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11.10.02

FACTUAL & ARTS TV


Britain's Best Buildings (working title)


BBC TWO - November


An extraordinary array of fantastic buildings cover Britain, from every historical age, and of every architectural style.


In Britain's Best Buildings, a new four part series for BBC TWO, Dan Cruickshank explores four buildings, well-known and much loved - Tower Bridge, Blenheim Palace, Durham Cathedral and Windsor Castle.


The series gives an unexpurgated insight into the bricks and mortar icons of British history, celebrating each building's outstanding architecture and rich heritage; but also exposing the secrets and scandals that shake their foundations.


Dan Cruickshank uncovers the secret history behind the construction of each building and sheds new light on the reasons for their popularity.


Britain's Best Buildings offers a unique opportunity to learn more about the country's favourite properties.


Programme One - Tower Bridge


Tower Bridge is a London icon, one of the city's most popular and recognised attractions.


With its traditional gothic exterior, the bridge appears seeped in heritage, of an age with the Tower of London it stands beside, it's great gargantuan structure carved out of stone.


In fact, Tower Bridge is neither old nor made of stone. Tower Bridge is one of the world's biggest fakes - a modern steel frame construction in medieval cladding.


Dan Cruickshank looks to the bridge's first conservation battle, which raged for two decades, pitting traditionalist architects against technological innovators, to understand the anomalies of the bridge's design.


And he discovers why the dispute over Tower Bridge set the mould for a century of environmental wrangles.


Producer: Sam Hobkinson


Blenheim Palace


The magnificent Blenheim Palace sits serenely in the picturesque landscape of rural Oxfordshire.


Yet Blenheim is a lavish monument to human pride and militarism, built to reward John Churchill after British success at the Battle of Blenheim.


And the aggression of the battle was not lost in the palace's construction, it's early years blighted by bitter disputes over design and cost.


Dan Cruickshank explores the very visible architectural effects of two decades of rows between four of the most irascible characters in history - a fat and bullying Queen (Anne), a daring and courageous soldier (John Churchill), an ambitious and scheming wife (Sarah Churchill) and a pushy and inexperienced playwright attempting to pass himself off as an architect (Sir John Vanbrugh).


Producer: John Bush


Durham Cathedral


Durham Cathedral is one of the most majestic cathedrals in Britain and a unique combination of Romanesque and Gothic architecture.


However, even this magnificent building has its imperfections - a deviant column in the South Transept, decorated with an odd mix of spiral and chevron, has often been portrayed as an error, a pleasant mistake. But is it?


Dan Cruickshank discovers the ideas behind sacred geometry and the art of decoding medieval buildings to explain the reasons for the cathedral's layout.


His explorations reveal why the unique decorations on the column, far from being a mistake, in fact expose much about the divine inspirations and beliefs of the cathedral's architects.


Producer: Ben McPherson


Windsor Castle


In Windsor, Dan Cruickshank explores the much loved home of the Royal family and the largest inhabited castle in the world.


An integral symbol of the monarchy, Windsor Castle has been both fortress and shrine, royal burial place and hideaway.


Britain's Best Buildings examines Windsor's architectural history to reveal how three kings created a castle to reshape the monarchy itself - the recreation of Camelot under Edward III; the re-assertion of absolute power by Charles II after the Cromwellian republic; and the re-affirmation of his imperial aspirations by George IV.


And Dan Cruickshank investigates St George's Chapel, home of the romantic and ancient Order of the Garter.


Producer: Julian Birkett


Notes to Editors


Britain's Best Buildings is a BBC Production for BBC TWO. The Executive Producer is Basil Comely.


Log on to the BBCi History site at www.bbc.co.uk/history to find out more from Dan Cruickshank about Britain's Best Buildings and the history of British architecture.


A book to accompany the series is published by BBC Books (£25).


Written by Dan Cruickshank it features the four buildings in the BBC TV series plus Holyroodhouse, Cardiff Castle, the Midland Grand Hotel and Highpoint One.


About the Presenter


Dan Cruickshank is one of the country's leading architectural and historic building experts and a regular presenter on BBC TWO's architectural heritage programme House Detectives.


Other television credits include Invasion, One Foot in the Past and Travels with Pevsner.


In May 2002, Dan travelled to Afghanistan for Omnibus, to discover what cultural treasures remain after years of civil war and bloodshed.


Dan Cruickshank is an active member of the Georgian Group and the Architectural Panel of the National Trust.


He is also the author several books including Life In The Georgian City and London: The Art of Georgian Buildings.


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