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a life in architecture

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vivien lovell

At age four and five, Vivien Lovell, director of the Public Art Commissions Agency, saw the two Modernist icons which most influenced her life, and probably her career: Erich Mendelshon and Serge Chermayeff's De La Warr Pavilion in Bexhill, and the Royal Festival Hall, still sparkling and new in the mid-1950s. In contrast, aged 14 she went to Rome and remembers vividly the impact of the Pantheon, 'so ethereal yet solid, with its aperture open to the sky.'

Later, as a student at the University of East Anglia, Lovell lived in Lasdun's Norfolk Terrace (above). 'It was tremendous, like living in a beehive - the urban street behind, and the ziggurat forms tumbling down to the landscape in the front.' Later still, she would add to her list of icons Mies van der Rohe's Barcelona Pavilion and Libeskind's Jewish Museum in Berlin.

Lovell's job puts her in the forefront of a movement to foster collaboration between architects and artists in the design of public spaces. She takes great pleasure in working with architects and mentions Bob Allies (the British Embassy in Dublin), and Richard MacCormac (St John's, Oxford and now the Phoenix Initiative, Coventry). Other projects have involved Glenn Howells and Pierre d'Avoine. Currently she is working with the young architect Mark Goulthorpe of Decoi, at the Hippodrome Theatre in Birmingham. 'Collaborating brings together my two greatest passions in life - art and architecture,' says Lovell.

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