Joan Bakewell gives rave reviews to an institutional home for books, but a north London theatre gets a scathing critique
My wonder is the British Library at St Pancras, by architect Colin St John Wilson. This building came to completion at just the moment when this sort of architecture had gone out of fashion. Here it was, bold red brick in a world of glass and steel. But with the years – it opened in 1998 – it has come to be numbered among London's fine buildings.

That said, it should have been bigger. The original concept was a third as big again but costs were escalating and Mrs Thatcher cut it down to today's size. Most remarkable is the wonderful open courtyard at the front, and the fine interiors where spaces grow one out of another. The housing of the Kings Library is a work of art in itself.

The good looking frontage to the rebuilt Sadler's Wells, much in need of refurbishment, conceals a messy interior that always spoils my visits to the theatre. Money was short, but even so too many corners were cut. The foyer is like a third world airport. The whole thing has an air of being cheaply finished and under-funded. The shows are still wonderful, though.

Joan Bakewell's autobiography, The Centre of the Bed, is published by Hodder & Stoughton, priced £20.

  • In Ben Schott's Wonders & blunders, in the 19 December issue, we published in error a picture that was not the Reform Club. Apologies for the mistake.