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Why life in the fast lane too often stops at the Tudorbethan front door

Eddie Irvine is really quite a character, as was revealed in the tv documentary on his career earlier this month.

Fun-loving, girl-chasing, impetuous, impossibly ambitious, short fused yet delightfully engaging, he is all that you would expect in a racing driver and more - an advertiser's dream and an agent's nightmare.

The programme charted his unsuccessful bid to win the 1999 world championship - an attempt ironically thwarted by his team's inexplicable failure during a critical pit-stop to find a fourth wheel for his car.

The world watched, and the seconds ticked by, as a fast stop (6.8 seconds) slipped agonisingly towards a slow stop (9 to 10) and then drifted hopelessly towards eternity: 28 seconds ... all was irretrievably lost!

There, as time stood still, life at the edge was captured and portrayed. The intensity of endeavour, teamwork, discipline, technology and its ultimate application were revealed in all their complexity; the tragedy of thwarted ambitions overwhelmed by the evident futility of it all.

So what a surprise when the cameras took us then to Irvine's home: here again the glistening machinery: the personal helicopter, the Ferrari sports car - but the latter stored in a converted stable!

And the house - a rambling cottage, 30km outside Dublin. The furniture? - traditional, of course! But how does all this relate to the life of the racer? Yes, Eddie has plans - it's all too small, so he's building a new and bigger place with games room, pool etc. But we can only anticipate more of the same - a massive rambling stone mansion...

I don't aim to criticise - as Eddie would bluntly attest, it's his money anyway. No, I simply wish to point out that those whose lives are at the frontier of technology almost always deny the image of their business or workplace within their home environments, be they astronauts or inventors, managers or manufacturers.

Yes, McLaren commissioned Michael Hopkins to design their uk workshops and administrative base, and yes, all the racing companies generate an almost clinical high-tech image for the interiors of their temporary circuit workshops. Indeed, such settings have been adopted in more modest, albeit contrived form, within car showrooms.

And yes David Coulthard and his colleagues vie with each other to secure even grander, glistening mobile homes that bristle with modern life-support and communication systems. But when these gladiators of the track ultimately get home, wherever that is, they seem to shed the semiotics of the circuit.

Stirling Moss was different. During the 60s he created a Mayfair apartment that epitomised the 'machine for living'. Technology was used for ultimate convenience: baths ran automatically (to maintained temperature at pre- set times), loo seats were pre-heated, the kitchen was... well it was a fantastic world of automated and systemised gadgetry. And it all reflected his lifestyle and personality.

But Moss is rare, and most race stars, pop-stars and sports heroes revert to traditional forms of architecture no matter how extravagant their budgets. For them the product and equipment selection that supports their respective life styles is progressive - in contrast decisions about buildings are deeply conservative.

And like the stars, the average house owner chooses a car whose interior is akin to an aircraft cockpit - yet he wants to park it on a gravel drive, beside a mock Tudor facade with an imitation gas lamp.

But happily there is growing evidence amongst the new urbanites of a real pleasure in modern design. I only have to gaze across the street from our office to the recently converted Edwardian warehouses opposite to see fresh, new and truly modern domestic interiors. And Clerkenwell is not alone - discerning young people up and down the country are combining a newly found love of the city with a taste for elegant, modern interior design. But will this demand be maintained at later stages as this generation drifts inevitably onwards to make its family homes in the suburbs and countryside ...?

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