This is a film I made with Simon Thurley, the Chief Executive of English Heritage. We went to The Kremlin, The White House, and 10 Downing Street to explore the influence of these buildings on the people who live in them.
Here’s the opening of the film:
“Architecture is power. Whether it’s a house, a museum, a bank or an office block - buildings tell us about the power and influence of their owners, their builders and the people who use them and none more so than those that house our rulers.
The White House, 10 Downing Street, and The Kremlin are three of the most famous structures in the world.
Here agonizing decisions are made about war and peace, poverty and prosperity, right and wrong
We know them from their front doors, their facades and their security gates - from the image they present to the world - but what are they like from the inside? And how do they influence the people that live and work in them?
I want to take you inside some of the places where the future of the world is decided, places where Kings, Presidents, Prime Ministers and Tsars, love, hate, treachery, ambition, revolution and the rise and fall of governments, have all left their mark on architecture.
But most of all I want to ask the question whether three great centres of power are now just historical dinosaurs, or whether they continue to influence the way power is exercised in the modern world today.
In the 21st century The White House, 10 Downing Street and The Kremlin are homes to the democratic leaders of the free world.
But at first impression these buildings say ‘go away’. The roads are closed around The White House, impregnable walls encircle The Kremlin - security gates have been installed at Downing Street.
Power, you see is all about access.
The most important thing if you are the ruler of a nation is who has access to you and when.
And for that reason through the centuries rulers have created machines for living 10 Downing Street, The White House The Kremlin are all machines and those machines have two aspects the first is what I call the hardware, the physicality of the building: the walls the rooms, the doors the spaces which allow you to have both a public life and a private life
And then there’s the software, the rules, the etiquette of every day behaviour that always surrounds a ruler and to my mind there are two types of ruler; those who successfully command the machine, command the building and those who are less successful who allow the machine, the building to command them…