Architecture: Building on a sticky wicket

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Indy Lifestyle Online
The cricket fraternity, often denounced for their antiquated ways, might seem unlikely patrons of ground-breaking architecture. But contrary to expectations, they have recruited architectural iconoclasts Future Systems to furnish their mecca at Lord's with a glistening, space-age media centre. A curved aluminium monocoque - itself a feat of engineering - is currently being welded into shape in a Cornwall boatyard ready to be dropped into place next winter. The capsule will rest on stilts, 14 metres in the air, providing a perfect vantage point from which the world's media can report on the cricket. "It represents a synthesis of our work and ideas over the last few year and it's probably the most radical design that we'll ever do," explains Amanda Levete, Future Systems co-founder. "Lord's have been very brave and should really be applauded."

As their name suggests, Future Systems are one of the most forward looking architectural practices in the country. From their beginnings in 1979 they have specialised in engineering-led and ecologically-sound designs, although, until recently, their dogged experimentalism ensured that most of their projects remained on the drawing board. Ten years ago their plans to build a techno-organic, energy-saving "blob" in Trafalgar Square sent purists, including Prince Charles, into paroxysms of rage. But Future Systems will not be deflected and it is clear that they bask in controversy. "It's difficult for us commercially, but that is our choice," assures Levete. "We have to make sacrifices to really get off on our work."

Their refusal to give in and sell out has earned them much respect in the architecture world and finally, technology has caught up with them and their crazy conceptions are popping up all over the place. Their completed works in London include their insectile, flourescent floating bridge at West India Quay in the Docklands, the icy glass Hauer-King house in Islington and an exceptionally elegant florist in Portobello.

At this pivotal point in their career, Future Systems' paraphernalia will be on show at the ICA from Wednesday. The emphasis will be on their flourescently lit models with short explanations, so there will be no blinding with architectural technology. Proof that there is more to cricket than afternoon tea.

Future Systems, Institute of Contemporary Arts, The Mall, SW1, (0171- 930 3647) 1 April to 24 May

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