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a life in architecture

One of Heather Rabbatts' first tasks when she joined Lambeth Council as chief executive in 1995 was to fight for planning permission for the BA London Eye millennium wheel, designed by Marks Barfield Architects.

It was hugely controversial at the time because it threatened the historic London skyline. Rabbatts sees the Eye as triumphantly vindicating her belief that 'you can have the historic with the new. It changes the city skyline but it doesn't spoil it.'

Her second choice is the sixteenth-century Red Fort at Agra (pictured), an 'incredible series of palaces' close to the Taj Mahal. On a recent visit she was struck by the design of the Mogul's bedroom. 'The bed is built on a platform, the floor is marble, and waterways have been dug underneath the bed to produce a thin film of water over the marble which cools the room.' It is one of the few buildings that has given her a sense of affinity with the past, she says.

Finally, she likes the Tate Modern, designed by Herzog and de Meuron, another project she has been closely involved with at Lambeth: 'Perhaps not the most beautiful of buildings but a great industrial space transformed into a great aesthetic and artistic space.'

Heather Rabbatts will soon leave Lambeth, but she is unlikely to move far from two of her chosen buildings.

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