Home / Arts / Books / Modern History in Pictures (DK Publishing) Great Buildings: The World’s Architectural Masterpieces Explored and Explained (DK Publishing), by Philip Wilkinson
Monday, Oct. 29, 2012

Modern History in Pictures (DK Publishing) Great Buildings: The World’s Architectural Masterpieces Explored and Explained (DK Publishing), by Philip Wilkinson

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Modern History in Pictures is a coffee table book chronicling culture, politics, science and conflict from 1900 through the present. Captions are key, because the pictures need interpretation and inevitably, simplifications will occur when complicated events are cropped to fit the demands of this format. However, the editorial contributors made an honest effort to include most regions of the world, and the juxtapositions are enlightening. A good example: the African-American and Australian Aboriginal civil rights movements coincided in time. But even captions can be controversial. Armenians will call the death toll in the blurb on the Armenian Genocide understated and Turkish extremists will complain that the massacres never occurred. On the whole, the team behind Modern History in Pictures did good work, identifying general trends and naming the important names.

Perhaps the coffee table format is better suited for Great Buildings. Author Philip Wilkinson chose 53 impressive structures, illustrated with color photographs and arranged chronologically from the Great Pyramid and the Parthenon through Rome’s MAXXI museum and Japan’s Yushuhara Wooden Bridge. All inhabited continents but not all civilizations are represented, with sub-Saharan Africa as the largest blank spot (Ethiopia’s cliff-side rock churches could have been included). Many of the choices are familiar, albeit Wilkinson provides a few surprises, including Borobudur on Java, probably the world’s largest Buddhist temple, and Renzo Piano’s cultural center in New Caledonia. The layout is attractive and the text is refreshingly clear, written for a non-specialist audience.