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a life in architecture nigel slater

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Food writer Nigel Slater's favourite building has to be 'somewhere where I feel comfortable but excited; somewhere where I don't quite belong'. One such building is Jean Nouvel's Institut du Monde Arabe near the Seine in Paris (below). Once beyond its two very tall marble-clad pillars, set at a slight angle to each other, 'you feel you are going into a very special place - a different world'.

Arab music plays in the background; the coffee shop has panoramic views across Paris. 'The lovely books on sale are a constant temptation, ' adds Slater. 'It is a place in which to spend time. Not too touristy.' As someone who detests glass lifts, he feels comfortable in the one here, 'perhaps because I can see all the workings'. He enthuses about the windows: 'They are covered with grids which I first assumed were a modernised Arab design but I discovered that they move according to the light.' He sums up the building as 'inspirational, exciting, refreshing'; he feels like 'a welcome trespasser' there.

Slater describes Gehry's Bilbao Guggenheim as 'heaven', but is convinced that its glass lifts are designed 'for people undergoing aversion therapy'. It is not only the sense of vertigo but - as in a glass atrium - such construction makes him think of a prison. 'There's no privacy. I like light and space but in great quantity it intimidates.'

Almost as a postscript, Slater recalls a visit to the Taj Mahal in the early hours of the morning. 'It was exquisite.'

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