This week, we travel from an artillery room to the men’s section of Selfridges, via Newport, Edinburgh Zoo panda enclosure, the new Design Museum (in cake form) and Teletubbyland (just outside Bolton)

hansom for i pad

How Arup pandas to the politicians

Interesting to see what firms have given to political parties, including the unlikely example of Arup, which gave a single £2,000 donation to the Scottish Labour Party in 2009. An Arup spokesperson explained that the money wasn’t really a political gesture at all but was more about pandas. The cash was to cover the cost of tickets to a Labour Party gala dinner with the aim of supporting the Royal Zoological Society for Scotland. Along with the society, Arup was apparently a key player in successfully lobbying to bring the giant pandas Tian Tian and Yang Guang to Edinburgh Zoo from China.

Suits you, sir

The worlds of architecture and fashion collided in Selfridges’ flagship Oxford Street store this week for the opening of a men’s designer section designed by Alex Cochrane Architects. One of the designers of the area told our conspicuously unfashionable hack that a mangled metal canopy above was an “object of wonder” to lure the shoppers in - or some such thing. The reporter later learned over a glass of champagne that one of the items for sale, a gold blouse, was designed for Michael Jackson to wear on his ill-fated This Is It tour. Our hack left soon afterwards, without purchasing the blouse.

Same old, same old

Another year, another trip to Newport for the annual Resi conference. The Groundhog Day feel of the event was exacerbated by Steve Morgan, chairman of housebuilder Redrow. Speaking at a panel session, he said: “I gave the keynote here two years ago. And I was thinking about what to say here and I thought, why don’t I just re-read my speech from two years ago? All the issues are exactly the same.” So much for two years of the coalition government focusing on freeing up the housing sector…

Pick your weapons

Hot on the heels of the Construction Industry Council’s reception at a historic armoury bedecked with medieval weaponry (Hansom, July 13), came the Building & Engineering Services Association’s event at the Honourable Artillery Company in the City of London. It was the only event attended by Building so far this year to feature armed guards sporting sharp pikes.

One guest joked to my hack that the security might have had something to do with the heated industrial relations disputes that have hit the B&ES since
last year’s event. This claim has yet to be verified.


As a Premier League footballer Gary Neville was known for never backing out of a challenge, but sadly last week it emerged that the ex-Manchester United defender has dropped plans for a partially submerged flower-shaped house designed by Make Architects - dubbed a “Teletubby” house by the press - for his new eco-home near Bolton. Instead he has opted for an altogether more boxy design by Architekturburo Lowe. The green credentials have not been watered down - he is targeting Code for Sustainable Homes level six - but let’s hope his daughters Sophie and Molly (two and three) are not Teletubby fans.

The icing on the cake


Kensington and Chelsea Design Museum

Hansom always enjoys a cupcake so was delighted to be presented this week with the one pictured here in the (vague) form of the new Design Museum. The occasion was to mark the groundbreaking ceremony for the Kensington project, which will see the conversion of the former Commonwealth Institute and its unique paraboloid roof (see left). In attendance were figures including Mace boss Stephen Pycroft, Design Museum founder Sir Terence Conran and new architecture minister Ed Vaizey. Vaizey brought along his mum, art critic and journalist Marina Vaizey while the 80-year-old Conran joked that he really wanted to have a go on one of the nearby Keltbray piledrivers and dig “another big hole” on the construction site.