They say that timing is everything. Dundee is in the process of gaining a new building in the remarkable shape of the V&A Museum of Design, and one that in the future will very probably be viewed as the city's most iconic landmark. When we saw "Dundee in 50 Buildings" by Brian King we have to admit to wondering whether the author had managed to include the V&A, not yet open at the time of publication, in the collection. We needn't have worried: it's proudly included at, as the list of buildings is a chronological one, number 50.
The aim of the book is to take the reader on a journey through time, exploring the history of this rich and vibrant city through the most notable of its buildings: or at least, those of its buildings still standing. As the author notes in his introduction, settlement in and around what is now Dundee dates back thousands of years, though it was only really founded in the late twelfth century. Nothing remains standing from the city's first three centuries, and the book begins with The Old Steeple, built in around 1480. Setting the pattern that is then followed through the book, there is about half a page of text on The Old Steeple, plus an old engraving and two modern photographs. The text is well-researched and informative, and the effect is to draw you nicely into the book.
Dundee is not over-endowed with very old buildings, but we move on to Broughty Castle (1496), Gardyne's Land (c1560), Mains Castle (1582), Claypotts Castle (1588), Dundhope Castle (c1590) and St David's Halls (c1600). Later in the book, entries range from churches and grand houses to industrial works, not forgetting hospitals, court buildings, schools, libraries, theatres, an observatory and a coffee house. In some ways, and perhaps surprisingly, it is the more modern buildings which are the most striking. Opinions might differ on the architectural merits of the Dallfield Multis, a series of blocks of high rise flats built in 1966, but the Olivetti Building, built in in 1972, still looks amazingly contemporary, even futuristic, to modern eyes. The Dundee Central Mosque, built in 2000, features, as do Maggie's Centre from 2003 and the striking "Building 01, District 10", in the Creative Media District.
All in all, this is a fascinating book that will have you looking at Dundee with a fresh set of eyes.