Dan Cruickshank’s Adventures in Architecture episode 4 – Disaster: Some of the world’s greatest architecture has been forged in the face of adversity, terror and war. Dan explores buildings shaped and threatened by disaster.
He risks his life to visit the Minaret of Jam in Afghanistan, a monument to peace and tolerance in the midst of a war zone. He goes to Dresden, the great German baroque city that was almost obliterated during World War II, but where a heroic reconstruction project is taking place. San Francisco is preparing for a cataclysmic earthquake – what role can architecture play in saving lives? And venturing into ancient history, Dan reveals the tragic tale of Palmyra in Syria, a great city laid to waste by the Roman Empire.
Historian and writer Dan Cruickshank celebrates the creative force of architecture as he explores the world’s greatest cities, buildings and monuments.
Dan Cruickshank’s Adventures in Architecture episode 4 – Disaster
Minaret of Jam
The Minaret of Jam is a UNESCO World Heritage Site in western Afghanistan. It is located in a remote and nearly inaccessible region of the Shahrak District, Ghor Province, next to the Hari River. The 65-metre (213 ft) or 62-metre (203 ft) high minaret was built around 1190 entirely of baked bricks and is famous for its intricate brick, stucco and glazed tile decoration, which consists of alternating bands of kufic and naskhi calligraphy, geometric patterns, and verses from the Qur’an. Since 2002, the minaret has remained on the list of World Heritage in Danger, under serious threat of erosion, and has not been actively preserved. In 2014, the BBC reported that the tower was in imminent danger of collapse.
In 2020, the Minaret of Jam was listed among cultural heritage sites of the Islamic world by the Islamic World Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ICESCO). According to the Afghan Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA), the Minaret of Jam is Afghanistan’s first cultural heritage site to be listed by ICESCO.
Bombing of Dresden in World War II – Dan Cruickshank’s Adventures in Architecture episode 4
The bombing of Dresden was a British-American aerial bombing attack on the city of Dresden, the capital of the German state of Saxony, during World War II. In four raids between 13 and 15 February 1945, 722 heavy bombers of the British Royal Air Force (RAF) and 527 of the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) dropped more than 3,900 tons of high-explosive bombs and incendiary devices on the city. The bombing and the resulting firestorm destroyed more than 1,600 acres (6.5 km2) of the city centre. An estimated 22,700 to 25,000 people were killed. Three more USAAF air raids followed, two occurring on 2 March aimed at the city’s railway marshalling yard and one smaller raid on 17 April aimed at industrial areas.
Immediate German propaganda claims following the attacks and postwar discussions of whether the attacks were justified have led to the bombing becoming one of the moral causes célèbres of the war. A 1953 United States Air Force report defended the operation as the justified bombing of a strategic target, which they noted was a major rail transport and communication centre, housing 110 factories and 50,000 workers in support of the German war effort.
Several researchers claim that not all of the communications infrastructure, such as the bridges, were targeted, nor were the extensive industrial areas outside the city centre. Critics of the bombing have asserted that Dresden was a cultural landmark while downplaying its strategic significance, and claim that the attacks were indiscriminate area bombing and not proportionate to the military gains. Some have claimed that the raid constituted a war crime. Some, mostly in the German far-right, refer to the bombing as a mass murder, calling it “Dresden’s Holocaust of bombs”.
Palmyra – Dan Cruickshank’s Adventures in Architecture episode 4
Palmyra is an ancient Semitic city in present-day Homs Governorate, Syria. Archaeological finds date back to the Neolithic period, and documents first mention the city in the early second millennium BC. Palmyra changed hands on a number of occasions between different empires before becoming a subject of the Roman Empire in the first century AD.
The city grew wealthy from trade caravans; the Palmyrenes became renowned as merchants who established colonies along the Silk Road and operated throughout the Roman Empire. Palmyra’s wealth enabled the construction of monumental projects, such as the Great Colonnade, the Temple of Bel, and the distinctive tower tombs. Ethnically, the Palmyrenes combined elements of Amorites, Arameans, and Arabs. The city’s social structure was tribal, and its inhabitants spoke Palmyrene (a dialect of Aramaic), while using Greek for commercial and diplomatic purposes. Greco-Roman culture influenced the culture of Palmyra, which produced distinctive art and architecture that combined eastern and western traditions. The city’s inhabitants worshiped local Semitic deities, Mesopotamian and Arab gods.