Saturday, 29 January 2011

A list of beautiful buildings

I love buildings of all shapes and sizes. My favourite varies from day to day. What's yours?

At the moment, I am looking out across Dorset's county town - Dorchester - to the red roof of a pyramid-topped water tower. An octagonal rotunda, with perfect arches letting through the light, designed along classical lines. I wonder what it’s used for now?

A glance at Wikipedia takes you on a wonderful journey to water towers through time, from the industrial era to the space age. You can almost hear the brains of the designers whirring as you think of them coming up with such amazing looks for these functional structures.

My favourite building is the New York skyscraper, The Chrysler Building, a soaring, shimmering triumph of Art Deco decadence. I love its clarity, its colour, its clean lines and sheer beauty. I love the fact that it towers above a bustling streetscape, serene and glowing, a reminder of the sparkling days of the Jazz Age just before the Great Depression. Completed in 1930, the building is a cultural icon. It defies you not to be dazzled by its appearance.

It shouts: “Anything is possible.”

Closer to home, I love Mapperton House, near Beaminster. It’s enchanting, warm, mellow, ancient, special. The Dorset countryside tumbles down towards the formal gardens, kept at bay only by an old garden wall. The house, with its golden stone, nestles into the landscape. Beautiful.

A building close to my heart is a small, early 19th century granary that stands on staddle stones. It’s got a roughcast timber frame with red brick infilling and a pyramidal roof topped with a squat stone finial. You go up the stone steps outside to an open doorway. You turn around and look out on to a Somerset farmyard.

It's a scene I know well. It’s the farm where I was born and grew up. And in 1995, someone had the good sense to have the building listed.

Listing is a plus-point but also a pain. It protects buildings that are of architectural merit but, in the hands of an over-zealous council department, listing can cause the owner a real headache. I live in a Grade II listed building and, touch wood (the partitions we exposed under layers of woodchip), we’ve been lucky. Our renovations have been sympathetic to the house, our council has been sensible and Mr Grigg and I have revelled in lives surrounded by history and character.

My final choice of favourite building isn’t actually a building. But I pass these structures every day and they always fascinate me. Some mornings you can see the sun rising through them and on the return journey you can see the sunset behind them.

They are the masts at Rampisham transmitting station, modern-day towers of Babel supporting nets of antennae that beam a multitude of foreign voices across continents for the BBC World Service.

With cuts announced this week to the service, will this Stonehenge for the 21st century see a reduction in audio traffic through the airways? Whatever happens, someone should have them listed. Quick. They’re iconic.

That's about it

Love Maddie x


  1. What a lovely photograph! Fantastic!

  2. Just stumbled upon your blog, and I love it. Irrelevant piece of information: I studied crreeative writing in Sheepwash, Devon.

  3. Maddie, Great choices of buildings - I'm totally with you on the Chrysler Building (why is that so difficult to spell?) and Mapperton, where I've stayed at the Rectory in the grounds. And just yesterday I was driving past the radio transmitters at Washford in Somerset and wondering for the umpteenth time what they were. Reading your post about Rampisham has finally made me look them up! Saskia

  4. Grain elevators on the prairies, old log buildings in the woods, any white clapboard Cape Cod house - I love these.

  5. Yes, the Chrysler building, but also Fallingwater, Monticello, bungalows and cottages the world over ... all speak of creativity and imagination. I love architecture, too.

    Your blog is a delight of word-pictures.


  6. My favorite building's gotta be the Georgia peach butt. it's a watertower.


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