From the site hoardings obscured by topiary to the 2012 Sir John Armitt swimsuit calendar, this column wonders when it’s best to keep some things under wraps …

Greg Fitzgerald 2.0

Galliford Try chief executive Greg Fitzgerald has never made a secret of his aversion to computerised technology. Interviewed by Building in 2010, he revealed he had never sent an email, and would have trouble even switching on a computer. But it seems that the unthinkable has happened: Fitzgerald has bought an iPad 3. I hear that he is so enamoured with the device that not only is he baffling associates by sending emails (yes, emails!) bearing the announcement “Sent from my iPad”, he has also been known to throw the odd teasing comment at those luddites still using the iPad 2.

Upping the workers

No-one can accuse the Evening Standard of lacking enthusiasm for the Olympics. But last Tuesday the London paper exceeded even its giddy levels of excitement when it reported, at number 10 in “100 things you need to know about the Olympics”, that 2.8 million construction workers had been involved in building the venues. 2.8 million? As Construction Industry Council boss Graham Watts noted on Twitter, the paper liked this nonsense so much it repeated the point at number 72. Well, it can’t be easy producing daily Olympics coverage months before the event even begins.

A cutting observation

Four months on from Tony Pidgley’s developer St George acquiring the One Blackfriars site on London’s South Bank, and most of the work seems to be focused on the site hoardings. While preparations have been limited to putting in vehicle safety barriers, workers have been carefully inserting niches into the hoardings, faced with expensive-looking brass sheet and images of London. Then last week, an assortment of topiary was planted into the recesses. Unfortunately, the globe-shaped plants obscure the images of London and several of the cone-shaped trees are leaning at an angle … Let’s hope they get the tower straight - once they get round to building it.

Rings a bell

Amusing talk on Twitter this week concerning the almost-completed Shard. Commentators, including Mel Starrs of PRP Architects, pointed out that the battlement-like pinnacle of the London tower has a definite Lord of the Rings feel to it. One of my hacks was more specific - comparing it to the Tower of Orthanc and its architect Renzo Piano to the evil wizard Saruman. If the capital does indeed become an outpost of Mordor, the results could be particularly bad for London Bridge, as the area around the fictional tower gets obliterated by the end of the second film.

Monumental achievement

Congratulations to all those from the construction industry who completed the London marathon last weekend. Taylor Wimpey boss Pete Redfern raised more than £14,000 for homeless charity Centrepoint, completing the race in four hours 26 minutes. And the trio running as London landmarks the Gherkin, Big Ben and St Paul’s - Trevor Dowd and Matt Clare of Trident Building Consultancy and Sam Sananes of UBS-CLOVA - have so far raised more than £6,800 for their charity KIDS. The three finished in an impressive five hours 50 minutes.


As readers will no doubt be aware, this magazine’s Personality of the Year award is the most coveted gong in construction. But Tim Minchin, one of the comedians performing at last week’s glittering awards bash, was convinced it needed spicing up. “The winner should have to do a swimsuit calendar,” he joked. Alas, the victor, Olympic Delivery Authority chairman Sir John Armitt was having none of it - “You’ll be pleased to know I’ll be declining the offer,” he quipped to a packed Grosvenor House. I’m sure the ensuing laughter was just to disguise their disappointment, John …

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