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Lauren Laverne: 'People argue about London’s skyline but I like it'

This year’s RIBA Stirling Prize host Lauren Laverne tells the AJ about her favourite buildings, her love of Ian Martin, and why she is interested in architecture

What is your interest in architecture? Can you remember the first building that made an impression on you?
My interest in architecture comes from my Catholic upbringing, I think. I spent a lot of time in church as a kid - though I didn’t always concentrate. Those high ceilings and dramatic Norman arches rubbed off somehow. I suppose that was my introduction to the way the built environment could influence your mood and behaviour - church made you *feel* obedient. I remember wanting to jump up and shout but knowing I couldn’t, and wondering why.

One of my favourite buildings is Durham Cathedral, which I visited a lot then and still go back to a lot now. It’s an astonishing building, full of history - as well as the building itself there’s a saint’s grave, the graffiti of choirboys, chips in the tombs made by marauding Scotsmen….

These days I’m lucky enough to live in one of the most architecturally diverse cities in the world. I know people argue about London’s skyline but I try to appreciate the mix.

Why do you think the RIBA Stirling Prize remains so important?
Because even those of us who don’t think we know anything about architecture are affected by it. It’s important to talk about what good design means, what we need buildings to do, and to make sure that our cities and landscape evolve in a way that helps us live better. 

I love the way Ian Martin writes about architecture

Do you think the built environment gets enough national media coverage – say compared to art and literature?
I think it’s weirdly easy to overlook, because it’s staring us in the face the whole time. There are some people bringing the subject up and making it part of the popular conversation, though.

I love the way Ian Martin writes about architecture. Earlier this year he imagined turning The Shard (of which he is not a fan) into subsidised housing for key workers ’Does it now magically become “architecturally beautiful”? Yes. YES.’ I thought that last was such an interesting question.

Johnny Marr recently told the AJ ‘most of the new houses I’ve seen look shit’ (AJ 14.04.15). What is your view on what is currently being built?
Well, anybody with any taste knows that most of everything is terrible. Luckily there’s always enough good stuff to keep us moving on. I guess it’s like music in that respect (Frozen music, right, guys??)

I love everything about the Southbank Centre

What is your favourite building?
Oh, God. It’s so hard to choose. The Southbank Centre has got to be up there. I love everything about it - the Brutalist architecture, the optimistic, egalitarian spirit in which it was conceived; the acoustics in the Royal Festival Hall, what The National means to us, the river… it’s one of my favourite places to spend time.

If you were to choose an architect to design you a new house, who would it be?
After his dream house - and his Sunderland tapestry - I’d ask Grayson Perry to do it. 

Readers' comments (1)

  • I agree with your nicely-put drift Lauren, but I'm old enough (pre-war old) to remember the London skyline of Wren, pretty well as he left it give or take the odd gap left by the blitz - Michael McNay

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