The RIBA’s new president Stephen Hodder on his favourite people, wheels and places, loves and hates and the joy and despair of being an architect
Where were you born?
What is your favourite building and why?
Apart from St Catherine’s College, Oxford, which has informed my architectural life, it has to be Le Corbusier’s chapel of Notre Dame du Haut, Ronchamp. It is a building that aroused the most profound emotions from the first sighting of the roof floating over a horizon of treetops, to the promenade from the car park past the rarely published Pilgrims’ House, the composition of the building itself responding so uniquely to its hilltop setting, and finally the experience of the three dimensional interior, the sense of gravity towards the altar and the masterly control of light.
What vehicles do you own?
A Porsche Cayenne and three Bianchi road bikes.
What is your favourite album?
Mirage, by Camel … Andy Latimer’s guitar is sublime.
What is your favourite film?
Powell and Pressburger’s A Matter of Life and Death; a rich allegory of remarkable creativity and humour. Rather predictably, I particularly enjoy the black and white Modernist scenes of the ‘other world’.
Who is the best architect you’ve worked with?
Mark Emms, who was the associate responsible for St Catherine’s College Phase 2, a very nice person as well; and, of course, my wife, Claire.
What was the wildest night out with an architect?
Many evenings with Claire.
What is the worst building you’ve ever seen and why?
All out-of-town shopping centres, for their synthetic environments, their inability to attain a sense of place, and the damage they cause to our infrastructure and inner cities.
If you hadn’t been an architect what would you have been?
I genuinely don’t know … I wanted to be an architect from the age of 11 and never considered anything else.
Would you recommend being an architect to your children?
Yes, but be prepared for joy and despair in equal measure.
What is your motto?
Aspiration and ambition cannot be defined by a motto.