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a life in architecture

dan cruickshank

As a teenager, architectural historian Dan Cruickshank lived opposite a derelict Georgian house which he once managed to crawl inside. Sunlight was falling on the rich panelling lining the walls of the hall and Cruickshank has never forgotten this 'wonderful vision of beauty in dismay'. He believes it was responsible for galvanising him into action as a champion of endangered buildings. 'I became enraged that such things could happen,' he says. The house and terrace were later demolished by Camden Council.

Recalling buildings that have had a particularly powerful emotional impact, he names St Martin's Garrison Church in New Delhi (1928) by A G Shoosmith (pictured), a pupil of Lutyens. Its reduction of Classicism to abstract mass recalls the best of Hawksmoor. The bricks on the exterior are beautifully made and beautifully laid, the inside is concrete. With its thick walls and small windows, St Martin's is ideally suited to its Indian climate, as is another choice, Louis Kahn's Indian Institute of Management (1967), in Ahmedabad. This for Cruickshank is 'Kahn at his most Roman'. The raw power of the building with its great arches and brick forms pierced by huge circles, like Trajan's forum, 'hits you between the eyes'.

A final knock out for Cruickshank is Josef Plecnik's Church of the Sacred Heart in Prague (1928), an idiosyncratic building with wide spans and a concrete interior - 'a visual shock and delight'.

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