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a life in architecture philip pullman

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Author Philip Pullman writes in his garden shed in Oxford, but his architectural appreciation extends from Neo-Classical villas to the Chicago skyline - 'an astonishing panorama of the whole history of skyscrapers'.

He first came across Lord Burlington's Chiswick House on a walk 30 years ago. 'I loved every aspect of it, its Palladian symmetry, the ornate staircase in front, the way the rooms flowed into each other, ' he says. 'It's called a house but it wasn't really built as such, more as a place for entertainment, but it's absolutely charming.'

The Classical buildings of Oxford, such as the Sheldonian Theatre, also draw him, but he is a frequent visitor to the midVictorian Oxford University Museum of Natural History (pictured). 'It's a wonderful iron and glass construction, with a huge glass roof and stone pillars running round a two-storey arcade, made from stone from all different parts of the British Isles.'

The museum was designed by Deane and Woodward and opened in 1859, the same year as Darwin's On the Origin of Species was published. 'This was where the 'great debate' between Thomas Huxley and Samuel Wilberforce, the Bishop of Oxford, took place in 1860 about Darwin's new ideas. It represents the defeat of the old idea that the world was created on a given date, and the beginning of the rise of science. It's lofty and extremely old and and dusty, but suffused with the spirit of Victorian optimism and the excitement of discovery.'

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