My delightful teenage daughter told me I was a bridge nerd the other day. In her terms this would be considered an insult to any decent teenager. Fortunately, I’m not in my teens and I consider it a compliment.
What do I like about bridges? Below is a list of possibles:
- They are elegant
- They connect two communities
- They circumvent a natural obstacle
- They are historic landmarks
- They were built by significant people
- They are structures like buildings
My book ‘Building Passions‘ aims to celebrate historical structures. The website has lists of them with links to further information. I’m even building my own working model of Tower Bridge. Yes, nerdish, but who cares.
Many great engineers and architects were nerds. Isambard Kingdom Brunel was a super nerd. He was also voted 2nd greatest Briton after Churchill. Interestingly, both of them had a non-British parent – Winston’s mother was American and IK’s father was French. They weren’t afraid to be different.
You can read more about Brunel’s family and the Barry family, with their Victorian connections between architecture and engineering. The book is available in print via the website and if you use the code IKBSCB you can get free UK postage.
Once lockdown started in the UK I stopped making print copies of my book ‘Building Passions’ available to purchase. This was because I couldn’t guarantee that I wouldn’t spread COVID-19 via the book and the postal system.
To compensate I have halved the e-book price in April. Since my goal has always been to sell mainly in e-format then this made sense. However no sales have taken place via Kobo.com .
Therefore I will resume with postal sales from the end of April and review how I distribute the book electronically. I dont want an exclusive contract with Kindle. I’m starting to dislike anything linked with Amazon, who seem keen on maximising profits at the expense of their workers and independent publishing.
I would have promoted the book more through physical talks but obviously the pandemic came along. I’m less safe at remote talks but I will try to develop these skills.
I’ve not blogged yet about the current pandemic facing the world. It didn’t seem appropriate for my typical themes.
However, now that people are wondering what to do with themselves as they self-isolate (the word of 2020?), it does seem appropriate to encourage them to read more books.
Not only will they derive more pleasure and knowledge, they may learn a few tricks. Equally, they will help authors and smaller publishers such as myself. I would strongly recommend reading ‘BUILT‘ by my structural engineer friend Roma Agrawal, which inspired me to write my own book.
In the case of ‘Building Passions‘, all you need to do is look at the website and then decide if you want to read more. You can only buy the e-book via Kobo.com as a print copy is too risky currently to mail.
I’m also looking into remote casting talks about the book and its related topics, which cover the 19th-century Brunel and Barry families and ‘modern’ Victorian architecture. I know a fair bit now about the highly decorative ‘Art Nouveau’ architecture of the later 19th and early 20th Centuries, as I’m planning a PhD in that area once things have calmed down.
Above all, be wise and stay safe for your sake and everyone else’s.
I published my first book ‘Building Passions‘ electronically in September 2019 and then in print in November 2019. It covers the story of the Brunel and Barry families of Victorian engineers and architects.
At the time I wasn’t fully aware of European book pricing regulations. It turned out that they vary by country (so much for an EU!) and in some cases you are not allowed to offer price reductions for up to 18 months.
The UK is more flexible and this is an area where Brexit will have little impact. So I have been able to run UK sales on the book at appropriate times linked to promotional events.
That said, I am still keen to know how to come to the right book price if you are a self-publisher. ‘Building Passions’ e-version is priced at £4.50 in the UK based on a minimal return per download and the print version then adds on £9 to cover printing related costs (could be lower if you print bigger batches). Some e-books are available free of charge, simply to promote the print or audio version. Big publishers can afford to cross subsidise, and some of them have few qualms about cutting down forests to print vast numbers of less costly books, or pay celebrities large (fixed?) fees to record their narratives.
The market needs to be only lightly regulated. This can happen with some form of agreement between the small and the large operators. Will this emerge? Perhaps after life has readjusted post-virus …
Writing is about communication. But is it more than that?
I ask because I have always been a writer, since my earliest days learning the craft. Once I became reasonably confident, then I allowed myself to experiment with ideas and phrases.
Publishing my first e-book and print version ‘Building Passions‘ last year was another first step for me. It was built on the foundations of this website about John Wolfe Barry, Henry Brunel and Tower Bridge. I simply extended the concept to their wider families and structures.
A crossroads has appeared recently.
I finished my first novella, still connected to the world of historical biography. I am currently writing my next one, which is pure fiction, but inevitably features references to history. A leopard can’t hide its spots.
I will continue to blog here on topics of interest to me, but not always directly related to the Barrys and Brunels. The common theme will, however, be writing.
But at the same time I will develop other communication techniques through the amazing tools of the internet, as well as direct interaction with audiences at venues.
Of course you will always be able to buy printed versions of my books, but there won’t be many copies available as I refuse to sacrifice trees for this purpose.
As part of scoping for a potential PhD in the history of architecture and engineering, I have been considering the tension between being creative and sticking to norms.
It’s a topic I’ve skirted around already on this website and in my book ‘Building Passions‘.
Imagine you have to design a new house for someone you admire and respect. They have given you a brief which tells you they want the building to be unique for them, but that it needs to conform with local health and safety regulations. This immediately produces creative tension in the design process.
That’s not a bad thing in itself and forces you to think about new approaches to form and function, but which can still meet the set standards. It is possible that artistic recognition may come out of this process. This will depend on the nature of the materials used and the skills employed at melding them into an original work of beauty.
What makes humans different is our ability to appreciate our wider environment. Other creatures just live in theirs. They may have unwritten rules, but these are purely designed to serve the group rather than the individual.
So creativity and norms can co-exist in societies. But we humans need to rise above our basic motivations and reflect on the bigger picture.
Can we do this?
Weird title for a post, I know. But humour me a little.
My book ‘Building Passions‘ is about the history of architecture and engineering in Victorian Britain, seen through the eyes of two key families, the Brunels and Barrys. I came up with the short title (there is a long one) while drafting the text. It seemed to fit sections describing how and why a built environment is important to the communities that live within it.
‘What about STEAM engagement?’ you might ask.
Well, it’s what I am trying to do through this blog, my websites and my book. STEAM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics. In the UK it once used to be SET, so without the maths or arts included. I had the privilege of once working closely with Professor Dame Celia Hoyles, who became England’s first Maths Czar in the early 2000s, and she definitely got the M into SET!
Since then there have been pushes to get an A into the acronym. Again, the US leads the way on this. I am a supporter because the built environment needs young people with all five facets. This is a big ambition! It is also broad and there is a risk it all just turns into words rather than actions.
Styles and fads have cyclical lives, adapting as they develop and reinvent. The same may happen with STEAM.
So be it.
But while it is alive let’s make the most of STEAM’s potential impact and stoke up some passion for buildings amongst wider audiences.