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Buildings that lift the spirit

Will Alsop
Alsop: "Today there isn't a predominant style and that creates a sense of tremendous freedom."

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(CNN) -- CNN talks to architectural luminary Will Alsop about modern architecture's expanding horizons.

CNN: How do you imagine the world looking in the future?

Will Alsop: I think architecture is at a really interesting stage right now. More interesting than it's ever been in history. If you go back, architecture has been a succession of different styles and methodologies. Some of them were very interesting and surprising. We've had constructivists, modernists, neo-modernists and postmodernists -- the list is endless.

But today there isn't a predominant style and that creates a sense of tremendous freedom for architects. I think we'll see all sorts of varied approaches to making architecture as fun it should be. There's a broad cross-section of stuff that's being dreamt about and done.

Also, people are more interested in modern architecture than ever before. There is such a thing now as new architectural tourism. In a way I see it as the beginning of a dialogue between the general public, the users of the buildings, and the architects.

CNN: Have we moved beyond the functionality of buildings to something more to do with their design and appearance?

WA: What's being taken into account now is what a building does to the spirit. Lifting the spirit, whether you're working in a building or walking past it every day, is part of the job of the architect. The architect is the only person who can do that because if it's straightforward functional stuff generally that can be done by builders.

CNN: Has technology influenced you as an architect?

WA: Enormously. Advances in technology mean that creating forms is much easier today. We're going to see more and more of that as time progresses.

Twenty years ago if you showed a builder a curve on a building he'd shake his head, forgetting of course that we've had wonderful domes in the past. They didn't want to do it because it would just put the price up. It's not costly anymore. As we move on another 20 years these things will become more and more commonplace.

There'll be a greater range of choice. That's great because if our buildings and townscapes are going to emerge out of a dialogue between our architects and the people living in our towns then they'll have more things to consider.

CNN: As an architect do you feel a sense of responsibility for shaping the future?

WA: Creating buildings and spaces that continue to give pleasure in the future is one of our responsibilities. The Natural History Museum in London gives me pleasure every time I pass it, it's a beautiful building. That's one acid test.

The other responsibility we have is to reduce carbon emissions and to do all of that green stuff. I think generally that's well understood by architects but it's often very hard to get that across to clients who are paying for the buildings because it tends to be a bit more expensive in capital terms. But in running terms it will be cheaper and more responsible.

We're still at the very beginnings of that. Maybe one day we'll find a CO2-free way of keeping the rain off and keeping you warm but not in the near future.

CNN: Is there a progressive streak in architecture?

WA: Ultimately there is the notion of seeking perfection but you will never reach it. I have noticed that the buildings in some of the science fiction comics that I was reading when I was 11 or 12 are now being built. The role of science fiction, whether Dan Dare or Bladerunner, and imagining the future is very important.

-- Will Alsop heads his own international architecture studio and has designed award-winning buildings such as Peckham Library in London and the Ontario College of Art and Design in Toronto, Canada.

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