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a life in architecture: jim crace

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In Jim Crace's novel Arcadia, developers replace a traditional and vibrant street market with a glitzy, policed business centre called Arcadia. It is the sort of place Crace loathes. 'I've come to hate the way very modern buildings try to put the outside inside so that you don't know if it's winter or summer, day or night.

Successful shopping is all to do with the success of the street.'

His home city, Birmingham, inspired Arcadia, and he is concerned about the future of the Bullring. 'It's a failure aesthetically but from the shoppers' point of view it's a success. It's open, it's approachable and it's in the hands of individual shopkeepers selling saris or carrots, whereas the new developments are already let to the usual suspects. I'm sad that architecture and planning are controlled by rent values.'

Crace champions another controversial Birmingham landmark, Spaghetti Junction. He says if people took the trouble to walk around in the 'cathedral spaces beneath the columns, they would recognise it as a tremendous engineering solution'.

He likes the architecture of Chicago (see below): 'It's gloriously excessive. It has ecclesiastic pretensions - without the church.'

He finds the grands projets in Paris 'playful' because they provoke extreme reactions. He saves his favourite building till last: the wartime prefab. There's a listed row near his home at Wakegreen Road.

'They were put up in a day to last five years and they're still there, perfect homes for pensioners.'

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