The pages of this section are about the rather unusual decision to build myself a new home here - not figuratively but quite literally. I would never have attempted anything like building my own house in England. Friends of mine had told too many stories of their nightmare experiences with builders. Here they have a saying: Geht nicht, gibt's nicht, which means there's no such thing as can't be done. And far from being a nightmare the whole process had me fascinated from the beginning.
I have lived in my house for several years now and have still not lost the feeling of pride in having caused a new building to be constructed that fits in well with its historic environment. It has dimensions within which I can live without being overwhelmed by excess space and high ceilings and it has walls and windows that protect from the elements and nonetheless allow for consistent temperatures and moisture.. Most important, what is more, it has double windows with early nineteenth-century leaded panes that each reflect light differently, thus enlivening the façade rather than looking flat and dead as does modern double-glazing. Roland Lange, who made them for me, had rescued the glass from building sites where architects, in a hurry to get on, had consigned it to the skip.
The importance of windows to the appearance of a row of town houses seems to be largely unknown, or unfashionable. Of course it is easier, cheaper and quicker to order ready-made double-glazing and then vary the sizes to suit oneself. This has sad consequences for beautiful old towns. I ask myself: wouldn't people really prefer to feel their house had contributed and conformed to its environment, rather than sticking out like a sore thumb?
Of course some architects want, and probably need, to advertise their firms by making the buildings they have planned stand out. But advertising is shortlived and in historical terms commands only a brief span of attention. Perhaps they should ask themselves: is my building really something most people would want to go on looking at for a hundred years or more or even live in? Do many architects actually live or work in the buildings they put up? As Prince Charles pointed out, no they don't, they prefer to live in beautifully restored eighteenth-century mansions, while their clients, like guinea-pigs, live in their experiments.