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KATHERINE SHONFIELD

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The innumerable critics of the building industry and the education of its professionals appear adept at asking the question how, never why. John Egan's report, which praises Tesco for reducing its construction costs, is a case in point. If we are concerned, as are the vast majority of our 'consumers', with the beauty of the constructed world, the more pertinent question is why Tesco at all?

Why is at the core of new questions being asked about the experience of road travel, prompted by John Prescott's recent white paper. Peter Silverton in last Sunday's Observer asks why Britain has no Route 66; and the Architecture Foundation asks why there are no memorable 'rides' in London as in other European cities.

The Autostrada del Sole should be a required experience of every design student. This motorway, running north/south across Italy, is aptly named the 'road of the sun'. If art is the ability to reveal the everyday world afresh through new eyes, then such a motorway is art on a grand scale. The view of the landscape as never seen before is breathtakingly orchestrated relative to the movement of the car, the bends in the road, and the body within the car's interior architecture.

We ourselves have a grand if forgotten tradition of inspiring civil engineering works. Why does collective amnesia force every post-war generation to be surprised by the importance of material beauty? If we are now asking why the everyday is so banal, we need to ask why isn't the history of design at the core of all the disciplines which affect the material world, from quantity surveying to estate management?

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