Architecture: The Taj Mahal at sunrise, Brighton Pavilion, Didcot Power Station... ahh, those great monuments to love

Readers will be the first to put me right, but I do not know of a British church dedicated to St Valentine, the third-century Christian martyr associated, by historical accident, with the sending of valentines. If there is, I wonder what it looks like? Can the idea of love be represented or sublimated successfully in stone or bricks and mortar? I don't mean happy suburban homes with roses around the Kentucky Fried Georgian door, but monuments to grand passion.

Architects and their patrons have tried, but these monuments have usually been erected to lust rather than love, although how far the two can be separated has never been clear.

Brighton Pavilion is clearly a pleasure dome; every voluptuous billow of the Prince Regent's seaside palace speaks of lubricious summers spent among a soft mound of silk pillows.

But, where can you find the architecture of pure love, the sort John Betjeman had for Peggy Purey-Cust (and recorded in "Summoned by Bells") or I had for Susan Connolly, who smelt so wonderful, when I was five? The most famous example is the Taj Mahal, that astonishing white marble mausoleum on the Jumna River in Agra built between 1632 and 1643 by the emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his beloved wife, Mumtaz Mahal. Taj Mahal means the "crown of buildings" in Urdu. Members of royal families, noble peasants and hordes of tourists have come this way for 350 years hoping to share in the latent magic of this peerless Mogul building. Mostly they experience crowds of people, although early on a February morning in the pink rose of dawn and before the coaches and the trains from Delhi arrive, the Taj is a truly moving sight.

I am not sure if this has anything to do with the love that Shah Jahan bore Mumtaz Mahal, for I have felt an equal sense of delight - that same involuntary shudder up the spine - when looking once from the hill above the Thames at Dorchester to Didcot Power Station. I hope this doesn't sound mad, but when the sun catches those great cooling towers and the plumes of fleecy white steam that rise so gently from them, south Oxfordshire seems a strangely heavenly place. Love and power stations are odd bedfellows, I agree, but what I am struggling to say is that our experience of delight in architecture and buildings in the landscape has everything to do with their form and setting and the light that plays against them and probably nothing at all to do with the fact that a particular building might have been inspired by the great love two people bore one another.

Grand passions may be played out in the least likely settings, whether the "high-rise horrors" of tired newspaper headlines or the grand country houses of Brideshead-fuelled fancy. My favourite, though, is a Gothic Horror house in Hampstead that once featured briefly in John Betjeman's TV documentary Metroland. It was called "Agapemone" (or the House of Love), and although the Greek word "agape" has long been used to denote to Christian love (as in God's love for us), this "Agapemone" was a house in which a Victorian CofE priest announced that he was Jesus Christ and shared his love in carnal fashion with a number of susceptible young women.

This, though, is not a very romantic example of a monument to love.

As a counterpoint, I offer another Gothic Revival house, this time St Marie's Grange, Salisbury, a Wilhelmina fancy designed by Augustus Northmore Welby Pugin for his first wife who died, tragically, very soon after this extraordinary home was completed. Pugin had married, he said, a perfect "Gothic wife" and they were to have led a perfect Gothic life in Wiltshire. Today, although the house survives, it has been much altered and is no longer as whimsical and as striking as it would have seemed in the 1830s.

Who knows of other and better examples? I would love to know about them.

Life and Style
tech

Sales of the tablet are set to fall again say analysts

News
A Brazilian wandering spider
news

World's most lethal spider found under a bunch of bananas

Life and Style
fashion

British supermodel and hitmaker join forces to launch a 'huge song'

Life and Style
gaming

I Am Bread could actually a challenging and nuanced title

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Sport
Mario Balotelli pictured in the win over QPR
footballInternet reacts to miss shocker for Liverpool striker
News
people
Voices
Sol Campbell near his home in Chelsea
voices
News
i100
News
Kimi the fox cub
newsBurberry under fire from animal rights group - and their star, Kimi
Sport
Fans of Palmeiras looks dejected during the match between Palmeiras and Santos
footballPalmeiras fan killed trying to 'ambush' bus full of opposition supporters
Arts and Entertainment
filmsIt's nearly a wrap on Star Wars: Episode 7, producer reveals
Life and Style
fashion
News
i100
News
<p>Jonathan Ross</p>
<p>Jonathan Ross (or Wossy, as he’s affectionately known) has been on television and radio for an extraordinarily long time, working on a seat in the pantheon of British presenters. Hosting Friday Night with Jonathan Ross for nine years, Ross has been in everything from the video game Fable to Phineas and Ferb. So it’s probably not so surprising that Ross studied at Southampton College of Art (since rebranded Southampton Solent), a university known nowadays for its media production courses.</p>
<p>However, after leaving Solent, Ross studied History at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies, now part of the UCL, a move that was somewhat out of keeping with the rest of his career. Ross was made a fellow of the school in 2006 in recognition of his services to broadcasting.</p>
TV

Rumours that the star wants to move on to pastures new

News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Lead Teacher of Thinking School Drive Team and Year 3 Form teacher

    Competitive: Notting Hill Prep School: Spring Term 2015 Innovative, ambitious ...

    Operations Data Analyst - London - up to £25,000

    £20000 - £25000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Operations Data Analyst -...

    Programmatic Business Development Manager

    £35 - £40000 per annum: Sauce Recruitment: As the Programmatic Business Develo...

    Year 5 Teacher

    Negotiable: Randstad Education Hull: Randstad Education is currently recruitin...

    Day In a Page

    Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

    'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

    If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
    James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

    The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

    Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
    Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

    Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

    Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
    Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

    Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

    Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
    How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

    How to dress with authority

    Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
    New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

    New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

    'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
    Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

    Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

    The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
    Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

    Tim Minchin interview

    For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
    Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

    Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

    Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
    Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

    Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

    Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album
    Hugh Bonneville & Peter James: 'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'

    How We Met: Hugh Bonneville & Peter James

    'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's heavenly crab dishes don't need hours of preparation

    Bill Granger's heavenly crab recipes

    Scared off by the strain of shelling a crab? Let a fishmonger do the hard work so you can focus on getting the flavours right
    Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

    Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

    After a remarkable conversion from reckless defender to prolific striker, Monaco's ace says he wants to make his loan deal at Old Trafford permanent
    Terry Venables: Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England

    Terry Venables column

    Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England
    The Inside Word: Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past

    Michael Calvin's Inside Word

    Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past