Edward Hollis is an architect, a teacher, and a writer.
He currently lives in Edinburgh, where he is Reader in Interior Design at Edinburgh College of Art in the University of Edinburgh.
In Autumn 2009 ‘The Secret Lives of Buildings’ was published by Portobello Books in London, and Metropolitan in New York. This summer, ‘The Memory Palace: A Book of Lost Interiors’ will be published by Portobello Books.
Edward Hollis was born and brought up in London until, at the age of thirteen, he went to Stonyhurst College, a Jesuit school in Lancashire, because he was attracted by their fine collection of sacred relics. There he hid from the rugby pitch in a library that contained works from Thomas Caxton’s medieval printing of the Golden Legend, to a seventeenth century edition of Palladios Quattro Libri D’Architettura.
Having studied Architecture at Cambridge and Edinburgh Universities, he spent a year working for Geoffrey Bawa, the architect renowned for his landscape garden of ruins and follies in the coastal lagoons of Sri Lanka. He remembers sitting with a pink gink, a little white dog called fang, and the great man himself on the ruined terrace of the garden. Was it meant to look so decayed? He asked. ‘‘Yes,’’ came the slightly irritated reply. ‘‘Is it difficult to keep it that way?’’ he continued, naively undeterred. ‘‘Very.’’ was the only word he received.
Returning to the UK, he worked as an architect for five years in the practice of Richard Murphy in Edinburgh. There he oversaw a series of radical alterations to old buildings. There were kitchen extensions to Victorian villas; the conversion of an old brewery into an office; and the wholesale transformation of the old Tolbooth (town hall) in Stirling into a state of the art music venue, during which it was discovered that the original building dated back not, as he had thought, to the eighteenth century, but to the twelfth.
Now he lives at one end of the Royal Mile, and teaches Interior Design in Edinburgh College of Art at the other, ensuring that in work and play, he never has to leave the magic kingdom of Auld Reekie. He is the author of academic papers, articles and exhibitions that address the relationship between Architecture and the art of storytelling in History, performance, and myth; but he spends most of his time encouraging students to read, understand, and transform the stories that buildings have to tell.