Dr Jonathan Foyle, WMF Britain My favourite building in the world is Lincoln Cathedral, which dominates this ancient city from its elevated seat. Climb the eponymous ‘Steep Hill’ to the west front, and you’ll find a miracle of medieval art in golden stone, mostly of thirteenth-century date. It’s magisterial in scale, superb in its sculptural detail and its engineering is thrilling. It used to be the world’s tallest building, well over a hundred feet higher than Salisbury, and was visible for forty miles until its spire collapsed in a gale, crushing part of the cloisters. It’s an utterly romantic monument, especially in a misty autumn evening when the ‘Great Tom’ bell carries the sound of centuries away through the cold, dark air.
Certosa del Galluzzo
Katherine Boyle, WMF Britain My favourite heritage site is undoubtedly the Certosa del Galluzzo, perched high on a picturesque hill top just outside Florence. It is impossible to describe the uniquely peaceful and rejuvenating affect that this fortress-like building has on me every time I visit. The views across the Tuscan countryside dotted with Cyprus trees are spectacular and I love the bold and inspirational art works by Pontormo. However, these are only two of the alluring aspects of the site. It is more than just a building; the walls seem to speak of the history they have experienced, and you can sense the spirituality that inspired their construction and the numerous prayers that have been said within them. You can effortlessly conjure up /images of the monks bustling around carrying out their daily routine of work and prayers in this sanctuary of calm away from the hustle and bustle of the city. The Certosa is now run by the Cistercians and tours are given daily by Italian monks - their love of the site and its surviving art and architecture is overwhelming and humbling. It made me want to become a monk.
Henrietta Pound, WMF Britain I love Mount Stuart on the Isle of Bute because it is so untypical of Scottish architecture and culture. It is a great example of man’s ability to take from his imagination and create something real. Mount Stuart is an incredible product of the gothic revival and beautifully positioned looking out over the sea towards the Inner Hebrides. The ancient grounds and woodlands are home to wonderfully old towering trees which give the gardens a great sense of depth and mystery. This is a place to be pensive. What is best though is that it is relatively undiscovered by the hoards and so remains a wonderful place just to escape and inspire.
Anna FlynnWestminster Cathedral is a red and white banded marvel that startles the unsuspecting viewer through a gap, only opened in 1975, in a ceaseless line of hard modern buildings lining Victoria Street. Once discovered, its presence is never quite forgotten – from all over London the distinctive shape of St Edward’s Tower, soaring 87 meters heavenwards, plays peek-a-boo between office blocks and other familiar landmarks. Francis Bentley’s masterpiece, built between 1895 and 1903, is a testament to the growing presence of the Catholic community in the late nineteenth century, and to the foresight and courage of Herbert Vaughn, Third Archbishop of Westminster. This said, I think it is a captivating place to visit regardless of faith. Once inside, the din of the street is replaced by the hush of whispers and of muffled footsteps. Then there is the sense of space. A vast, cavernous soot-black ceiling rises above a nave which at 34 meters by 18 is the tallest and widest in the country. Bentley took his inspiration from the architecture of Byzantium, in the main so that there would be no confusion with the Gothicism of Westminster Abbey, but also because the use of domes allows for a large central space uncluttered by supports. His particular influence came from the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, and the green marble used at Westminster was taken from the same quarry as that inside this ancient church. The decoration only rises as far as the base of the vast pillars supporting the domes, but within it can be found a multitude of treasures. My own favourite are the marble sea creatures swirling around the floor of the Chapel of St Andrew, which also features a mosaic of the town of the same name, where I spent a happy four years at university.
Will Black, WMF BritainSleeping for a night inside the complex of Petra in Jordan, on rocks precariously high up opposite the El Deir (Monastery) with the red desert plains stretching below into the distance provided me with one of the most memorable nights I have experienced. Alone in the ruins of the rose-red city the centuries seemed to roll back as the sun dipped and stars filled the night sky. In the morning, although I hadn’t slept much on the hard rock in my sleeping bag, the journey on foot through the carved tombs and temples was exhilarating. I felt I was seeing things that no one else had. No wonder T.E. Lawrence described it as ‘the most wonderful place on earth.’
Colin Amery, WMF BritainThe first time I remember being excited, interested and amused by an historic building was when I was taken as a very small boy to Brighton for the day with my mother and my nanny. Once I had recovered from the journey on a Pullman train in a carriage called “Vera” and then had my first site of the sea roaring along the sea front we turned the corner and there was the Royal Pavilion. I was completely bowled over by this bizarre site. What were those giant onions doing on the roof? Why were the gateways so tall that you expected elephants to appear? Who was this man, this Prince Regent who had wanted to build such a fantasy of a palace in the crisp seaside climate of Brighton? And then we went inside. I was transported by the glamorous beauty that displayed its treasure so brilliantly. I was entranced forever by the all the magical things that architecture can do. First of all I couldn’t believe that there were full sized palm trees in the royal kitchen and did everyone cook from such an array of copper pans? And then the drawing rooms were Chinese with incredible silk flowers on the walls and furniture made of exotic bamboo. It was scarcely possible to restrain my excited laughter when we went into the music room. There were bells dangling from the cornice of the circular Music Room and glass parasols hung upside down as shades to the lights.
