This week we relive our student days by going back to our ABC, learning about the latest catwalk fashions (donkey jackets, apparently), popping into a bookshop, and then going to a gig. Just don’t mention ‘eco-towns’

hansom for i pad

Fashion and textiles

Is men’s fashion turning to construction for inspiration? The idea sounds preposterous but, according to The Guardian newspaper, menswear this season just got “proletarian” and is taking its cue from the environment of the building site, or should I say the eighties building site. As The Guardian reported: “The heavy, roughly drawn silhouettes of the Auf Wiedersehen Pet Geordies, with their donkey jackets, their broad collars and shapeless eighties jeans, are now a more relevant fashion reference than dandyism or Savile Row tailoring. The colours on the catwalks - browns, greys, muddy blues and flashes of safety yellow or garish orange - are straight from the builder’s yard.” Expect hard hats on the catwalk soon.

Lessons from history

Emma Reynolds’ first keynote speech as shadow housing minister on Monday outlined the development of new communities in areas of high demand for housing. But it was clear from the Q&A after that these are not to be called eco-towns. Gordon Brown’s initiative to build 20 eco-towns of 5,000 homes floundered alongside his unloved premiership. It seems Labour does not want to conjure the ghost of the son of the manse at the next election. Reynolds responded to a question on the “eco-towns” with a curt “they will be called new towns, not eco-towns,” displaying just the faintest hint of tetchiness.

Gender studies

Building last week reported that the UK construction industry is set to lose workers to New Zealand, which is suffering a skills shortage. And building booms - particularly for smaller towns and cities such as those in New Zealand - can have demographic consequences. Despite the country suffering from what the media calls a “man drought”, quite the opposite can be found in the city of Christchurch, which has witnessed a surge in construction since its devastating earthquake in 2011. As a result, men outnumber women, presumably creating what the Kiwi press might describe as a “woman drought”.

Book learning

Trying to sell books close to the epicentre of the largest construction project in Europe must be hard work for the famous Foyles chain. The bookstore, whose flagship outlet is on London’s Charing Cross Road, has been complaining for years of reduced footfall because of extensive building works on the nearby Crossrail station. Foyles reckons the construction work is costing it £1.5m a year but thankfully still managed a recent triumph over adversity, enjoying good Christmas trading on the back of autobiographies by the likes of Alex Ferguson and Morrissey. As the latter once sang, “there’s more to life than books you know, but not much more”.

Musical expertise

Speaking of music, Expertise Rocks! - cousin of industry battle of the bands Construction Rocks! - will take place on 27 February at London’s legendary 100 Club on Oxford Street. The charity event, in only its second year, is looking for a final act to fill up the roster. So if your firm provides expert witness services and you can find enough talent to form a band, visit for more details. Last year’s winners, Hill International’s band Over the Hill, raised £5,000 for their nominated charity, the Lighthouse Club. This year will also see the debut on the judging panel of a Construction Rocks! veteran judge - music aficionado and Building editor Sarah Richardson.

hansom letters

Today’s letter is…

Have you ever wondered what the world’s top architects would do if they were asked to redesign the alphabet? Well designer Federico Babina has done it for them with a piece interpreting each of the 26 letters in a different architect’s style. Zaha Hadid, for example, lends her trademark spikes and curves to the letter Z, and Norman Foster’s F recalls the diamonds of the Gherkin. However, I feel for Richard Rogers because the letter P gets a makeover in the style of the Pompidou centre in honour of Rogers’ co-designer on the project Renzo Piano, but the R of Babina’s alphabet is dedicated to Dutch architect Gerrit Rietveld, leaving Rogers off the list.

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