Brought up in East Anglia, on the Essex-Suffolk borders, I seem to drift east by preference and have a liking for distant horizons and towering skies. But London has been my home since student days and I am happy as a clam in the city, provided I can see the seasons change and occasionally escape light pollution.

A strong interest in buildings led to my first degree, in Art History, yet it was some years later that I discovered my father’s family were quarrymen, stonemasons, artisan craftsmen, builders, developers and eventually architects in and around Dublin up to the mid 19th century. I’d already begun to write about architecture, landscape and topography, old and new buildings of quality, utopian and likely places, admirable lives and the achievements of determined woman and men. A few more years on, I decided to take a Masters in Politics and Administration, to learn something of the processes and policies that lay behind planning and architectural outcomes.

I was the architectural correspondent for the Observer in the same decade that I chaired the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB), my monthly column for Building Design sat alongside being President of the Twentieth Century Society. Whether writing or teaching, broadcasting or researching, working professionally or voluntarily, I always try to combine some understanding of the aspirations of the present with my interest in the achievements of the past; however chequered the course of either, they seem inseparable to me.

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