Ten Days / Ten Buildings: An Architectural Autobiography

In the spirit of the ubiquitous ‘top ten’ lists which proliferate on social media (books, films, albums etc) I decided to publish (over ten days on the facebook page which runs alongside this blog) a note on ten buildings which have had a profound impact on my life.  Some were instrumental in starting my interest in the built environment; some were important in introducing me to new ways of thinking about buildings when I was studying; and some provided essential lessons which have focussed the ideas which define the way I think about architecture.

Day 1: Saturday 22nd September.

King’s College Chapel, Cambridge, 1446-1515.

I visited this building on a Year 3 study trip, during the Evensong Service.  It was a rainy, miserable day, but the atmosphere in the building transcended that – removing us all to a different place altogether.  It’s the most poignant, affecting space I’ve ever sat in.

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King’s College Chapel, Cambridge. BW shot (c) ParisExpat. Col shot (c) Ian Burley.

Day 2: Sunday 23rd September.

Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris. By Richard Rogers and Renzo Piano, 1971-77.

This was a bold, confidently ugly addition to the (then; 1970s) architecturally conservative Parisian urban landscape – by young architects who admitted afterwards that they barely understood what they were doing.  Now it’s an essential part of the fabric of that city.  Photos taken from the DynamicStasis photo-essay.

Pompidou Centre / Place Georges Pompidou, Paris.
Pompidou Centre / Rue du Renard, Paris.

Day 3: Monday 24th September.

Koshino House, Ashiya-shi, Japan. By Tadao Ando, 1981.

When I was in first or second year I picked up an Ando book (The Colours of Light) in the library, without knowing anything about his work.  I was struck by the confident harshness of the composition, and the delicate light within the building.  It broadened my architectural outlook considerably.

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Koshino House, Japan (c) archdaily.

Day 4: Tuesday 25th September.

The National Theatre, London. By Denys Lasdun, 1976.

This is an extraordinary building, drenched in moments of drama and contradiction; “A sensitive and delicate essay in place-making and landscape, painted in beautifully vicious concrete”.  Photos taken from the DynamicStasis article, (c) Rory Gardiner.

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National Theatre, London.
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National Theatre, London.

Day 5: Wednesday 26th September.

The National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh. By Francis Fowke, 1866 (redeveloped by Hoskins Architects, 2011).

I visited this building on a Primary School trip; I suppose I was 8 or 9 years old.  The only thing I remember about the trip is this space.  I think it’s the earliest memory I have where the building ‘is’ the memory, as opposed to anything that happened, or anyone who was there.  The architecture was imprinted on my consciousness… before I knew what architecture was!

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National Museum, Edinburgh (c) archdaily.

Day 6: Thursday 27th September.

The Oberrealta Chapel, Switzerland. By Christian Kerez, 1993.

I was fortunate to visit this building on a campervan trip with three friends between 4th and 5th year at college.  It’s just an exquisite, beautiful, tiny little thing; a humble but impressive addition to this amazing alpine landscape.

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The Oberrealta Chapel, Switzerland.

Day 7: Friday 28th September.

Surestart Community Hall, Colchester. By DSDHA, 2007.

This is a project I worked on shortly after finishing at college, with London practice DSDHA.  It was a really important experience for me – in understanding that with lots of effort and hard work; an ordinary, affordable, community building (and the experience of the people who use it) can be enhanced by the quality of its architecture.

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Surestart Community Hall, Colchester (c) DSDHA.
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Surestart Community Hall, Colchester (c) DSDHA.

Day 8: Saturday 29th September.

Skyspace(s) / various. By James Turrell.

This is another one that I discovered browsing in the college library.  The artist has created many of these installations – pure spaces where viewers look through precise apertures cut in the ceiling.  The space, and the view, is animated by constant movement in the sky.  It creates a compelling narrative; a dramatic odyssey in light and space.

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Skyspace (c) James Turrell.

Day 9: Sunday 30th September.

The Casa das Mudas, Calheta, Madeira. By Paulo David, 2004.

This is another great project I discovered in the library; and in this case I really fell in love!  I’m unashamedly evangelical in trying to introduce architects and students to the architecture of Paulo David.  His work is sensational – and this building in particular, his masterpiece, is one of the most impressive examples of contemporary architecture I’ve visited.  Photos taken from the DynamicStasis article.

The Casa das Mudas, Calheta, Madeira.
The Casa das Mudas, Calheta, Madeira.
The Casa das Mudas, Calheta, Madeira.

Day 10: Monday 1st October.

Therme Vals, Switzerland. By Peter Zumthor, 1996.

It’s not particularly original or interesting to mention a building which has been so widely published and celebrated.  But this is just, very simply, brilliant.  The spaces within the building, and the various atmospheres created, are phenomenal.  It’s a gorgeous, beautiful, utterly compelling thing.  When I left Therme Vals my whole body was tingling!

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Therme Vals, Switzerland (c) dezeen.
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Therme Vals, Switzerland (c) dezeen.


18 thoughts on “Ten Days / Ten Buildings: An Architectural Autobiography”

  1. Architecture is such an impressive field, combining beauty with functionality. This is a nice collection of work and I especially like how you have merged images of the buildings from different times or points of view. Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

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