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ANYONE WHO thinks London fashion week is over hasn't been reading the architecture mags. This season's style is spherical, and 3-D curved buildings are where it's at.

There are lots of architects who design buildings to suit their occupants' uses, rather than as fashion statements, but you will not see their work in the magazines. These die-hards are held as objects of pity, they do not win awards or get their buildings snapped for the Sunday supplements.

No, to get on in architecture you must be fashionable, and that means following the latest fad, regardless of whether, in a few years, it cracks, rusts, or sheds lumps of concrete onto innocent passers-by.

The current fad is for spheres, domes, pods. It does not matter what's inside, as long as it's got curves in all the right places. But the main reason why spherical buildings have suddenly become de rigueur (although you'll never get an architect to admit it) is the growing use of computer- aided design (CAD) software.

The average architects' office now has more computer capacity than NASA. This enables even inexperienced architects to dream up an idea, and for the computer to calculate the sizes, shapes and costs of all the components.

The reason spherical buildings have been a bit thin on the ground up till now is not just that they're a stupid idea, but because it would have been very tedious to design them; each storey is different from the one below, each column, strut and window pane has to be individually calculated and drawn.

But now, CAD makes it possible for anyone to sit doodling at a computer screen and design a building. So why stick with boring old squares and triangles? You can wave the mouse around and draw an office block in the shape of a easter egg. The imperative nature of this new technology means that if it can be done, it will be done.

You don't believe me? Take a look at what's happened at Lord's cricket ground. The old fogeys of the MCC are so conservative they only just voted women in, yet they've been persuaded that the new media centre should be the same shape as a flying saucer.

Like all fads, this one will end as soon as it started, but it may leave problems. Circular buildings became fashionable in the Sixties, but they proved to be prone to cracking from thermal expansion and contraction. Spherical buildings may have the same difficulty, in three dimensions.

It would be nice to think the computer programmes will be clever enough to cope with this 3-D thermal movement. But chances are that, in a few years, some of these buildings will resemble easter eggs in more ways than one: they'll be cracking up all over.

Jeff@doctoronthehouse.demon. co.uk

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