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a life in architecture

Andrew Motion

When Andrew Motion, the Poet Laureate, thinks about buildings, it is English churches which come to mind. He grew up in Essex and puts 'that fantastic potting shed', St Peter- on-the -Wall, at Bradwell- on-Sea, at the head of his selection. Built in 654, it was used by generations of farmers as a barn; the south wall (where a farmer once smashed through with his tractor) is patched. 'It's extremely simple, just a white cell in a wonderful situation,' says Motion.

At the other end of the spectrum is the cathedral of his choice, Norwich ( Exeter runs a close second): 'I love the feeling of stepping down into a building.' He despairs of doing justice to the cathedral's richness of detail (pictured), but mentions an intriguing pinkness in one of the main columns, brought out by an early fire, an effect he describes as 'searing by history'. Motion is fond of austerity and has come to recognise it in the home of his childhood, a 'plain white Georgian box', at Stisted in Essex. 'Like St Peter's, it has a beautiful simplicity but of a much more chosen kind; the church seems to grow out of the earth, but this has been put down upon it, a little piece of domination'. Motion says he prefers classical architecture: 'It's doing me good - making spaces for me to think in.'

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