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a life in architecture

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victoria thornton

Part of Victoria Thornton's role as director of London Open House is encouraging people to care for their buildings, no matter what age or size they may be. She uses the word 'stewardship', which implies more than mere maintenance: 'It's about owning a building and caring for it.' The two models of good stewardship she has chosen are the Ismaili Centre, South Kensington, by Casson Conder (1983), and Nash's Crown Estate Office, 16 Carlton House Terrace.

At the Ismaili Centre, Thornton senses an ideal client-architect relationship at work. 'The architects responded to the owners' brief and the owners have responded by not changing the centre. They enjoy it and that shows. They've allowed the symbols and the culture to come through in the building and yet it's not a pastiche, it's very modern and it works on all fronts.'

Thornton has seen it used successfully as a religious, social and educational centre. The roof garden is a hidden gem and she wishes there were more such spaces in London.

The Crown Estate Office, with interiors by Owen Jones, is another building which exemplifies good stewardship. 'Movement through those spaces is a delight.The materials are quite dark and rich but you still get that airiness and spatial quality.' Thornton regrets that maintenance does not seem to come high on the British list of priorities.' You can have a really good piece of architecture but it is, in a way, demolished by nonmaintenance.'

London Open House, 23-24 September.Hot Line: 09001 600 061

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