Sunday, May 6, 2007

Inside view of Number Ten, the White House and the Kremlin

There was a superb documentary on Channel 4 last night called "Houses of Power". Presented by Simon Thurley, it went behind the scenes for an architectural look at Number Ten, the White House and the Kremlin.

For political anoraks, it was a bit like swimming in chocolate.

One of the key themes about 10 Downing Street is the repeated tension, across its history, between being a grand show house for dignatories and a humble home for the Prime Minister, to show the people that he or she is 'one of them'. Harold Wilson seemed to be one of the main 'humble home' protagonists, while 'the Thatch' seemed to veer decidedly towards the grand designs school of thought.

Something I didn't know about the White House is that it was almost entirely gutted by Truman and all its historical fixtures and fittings were, according to Simon Thurley, 'literally thrown into a skip'. The renovated interior then resembled a hotel, he said. The Kennedies then came along and gave it a bit more French chic.

The Kremlin is clearly the collection of buildings with the most history, but I can't say I was particularly charmed or interested by them.

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