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A life in architecture: Peter Jenkinson

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Light and space are Peter Jenkinson's current buzz-words, and they sum up his passion, the New Art Gallery at Walsall, which opened last month. The £21 million project, in the heart of town and overlooking the canal basin, has been part of his life for a decade, and he has seen it from conception to birth.

Jenkinson speaks excitedly of other buildings that have influenced him, places as diverse as Hardwick Hall in Derbyshire, Kettle's Yard in Cambridge (pictured), the Louisiana Museum at Humleboek near Copenhagen and Basel Station in Switzerland. He loves the cafe at the St Ives Tate - 'full of light and with wonderful views across the beach'.

He comes back to Walsall: 'I live in an Edwardian terraced house in Birmingham, but I would love to live in this gallery.' He describes it as 'tactile as well as visual'. The power-floated concrete floor 'looks like slate, but it's like clouds passing over the surface of the sea. The building may seem brutal and forbidding but it has a sensuous beauty, its roof-beams 'like suede.'

Jenkinson feels the New Art Gallery is for children as well as adults: 'Children are taken more seriously in other countries.' Just inside it is the Discovery Gallery, which was packed with children as soon as the building had opened - just some of the 33,000 people who visited during the first two weeks.

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