Landmarks: Cragside

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My personal favourite is probably a terribly obvious choice, not perhaps for people in London, but certainly up here. It is a building called Cragside in Rothbury, Northumberland and is the home that was built for Lord Armstrong, the munitions man. It was designed between 1864 and 1866 by Norman Shaw, an architect I have always associated with Bedford Park, that sort of genteel west London suburb.

The building sits in a huge area of land which Armstrong acquired, very thickly planted with Rhododendrons. It grows out of the crag and the rough stones of the mountain then become the dressed stones of the building. It literally juts out of the hillside and the rocks on which it sits tumble down into a stream at the bottom. The water also had a practical purpose, as Armstrong designed a hydroelectric plant in the grounds. It was the first building to have electric lights powered by hydroelectricity, just one of many eccentric features.

It is built with a very complicated roof-line, lots of pitched roofs and huge chimneys sticking out. But it has timber detailing which you wouldn't ordinarily see in Northumberland. You enter into quite a grand entrance hall with gently curved arches - it has a stately home feel about it. One of the most exciting rooms is the gallery, which has a beautiful timber structure, lined with sculptures and paintings. An awful lot of the building's design is to do with bringing in light, which is very important in a place like Northumberland where much of the time it is dark and damp.

Peter Walker has been director of Couves Limited, architects, Newcastle upon Tyne for four years

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