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a life in architecture

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Christopher Frayling, rector of the Royal College of Art, puts a thirteenth-century 'apartment block' at the top of his list of favourite buildings: the 135 cliff dwellings at Kayenta in Arizona, carved out of the red sandstone by the Navaho Indians.

'Associate this with nearby Monument Valley - seen in every great cowboy film - and the combination is quite unbeatable,' says Frayling.

A few years ago, Frayling made a documentary film on Chartres Cathedral. He virtually lived in the cathedral for a week during filming and fell in love with it.

'You can see in the details how it was built,' he explains. 'The flying buttresses differ as you move round the walls, and you get to recognise the different styles of the different groups of masons. It's the origin of modern architecture - such lightness making a huge interior space, like a stone skeleton, a machine for worshipping in.'

Finally, 64 Old Church Street, Chelsea (above), designed by Mendelsohn and Chermayeff in 1936, is for Frayling 'one the few modern buildings in the country not associated with the seaside ... a wonderful piece of architecture.'

The neighbouring house was designed by Gropius, and whenever Frayling passes the building he recalls that when Gropius was living here in exile, he applied for the rectorship of the rca, Frayling's current position. The college turned him down and Gropius took off for the States. 'One of the great historical might-have-beens,'says Frayling, chuckling.

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