Mick Henry, the leader of Gateshead council, was in confident mood at Saturday’s televised awards dinner for the Stirling Prize – even before the city’s Millennium Bridge was declared the £20,000 winner. He predicted the result, adding that the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art would win next year, and Foster’s Gateshead Music Centre, now rebranded as Sage Gateshead, the year after that. “I don’t see why we can’t win three in a row,” the chirpy Tynesider said.
Do it yourself
I understand that Newcastle council, across the Tyne from Gateshead, is trying to muscle in on Gateshead’s success. An urban lighting strategy for the city, drawn up by expert Spiers & Major, incorporates plans to illuminate all the Tyne bridges – except the new one. Councillors were furious, until it was pointed out to them that unlike the other crossings, the Millennium Bridge is entirely owned by Gateshead …
Towels at the ready
However, the award will do no harm to Newcastle and Gateshead’s joint bid to become European city of culture in 2008. The accolade will go to one of a clutch of competing UK cities, but I hear some of the other contenders have as good as thrown in the towel. A colleague of mine paid a visit to the offices of rival bidder Cardiff recently. “Newcastle and Gateshead are going to win,” a senior member of Cardiff’s bid team told him glumly.
Proudly nipping at the heels
Our canine analogies in our consultants league table at the end of last month drew a few barks, but thankfully no bites, from the featured firms. Assael Architecture, which came in at number 182 in the listing of 200, has taken our analogy so much to heart that it is producing a brochure devoted to chihuahuas. The brochure unfolds to reveal a large photo of a chihuahua, and with the kind of attention to detail you would expect from Assael, the oversized pooch has been carefully marked “not to scale”.
Attack of the fashion police
News reaches me that Paul Corby, the hard-talking construction boss of union Amicus, put his foot in it at the Labour conference in Blackpool a couple of weeks ago. Corby’s Chelsea boots caught the attention of the security team’s metal detector, forcing him to take them off and put them through the X-ray machine.
The straight talking Yorkshireman said he felt like he was being accused of being a shoe bomber. Still, at least his trousers didn’t fall down when he was asked to remove his belt.
A majestic flop
In a belated celebration of the Jubilee, contractor Curzon Holdings held a regal drinks evening at the Roof Gardens in Kensington High Street, west London, last week. However the soiree was slightly marred by the star attraction: an impersonator of Her Majesty. While the impressionist did actually look like the Queen, she sounded absolutely nothing like her. After a few lame royal gags the audience responded to her excruciating 10-minute speech by resuming their conversations. Attention might have been diverted by Curzon chief David Freeborn’s face, which had turned a regal shade of purple.
There’s always one
London Housing Federation chairman Ben Wilson has hit on a crisp and effective way of dealing with that conference scourge, the mobile phone ringing at the back of the hall. Before introducing a question-and-answer session with housing and planning minister Lord Rooker last week, Wilson announced that anyone whose mobile interrupted the meeting would be fined £10, payable to the charity Age Concern.
Sure enough, halfway through Rooker’s presentation, ringing noises emanated from the handbag of one hapless housing association official, who dutifully stumped up a tenner.
Brick up your ears
Stanhope and CABE supremo Sir Stuart Lipton celebrates his 60th birthday next month, and invitations are being dispatched. Those expecting to be on the guest list had better make sure they have a large letterbox: the invite is a London brick with a message attached. Or is Lipton going to play up to his reputation as a bruiser by slinging the invites through people’s windows?
Early bird counts his chickens
I’ve been gently ticked off by Lord Foster’s office for including too much gossip about the great man in recent issues. I therefore promise that next week’s column will be a Foster-free zone.
But here’s just one more snippet. Apparently, Foster is so keen to win the World Trade Centre competition that he started detailed work on his designs a full three weeks before his proposal was shortlisted. OK, Norman, that’s it for a while.