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Stone Architecture: Ancient and Modern Construction Skills By Alfonso Acocella.Skira/Lucense, 2006.624pp. £85

This book is about stone and it weighs almost half a stone.

After an introduction there are sections on walls, columns, architraves, arches, wall and floor surfaces, roofs, paving angles and the material today.

Maybe one could have architectural sculpture as well, but this is as good a way as any to organise a book on so sprawling a subject.

It deals mainly with stone construction in Italy, Greece and, to a point, Egypt. There are lots of colour photos on each spread, and some intriguing, helpful diagrams of such things as how the Greeks quarried stone drums for columns or how Peter Zumthor's baths at Vals are detailed. The book mixes old and new in a very relaxed way.

What doesn't mix well is text and illustrations - the text is laborious, pompous, and written in a cod academic style with such coynesses as quote marks around innocent words such as 'bridge', 'bond', and 'rationalisation'. After a page or two of 'bridge' you think you're maybe missing some subtle point - but no, it's just embarrassing writing (or possibly translating).

I'm not sure how many people actually read books of this size even halfway through.

But the pictures are great, the modern examples chosen with a discriminating eye, and the captions are pretty clear. A shame about that 'bridge' stuff.

Sutherland Lyall is a freelance journalist

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