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Less is morbid

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Piers Gough was on top form at the Royal Academy last Friday, talking about Soane with critic Rowan Moore in one of the ra's occasional architectural conversation events. Piers, designer of the highly successful Soane exhibition, recalled his experiences designing the Lutyens show at the Hayward in the early 1980s - Philip Johnson sponsored it but never visited because, he claimed, he was 'too old to travel'. Piers then unleashed a torrent of aphorisms on a delighted audience. Venturi's National Gallery extension was 'the Dulwich Picture Gallery on steroids'; Soane may have been morbid, 'but anyone who enjoys breakfast can't be that unhappy'; 'Where he used yellow glass I see sunlight, others gloom'; 'Young architects are designing an awful lot of limestone floors these days - pale in a dying sort of way'; 'So much architecture is miserable because it is bad'; 'Modern architects are neither happy nor sad - they are just unemotional'. Piers thought the Hopkins Westminster building showed what happens when you play with Gothic: 'You get vampires. Watch out!' (Actually Michael is trying to have the roof stripped and re-patinated to cheer it up a bit.) So who would Piers like to design an exhibition about next? ' James Stirling - and Stirling & Gowan.'

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