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a life in architecture

hugo williams

If bad architecture were illegal, poet and TLS columnist Hugo Williams would make a fine prosecutor, starting in his own backyard of Islington.

'The great crime in our area is the Royal Bank of Scotland (gmw's Regent's Court, at Angel) and the other one is the Packington Estate,' he says. Sometimes admired for its strongly repetitive grids of stock brick, the early 1980s Regent's Court strikes him as 'a dead building', and ridiculously avaricious in height. 'What really pisses me off is the stuff they pile on the roof,' he says.

Packington is 'a vast, liver-coloured precast mess', an assessment borne out by Pevsner's unhappy opinion. 'They gave it a sort of ghostly vernacular update about 10 years ago, which has made it worse.'

Harder to swallow for High-Tech fans will be Williams' take on the Pompidou Centre: 'I can't stand it. It's just a big novelty game.' Save for one escalator offering a wonderful view of Paris, Williams says whoever is in charge 'should take it down'. Noted.

Mainly, though, it's London that angers and moves him: 'You get obsessed with your own area.' One favourite bit of the capital is the 'quite- ahead-of-its-time' and always controversial Milner Square (1839-1844, by Roumieu and Gough). 'It seems to make the most of London stock bricks, and there's no stucco. It reminds me a little bit of King's Cross station, another beautiful building.' So, don't take it down, right?

Williams' latest book is Billy's Rain (Faber, £7.99)

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