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a life in architecture robert harbison

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Architectural historian Robert Harbison has selected some of the spaces and places that happen to be on his mind at the moment. First, the Doric temples at Paestum (above), although he doesn't usually like Classical buildings.

'They completely knocked me over. It's all kinds of things: the textures of the stone and the light when you happen to be there - or the moonlight.'

Next, Borromini. 'It could be just about any Borromini but the church of St Ivo is my favourite. He makes something out of every single inch of it. I think that's what bothers some people - he can't leave anything alone and everything becomes the distortion of some recognisable motif.'

A converted barn in Yorkshire, with windows below eye level recalls the Katsura monument in Kyoto, with its 'oddly located openings in the paper walls, so that you have a kind of glancing sideways view. This farm house has a lot of windows placed like that.'

Harbison dislikes libraries; he was not fond of the old Reading Room, but he loves working in the new British Library. 'It's partly that level of investment in books which I'm just thrilled by every time I go there.'

Finally, the cave temples at Badami in India carved out of a cliff surrounding an artificial pool: 'It was staggering to find that kind of place so elaborately worked with . . .vivid reminiscences of things that have no business being in caves.'

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