This week, septuagenarian bikers tear up the countryside, Hobbiton hits the market, Ken the Pen looks for a home and a brief appraisal of the Holyrood design
Daredevil in a blue rinse
If you are driving around the lanes of Hampshire, look out for grannies doing wheelies on titanium road bikes. It appears that the promotion of such geriatric acrobatics is a key aim of Gosport council, judging by the way it is pressuring McCarthy & Stone to incorporate 103 cycle bays into the 69-apartment sheltered housing scheme it is planning to develop in Lee-on-Solent. McCarthy & Stone is, understandably, contesting the demand. "Cycling does not feature prominently in the lives of most of our residents," says a company spokesperson. The average age of McCarthy & Stone customers is 75.

Let's be frank
The gloom surrounding the Scottish parly refuses to lift. Last week our coverage of the continuing design changes received much attention north of the border, and local opinion has reached the point of exasperation. A colleague of mine decided to have a look for himself at the nearly finished [sic] building and overheard two locals discussing the aesthetic merits of the project. "£400m for that load of shite?" came one eloquent and, I gather, purely rhetorical question.

Ooh, I like this
The architectural world is still in shock after Ken Shuttleworth decided to jump ship from Foster and Partners last month after 29 years – although I hear that our man may be in a state of shock himself. Ken the Pen, the brains behind recent wonders such as the Greater London Authority building, the Swiss Re tower and the sexiest self-built house in the history of the world, is now engaged in the rather less sexy job of finding offices for his new firm. Perhaps he could take up some of the empty space still going at Swiss Re?

Would suit hairy midgets
Development teams are resorting to the power of showbiz to win over middle England over to development in its own back yard. In a recent community meeting for the proposed East Ketley Millennium Village in Telford, Shropshire, the design team described proposals that included earth-sheltered housing-in-a-hillside as being "like Hobbiton". With The Return of the King, being released next week, the team had timed their reference carefully. But should you really compare modern housing to holes inhabited by non-existent creatures?

I say, so that's the future
The Construction Research and Innovations Strategy Panel, nCRISP top its friends, has recently published its business plan for 2004/06. This sets out its priorities and strategy for the research and innovation that will sustain a first-class construction industry. It's importance is underlined by a quote no the cover from our dear construction minister, Nigel Griffiths: "The DTI looks to nCRISP as the authoritative voice for construction research and innovation," says Nigel. Shame, then, that nCRISP has chosen to illustrate its report with a picture of a square-jawed man sitting at an old-fashioned drawing board. With nCRISP keeping it up to date, the DTI probably still thinks a CAD is a character played by Terry Thomas.

Something sensational
I must enlist your support for an important new feature to appear in Building in January. My colleagues have persuaded me to publish my diary for next year, which will include official as well as social engagements. I am hoping you will be help me by flagging up special industry events you may think appropriate. Email your top diary entries to

Not what it says on the tin

Tate Modern is honouring the expressive potential of doors and windows with an installation by Belgian artist Carsten Höller called Sliding Doors. The work features five sets of Geze Slimdrive SL automatic sliding doors arranged in rows. Each glass panel is mirrored so that visitors entering the exhibit meet an infinite number of reflections whichever way they turn. Visitors are supposed to lose track of how many doors they have been through and become disorientated; in fact, the artist refers to the piece as a “corridor of confusion”. Little did Geze know that its beloved product could be the cause of so much post-YBA phenomenological angst.