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JOHN OUTRAM Architect

What is the best building of the past 50 years?

The Rothko chapel in Houston. It's a kind of holy shrine for art lovers.

It houses eight black paintings by the suiciding Mark Rothko. There's this secret tradition among artists about painting the painting to end all paintings and then, although never said, committing suicide. You feel this probably happened to Rothko.

What is the most significant innovation of the past 50 years?

Computer-controlled four-colour acrylic paint-spraying because of its ability to enlarge to the scale of whole buildings, and with perfect fidelity, the architect's original hand-drawn designs of surface-scripted decoration. It's just like making a scale drawing which is then built full size.

And the best building product?

Through-colour designer concrete with inlaid, scripted surfaces. This is the first designer material that is as cold, hard, solid and alien as matter itself - and as friendly as a coloured painting. It abolishes the distinction between the cosmetic, apparent surface and real working matter. I call this the first photolithic material.

What innovation do you expect to see in the next 50 years?

Mainstream product designers will develop a mobile butler. Furniture will revert to its pre-Modern state of highly crafted art object used for the normal living processes of bathing, eating, sleeping, etc. The mechanical maidservant will warm these works of art. She will cool them, fill them with water and empty them, waft music over them, take messages, give massages and clean everything down afterwards, just like a real servant. She will be called 'Tracy Er just a Min (ute)'and answer to the nickname of carwash. Needless to say there will be no more architecture. Buildings will be designed like art galleries - bland walls, burglar alarms and pock-marked beige plaster.

These interviews by Sutherland Lyall will form the basis of the 50/50 exhibition at Interbuild 2002.

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