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It   is difficult to identify in the work of one’s own time what will be viewed in the future as significant development and what will be forgotten or dismissed.

 What is lauded is often that which is novel and novelty immediately invites suspicion that an achievement has not been suffi ciently interrogated to merit such attention.

 The buildings in this book have not yet stood the test of time, but rather than try to be judgmental my intention is to attempt to understand the conditions and ideas that make them the way they are. 

By their inclusion here all the buildings can be assumed to exhibit some innovation or at least to have some design ambition to distinguish them from the norm.

 To get beyond personal prejudice and establish a critical view it is necessary to see them in the context of their creation and to take a longer view of the trends prevalent when they were made.

 Architecture ’s basic functions of providing shelter from the elements, an ergonomic environment and emotional stimulation have not changed.

 The ways in which they can be accomplished however are constantly evolving and the balance between the different aims shifts in response to technological, cultural, political and economic trends.

 An analysis of construction or detailing inevitably becomes a wider discussion because choices of materials and techniques are bound up with more complex issues. 

In many fields, not least in politics, the latter half of the 20th Century saw a gradual retreat from dogmatic positions towards more inclusive viewpoints that take in the nuanced, often contradictory nature of situations.

 Grand philosophical ideas no longer seem credible as all-encompassing solutions. We no longer believe that technology alone will solve our problems or that one lifestyle or belief is objectively superior to another.

 In architecture a truce has been drawn in the tedious conflict over style that dominated debate in the 1970s and 1980s. The city is appreciated as a dynamic patchwork of diverse, interrelated communities where a variety of architectural expression is desirable to express individuality or collective identity. 

Meanwhile we find ourselves drawn together by the ever more urgent need to use resources more carefully and reduce the energy demand of our buildings. Public  interest in architecture has never been so high.

 The Sterling Prize is shown on prime-time TV and architects no longer struggle to persuade unwilling clients to choose modern over traditional design.

 Public buildings such as Tate Modern, Walsall Art Gallery or the Scottish Parliament have demonstrated the capability of innovative design to make awe-inspiring and accessible civic spaces.

 In the process materials such as concrete and steel, for so long associated in the public perception with drab post-war housing estates or industrial sheds have been rehabilitated as symbols of urban sophistication.

 Grand Designs and numerous makeover shows have empowered ordinary home owners to use modern design as a way of improving their quality of life, turning the natural tendency to project individuality and aspiration through the home into a consumer leisure activity.