This week, our spymaster uncovers Richard MacCormac’s secret admirer, Will Alsop’s personal inspiration and the DTI’s rather obvious cock-up …
Anna and the architects
Sir Richard MacCormac, architect of the proposed extension to the BBC’s Broadcasting House in central London, seems to have something of a fan club at the venerable institution. During a recent tour of the building he was approached by one such smitten aficionado: newsreader Anna Ford. It seems that Ford, who was once linked with Lord Foster himself, has a soft spot for architects. I hear, though, that MacCormac played down her attentions to project associates, telling them that he and Anna were “just old friends”.

Starck assessment
French design guru Philippe Starck was in bitchy mood last week. At the opening of his new first-class lounge at Waterloo International, a colleague asked him what he thought of Nicholas Grimshaw’s iconic terminal. “Not bad … a bit 1980s,” Starck sniffed. Next, he was asked what he thought about Norman Foster and David Chipperfield – two Brits who, like Starck, have tried their hand at furniture design. “Norman doesn’t know how to design furniture,” Starck opined, “and David isn’t known as a designer. The hotel he designed in Miami wasn’t successful; in fact it went bankrupt. I know because I bought it last week.”

Just one tiny problem
The DTI has been left red-faced this week after wrongly forecasting the performance of a certain UK export. Stephen Carter, the DTI’s construction media officer, sent out invitations requesting the company of industry figures at a special showing of England’s semi-final match in the World Cup. However, as you may be aware, things didn’t work out like that. Wishful thinking, eh, Stephen?

Raining champions
QS Gleeds displayed rather more foresight with its jolly. To celebrate Midsummer’s Day, the firm treated clients to a performance of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Tower of London. Unfortunately, minutes before the performance began, the heavens opened – whereupon Gleeds swiftly distributed 500 plastic macs to the audience.

Parliament vs Mark Blake
My apologies to Mark Blake, projects director at consultant Symonds Group. After a mix-up at Building’s House of Commons reception last week, he was mistakenly directed not to the Thames-side terrace, where more than 100 bigwigs were swigging wine in glorious sunshine, but to a select committee hearing on sexual harassment. Oops!

Burnt umber and charcoal
I know engineers like to consider their discipline an art form, but Arup’s fire control department has taken this to new heights. “The art of fire control” is the name of a series of paintings depicting the work of Arup Fire by artist Meg Ferguson. Three of them adorn an invitation Arup sent out to the launch of a book on fire engineering. Curiously, however, safety does not seem to be the artist’s theme: the example reproduced below, which presents a somewhat fauvist take on the subject of safety design, shows a person on fire running through a hallway in search of an extinguisher. Or something.

Build it in Tobacco Dock
Will Alsop is well known for designing buildings that look like sausages, eggs or even fruit – but a crushed-up cigarette packet? Perhaps that’s why his idiosyncratic proposal for Puddle Dock, a riverside site in the City of London, was refused planning permission recently. “Alsop told me he got the idea when he was sitting on the toilet and he crushed up a fag packet,” said Graham Forbes, chairman of the City’s planning and transportation committee. “And that’s precisely what it looked like.”

Cutting-edge design
The Corporation of London unveiled its new marketing suite beside the Guildhall last week. Pride of place goes to a model of central London, complete with the skyscrapers up for planning approval. However, there is one exception: Renzo Piano’s 306 m high “Shard of Glass”, proposed for London Bridge. The building would be the tallest in Europe if built – but its omission is nothing to do with the controversy over its design. “We were told we couldn’t put the shard in,” says a disappointed Peter Rees, planning chief at the corporation. “It would have been a health hazard.”

Trevor is wearing a velvet hard hat with egret trimmings …

Safety is a burning political issue, but it seems to have become a hot fashion trend, too. JSP, an Oxford-based maker of safety equipment, says its new range of safety spectacles “has been specifically designed to appeal to the modern fashion-conscious individual such as the construction worker”. The Stealth 2000 is described as “a stylish oval-rimmed executive metal-framed spectacle”, while the Stealth 4000 has a “sports-style wraparound panoramic lens”. One wonders whether next season we will see chic brickies in Armani high-visibility vests and Prada boots.