This week, our man with the Fred Astaire cane sees a colleague pressed into a press launch, gets a lesson in fluency and catches up on the future of retail
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Many congratulations to Spanish architect Rafael Moneo, who was presented last week with the RIBA Gold Medal (see news). After graciously accepting the award, Moneo embarked upon a lengthy exposition of his oeuvre from which I learned two very important things about the architect: that he is Spanish and that his fluent English is almost indistinguishable from fluent Spanish. The only word I caught clearly was "formativity". Later, I could have sworn the Harvard professor was picking semantic holes in one of the audience's questions, but nobody could confirm or deny this.

Prickly bunch, architects
As Will Alsop's $30m Ontario College of Art and Design neared completion, the great architect was discovered saying the maximum he could about minimalism – which he dismissed in no uncertain terms. During his peroration he called Herzog & de Meuron – whose remodelling of Canton Aargau's fine arts museum in their Swiss homeland opened last month – "Hedgehog and Moron". Ouch!

Brief encounter
Mindful of what Gormley's giant Angel of the North has done for Tyneside, a new landmark for the east of England is being planned by the regional development agency. It has launched "a major international competition, calling for visionary ideas". But rather than a single landmark, it is looking for a series of them to give the diverse region a sense of identity. If you think this strategy is in danger of leading to confusion, then think again. In the three weeks since the competition was launched, as many as 3500 respondents have downloaded the brief from the RDA website. A landmark response, you could say.

Don't I know you?
Nothing changes as fast as retail – or so the cliché goes. The same could be said of retail architecture. At least, that's what you'd expect from the latest UK Retail Report from the British Council of Shopping Centres. The report names three architects it claims are responsible for 47% of future shopping-centre floorspace: Building Design Partnership, Chapman Taylor and Benoy. But hang on a minute. Aren't these three exactly the same architects we've had ever since the shopping centre was invented in the 1960s? So much for dramatic changes in retail.

Fashion re-statement
It was good to see construction represented in London's 2003 Lord Mayor's Show courtesy of the Worshipful Company of Constructors. The company's motto is "Constructio cum honore", which for younger readers without the benefit of a classical education means "I build with honour". But the above photo of Stephen Rigden (on the left) and David Rundle sporting on-site fashion items while holding the firm's banner, made me wonder if a more appropriate motto might be "I wear my high-vis vest and hard-hat with pride".

The mountain to Mohammed

One particular flooring firm was so disappointed my colleague was unable to make a recent press launch, it sent them a DIY press-launch pack. The unfortunate hack’s desk nearly collapsed under the weight of press material. Included with the usual bumpf were five A4-sized signposts made from cardboard, bearing the words “Press Launch This Way”. I can only assume the PR thought we might like to stick the signs up and recreate the event in our own offices. Or perhaps they could not be bothered to find a rubbish bin to throw the stuff into and so forwarded it to us instead.