One of the things I love about travelling is seeing different buildings; even though we have some astonishing architecture in London, and I grew up here and have seen so many fabulous changes to the skyline, for me the most beautiful buildings in the world are ones that inspire an emotional reaction. The first time I saw the Vatican, for example, I started crying – not because I’m remotely religious but because it is absurdly, laughably beautiful: so big, so grand. No wonder it’s a city in its own right. Same with the Colosseum. In fact I still get that same reaction every time I go to Rome – it’s just that kind of place.
Similarly when you travel somewhere like Florence, and see the Duomo, or New York, and spot the Empire State building for the first time, or Barcelona and see the Sagrada Familia, it’s impossible to feel overwhelmed with awe at the sheer scale, imagination and commitment (often hundreds of years) it took to construct these fabulous buildings. And I think you have to return, three or four times, to really appreciate the buildings you’re looking at, and understand their importance and impact – whether they were built thousands of years ago or most recently.
I’m not in any way an architecture expert – I couldn’t honestly tell you the difference between baroque or roccoco, and I’m a bit hazy when it comes to the different types of columns; but as much as I like looking at cute, quirky houses like the ones in Tallinn, or monuments and landmarks, I have a real thing for architecture that ‘sings’ from every brick. It’s a great way to get kids excited about history when you’re on a city break, too.
For me though, some of the most beautiful buildings in the world are in St Petersburg, Russia. Not so much Peterhof, which while spectacular, is a little OTT for my taste; but certainly the Hermitage, and the beautiful Catherine Palace. The colours, the grandeur and style takes your breath away. Frankly it makes me want to paint everything white, blue and gold.
*This is my entry to The Gallery – the theme this week is ‘buildings’.