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a life in architecture: charles secrett

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'A gorgeous confectionery swirl of white curves, like a giant ice cream someone has plopped down onto the grimy New York streets, ' is how Charles Secrett, director of Friends of the Earth, describes Frank Lloyd Wright's Guggenheim Museum.

The museum is one of two buildings Secrett was captivated by in the 1970s; the other is Gormenghast, the brooding castle in Mervyn Peake's trilogy. They are, he says, the most 'magical and heroic' buildings he knows.

'The Guggenheim shouts out loud the genius of the designer and how construction can use form to twist our sense of light and space and shadow; it defies our conventional expectations.' He finds that it plays an optical trick as you enter from the street and see the curves rising above you, giving the impression that the building is bigger inside than out.

For Secrett, it sums up Keats' lines 'Beauty is truth, truth beauty. . .'

Gormenghast, a fictional building, offers an equally exciting adventure for the imagination, as page after page tells of the Earls of Groan 'endlessly adding to this cacophony of halls, gardens, corridors, courtyards. . . an enduring testament to the endeavours of man and a daring challenge to succeeding generations to go one better.'

Secrett didn't watch the televised version because 'it is so rare that someone else's vision of a book you love translates into what it was like for you'. But he admits that while his son was watching he did take the occasional peek.

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