Tony Miller pays his respects to the shrine of natural history but finds no enlightenment in Le Courbusier’s celebrated chapel
When I was an architectural student in the mid 1960s, we went to London to see the Barbican. I wasn’t impressed. I made my excuses and slipped away look at dinosaurs in the Natural History Museum. I stopped inside the entrance, amazed at what I saw. First, the circulation

route: it led through the main hall, up the grand stairs, divided, came back along the first floor colonnade on each side, cantilevered out in

two more flights, rejoined in mid-span, turned through 90°, went up another flight, still unsupported, and joined the second-floor colonnade. Then the consistency of finish: terracotta providing weather protection outside, and fire protection inside. Then there were the animal and foliage designs in the terracotta which were all drawn up by one architect …

A museum attendant told me that the architect was Alfred Waterhouse I had never heard the name of Waterhouse at architectural college.

My course was all about Le Courbusier and Mies. My blunder is Ronchamp. It’s always

quoted as the architect’s favourite building as a matter of dogma, but the truth is that it is structurally doubtful, meaningless in layout, bizarre in its detailing, and looks like a mutilated mushroom.