Dan Cruickshank travels across the world, celebrating different types of architecture and showing how our buildings reveal our aspirations, our ingenuity and our beliefs. In each programme, buildings from all over the world are dramatically juxtaposed, revealing unexpected connections between very different types of architecture.
Part 1: Beauty
The first episode explores the concept of architectural beauty, exploring the most remote part of Greenland, the Giant Buddha of Le Shan in China, St Petersburg’s Catherine Palace, the Sun Temple in Konorak, India, and the Albi Cathedral in the South of France.
Part 2: Death
Dan reveals the tale of a chapel decorated with human bones in the Czech Republic and views the Yaxhá Mayan pyramids, Guatemalan sites of human sacrifice. He also visits the spectacular Staglieno cemetery in Genoa, Italy, and takes a trip to Varanasi, a sacred town on the banks of the Ganges where people go to die.
Part 3: Paradise
Among the structures he visits are St Catherine Monastery in Egypt’s Sinai desert and the Hanging Temple in China. He also views Turkey’s Suleymaniye Mosque and two wooden churches in the Russian Wilderness before arriving in the holy town of Sri Ranganthaswarmy, India.
Part 4: Disaster
Dan visits the Minaret of Jam in Afghanistan, observing the reconstruction project in Dresden and looking at the role of architecture in preparing for an earthquake in San Francisco. He also reveals the tale of Palmyra, a Syrian city destroyed by the Roman Empire.
Part 5: Connections
Among the places Dan visits are Brazil’s capital Brasilia, and Damascus, considered the world’s oldest continuously inhabited city. Dan also views the Rockefeller Centre in New York and contrasts it with Dharavi in Mumbai, which is the biggest slum in India and is under the threat of demolition.
Part 6: Power
Dan tells the story of Ceausescu’s palace in Romania and visiting Syria’s Marqab Castle. He also explores an imposing plantation house in New Orleans and reveals the history of the Topkapi Palace’s harem in Istanbul before visiting Kazakhstan’s new capital city Astana.
Part 7: Dreams
Dan visits an ancient city of skyscrapers in Yemen, and Santa Domingo in the Dominican Republic, where Spanish invaders set a pattern for other cities to follow. Dan also heads to Bhutan in the Himalayas, where a king wanted modern monuments to be indistinguishable from those built 500 years earlier, and heads to Eastern State Penitentiary, Philadelphia, to explore how plans can go wrong.
Part 8: Pleasure
Dans visits the luxurious hotel the Taj in Mumbai, India. He also goes to the Schloss Neuschwanstein, a German castle once inhabited by King Ludwig II. Also on the itinerary are the world’s oldest brothel at Pompeii, a Palladian mansion and an opera house in Manaus, Brazil.