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Designing can be a risky business

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The young Lubetkin designed a cafe in Paris that featured a rope connecting its two floors - too bad if you were not Tarzan.

In much the same jungle spirit, young practices invariably include some element of danger in their first offices - a staircase with no handrail, a mezzanine with no balustrading, or access to basement level left as an unguarded hole in the floor.

A combination of factors lies behind this reckless approach to 'The First Office': the young team may revel in the frisson produced by a slight element of danger; they enjoy the fact that while they will have to do things 'by the book' for their future clients, they can take short cuts when designing for themselves. Understandably, they want to make the most of every cubic centimetre of their first professional quarters, however dim and cramped - glass balustrading is beyond their budget and cheap solid materials will block vistas and interrupt the visual flow of the space. Asked to explain the omission of basic items such as handrails, they will offer the excuse: 'We haven't got round to it yet.' Chances are, they like it this way and will never get round to it.

But accidents happen.

Young architects have young children who will want to romp in their parents'place of work from time to time; they may also be visited by infirm clients, or boozy reps. Every unprotected mezzanine or staircase is an accident waiting to happen. Why take the risk?

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