But the triumphant moment was when we slipped into the grandest of all dining rooms. Everything gleamed – silver, silk, crystal and porcelain and the room simply reeked of rich banquets; of profligacy and pleasure. Life was rich, the pavilion was perfection and I was forever captivated by the power of architectural invention.
Nanny and I walked to pier and she was crestfallen that I was already in another world and not impressed by the innocence of Brighton by the sea.
David Gundry, WMF Britain Approaching the west front of Wells in medieval times would have been a scary and psychedelic experience, the whole façade awash with the brightest most vivid colouring. Knowing the skill involved in creating such an outrageous building truly inspires and makes you realise why our great cathedrals are one of the UK’s best gifts to the world; and think how long it has been there; amazing!
I first saw Mavisbank on a wet October day after an afternoon spent scaling the countryside with my mother. Having been lost for hours I felt elated when I suddenly spotted a pediment, cutting a hazy silhouette against the grey sky. Full of purpose we rushed up the hill, and glimpsed our first sight of Mavisbank in its entirety. I could imagine it just as its creator, Sir John Clerk of Penicuik would have seen it, on his return from business in Edinburgh. Now, time and neglect have taken their toll. A neglectful and irresponsible owner and a fire destroyed much of the building’s fabric and the house is now just a shell. Much of the masonry is dangerous and a tall metal fence has been erected to keep people out: for their own safety and to prevent vandalism. However, Mavisbank remains remarkably beautiful; some of the architectural details and mouldings, such as carved stone faces are still in evidence and betray its former glory, and suggesting what an exquisitely and delicately beautiful hous e it must have been. My imagination filled in the rest. Perhaps lots of its appeal for me, is that it is terribly sad and is almost crying out for help; it makes one want to start restoring it with one’s bare hands there and then. When I worked in a Scottish archiving body I loved delving into their collection of photographs of the house before it was ruined. It was amazing to be able to see what it would have been like in its heyday, especially the interiors, which are now totally destroyed. During this time I was lucky enough to hear a talk from James Simpson, in charge of the restoration project whose words I found truly inspiring. I find Mavisbank truly magical. It would be incredible to see it restored in my lifetime. It is so important that this very special house and the vision of Sir John Clerk of Penicuik and William Adam is not lost.
Midazkhan, Karakalpakstan, Uzbekistan
A.A. Gill called its nearest town, Nukus, “the worst place in the world”. How dare he: I am glad the authorities have banned him from returning. Not far from Nukus lies the small settlement of Mizdakhan. I think few tourists have set foot here, perhaps because of A.A. Gill’s comments. The archaeological UNESCO complex of ancient Mizdakhan occupies a huge territory, with thousands of tombs, mausoleums, and shrines. In contrast to Nukus, it is steeped in history. Moslems called it the ‘City of Infidels’, their term for the fire-worshipping Zoroastrians. The Khorezm Zoroastrians followed advice of the Avesta not to pollute the four elements. Hence they placed the fleshless bones of the deceased in ossuaries decorated with paintings, inscriptions, and various religious symbols. I was taken there by a local, when I worked in Nukus for a few months. We arrived by taxi, and walked up the dusty track to the entrance of the site. There wasn’t a soul to be seen, and the wind blew noisily up our skirts and around our hair. Kicking dust as we went, a small and wizened man appeared from one of the tombs. My karakalpak not being so good, our local friend translated for us. He led us down into one of the tombs and explained the deep history that lay beneath. He asked nothing for his ‘tour’. Midazkhan is a wonder, and lies defenseless today. Its modestly protected underground history blew me away. That such self-effacing and wonderful people, living in the poor and savage desert conditions should be hiding such a rich and colourful heritage is both a secret joy for those who know it, but also a shame that so few know about it. I am so lucky to have seen it undisturbed, in my own time, without tourists. That combination made it my favourite place.
Pidhirtsi Castle, Ukraine
Ewa Manias, WMF Britain A symbol of the mid-European culture in the renaissance period. In the eighteenth century it was a royal residence, and was considered to be “one of the most striking architectural creations in the whole of Poland”; a chateau in the style of Versailles.
Having survived through the turmoil of history this castle now has the opportunity to be restored to its original state.