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50 50

LOUIS HELLMAN Cartoonist and architect

What is the best building of the past 50 years?

Wright's Guggenheim Museum in Manhattan. Like the Sydney Opera House and Bilbao, it's pretty useless functionally but it has become an iconic symbol for its city. What could be more accessible than the broad, level entrance, lift to the top and gentle ramp to rollerblade down? It is spatially and formally stunning and sticks up two fingers to the incomprehensible New York grid.

What is the most significant innovation of the past 50 years?

The notion of accessibility and inclusivity which originally emerged from disability pressure groups in California in the early 1960s. Unfortunately, this has also led to the passing of dumb and myopic legislation concerned exclusively with the wheelchairuser minority, but the idea is powerful and may eventually prompt architects to use their imagination in the service of people rather than formal gymnastics.

And the best building product?

The remote control. It's not applied to many 'intelligent' buildings so far but the idea that you could modify your building's ambience, security, sustainability and style from the comfort of your recliner or car is hard to resist.

What innovation do you expect to see in the next 50 years?

In the realm of science fiction, schools of architecture would educate students to design for people first and return to a revised form-follows-function idea reinforced by the human sciences.

The length of courses would be cut and practices paid to train graduates in practical matters. The architect's contribution to society would be in the understanding of people's individual needs rather than blindly serving commerce or bureaucracy. No other profession in the industry can offer this. And how about a proper and enforceable code of conduct?

These interviews by Sutherland Lyall will form the basis of the 50/50 exhibition at Interbuild 2002.

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