I’ve produced a list of structures mentioned in the book ‘Building Passions‘.
I created the list for indexing purposes, as it naturally flowed out of my text for the book. Perhaps I should have done it the other way round?
All lists need choices to be made. The public voted Isambard Kingdom Brunel the second greatest Briton after Churchill. Does that make his structures the best British ones ever? Of course not!
This website focuses on the works of his son Henry Brunel in partnership with Sir John Wolfe Barry, who really gets the credit as project lead. His father Sir Charles Barry has many buildings on the list, including the Houses of Parliament, but no tunnels, bridges, docks or rail lines and stations. Sir Charles was an architect, unlike the previously named engineers.
Other architects and engineers are on the list, as well as unattributed structures such as the Acropolis or the Burj Khalifa.
Some might say it’s a bit of a dog’s breakfast. I disagree. There are connections between all these structures across and over time.
Which is my favourite structure on the list? No surprise to those who know me, it’s the Travellers Club in London by Charles Barry and his close friend John Lewis Wolfe. Apart from sheer admiration of form and function, my father used to be a member and often stayed there on trips from Switzerland to the UK.
I also appreciate the significance of John Wolfe.
Sir Charles’s fourth son was named after him, and in tribute to his memory and lineage, he continued with the ‘Wolfe’ title in a family name that is still alive today.
One of the most interesting findings from self-publishing my forthcoming book (short title ‘Building Passions’) on the 19th-century Brunels and Barrys is that sourcing images is complicated!
I could probably write a separate book about this but below are some bullets.
- My editor quite rightly advised me to start sourcing images early in the process. It has probably taken me about 4 months and there is still one outstanding one to be licensed.
- People and organisations have different policies for licensing images ranging from free, no hassle to costly and complex! This seems to bear little relevance to the provenance of the image …
- The internet has taken the lead in encouraging the shared use of free images through Creative Commons and similar schemes.
- Certain images of well-known privately-owned buildings e.g. the Burj Khalifa and the Shard are copyrighted, but in the case of the Eiffel Tower while you can use a daytime image freely, you can’t use a nighttime one as the electric lighting is trademarked …
- Non-fiction works are therefore more costly to publish so if you want to spend less, write fiction and include your own illustrations.
I am sympathetic to living producers of genuine artistic objects who need to be recognised and rewarded for their efforts, in order to allow the creative design process to flourish.
However, I am less sympathetic to others outside this category, particularly archives and agencies that charge self-publishers large sums for the reuse of their images, many of which may have outlived their ‘real’ copyright needs.
I think we need to strike a balance here, as with many areas of life. If not, one day perhaps everything we see will be labelled ‘not for reuse’, including ourselves. See this intriguing piece about copyrighting the tattoos of famous sports personalities …
I had a small victory yesterday in the process of self-publishing my forthcoming book.
After many weeks of email correspondence and occasional calls in the direction of the Gulf States I finally got a result.
Let’s start at the beginning.
The new book is about the Brunel and Barry families of Victorian architects and engineers. It starts with Isambard Kingdom Brunel, the most famous of all the subjects, voted second greatest Briton of all time after Churchill.
IKB’s first major project was working with his father to build a passenger tunnel under the River Thames in London. This was literally a ground-breaking exercise!
Roma Agrawal has covered the tunnel story excellently in her brilliant book ‘BUILT’ for which a children’s version is due to be published in 2020.
In my book I make the link between that early 19th-century underground structure and the world’s tallest skyscraper. Do you know where it is? Hint: the Gulf States.
The connection comes through the story of Brunel’s son Henry and the son of Sir Charles Barry, the architect of the Houses of Parliament (for which the name of this website is a huge clue!). It goes on via Tower Bridge, which the two sons built, to their expanding civil engineering consultancy in the early 20th Century.
Ultimately, the legacy organisation from their partnership was involved in the construction of the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, UAE, at the time of writing the highest skyscraper on the globe, but please check with the official database.
