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a life in architecture

Chris Smith

The first nomination of Culture Secretary Chris Smith, mp for Islington South and Finsbury, is in his own constituency. Bevin Court, at Holford Place, east of King's Cross, was designed by Berthold Lubetkin and Tecton and completed in 1953; it has recently been listed Grade 2*. Smith describes the 'beautifully designed' main staircase in the entrance lobby with its three radiating landing spokes springing from the central hub at each level as it rises up through seven storeys to the roof (pictured). 'Lubetkin designed Bevin Court as council housing; he believed passionately that nothing was too good for ordinary people,' says Smith. 'And he designed it within a budget; it is a splendid piece of architecture'. He adds that even poor mainte-nance in recent years has not detracted from its intrinsic values.

The minister's second nomination is the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, designed by Frank Gehry. He was bowled over by it when he visited it recently for the first time. He'd seen photographs but was even more impressed when he saw the real thing and discovered that the inside was as dramatic as the outside. He admires the way the soaring external curves have been maintained on the interior, and by the sense of space and light. 'It is the most exciting building ... and it has transformed the entire economy of the city.'

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