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a life in architecture

The artist Patrick Caulfield, 63, introduces a building he has grown fond of apologetically. 'It's quite mundane,' he says of the listed 1915 fire station, by C C Winmill, in Lancaster Grove (below), near his Camden home. It reminds him of a toy fire station - 'You expect toy engines to come rushing out of it' - yet he finds it surprisingly elegant and says he would love to live in it. With its steeply pitched roof and dormer windows it looks strangely domestic, apart from the ornate brick drying tower.

When Caulfield travels he does the usual tourist things. He was impressed by Frank Lloyd Wright's Falling Water, he likes Sicilian Baroque and he admires Gaudi, yet historic buildings never influence his work. 'I remember very ordinary places,' he says, referring to the subjects of his paintings - bars, restaurants, familiar rooms.

Brussels delights him for its complexity and mix of European styles. Palais Stoclet (1911), the Art Nouveau masterpiece by Josef Hoffman, made a lasting impression when he visited it a few years ago; he remarks on the Klimt mosaics and the extent of Hoffman's involvement in every detail of the interior, down to the design of the cutlery. Externally, what intrigued him most were the narrow bands of bronze gilt that outline the white marble walls - a subconscious connection, perhaps, with that strong black outline which was such a distinguishing feature of Caulfield's early work.

A retrospective exhibition of Patrick Caulfield's work is at the Hayward Gallery until 11 April.

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