'If you stand with your back to the door of the Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg, you will see one of the world's great aspects, ' says David Fleming, the new director of National Museums and Galleries on Merseyside. This is the Peter and Paul Fortress, whose founding in 1703 marked the birth of the city. 'On a very cold day, looking across the great icy expanse of the River Neva, the sight of the impossibly tall, gilded spire of the cathedral inside the fortress is astonishing. You can also see the KGB headquarters from the same spot, ' laughs Fleming.
'Maybe I've got a problem with authority, because another building with almost mythic weight to me is Armley Gaol in Leeds. It's the most dramatic building you'll ever see on a northern industrial skyline - a great, grim, black castle which scared me as a child and still sends shivers down my spine now.
I swear the sun is never shining when you look across at it.'
Leeds-born Fleming remembers the pioneering 1930s social housing scheme Quarry Hill flats with more affection. 'It seemed to stretch for miles and, in my imagination at least, was always gleaming white, unlike the prison.
Hitler apparently had it earmarked for his HQ if he invaded Britain.
Funnily enough, it's now the site of the DSS headquarters.'
Fleming also loves the 17thcentury Dutch-style Wilberforce House in Hull, where the abolitionist was born. 'It's a hidden gem tucked away in the noisy city centre, a perfect oasis, and it also encapsulates Hull's history.'