The Fires of Excellence: Spanish and Portuguese Oriental Architecture by Miles Danby ; Photography by Matthew Weinreb

The Fires of Excellence: Spanish and Portuguese Oriental Architecture by Miles Danby ; Photography by Matthew Weinreb

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Reading, England : Garnet, 1997. Hardcover. 236 pages : illustrated ; 33 cm. In original dust jacket with firm binding, clean and unmarked pages.


The oriental influence in Spain and Portugal has left a legacy of extraordinary architecture, celebrated by scholars, poets and artists. In this lavishly illustrated book, Miles Danby reveals the multi-layered cultural interactions which took place, and which have in turn provided inspiration for architects through the centuries and around the world.

After the collapse of the Roman Empire, the Visigoths conquered the Iberian peninsula, bringing new ideas of architectural form from the eastern Mediterranean. More powerful and pervasive influences arrived with the Muslim invaders in AD 711 and the peninsula was to remain wholly or partly under Islamic rule until 1492. Expansion of the Christian kingdoms in the north led to a decline in Muslim political power, but Alfonso the Wise maintained his court at Toledo in a spirit of tolerance, with Christians, Muslims and Jews all contributing to its rich and sophisticated arts and architecture. The final flowering of the oriental style occurred in the mid-fourteenth century, when a Christian king in Seville, Pedro the Cruel, and Ibn Nasr, the Muslim ruler of Granada, used many of the same skilled craftsmen to build their palaces.

The magnificent buildings described range in character from the Nasrid palace of the Alhambra and the Umayyad mosque at Cordoba, to the Mudejar cathedral of Teruel, or the Manueline Palacio Nacional at Sintra. Nineteenth- and twentieth century legacies include Antoni Gaudi s work and the Modernismo movement in Spain, and the neo-Mudejar style used in the construction of stations and bull-rings. The author describes their aesthetic and structural techniques in detail, with clear and precise language. Specially commissioned colour photographs fully illustrate the buildings.

By looking at architecture across the whole Iberian peninsula, Miles Danby has created a study of the oriental style which is unprecedented in both its geographical and historical scope. This book will be essential reading for architects, designers and historians, and for anyone with an appreciation of one of the finest and richest architectural legacies in the world.


Miles Danby, MA, AA dipl., RIBA, is Emeritus Professor of Architecture at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne. He was Director of the university's Centre for Architectural Research and Development Overseas from 1985 to 1990, and initiated its M Phil, course on housing for developing countries. He has worked as a consultant and external examiner in Britain and in various countries across the Middle East, in Africa and South-East Asia, and has held teaching posts in Ghana and Sudan. He is the author of numerous articles, reports and books, ranging from Grammar of Architectural Design (Oxford University Press, 1963) to Moorish Style (Phaidon, 1995).

Matthew Weinreb is a photographer specializing in architecture, interiors, landscapes and cityscapes, and is a winner of the European Architectural Photographer of the Year Award. He has numerous books to his credit, including London Architecture (Phaidon, 1993), London Architect's Houses (Butterworth-Heinemann, 1992), Metropolitan: A Portrait of Paris (Phaidon, 1994) and The Synagogue (Phaidon, 1995).


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