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29.08.

12 The Guardian 19
What rst drew you to architecture?
I left school at 16 to go to art school,
and then felt embarrassed about not
doing A-levels. So I started reading a
lot about the history of art. Through
those books, I discovered the world of
architecture and that was it.
What was your big breakthrough?
Getting shortlisted for the Bibliothque
Nationale de France competition in
1989 . It came just two weeks after Id
left Richard Rogers o ce to join Jan
Kaplicks. We had no work, Jan and I,
so it was fantastic timing. We didnt
win, but our fee about 20,000 kept
us going for a year. We were very mean
and keen in those days.
What has changed about architecture?
When I started out, I drew with a
drawing board and set square, and
wrote with an ink pen. Now, its all
computerised . When Jan and I started
doing the Media Centre at Lords, we
were drawing all these very complex
three-dimensional forms by hand. To
make any changes, we had to scratch
out the drawings with a scalpel. In the
end, the people in our o ce gave us an
ultimatum: either computerise or we
leave. We computerised.
Which artists do you most admire?
Of course, my late partner Jan. Many of
his concepts were tinged with genius
and I dont use that word lightly. Rogers,
who was my rst employer. And Zaha
Hadid , for her tenacity, her work and
the fact that, despite being one of the
most famous architects in the world,
she still enjoys girly gossip.
Who or what have you sacriced for
your art?
Ive never taken on work I didnt want
to take on, even if that meant making
compromises nancially. I didnt own a
dishwasher until I was 40.
Whats the best advice anyone ever
gave you?
About four years ago, I sat next to
Dennis Hopper at dinner. Id just come
back from Vegas, where wed been
commissioned to design an art gallery.
Id found it apocalyptic. When I told
him so, he just said, Relax, babe if
you cant enjoy Vegas for a few days,
theres something wrong. He was
right: I was being far too uptight.
Is there an art form you dont
relate to?
I nd video art quite heavy-going.
Whats the biggest myth about
architects?
That were all individualistic
fundamentalists. Actually a rchitecture
is a very collaborative discipline. On a
big project, there can be a cast of
thousands: the job of the architect is
not only to create, but to get
everybody on board. In that sense,
its very consensual.
Do you suer for your art?
I do. But I love to suer, so its not a
problem.
Interview by Laura Barnett.
Portrait of the artist Amanda Levete, architect Who do I
admire? Zaha Hadid: for her tenacity, her work and her girly gossip
IN SHORT
Born
Bridgend, 1955.
Career
Started at the
Architectural
Association and with
Richard Rogers ;
became a partner
at Future Systems
in 1989. Founded
her own practice in
2009.
High point
Winning the
competition [to
design a new
extension] for the
V&A.
Low point
Completing the
Media Centre at
Lords . We were
virtually bankrupt.
Levete at her
London o ce
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