Roger Bolton tells some harsh truths about his home town of Carlisle but is lost in wonder at the eternal city’s temple to all the gods
My blunder is the Civic Centre in Carlisle, my home town. It was built in the 1960s, looks like a matchbox and appears to be sinking into the mud by the river. Carlisle has a magnificent collection of buildings, including a castle and a cathedral, but when the council came to commission this concrete building, it created something that is a monument to the planning policies of the era. It suffers maintenance problems and I like it even less than Aylesbury’s civic centre.
The building that sucks air out of me is the Pantheon in Rome. It’s the space it encloses more than the building itself. It’s quite hemmed in by neighbouring buildings but once one goes inside, there’s an extraordinary sense of space and it almost appears to be free-standing. This moving and holy building is something one might expect from 15th-century Florence – or St Paul’s cathedral-era London – but to find something like this built in the Roman period is such a shock. Free from baroque decoration, its clear space inevitably leads one’s eyes upwards to the roof. And when shafts of sunlight shine through, it’s almost enough to be a religious experience.
Marvel Marcus Agrippa’s original Pantheon was destroyed by fire in 80 AD. The current building dates from about 125 AD, during the reign of Hadrian. It was totally reconstructed with the text of the original inscription added to the new facade. The building was a temple to all the gods of the Roman Empire, but was reconsecrated as a Catholic church in 609 AD.
Matchbox Carlisle civic centre was designed by Charles B Pearson and Partners and built by John Laing, which started off in the city. It opened in 1964, and was flooded in 2005.
Roger Bolton has presented BBC Radio 4’s Sunday programme since 1998. He is now chief executive of Flame TV