This week, an Archigram architect drags out 1960s neckwear, check out the toilet where you can't be caught short, and tourists beware in Grosvenor Square
Put down the camera slowly
I hear Heery International might be in line for the rumoured refurbishment of the US Embassy in London's Grosvenor Square. To gather vital research, the construction manager recently dispatched a photographer to take some shots of the building. However, in the wake of 11 September, the embassy is one of the most security-sensitive buildings in the country, and Heery's hapless snapper was promptly arrested.

Venice, central England
English Heritage chairman Sir Neil Cossons cracked a funny earlier this week at the launch of EH's national audit of the historic environment. Sir Neil was praising Birmingham for the renaissance of its canal network. "Birmingham is now calling itself the Venice of the North," he said breezily before adding: "One wonders if Venice calls itself the Birmingham of the South."

From Ken with love xx
RIBA president Paul Hyett is particularly proud of his drawings collection at the RIBA. Hyett has subverted the tradition of presidents choosing drawings for their office from the institute's famous archive. Instead, Hyett asked all his famous friends, including Will Alsop, Cedric Price and Marks Barfield, for a drawing or photograph of their work. However, the message clearly got a bit garbled on the way to one of Hyett's buddies, Singapore-based skyscraper maestro and notorious self-publicist Ken Yeang, who contributed a photograph of himself.

Pushing the boundaries
Former England cricket captain Mike Gatting has taken his mind off England's recent abysmal Ashes performance by switching his attention to property development. Gatting has apparently submitted an application to his local planning office in Enfield, north London, to knock down his house and develop the site as a block of flats.

A good doze of law
The construction law conference held last week by law firm Masons was a stimulating affair – for most of the delegates. However, word reaches me that Bill Tallis of the Major Contractor's Group had trouble staying awake. He nodded off during the law review of the year and started snoring during a session on risk in design-and-build.

It was cool in the Sixties, OK?
Sixties architectural pranksters Archigram picked up the RIBA's Royal Gold Medal last week, with the four surviving members – Professors Peter Cook and David Greene, Dennis Crompton and Mike Webb – receiving a rapturous reception. To celebrate the occasion, Peter Murray, head of architectural publisher Wordsearch and founder of Blueprint magazine, dug out a rather dazzling tie. The item was specially made for Murray in 1967 by Janet Street-Porter, who was then studying alongside Murray at the Architectural Association. "Janet also made me a silver PVC suit but it doesn't fit any more," Murray tells me.

The real Venice of the North
More on Murray: he is the driving force behind a new architecture event that should rival the Venice Biennale. The Clerkenwell Biennale will be held for the first time in May 2004 and celebrate the fashionable London district that is home to such architects as Chris Wilkinson, Zaha Hadid, Rab Bennetts and AHMM. Subtitled "Every city has a Clerkenwell", the event will link up creative districts in cities around the world, including New York's SoHo and Sydney's King's Cross. Novelist Peter Ackroyd has agreed to be the patron and there are plans to cover St John Street in turf and allow cows to graze. Archigram would be proud.

Uh-oh, the panacea's broken
The IT gremlins have struck again. Last week's Teamwork 2002 conference at the RIBA sought to explain that "IT-based collaboration techniques such as virtual prototyping through object technology and a shared project model is a practical possibility for construction right now". Alas, the conference had to be stopped several times when the IT went haywire. How about an event on how to stop IT ruining your conference?

Pipped at the post
Thanks to all my readers who voted for Brunel in the BBC's Great Britons poll. Unfortunately our man was pipped at the last by Winston Churchill – but at least he came in ahead of Princess Diana. On page 52, my colleague Tony Bingham argues that Brunel was not a particularly pleasant man: he had no management skills, screwed his contractors and his projects came in several times over budget. My, how things have changed.

Form and function and all that

Architect Shigeru Ban raised a chuckle at his lecture at the Victoria & Albert Museum last week when he showed slides of a toilet housed inside a paper tube at one of his temporary cardboard buildings. “The sound effects are very interesting,” he said. “And if you run out of toilet paper, you can rip some off the wall.”