Construction’s stars turn out for the unveiling of Building’s celebration of the industry’s finest

It was an awards ceremony with a difference. There was no glitzy razzamatazz and no shiny gongs handed out to sets of transient celebs. No, this event honoured 40 men and women with sticking power.

This was the Building Hall of Fame. Selected by a team of 10 judges from across the construction industry, the Hall of Fame recognised those people who had made the biggest mark on the built environment of the UK over a time span of four decades. They were celebrated by a Building supplement published in June and on Monday by an exhibition unveiled at London’s Building Centre.

Among the 150 people present at the launch were many inaugural members of the Hall of Fame, such as Sir Jack Zunz, who succeeded Sir Ove Arup and saved the Sydney Opera House; Sir Frank Lampl, who took Bovis into more than 30 countries; Peter Rogers, who has been a driving force behind groundbreaking developer Stanhope and the Strategic Forum; Sir Michael Latham, who planned reforms for whole building industry, and Paul Morrell, the uncrowned king of quantity surveying.

The 40-year period covered by the Hall of Fame has a special significance. It is 40 years since the 123-year-old journal The Builder changed its name to Building. It is also the 75th anniversary of the Building Centre. Speaking on behalf of both venerable institutions, Spencer de Grey, vice-chairman of Foster and Partners and chairman of the Building Centre Trust, said: “We are not growing older but growing younger.” This slightly cryptic remark referred to the conversion of the basement into a lecture hall and exhibition space, which was formally opened this week with the Hall of Fame as its inaugural exhibition.

Although most members of the Hall of Fame are retired or about to retire, they still have plenty to say about the state of the industry. Zunz said: “In 1929, HG Wells wrote in his History of the World that civilisation faced the choice between education and catastrophe. The building industry is in the same dilemma today.”

To (the very much still active) Peter Rogers, the recent influx of Eastern European labour blocked true innovation. “It allowed us to carry on using labour as the solution rather than ideas,” he said.

It is a challenge that future contenders for the Hall of Fame will have to face over the coming years. In between collecting a few glittering awards on the way, that is.

The Building Hall of Fame was sponsored by WSP Group and CITB-ConstructionSkills.

The exhibition is at the Building Centre, 26 Store Street, London.