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a life in architecture dr thomas cocke

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Dr Thomas Cocke is chief executive of the National Association of Decorative & Fine Arts Societies (NADFAS), a post he has held for only a few months. Part of his manifesto is 'to open NADFAS much more to the outside world', to try and attract younger new members to NADFAS while retaining existing older ones, and to expand the organisation's educational role. A NADFAS website is due to be launched this year.

Dr Cocke's favourite building is the Fenland cathedral of Ely (see picture).'I have studied it for years, 'he says, 'so I can appreciate the complexity of its history. I also know it as a traveller across the Fens. It rises in unlikely and lopsided splendour over the endless plain.'

His second choice is the Palazzo Farnese in Rome. 'So proud but not overbearing.' Three storeys tall and 13 bays wide, the palazzo was designed in the 1530s by Antonio da Sangallo, though its cornice was substantially enlarged by Michelangelo, who made other modifications as well. In his History of Architecture, Banister Fletcher calls it 'the most imposing Italian palace of the 16th century'.

Two enormous 17th-century fountains outside the building were assembled from bathtubs found in the ruins of the Baths of Caracalla, and are decorated with lilies, the Farnese family crest.

In contrast to these two fine buildings, Dr Cocke describes the Churchill Hotel in London's Portman Square as 'an expensive mediocrity'.

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