Trisha Gupta rejoices in the art nouveau interior of an unimposing Essex church, but fails to see why anybody worships the mall
My wonder is hardly a mile from my office in Brentwood, Essex. I discovered it 35 years ago when I first moved here from Edinburgh, where I'd studied architecture. There are many breathtaking buildings in the world but this small church remains one of my favourites. Built in 1902, the Church of St Mary the Virgin sits on an elevated site at the edge of the village of Great Warley. The architect was Charles Harrison Townsend, who also designed the Whitechapel Art Gallery. Approached through a lychgate, the exterior of the building is typical arts and crafts – roughcast elevations, dressed stone door and window openings, cedar-shingled spire.

Entering the building is a huge surprise. It is pure art nouveau. The contrast between exterior and interior couldn't be greater. Sir William Reynolds-Stephens has given the simple interiors a jewel-like quality working in bronze, copper, mother of pearl, glass, timber and stone. It is beauteous, joyous and uplifting.

My least favourite building is a 1960s covered shopping centre. I hate all such shopping centres – they may look different on the outside but they all have the same dreary contents. My particular bête noir is the St James Centre in Edinburgh. I would rather shop sloshing about in the pouring rain with my umbrella blowing inside out.