Dan Cruickshank’s Adventures in Architecture episode 1: Dan Cruickshank explores how humanity has created beauty through architecture. He travels to Greenland to build an igloo, creating an architectural form that is under threat due to climate change. In China he scales the world’s biggest Buddha and deciphers a temple in India rich with erotic images.
He visits the Catherine Palace, a hot-blooded baroque masterpiece in the middle of snowy Russia. Finally in Adventures in Architecture episode 1, he uncovers the dark tale of Albi Cathedral, a building originally designed to suppress the local population but now an object of beauty and wonder.
Dan Cruickshank’s Adventures in Architecture episode 1 – Beauty
An igloo, also known as a snow house or snow hut, is a type of shelter built of snow, typically built when the snow is suitable.
Although igloos are often associated with all Inuit and Eskimo peoples, they were traditionally used only by the people of Canada’s Central Arctic and Greenland’s Thule area. Other Inuit tended to use snow to insulate their houses, which were constructed from whalebone and hides. Snow is used because the air pockets trapped in it make it an insulator. On the outside, temperatures may be as low as −45 °C (−49 °F), but on the inside, the temperature may range from −7 to 16 °C (19 to 61 °F) when warmed by body heat alone.
The snow used to build an igloo must have enough structural strength to be cut and stacked appropriately. The best snow to use for this purpose is snow which has been blown by wind, which can serve to compact and interlock the ice crystals; snow that has settled gently to the ground in still weather is not useful. The hole left in the snow where the blocks are cut is usually used as the lower half of the shelter.
Snow’s insulating properties enable the inside of the igloo to remain relatively warm. In some cases, a single block of clear freshwater ice is inserted to allow light into the igloo. Igloos used as winter shelters had beds made of loose snow, skins, and caribou furs. Sometimes, a short tunnel is constructed at the entrance, to reduce wind and heat loss when the door is opened. Animal skins or a snow block can be used as a door.
Architecturally, the igloo is unique in that it is a dome that can be raised out of independent blocks leaning on each other and polished to fit without an additional supporting structure during construction. An igloo that is built correctly will support the weight of a person standing on the roof.
Traditionally, an igloo might be deliberately consolidated immediately after construction by making a large flame with a kudlik (qulliq, stone lamp), briefly making the interior very hot, which causes the walls to melt slightly and settle. Body heat is also adequate, if slower. This melting and refreezing builds up a layer of ice that contributes to the strength of the igloo.
Leshan Giant Buddha – Adventures in Architecture episode 1
The Leshan Giant Buddha is a 71-metre (233 ft) tall stone statue, built between 713 and 803 (during the Tang dynasty), depicting Maitreya. It is carved out of a cliff face of Cretaceous red bed sandstones that lies at the confluence of the Min River and Dadu River in the southern part of Sichuan province in China, near the city of Leshan. The stone sculpture faces Mount Emei, with the rivers flowing below its feet. It is the largest and tallest stone Buddha statue in the world and it is by far the tallest pre-modern statue in the world.
The Mount Emei Scenic Area, including Leshan Giant Buddha Scenic Area, has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1996.
Construction started in 723 AD, led by a Chinese monk named Hai Tong. He hoped that the Buddha would calm the turbulent waters that plagued the shipping vessels traveling down the river. When funding for the project was threatened, he is said to have gouged out his own eyes to show his piety and sincerity. After his death, however, the construction was stuck due to insufficient funding. The statue was only completed from the shoulders up at the time. Several years later, Hai Tong’s disciples continued work on the statue with financial support from a local official named Zhangchou Jianxiong. Hai Tong’s disciples continued the construction until the Knees, when construction was halted because Zhangchou JianXiang was called to work at the royal court in Chang’an. About 70 years later, jiedushi Wei Gao decided to sponsor the project and the construction was completed by Hai Tong’s disciples in 803.
By the beginning of the Northern Song Dynasty, the Leshan Giant Buddha had been damaged — the body was covered in moss, and the wooden pavilion had collapsed. During the reign of Song Renzong, the Giant Buddha was repaired once on a large scale and the wooden pavilion was rebuilt. Since then, the records of the destruction and reconstruction of the Buddha have been missing, and the original temple, Lingyun Temple, had been destroyed by war many times.
Apparently, the massive construction resulted in so much stone being removed from the cliff face and deposited into the river below that the currents were indeed altered by the statue, making the water safe for passing ships.
A sophisticated drainage system was incorporated into the Leshan Giant Buddha when it was built. It is still in working order. It includes drainage pipes carved into various places on the body, to carry away the water after the rains so as to reduce weathering.
When the Giant Buddha was carved, a huge thirteen story wood structure (similar to the one at the Rongxian Giant Buddha) was built to shelter it from rain and sunshine. This structure was destroyed and sacked by the Mongols during the wars at the end of the Yuan dynasty. From then on, the stone statue was exposed to the elements.
Catherine Palace – Adventures in Architecture episode 1
The Catherine Palace is a Rococo palace in Tsarskoye Selo (Pushkin), 30 km south of St. Petersburg, Russia. It was the summer residence of the Russian tsars.
Following the Great Northern War, Russia recovered the farm called Saari Mojs (a high place) or Sarskaya Myza, which resided on a hill 65 m in elevation. In 1710, Peter the Great gave the estate to his wife Catherine I, the village of which was initially called Sarskoye Selo, and then finally Tsarskoye Selo (Tsar’s Village). In 1723, Catherine I’s Stone Palace, designed by Johann Friedrich Braunstein and built by Johann Ferster, replaced the original wooden house. This was a two-story sixteen-room building, with state chambers finished in polished alabaster, while the upper one included Gobelin tapestry. The southeast portion of the estate included a garden designed by Jan Roosen, with terraces, stone staircases, parterres, trellised arbours, and ponds, while a menagerie was located on the opposite of the estate.
Dan Cruickshank – Adventures in Architecture episode 1
Daniel Gordon Raffan Cruickshank (born 26 August 1949) is a British art historian and BBC television presenter, with a special interest in the history of architecture.
In 2003, Cruickshank presented a documentary entitled Towering Ambitions: Dan Cruickshank at Ground Zero following the debate and discussion that led to the selection of Daniel Libeskind’s design for the World Trade Center site in New York City; while in 2005 he presented a documentary on the Mitchell and Kenyon collection – rolls of nitrate film shot in the early 20th century, depicting everyday life in Britain, which were discovered in 1994 in Blackburn.
Perhaps his greatest success to date came with Around the World in 80 Treasures, charting Cruickshank’s five-month trip around the world to visit eighty man-made artefacts or buildings that he had selected, in order to chart the history of mankind’s civilisation. In 2006, Cruickshank presented Marvels of the Modern Age, a series focusing on the development of modernism in design, from Greek and Roman architecture, to Bauhaus and the present.
Dan Cruickshank’s Adventures in Architecture episode 1, a 2008 series in which he travelled around the world visiting what he considered to be the world’s most unusual and interesting buildings.