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a TV 'insight' into the works of Michael Hopkins

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The fourth programme in Channel 5's Modern British Architects series, devoted to Michael Hopkins, failed to ask him the one question which would have given it a bit of freshness and edge: how does it feel to have a building publicly lambasted as 'ugly' and 'brutish' after several decades of representing the acceptable face of Modernism?

According to the presenter, Charlie Luxton, the new Portcullis House at Westminster may have been compared to a Transylvanian castle but, as far as he is concerned, 'it's no monster'.He even dares to predict that it will become 'much more popular' in years to come.

Why anyone might be expected to attribute any importance to Luxton's views is hard to fathom; what would be interesting to hear is Hopkins' response to the criticism.

But this series is not about making life difficult for its subjects.On the contrary, it seems to have no great ambitions other than to present a rather bland brand endorsement of what Luxton calls the 'premier league' of British architects. Luxton himself seems the perfect vehicle for delivering uncritical praise and admiration, panting after his architects like an enthusiastic puppy. So Michael Hopkins is given a platform to declare how proud he is of the buildings he has designed in the past 20 or 30 years - maybe even vain, he suggests - while being protected from any awkward questions.

That is not to say the programme is without interest.

It offers a perfectly competent, if unoriginal, survey of the key buildings of Hopkins' career, including his own glass house in Hampstead, designed, according to Luxton, 'in order to impress other architects' and get the commissions rolling in; Schlumberger, 'the jewel in the crown of British High-Tech'; the Mound Stand at Lord's, which 'made the MCC cool' and promoted Hopkins to the so-called premier league; Bracken House, which 'transformed the office into an experience'; Glyndebourne; and finally the problematic Portcullis House.

It makes the key revision points for a hypothetical examination on Hopkins: training at the Architectural Association in the late '50s, 'the school for wannabe architects', which sowed the seeds of an approach emphasising flexible space planning, use of modern industrial materials and technologies, ample daylight and sensitivity to context. The Hampstead house is presented very much as the trailblazer for the work to come, being inspired by Eames' use of catalogue factory components, but at the same time 'in character with the light lacy Regency houses opposite'.

Perhaps Luxton's keenest insight is in his description of Hopkins as an architect who 'upholds the British reputation for tradition and craftsmanship' and, by implication, in some way embodies a quality of quintessential Englishness that has underpinned his success.

Modern British Architects on Channel 5 continues on Sundays at 12.30 with programmes on Nicholas Grimshaw and Future Systems

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