Jay Merrick

Jay Merrick is Architecture Critic of The Independent. His novel, Horse Latitudes, was published by Fourth Estate in 2000.

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Photography: Master builders

In Timothy Soar's monochrome portrait, the face of the architect Sean Griffiths, co-principal of the cool FAT practice, carries a look of chippy disdain.

Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer looks at drawings for a project of two cities in Senegal, Africa in 1992. He was one of the world's most famous architects, and is particularly beloved in Brazil

Oscar Niemeyer: The last of the 20th century’s great heroes of architecture, who remained an obdurate outsider

He possessed a Matisse-like ability to convey potent shape and movement with few marks

Why We Build, By Rowan Moore. Picador, £20

At school, Rowan Moore would have been the standoffish boy whose demeanour conveyed distracted impatience, but who then asked a very good question. This intelligent and cultured book has those qualities. Why We Build is a humanist's plea for architecture founded – to borrow Paul Simon's lyric – on the "incidents and accidents" of lives and places, rather than on marketing scripts or architectural heroism.

Glass act: the Astrup Fearnley Museum in Oslo

London's got the Shard – Oslo has the Comb-over

Renzo Piano has made his mark in the Norwegian capital

Until the virtues of sport are accepted in our state education system, opening up private school playing fields won't make the tiniest difference

Our Architecture Critic responds to a familiar call from an outgoing Olympic chief

Beyond bricks and mortar: Zaha Hadid's latest structure is impressive but already seems dated

Zaha Hadid's latest building has just opened in Montpellier, France. It's 200m long, weighs 80,000 tonnes, and resembles the superstructure of a vast, avant-garde cruise liner. The building took a million man-hours to build and cost more than €140m. But what's really interesting about it are the words that made it happen. And the fact that this new building, originally designed in 2004, looks automatically dated, compared to the much more organic designs that Hadid (inset) is now pursuing.

Banging techno architecture? It’s all happening in Venice

As the Olympics of architecture opens in Italy, Jay Merrick surveys the unexpected

Observations: Intelligent anarchy for the UK

The Venice Biennale is the Olympics of architecture. But it's not just about the profession's heroes this year – those architects picked by the architectural grandee, Sir David Chipperfield, to exhibit in the vast Arsenale at the end of August. At the British Pavilion's concurrent Venice Takeaway exhibition, the great game of architecture will be about intelligent anarchy.

Architecture: The £500m first step to 'Spaceship Earth'

British architects have just delivered a £500m mega-project in Singapore that may change the default perception of the city whose obsession with panoptic civic order, and financial services, has reportedly made one in six of its residents a dollar millionaire in terms of immediately disposable cash. The Bay South Garden conservatories are the centrepiece of the development, and their two gleaming glass biomes, designed by Chris Wilkinson, feature the world's largest glazed gridshell, a doubly curved grid-like structure.

How England Made the English: From Hedgerows to Heathrow, By Harry Mount and A New Kind of Bleak: Journeys through Urban Britain, By Owen Hatherley

Critics from both ends of the political spectrum inspect the damage done to our urban fabric

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