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A life in architecture - Pierre D'avoine

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A dilapidated colonial bungalow and one of England's greatest stately homes are emotional and intellectual touchstones for the architect Pierre d'Avoine, whose practice, Pierre d'Avoine Architects, designed the winning Concept House for this year's Ideal Home exhibition.

As a child, d'Avoine spent several summer holidays at Matheran, a small Indian hill station 110km inland from Bombay. The family stayed in Elphinstone Lodge, once the residence of Lord Elphinstone, Governor of India under Queen Victoria - a house with a huge verandah and vast corridors lined with rusting guns where children could run amok. What has stayed in d'Avoine's memory is not the lodge but Matheran the place - its remoteness and silence, the claustrophobic jungle and celebrated lookout points - Monkey Point, Porcupine Point.

A more recent holiday last January took d'Avoine back to another source of inspiration: Hardwick Hall in North Derbyshire (above), attributed to Robert Smythson and completed in 1597. He relishes its brazen quality, its lack of classical detail, the dynamic rhythm of recessions and projections on the plain stone and glass facade and the building's reluctance to reveal its symmetry to the viewer. Inside, he singles out the astounding stone staircase leading up to the High Great Chamber. Vulgar and ostentatious Hardwick Hall may be, yet d'Avoine loves it for being so emphatically its own thing, 'an amazing English manifestation'.

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