Roger Alton is at home at Terminal 5, but needs a map to find his way around the Barbican
The fact that Heathrow’s Terminal 5 has recovered from the tsunami of bad publicity that greeted its opening last year just shows that quality really will win out. This is a wonderful place. Beautiful to look at, easy to arrive at and with expansive views, albeit mostly of Heathrow.
Its elegant simplicity highlights the cramped grubbiness of the rest of the airport. Queues have been virtually designed out of the experience, so once you’re through you can enjoy all that sparkling glass, marble flooring and brilliant restaurants (not least Gordon Ramsay) for longer than usual.
From the grace of its curved roof, through the skirt of connecting airbridges, this is a building that has a chance to breathe, so the millions who pass through it can as well. Fantastic: the ultimate in graceful functionality. I’d like to live there, personally.
My blunder is blindingly unoriginal: London’s Barbican centre. You’ve got to have doubts about a place where you need a yellow line on the pavement to guide you around. People I know who live there speak warmly about it but it’s a tough visit. The loos are impossible to find, and miles away and the bars over-spaced. The cinema is a route-march from the main building and I defy anyone without a degree in cartography to find their way to the art gallery. Mind you, once you’re in, the theatre has marvellous sight lines and great seating. And you can always get a drink at half-time. Every cloud...
Roger Alton is editor of The Independent