Newsletter | Jan/Feb 2015

The Thrill of the Hunt: Amazing Buildings

by Suzette Sherman

All with my copy of 1001 Buildings You Must See Before You Die under my arm. Sneaking into amazing buildings is such great fun. I will enjoy the art of trespassing until I die.
-Posted on January 16, 2015 by Suzette Sherman (Founder, SevenPonds)

I got the bug back in my college days, when I just short of minored in architecture. I traveled many a distance to visit significant buildings of my studies. I confess I did not stop there. I also possessed a need to experience the space and volumes inside. Albeit through whatever means and sometimes at whatever cost to gain entrance. Yes there has been some building security and police encounters, but only a warning ever given. Once you’ve traveled far to the base of a looming facade, the adventure of sneaking inside (if need be) becomes irresistible.

Philip Johnson’s famous “Glass House” for all to see and for all to see in (credit:

Philip Johnson’s famous “Glass House” for all to see and for all to see in

Quite frankly, this is a surprisingly common bug. I have a friend who trespassed onto Martha Stewart’s property to view Martha’s new modernist house (but I’m not naming any names here or angling for any lawsuits). It was also known that many an unsuspecting enthusiast snuck into the wooded property of the highly regarded modernist “Glass House.” Often at inappropriate timing to unexpectedly witness the architect and owner Philip Johnson entertaining a young boy lover fully exposed within the infamous glass walls and typically followed by an angry chase scene off the property.

Arquitectonica’s doorless “Atlantis” building fully embraced by technological spyware (credit:

Stories make buildings and buildings make stories. So then went my adventures over the years as well – no lack of stories to tell. From the black slick doorless walls of the base of Miami’s Atlantis building suddenly sliding open to expose cameras having tracked me trying to crack in and my consequently feeling like an exposed cat burglar on the spot. To breaking in on a quiet weekend by climbing the tall perimeter walls of La Jolla, California’s Salk Institute, carefully slinking around and feeling like a bonafide savvy Pink Panther. These days, I can check off many an architectural wonder I’ve visited in my copy of 1001 Buildings You Must See Before You Die by Mark Irving. It’s like picking a dessert — you just can’t eat them all, so which ones will you take a nibble of on your tray of life.

A surreal yet real place of the “Treasury at Petra” (credit:

Visiting buildings is delicious, adventuresome, memorable and never to be forgotten. Mark Irving’s book is a great comprehensive compendium and should be on any building lover’s to-do list (especially those seriously working on their bucket list). As I browse – sigh – I know I will never have the time or the pleasure to see all the buildings in his thick jam-packed book covering the historical gamut, but I can dream, drool and fantasize. Many are fantastical edifices, like the Temple of Kailasnath in India or the Treasury at Petra in Jordan, appearing more fantasy film set than real life place.

Casa Malaparte in Capri, Italy nestled in its breathtaking location (credit:

Leafing through this book you realize, just like people and cultures, buildings also come in all sizes, shapes, colors and locations. Depending on the cities you’ve lived in, you’ve already seen a few or more of those in this book. If you’re not sure what to see, then crack a copy and get your walking shoes on. If you’re not afraid to be surrounded by patrol cars, you may enjoy the thrill of the hunt and trespassing – just kidding, I don’t recommend it to that degree. Or do I?

There are too many great buildings to even attempt to list in this review, but there is one personal favorite I must note, the Casa Malaparte in Capri, Italy. I became aware of it through director Jean-Luc Godard’s 1963 film Le Mepris. Situated at the tip of a peninsula on a sheer cliff, the combined building shape melts into rock to be a true architectural “myth.” Hard to reach, once you’ve laid eyes on it, you dream of traveling to this remote private location to experience a one-of-a-kind dramatic design. Endlessly clocked in mystery, the owner is long dead and yet the austere sophisticated furnishings still remain. Number one on my list to experience before I die.

Ah, so many places to see, but so little time. If you lust for buildings, you’ll eat up the selection in this book full of treats.
- See more at Suzette’s blog here.

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