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Critics must go beyond building to see Life

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I am glad your article about the International Centre for Life found it a major regeneration move for Newcastle and an inspirational experience (AJ 28.6.00). You added, however, that the building was badly let down by its contents which you described as a 'tragic'waste of public money, although you agreed the place was 'packed' and children at least seemed to be enjoying themselves.

I wonder if your correspondent took the trouble to give the exhibition serious consideration. Two examples make my point.The Lancet - an unlikely reviewer of visitor attractions - noted: 'We need imaginative ways of making science accessible and exhibitions like this are a step in the right direction'. The Independent on Sunday added: 'In its focus on its subject, its combination of breezy presentation and serious scientific content, its bringing together of different interest groups, of opposing groups and determination to engage with public hopes and fears, the International Centre for Life is now the target for other science-themed Millennium projects to beat.'

Perhaps architectural critics struggle to understand anything other than architecture. It would be a grave concern to all of us if this were so because its repercussions would be so widespread.Architects need to understand the transformation which is likely to lead from new genetic discoveries just as much as other sections of the community. Certainly Terry Farrell does. I hope that your readers will not be dissuaded from visiting the centre and forming their own judgement.

Alastair G Balls, chief executive, International Centre for Life

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