Gillian Darley


22 April 2022

In Llanystumdwy

It was David Lloyd George’s wish to be buried near Llanystumdwy, the village where he grew up, on the River Dwyfor in Gwynedd. The site and the setting for his grave were chosen in 1946, the year after he died, by his neighbour and friend, the architect Clough Williams-Ellis.

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30 March 2022

Pastures Grey

The little circular garden skyed high over the traffic flow on London Wall that currently leads to the entrance to the (soon to be relocated) Museum of London is to be reimagined as ‘The Meadow’. Diller Scofidio + Renfro, the New York architects of the High Line, know a bit about bringing pasture into the city. They also designed Zaryadye Park, a.k.a. ‘Putin’s Paradise’, thirty-five acres of ‘wild urbanism’ in the middle of Moscow.

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22 February 2022

In Fishguard

Suspicions of invasion come in many guises, but the first sighting of four French vessels off Lundy Island, clearly signalling their intentions by the names of the two frigates, La Vengeance and La Resistance, presaged serious alarm. The last hostile invasion of mainland Britain took place in south-west Wales on 22 February 1797. For the bicentenary, the Fishguard Arts Society made a tapestry on the model of the one in Bayeux.

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7 October 2021

Over Sutton Hoo

The archaeological site of Sutton Hoo in coastal east Suffolk has ‘seen an overwhelming increase in interest’ since the release of the movie The Dig. The National Trust, the site’s guardian, has seized the opportunity to build a new viewing tower, a gossamer structure of latticed galvanised metal and slatted dark-stained timber which stands at the furthest end of the site. The aerial perspective you gain from the platform 17 metres up, together with an elegant explanatory plan etched into metal, transforms the scene from a bumpy stretch of heath into the royal burial ground of an Anglo-Saxon monarch and his immense retinue, a place of unmistakable, if masked, resonance.  

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19 March 2021

Destination Peabody

In central London you’re never far from buildings designed by Henry Astley Darbishire, the dependable architect of choice for philanthropic individuals and institutions in the second half of the 19th century. 

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30 December 2020

Along the Thames

Walk south from St Paul’s Cathedral, itself gloriously lit but merely corroborating what we already know and admire of it, over the Millennium Bridge and east along the south bank of the Thames to see the revelatory sequence of Southwark, Cannon Street and London Bridges. Formerly either blanked out by nightfall or dully picked up in a single wash of yellow or blue, they now unpeel in front of your eyes along the riverbank, linked by their calibrated tones and shifting timing, subtle painterly effects achieved by LEDs and computer programming.

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26 August 2020

Going to Coventry

When Coventry City Council applied to be the UK City of Culture 2021, and won, what on earth were they planning to do with the city centre? As Owen Hatherley has written, ‘of all of the great reconstruction projects of the first decade after 1945, there’s only one city that never seems to take possession of and pride in what it did: Coventry.’

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19 March 2020

Grass on the Roof

Victorian industrialists had a particular approach to advertising and branding, with money no object. Where feasible, the factory or mill itself was designed to promote the product. Rather like stained glass windows in medieval churches, easily instructive for the illiterate, the buildings were set free to tell the story. The façade of John Marshall’s linen mill at Holbeck in Leeds, built in the late 1830s, was a magnificent copy of the great temple at Edfu: flax had been cultivated in Egypt, and linen woven from it, since ancient times.

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4 February 2020

Against ‘Living with Beauty’

The Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission’s platitudes offer no solution to the UK’s housing crisis. What does it mean to ‘ask for beauty’? The report says that ‘schemes should be turned down for being too ugly.’ But who will be the judge of that? Any volume housebuilder’s sales office will tell you that the house people want to buy is like the one they just saw, ideally the one with the best view and the one they can afford. The market favours the traditional: pitched roof over flat roof, sash window over wrap-round glazing, a tiny porch instead of a doorstep, even – if the budget allows – a chimney in which to lodge a flue pipe. Above all, keep one house away from the next, even if the gap is little wider than an Amazon parcel.

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21 August 2019

Mind the Gap

I can’t explain why, in the face of all the seductive images and lyrical descriptions of the new Tintagel footbridge, I’ve become fixated on a small incision slashed through the surface of the walkway in the middle of the bridge. I know it’s technically the meeting point between the two cantilevered segments, a 40 mm expansion joint in an impeccably engineered structure. But it struck me forcibly that the seemingly reassuring surface connecting clifftop to clifftop, strung in tension over the dizzying void below, had been cut. It gave me a nervous charge. Was this an actual moment of the sublime?

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