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Katherine Shonfield

Typologies, as we who were trained in the early '80s know, abound through life, and building openings are no exception. At the moment there are three dominant forms:

TCU or Total Cock Up - the kind where you leave the press waiting in a queue for four hours in the freezing cold (the balding hedgehog at Greenwich);

CHBB or Could Hardly Be Better - every conceivable member of every conceivable interested group adopts the building as its personal mascot (the Swiss-inspired powerhouse opposite St Paul's Cathedral) ; and GIP or Good In Parts - most recently typified by the opening last week of the new British Embassy in Berlin, characterised, as ever by two profoundly ambiguous remarks on the part of the royal family.The Duke of Edinburgh enquired of Michael Wilford if he had been paid for his work, and the Queen committed herself to the opinion that it was nice to have plenty of space around.

The German paper Die Welt drew an intriguing parallel between the public face of Tony Blair's government and a building that declares to the world its own transparency, ostensibly revealing its own workings, but which also varies according to the circumstances of the external world by changing its external complexion.

The problem in the politics of New Labour and the politics of Cool Britannia architecture is threefold. One, the orchestrated, controlled view into the workings of a government or a building does not tell you the kind, quality or morality of work being undertaken. Two, as the Germans know from Mies van der Rohe, only certain kinds of structure are ever fully revealed - and these will be determined by architect and politician.

Three, if just part of your public face changes according to the way the wind is blowing, you cast doubt on the integrity of the whole edifice.

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