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RICKY BURDETT

AGENDA

Ricky Burdett is clearly a very busy man. Like a bundle of energy bouncing from one meeting to another, he is, unsurprisingly, extremely difficult to get hold of.

Until recently he held down two jobs; one as parttime lecturer on the LSE's Cities Programme and the other as one of Ken Livingstone's architectural advisors.

You would have thought that would be enough for one man. But not for Burdett. The American-born architect has taken on yet another massive commitment - he has agreed to curate the 2006 Venice Architecture Biennale.

One can only assume the reason he would take on such a significant job is that it is a serious honour. This is, after all, one of the most important jobs in the world of architectural exhibitions. It's not the kind of offer you easily turn down.

What must have really got Burdett's juices flowing though - and must have persuaded him to take on yet more pressure - is the subject matter. When the organising committee phoned to tell him that the 2006 event would focus on cities and urban design, and that it was him that they wanted for the job, the fluent Italian speaker must have jumped at the opportunity.

Urban design has been, in recent years, the area of work for which Burdett has become nationally significant, after rising to a prominent position in the architectural world as the first director of the Architecture Foundation. He also sat on Richard Rogers' Urban Task Force and founded the LSE's Cities Programme.

In international terms, he has been at the forefront of persuading architects to look at the bigger picture of urban life - beyond the confines of whether a building is beautiful or not. It is presumably for this reason that the Biennale bosses turned to him.

But how will this work?

Last year's Biennale focused largely on the stand-alone, sculptural output of the profession. How will it look at this much bigger picture?

'We will try to take these city issues away from the 2D models that are traditionally associated with planning and turn the development of cities into an architectural 3D form, ' says Burdett.

'This is the key - it is about the shape of the city. For example, we want to look in the exhibition at the effect of sprawl on city forms in the USA.

They have only very limited public transport and the use of cars is paramount. We will be trying to sharpen the debate about the issues this throws up.

'The very simple fact is that modelling has shown that the proportion of people globally who live in cities is about to jump from 50 per cent to 75 per cent and we need to look at how we will deal with that, ' he says.

While it remains unclear quite how these extremely difficult and complex issues will be transposed into a series of exhibition spaces in Venice, Burdett certainly appears to have a real clarity of thought on the issue.

There can be no doubting that he will use every iota of his boundless energy to make sure we too 'get it' next summer.

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