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A life in architecture - michael berkeley

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Composer Michael Berkeley's passion for architecture began in childhood with churches such as Cley in Norfolk and Blythburgh in Suffolk; then came the 'gigantic' influence of being a chorister at Westminster Cathedral (pictured).

'Ah, Bentley's glorious basilica!'

John Betjeman would say, each time he met young Berkeley. As director of the Cheltenham Festival, Berkeley still enjoys combining music and great architecture, holding performances in places such as Gloucester Cathedral and Tewkesbury Abbey.

When he started travelling, he was knocked out by Gaudi in Barcelona: 'I think there's always been a part of me that likes a slightly maverick approach to things and I like the wilder excesses of Foster and Rogers.'

A building that delights him is the Hillingdon Underground Station, designed by the Cassidy Taggart Partnership in the late 1980s: 'It's such a hugely happy circus-like structure, a public building which someone has managed to make light, happy, airy and welcoming - all the things that one wants architecture to be.'

Berkeley was on the board at the Royal Opera House, and is particularly pleased with the new Floral Hall. But he is disappointed by the lack of a world-class concert hall in London: 'We always have the conference centre, semi-circle layout, which is quite against the known success of a shoe-box which you get in, say, the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam. It's astonishing the way we completely ignore what we know works.'

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