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In my life before architecture I used to think that Paris was the coolest city on earth. I spent a lot of time there, living and working all over the place and, apart from all the obvious things to fall in love with, what really hooked me was the Parisians’ unapologetic celebration of modern art and architecture bang up against, inside or overlooking the historic buildings. You’ve got to admit, any ancient city that welcomed the Pompidou Centre in the 70’s and Pei’s Pyramid in the 80’s must be pretty much at ease with itself.

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But coming home to England in the 90s I felt a long-term sense of disappointment and irritation with London, much like a teenager who feels embarrassed by her over-cautious and straight-laced parents. Would we ever start to relax, let go of Victoria’s stranglehold and allow a snatch of contemporary design exuberance to escape from under our firm-fitting bowler hats?

Seeing the latest adventures from Agents of Change in Kings Cross gives me hope that the proverbial bowler hat is no longer so firmly stuck on our British heads. It’s also a reminder that my erstwhile teenage frustration is no more: Yes, London got cooler than Paris!

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Hilarious that this audacious bunch of artists say the decorated facade took a year to conceive and three weeks to paint – as though this were a long time. Bringing new life of any description to an historic building usually takes us at #fcbstudio8 an awful lot longer than that! And the results are rarely so visible! Love it or loathe it as a piece of art, I say “yay” to the boldness of interpreting buildings as 3D canvas, animating facades as a screen for urban stories and, yes, it somehow makes me feel that London really has caught up with Paris as I navigate my way through the thrilling transformations and evolving cityscapes of scruffy old Kings Cross.

Clare

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