Young Mancunians were out in force at Building’s second networking party last Wednesday

Building held the second of its Phase One networking parties last week, this time in Manchester. More than 100 homegrown or adopted Mancunians in their first 10 years in construction joined us after work on Wednesday evening to meet colleagues from other firms, swap gossip, stories and magic tricks, and to give the free bar a bit of a hammering.

Building invited Ian Simpson – the “starchitect” who’s doing for the Manchester skyline what Norman Foster has done for London’s – to kick off the evening. The venue was the Loaf Bar at Deansgate Locks, just around the corner from Simpson’s Beetham Tower, where he has a penthouse.

Simpson treated the revellers to an illuminating account of how he designs tall buildings – and what he thinks of the planners who try to stop him.

The centre of Manchester may be developing fast, but Simpson’s not impressed with everything the industry’s throwing up. “In Manchester we have some Victorian buildings, and some dross and then some more rubbish that’s been built and continues to be built,” he said, adding helpfully: “I’m being provocative.”

But his greatest ire was reserved for planners, particularly the guardians of the London skyline who are stalling his attempts to build another Beetham Tower. “Just because you can see the top of it from a building built across St James’s Park 150 years ago, there’s massive uproar. The top of it! You can see most of the London Eye, but that doesn’t matter.”


Designing towers is a subjective business, Simpson granted, but “as long as I think it’s a beautiful and elegant building, I don’t care what anyone else thinks. I was walking past the Beetham Tower and there was an old lady going ‘what’s that awful building’. But I think we had a great team and it’s the best we could have done at the time.”

The assembled Phase Oners tended to side with Simpson. Well, when you’re in the early years of a career in construction in your favourite city, any flashy development is a good thing.

They were also impressed to be hearing it from the horse’s mouth – speakers like Simpson may be a common sight at senior exec conferences, but you don’t usually get to go to these when you’re starting out. “It’s fantastic to see Ian Simpson,” said one female QS. “I think we should have more chances to learn from people like that.”

The evening was rounded off with a raffle for children’s charity Make a Wish.

Phase One is sponsored by Cyril Sweett, Davis Langdon, EC Harris, Erinaceous Group, Leadbitter, Mace, Thomas & Adamson and Turner & Townsend.