You need permission to publish a photo of the Burj Khalifa (worth remembering if you go to Dubai!), hence I have it for my book but not for this website yet.
This a quick post to promote Roma Agrawal’s new podcast website called ‘Building Stories’.
I have listened to the first three casts on it which are all fascinating and ‘build’ on the stories in her amazing book BUILT.
I particularly like the one on the Shard, so some highlights:
- Roma explains how she helped build the Shard and a colleague tells her how the steel in it was first developed in Sri Lanka in the 3rd Century BC and industrialised in 19th Century Britain.
- Roma was born in India like my brother and I! One of her skyscraper heroes was a structural engineer/architect, born in Bangladesh, who designed the ground-breaking John Hancock Centre and Sears Tower in Chicago. You will have to listen to find out more …
- The legacy business of my favourite civil engineer (hint: this website is about him!) helped construct the world’s tallest skyscraper, the Burj Khalifa.
Finally, I’ve called this post ‘building stories, building passions’ because the second part is in the subtitle of the book I’m writing – for my latest post on progress see the previous one to this.
I decided a while back that I would self-publish my forthcoming book on the Brunel and Barry families.
This has meant foregoing current earnings to spend time writing and there is no guarantee how I will do with my first (and possibly only!) book.
I have also spent money on an editorial assessment and buying image rights, plus I am committed to further payments for editing, proofreading and design and marketing costs. Since I don’t know what sales will be like, it’s difficult to estimate future income from publication. This also depends on the cover price and whether I market it only as an e-print or also as a hard- or softback.
That being said, the people I am writing about were very familiar with the concept of risk. Isambard K Brunel’s father Marc was thrown into debtors’ prison as poor cashflow held up his ground-breaking projects. It was only the threat of him returning to the old enemy France that precipitated action at the highest levels to release Government funds. Sir Charles Barry and his son Edward Middleton Barry were consistently at loggerheads with Parliament over delayed payments for building the New Palace of Westminster.
So, it would help me greatly to know what interest there might be out there for this book. The current favoured title is “Barry, Brunel and sons:
Builders to the British Empire”. My only concern is there is too much alliteration going on in it. What do you think? Tell me in a comment below.
To get a flavour of the book please look at the content of this website – it develops from the main focus here on John Wolfe Barry, to a wider scope looking at his father, brothers and close relationship with Henry Brunel, hence brings in the latter’s famous father IK and grandfather Marc. It also makes connections between Victorian architecture and engineering and modern day structures such as the world’s tallest skyscraper, the Burj Khalifa in the UAE.
P.S. The illustration of Big Ben is made from a photo I took of it at night time before the current renovation works. Another Barry structure!
Monday 22 January 2018 marked exactly 100 years since the death of Sir John Wolfe Barry, the man who built Tower Bridge, London. He died peacefully at his home in Chelsea at the venerable age of 81.
His lifetime is commemorated on this website, the culmination of a project that started many years ago. It is also commemorated on a window in Westminster Abbey, below which lies the tomb of his famous father the architect of the Houses of Parliament.
At the time of his death Sir John had achieved many things in addition to building Tower Bridge between 1886 and 1894. He had been President of the Institution of Civil Engineers in the 1890s, a famous organisation celebrating its bicentenary this year. He was credited with founding the Engineering Standards Committee at the turn of the 20th Century, which eventually became the British Standards Institution, home of the Kitemark. He was pivotal in helping to establish the National Physical Laboratory at around the same time.
Less well-known about him was the fact that he chaired the Board of the telegraph companies which were eventually to become Cable & Wireless. His close business partner for many decades was Henry Brunel, younger son of Isambard K Brunel. Sir John took over the lease of the Brunels’ house in Westminster, London and made it his own family home before he moved on to Chelsea.
Finally, Sir John’s civil engineering consultancy eventually became part of the same company which helped build the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, at the time of this centenary date the world’s tallest building.