The essence of architecture

I admit I giggled when I saw a press release announcing DesignCurial's awards for the world's 10 best-designed petrol stations. Just how many awards do we need?

The prose was also a little purple. But then I looked at the winner of the top award, and thought 'wow'.

This is Rest Area Niemenharju in Finland, on European Highway E75, and it is a humdinger. Internally it shows a level of attention to detail that is stunning for a petrol station. In a sense this is the little sister of the service station, most of which are dreadful, with notable exceptions such as Glenn Howells' Gloucester Services. One just can't imagine anything so good at any petrol station here.

And from the outside? Well, that is well considered and elegant too.

There is a horrible tendency for our eyes to look at the best houses, at the arts buildings and best hotels and offices, and to slide over the rest. Yes, we worry about the 'streetscape' but that is in the city centres. In the suburbs and out of town we too easily accept that there is a lot that is not 'designed' at all - the retail park, the out of town office cluster, the distribution centre and, yes, the petrol station.

So it is refreshing to see this award for a mundane category of buildings - and to see such a worthy winner.



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