan, Florence, York and Paris. The trappings of Gothic architecture have become shorthand for “medieval Europe”. Yet in Stealing from the Saracens: How Islamic Architecture Shaped Europe, Diana Darke investigates the Islamic origins of Gothic architecture, tracing its history through pre-Islamic Syria through the Islamic empires to the tall European cathedrals between the 12th and 17th centuries.
In Crime, Justice and Punishment in Colonial Hong Kong, authors May Holdsworth and Christopher Munn use the intersection of the city’s former main police station, magistracy and jail—now the photogenic and commercial Tai Kwun—to tell a unique history of the city under British rule.
The morning after Notre-Dame Cathedral caught fire last year, Diana Darke remarked on Twitter and then on her blog that much of what is considered iconically European about the cathedral—the twin towers, the gothic arches—is Middle Eastern in origin. This created something of a stir and in the provocatively-entitled Stealing from the Saracens, Darke sets out to prove it.
It is no small irony that this survey of courtyard homes in the Asia Pacific region by Charmaine Chan, design editor of the South China Morning Post, has no inclusions from Hong Kong. For such a property-minded city where space is generally designated in vertical terms, one of Chinese architecture’s most traditional elements has become a near-inconceivable luxury.
An imagined love affair between two great architects of the 20th century is the foundation of this lyrical novel by Shiromi Pinto.