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a life in architecture

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One building that has fascinated artist Adrian Henri for many years is The Postman's Palace, in Hauterive, France - hand built by Ferdinand Cheval, a rural postman who dreamed one night he'd built a palace in his back garden.

'According to legend, when he was out on his round, he noticed some rocks that looked like the palace, so he took them home and started sticking them together,' says Henri, who has written a children's book about the building. Cheval spent the next 33 years creating his fantastical folly, carved with figures, animals and sprouting trees.

'It's magical and utterly fascinating', says Henri, 'as if you literally build your dreams. I've always liked follies and this one is the most spectacular to me.' It's even more amazing to Henri that it was built without any architectural knowledge. 'He added to it bit by bit, andthe extraordinary thing is, it stands up.'

The second building that entrances Henri is right on his own doorstep in Liverpool. 'St George's Hall is the complete opposite to the Postman's Palace but what I like about them is that they are both gloriously useless,' he says. 'It's classical in all senses of the word, but nowadays something of a white elephant, but again with a deeply romantic story behind it.'

The architect Harvey Lonsdale Elmes won the design in competition in 1840 at age 25 and conceived this bold Greek Revival hall for a city very much at ease with itself (pictured). But the consuming project took its toll on Elmes' health and he died, aged just 33, before its completion.

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