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Andrew Male
December 2016.
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What are the most beautiful modern buildings in Britain?
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My favourite modern building is Coventry Cathedral, which was designed by Basil Spence with the Arup Group as engineers, built by John Laing and finished in 1962.

It represents the rebirth of Coventry after the war. They kept the shell of the old bombed cathedral next door and it’s a very powerful symbol. The stained-glass windows are at strange oddly-faceted angles so you can only see them from certain spots and Spence used all these incredible artists of the day like Graham Sutherland, John Piper (below) and Jacob Epstein to produce fundamental elements of the cathedral. Everything about it feels integral to its location, including the old cathedral next to it. One of my favourite touches is this side-chapel with no stained glass, just plain glass, and it reminds you about the outside world going on normally beyond, reconnecting you with real life whilst you’re surrounded by all this beauty. 

Another one of my absolute favourite buildings, and one which still gets a bad rap, is the Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral. It’s architect, Frederick Gibberd is an amazing figure, and this cathedral is incredible, a sculptural crown of a design, so different from Coventry.

 Then there's The Lawn, in Harlow, Essex, also designed by Gibberd, which is Britain’s first tower-block. It’s a very pretty building. It’s not square, but set in this butterfly formation, with interesting alcoves and pretty Festival of Britain-style detailing.

Another building that I love is The National Theatre. What makes it so special are details like the wood grain of the shuttering where they poured in the concrete, and the very luxurious interior, with this hushed cosy cave-like quality. It’s a fantastic building, and utterly unique.

“Alton Estate was designed by two groups of architects who both hated each other's guts.”

There is also a fantastic estate in Roehampton, Alton East and Alton West. Alton East was finished in 1958 and Alton West a year later, and they come from entirely different visions of modern architecture: the humanists and the new brutalists. All the buildings were designed by the London Country Council, but with two very different groups of architects, one influenced by the humanist style of architecture and another influenced by the new brutalist style. The new humanists were communists, and interested in Scandinavian architecture and the little details that humanised buildings. They built this mix of high and low rise buildings with little pretty murals. Whereas the brutalists were much more interested in muscular concrete buildings, and built these mini versions of Le Corbusier’s Unité d’habitation. Both groups hated each other's guts, and thought that the other lot were a load of rubbish, but both designs are amazing, and they have remained incredibly cool and sought after dwellings.