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'WE NEED TO GET HOUSING RIGHT'

David Lammy, Minister for Culture (with responsibility for architecture) was at the RIBA last Friday to launch 'Laying the Foundations', a document encouraging teachers to 'use the built environment as a teaching tool'. After Lammy had finished his rambling speech, Ed Dorrell took the opportunity to catch up with the 33-year-old MP for Tottenham.

First things first, what do you make of the state of modern British architecture?

There are some really good examples of excellence at the high end of architecture. But in house-building you see real mediocrity and a complete lack of imagination. This is what people are telling me all the time. Against the backdrop of housing towers we need to get this right. That is what we believe in.

Is the government taking housing seriously?

I believe so. We realise how important housing design is.

But architects also tell me that it is the commissioners [the clients] that are all important.

A good commissioner makes a big difference to whether a building is good or not.

Do you feel comfortable with the celebration of government buildings that go over budget?

It is not for me to pick out individual buildings. That would not be helpful for me to do at the moment. I would rather talk about the wider issues.

You still won't comment if they go 10-times over budget like the Scottish Parliament?

[Walking away] I've said what I've said. You understand that.

I have nothing more to say on the matter.

Hold on. Just a minute or two more, please.

[Stopping] Look, I'm here to comment on what's happening now. Not on what happened in 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002 or in the '90s, '80s or '70s. Ok?

OK. So, when you look around at the beat that you cover, do you have a favourite architect?

I am really impressed by the buildings of Adjaye, Chippereld and Foster.

Also, when I was in New York recently I visited the extension of the Museum of Modern Art [by Japanese architect Yoshio Taniguchi] and thought it was amazing. It was a wonderful example of Modern architecture. There is such a light touch.

One of the questions that we frequently ask our interviewees is whether they have a favourite building? Do you?

Where I grew up in Tottenham, the Alexandra Palace was really important to the surrounding area. I think that this is probably my favourite.

It's probably an obvious question because of where you are from, but do you have a favourite city?

[Laughing] Of course I do.

It's London. It's where I'm from.

It's a wonderful city.

Thanks for your time Mr Lammy.

No problem.

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