The 'Grand Designs' legend gets misty-eyed (and faintly aroused) by his fave London architecture.
St Paul’s Cathedral
'A beautiful feminine form in an otherwise masculine London skyline. I love the generous, size DD dome, and all around it big priapic steel willies sticking up. Imagine looking up at it from the inside when it was first built. How does it defy gravity? Brilliant engineering: Christopher Wren was a mathematician first and foremost. It seems to say "Look, ye God, man too can defy the laws of nature, can defy gravity". A fabulous building.'
‘A work of ethereal magic. The difficulty with great big sodding buildings is they’re hulks. How do you, as an architect, suggest translucency, lightness, how you make hundreds of thousands of tonnes of steel and glass appear to weigh nothing? The Shard pulls it off by tapering; by literally dematerialising as it climbs. It’s the opposite of the Walkie Talkie, which is greedy, stealing air and space it doesn’t own. The Shard is respectful. The top just melts into the sky.'
'It's straight out of my childhood, straight out of "Thunderbirds": it could have been designed by Gerry Anderson. What it represented when it was built was a very '60s brand of forward-thinking and hope, the belief that technology would send us into outer space. That’s where it’s pointing, after all. It’s magical and, for me, still full of a ridiculous sort of optimism.'
St Bartholomew’s Church, Smithfield
'One of the great luxuries of being in London at the weekend is going to hear choral evensong at St Bartholomew's. The atmosphere is extraordinary. It has a cloister and a Norman apse, and is a real hidden gem. It’s glorious, and right next to St Bart’s hospital, just behind the meat market.'
'From the the moment it was built I thought it resembled an enormous Fabergé egg. That beautiful pattern all across it. It’s had a difficult history; the insurance Company Swiss Re built it, now they’ve left, and to this day it’s never been fully occupied. In time it will find its role.'
The Barbican Centre
'It's so exciting to see those towers still occupied and still popular, still dominating that skyline with those big, strong, projecting balconies. The interior layouts are also really inspirational. I’m a big fan of that building. I think we’re coming to the point now where we look back to the '70s and appreciate that brutalism; its raw, raw concrete has a tremendous kind of power and energy to it, and it’s still humming.'
The Southbank Centre
'Especially The Royal Festival Hall designed by Leslie Martin. Every time I walk into that building I feel glamourous. I feel like a better human being. Every time anyone has walked in there for the past 50 years they've felt like that. What a gift to the city.'Share the story