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50 50

MAX FORDHAM Services engineer

What is the best building of the past 50 years?

The Sydney Opera House because it did a fantastic amount for Sydney and relocated it in the world domain.

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

Frei Otto's tree structures which lead to the whole lightweight thing. He partly developed the idea using upside down models made from chains. These form an inverted arch-like shape - an arch has no bending moments and is in pure compression. It means that when you come to reproduce that shape in a structure, you don't have to work out what the bending moments are and the structure can be very thin.

What is the best building product of the past 50 years?

The anglepoise lamp. People keep on inventing task lighting and some of it is pretty stupid. But task lighting is what's coming. It's important that light is right for the way you work and the anglepoise lamp enables you to do that.

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

I think what will happen is we will see more amorphous and amoeba-like buildings such as Gehry's. The trouble is that they make it difficult to devise the kind of simple devices which make it possible to operate the buildings I think we ought to have. The thing we could do right now is create buildings with storey heights greater than the depth of rooms, big, openable windows and probably rooflights - together with heavily insulated shutters which automatically close at night and when nobody is there. But in the future, the idea to aim for in Britain is buildings which are naturally lit on overcast days, which don't need any heating and don't need any cooling. OK, that's a bit parochial, so why not create more temperate climates in the world?

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

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