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a life in architecture

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timothy mowl

'I change with the wind, 'says architectural historian Timothy Mowl of his building preferences.

Recently, the wind blew him to the 'scarred and battered coast north of Newcastle' to Seaton Delaval Hall, Vanbrugh's late masterpiece.

'It was such a delight to see a building I knew so well through books, 'he says.'It had a tremendous presence.Modern architecture doesn't approach the grandeur of a building like that. It's a shattered ruin but the owner, Lord Hastings, has roofed it over for use by the community.'

Research for his book on John Betjeman versus Nikolaus Pevsner, Stylistic Cold Wars, took Mowl to Sezincote in Gloucestershire (pictured), a Classical house tricked out in 1805 to look like a Moghul palace for Sir Charles Cockerell, who had made a fortune in India.

'It's got a huge curving conservatory and an outdoor sleeping parlour, all in Hindu style, ' says Mowl. 'Betjeman raved about it.'Sezincote exemplifies the virtues of Regency planning - all mod cons on two storeys - a plan Mowl would use were he to build his own house.

In spite of his comment about Modern architecture, Mowl's final choice is a quite recent house in Bristol, designed by local architect Michael Axford. It is built on the plan of a Roman villa, U-shaped with a swimming pool in the centre.

All the rooms look out on the pool.

'It's done in minimalist style and everything is in beautiful soft ivory and white with touches of yellow, ' he says.'It's the most serene house.

My wife would kill for it.'

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