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A life in architecture

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Gillian duCharme

Gillian DuCharme, headmistress of Benenden School, has difficulty limiting her choice of buildings, but the first two are unchallenged: the Queen's House, by Inigo Jones - because she loves Palladio and because it is in Greenwich, near where she lives.

The second is the Chrysler building in New York (where she has also lived and taught), the only building of which she has ever taken a decent photograph. It hangs framed in her office at Benenden, the sunny top of the building festooned with fluttering American flags. She is also particularly fond of the round, beautifully proportioned Shaker Barn in Hancock, Massachusetts.

DuCharme loves Islamic architecture and visiting Purana Quila near Delhi, the ruined sixteenth-century citadel of the Emperor Humayun. 'It is not one of the monuments most people know about,' she says, 'it's a little quiet place that nobody but I and the Indians visit.' It has a garden, a ruined wall, a mosque and a two-storey octagonal library pavilion. Sir Edwin Lutyens shared her affection for the citadel and took inspiration from it for his parliament buildings in New Delhi. DuCharme quotes his account of it, a place designed 'to soften the cares of royalty and beguile the tedium of life.'

Deborah Singmaster

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