Click bait: confessions of a Lego addict

The empire of Lego has many dominions and protectorates, with every year, it seems, new territories to conquer. There are theme parks; there are films of excruciatingly ironic sophistication; there are competitions to make bizarre tableaux that grip nations; there are highly controlled TV documentaries about life at the heart of Lego in Denmark. I don’t feel my life will be complete until I’ve spent a week constructing Hagia Sophia out of plastic bricks It is an astonishingly powerful brand and its growth has been extraordinary to watch. Many years ago, it was just one building toy among many, like Meccano or Fischer Technik. Now, it is supreme. Some tremors

Hot property: 10 buildings to look forward to in 2023

Every year produces a number of ‘firsts’ and ‘mosts’ in architecture – and 2022 was no different. Most obviously, at least for residents of New York, the world’s skinniest skyscraper, with sixty storeys of single apartments stacked to a height of 435 metres, was completed on ‘billionaire’s row’ in Manhattan, perhaps becoming the ultimate example of ‘form following finance’ in the construction annals. But while that was dispiriting for so many reasons, there was much to celebrate too – not least the pleasing restorations of Marcel Breuer’s Armstrong Rubber Company headquarters in Connecticut, which has become a hotel, and the Kunsthaus Tacheles in Berlin, an old department store that has become

Battles royal: how Charles has influenced British architecture

It is the evening of 30 May 1984. The country’s leading architects have assembled at Hampton Court to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the body that represents their interests, the RIBA. It is a sea of black polo necks, masculine chit-chat and clinked glasses. Given that the ‘R’ in RIBA stands for ‘Royal’ – albeit an honour actually awarded by William IV in 1837, three years after the Institute of British Architects’ founding – it is perhaps no surprise that a royal has been drafted in to politely murmur some congratulations over dinner. Yet what happened next was most certainly not expected. With no warning, the man who was then

The high life of stonemason James Preston

The impact had shattered the churchyard path. Chunks of asphalt and mortar lay in the surrounding grass. Just next to the path, like a broken chess piece, lay the remnants of the church’s 150-year-old spire. A few hours earlier, it had stood at the very top of the church, towering over the churchyard. Mercifully, the Victorian construction had fallen to earth rather than through the church roof. For reasons now lost, St Thomas’ in Wells is one of the very few English churches with a spire to the north-east corner. The list of people one can call for such emergencies is not long. In the event it was 37-year-old James

Roger Scruton’s campaign for beautiful buildings is finally being won

Travelling around Britain, one is given the sense that built up areas are mostly ugly, while the countryside is mostly beautiful. As a lover of the urban, this is distressing. For new buildings to be ugly feels as inevitable as death and taxes. But it does not have to be. Over almost a decade, a small group of activists have brought beauty into the heart of development policy. The Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick’s speech at Policy Exchange this week signals that a revolution is well under way, even if there is still a long way to go. Given that almost everyone thinks that the appearance of the built environment matters,

The Tories should ignore the Amersham by-election

Chesham and Amersham has fallen. The once uber-Tory Chilterns citadel has been snatched by the Lib Dems, with local campaigners citing planning reform and HS2 as the main drivers for their success. After the ginormous swing — from a 16,000 majority to an 8,000-vote deficit — fears are growing that the Tories’ planning reforms might become a victim to demographic subsidence. Many of the government’s backbenchers are keen to undermine the party’s house-building efforts. They fear Amersham-style retribution from similar voters, eager to punish them for devaluing their most-prized asset and adding congestion to their quaint country lanes. The Nimbyist revolt has been a major political force for yonks Isle of Wight